Concept One Accessories will end 2006 with its fourth, and largest, acquisition of the year in place.

The company said Monday (18 December) that it has reached an agreement to buy the assets of Drew Pearson Marketing Inc from Mainland Headwear Holdings Ltd, a publicly held headwear firm in Hong Kong and Drew Pearson's biggest source of production, for US$8m in cash.

The merger of the two firms will create a $90m headwear and bag firm, with $70m of its volume coming from headwear sales, making it the second largest licensed headwear firm in the US behind category leader New Era.

Concept One acquired Block Headwear and The Helen Welsh Group in March and SlickCase, a maker of iPod accessories, two months later.

"We are well positioned to absorb this deal and, after a period of nine months, will begin pursuing additional companies in related categories with strong market niches," said Sam Hafif, chief executive officer of Concept One. "We are well on our way to meet our plan for $150m in sales by 2010."

Mainland opted to divest itself of Drew Pearson in order to concentrate on manufacturing and to eliminate potential conflicts of interest with other US-based customers.

Although Concept One hadn't been among Mainland's customers, a separate manufacturing agreement was inked by which Mainland will build a 125,000-square-foot factory, staffed by 1,500 employees, to handle Concept One and Drew Pearson's woven headwear needs.

"Mainland Headwear will now gain a significant customer in Concept One and continue to build business with other US importers they had not done business with in the past," Hafif pointed out.

Concept One's extensive brand portfolio includes hats and backpacks under a wide variety of brand names and entertainment properties, including bags for Major League Baseball, the NHL and the NBA, and headwear under brands including Southpole, Levi Strauss Red Tab, US Polo Association, Original Penguin and Akademiks. It recently added a number of movies and the television show "24" to its sizeable stable.

Distribution is strongest in department stores, specialty stores and mid-tier retailers.

DPM, on the other hand, has significant distribution in sporting goods and outdoor stores as well as in college book stores and sport venues such as baseball stadiums and auto racing arenas. Their licensing relationships include pacts with Nascar, The Walt Disney Co, Warner Brothers, Budweiser and General Mills.

Concept One will continue to maintain its headquarters and showroom on Fifth Avenue and add DPM's products to its home base. It will keep its office in Dallas and add facilities near Wal-Mart's headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, and Target's in Minneapolis.

Concept One said the combined company will have more than 20 full-time sales people, 70 independent sales reps and a design staff of over 25. Sam and Bernie Hafif founded Concept One in 1999.
 
By Arnold J Karr.