VF Donning Dickies Overalls In $820 Million Cash Transaction

VF Corp., best known perhaps for outdoors brands Timberland and North Face, as well as Wranglers, is buying privately owned workwear company Williamson-Dickie for $820 million cash in a deal expected to close in the fourth quarter. Some observers say VF is betting on the revitalization of a blue-collar workforce under President Donald Trump’s trade and infrastructure ambitions.

“If Donald Trump lives up to his slogan of making America great again, there will be many more workers in factories, mines and the like. And they will need clothing, durable threads that are not necessarily fashionable,” write Rob Cox and Timur Onder for Reuters’ Breaking Views. “By this logic, $24 billion VF Corp … has just pulled off the signature apparel deal of the Trump era….”



Bloomberg’s Lindsey Rupp adds that other segments of the rag trade are not faring as well.

“As teen fashion, women’s lingerie and menswear all struggle to maintain sales growth, one segment of the apparel business is showing surprising strength this year: industrial workwear. VF Corp.’s $820 million acquisition of Dickies parent Williamson-Dickie Manufacturing Co., which also makes hospital garments, is the latest sign of health in the $30 billion global market for workwear,” she writes. 

Greensboro, N.C.-based VF is “trying to consolidate a fragmented but growing industry,” Rupp adds, that is “dominated by closely held companies like Dickie, Carharrt Inc. and Red Wing Shoe Co., as well as publicly traded Duluth Trading Co. and Wolverine World Wide Inc.” 

VF makes a strong financial case for the acquisition outside of the Trump agenda, Cox and Onder point out, which has yet to gain traction. 

“True, Trump has not passed economic legislation of any significance since taking office in January. But he has been helped by a U.S. economy whose rate of growth, though not measurably higher than a year ago, has added around 191,000 new manufacturing, mining and construction jobs so far this year,” they write. “Dickies also sells to the services and healthcare industries, which added some 300,000 jobs.”

Trump is expected to sign an executive order today that, according to a White House statement, will establish “discipline and accountability in the environmental review and permitting process for infrastructure projects.” 

Reuters’ Eric Beech writes, “In June, Trump said one of the biggest obstacles to new infrastructure projects was ‘the painfully slow, costly and time-consuming process for getting permits and approvals to build.’”

“VF, whose apparel and accessories offerings range from Nautica sportswear to Smartwool socks, has been tweaking its portfolio in recent months, shedding a group of luxury brands and a licensed sportswear company,” Cara Lombardo observes for the Wall Street Journal. And CFO Scott Roe says to expect more. 

“We’re not finished,” he said during a conference call about the transaction yesterday. “Stay tuned.”

Lombardo reports that Fort Worth, Texas-based Williamson-Dickie “has 400 retail stores and a presence in more than 100 countries, though 66% of its sales are in the United States. Williamson-Dickie chief executive Philip Williamson and the company’s 7,000 employees are expected to remain with the combined company.”

“When Texas cousins C.N. Williamson and E.E. ‘Colonel’ Dickie decided to leave the vehicle-and-harness business to buy the U.S. Overall Company with a few friends, they never dreamed it would give birth to the global workwear leader of today. The company started out with one product: the durable, all-cotton, button fly overall,” reads the lead of the company history on its website.

That was in 1922. Still family-owned, the company “will continue to operate in Fort Worth where it has more than 1,000 employees at its Vickery Boulevard headquarters and a distribution center. And spokeswoman Rachel Courts said there will be no impact on the naming rights deal under which the new 14,000-seat multipurpose arena under construction at the Will Rogers Memorial Center will become known as Dickies Arena,” Max B. Baker and Steve Kaskovich report for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

With “globalization” under increasing attack, all news is local seems as apt an adage as ever.

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