Broder Bros. Adds NES Clothing to Its Closet

When Boston-based private equity firm Bain Capital acquired Broder Bros. in May 2000, it viewed the wholesaler of imprintable sportswear as a platform for further acquisitions. In its third major acquisition since then, Philadelphia-based Broder Bros. on Aug. 31 acquired $131.8 million NES Clothing Co., a privately held Middleboro, MA-based regional distributor of imprintable sportswear.

The purchase of NES is Broder’s largest since September 2003, when it acquired chief rival Alpha Shirt Holdings. Alpha was the second largest distributor in the wholesale imprintable apparel market, behind only Broder. The acquisition boosted Broder’s 2003 revenue to $798.6 million; the cataloger’s pro forma revenue was $487.8 million. In its first major deal after being bought by Bain, Broder acquired another rival, Full Line Distributors, in August 2001. Other acquisitions included St. Louis T’s in September 2000, Gulf Coast Sportswear in December 2001, and T-Shirts & More in August 2003.

As of mid-September, Broder was still sorting out the details of incorporating the NES business. Although there is a lot of product overlap between the two businesses, says Broder chief financial officer David Hollister, NES will remain a distinct brand, just as Alpha Shirt is. NES will continue to produce its own catalogs and maintain its own customer service team, sales force, and Website. NES CEO Michael Rosow will stay on as a consultant to Broder; NES executive vice president Ronald Nathan is now president of the NES division of Broder.

Broder Bros., Alpha Shirt, and NES distribute shirts, fleece jackets, sweaters, and other apparel to screen-printers, embroiderers, and distributors of promotional products. In addition to selling products from major manufacturers such as Izod, Nike, and Hanes, Broder has introduced several house brands during the past few years, including Luna Pier, Devon & Jones, and this year, Desert Wash. NES has its own private-label line, Harvard Square.

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