AMG Group, the Scottish company that owns the Vango brand of camping products as well as the Force Ten and Lichfield brands of family camping products, is eager to obtain new distribution contracts and is interested in possible acquisitions following its management buyout, announced a few days ago. In particular, it would like to represent a good brand of outdoor clothing in the U.K. and Ireland to fill up its portfolio of distributed brands, which include Rossignol, Asolo, Trangia, Wayfayerer and Fuel4.
In looking at various exit strategies, the Moodie family, which founded Vango in 1966, had been mostly focusing on its house brands after the loss in 2010 of a juicy contract for the distribution in the U.K. and Ireland of Teva, Ugg and Simple, the three major brands of Deckers Outdoor Corporation. With annual turnover equivalent to almost €100 million, it had become the biggest foreign operation for Deckers, which decided to take it over.
The company's new business plan also calls for a doubling of the sales of Vango and its other house brands outside the U.K. and Ireland within the next three years. They already doubled in the last three years to just over 10 percent of its annual sales, which amounted to £25 million (€29.9m-$41.2m) in 2013 and are expected to grow by 20 percent in 2014, thanks especially to a diversification of Vango's product range and its growing internationalization. The past year went better than the 2012 financial year, for which AMG Group reported a 17 percent dip in sales and a 53 percent fall in pre-tax profits to £1.42 million (€1.70m-$2.34m) because of the wettest summers, combined with a challenging domestic retail environment, but the company remained profitable.
Vango, which currently represents more than 60 percent of AMG's turnover, has signed up a very special new distributor in Russia, Mountech (Marmot, Keen, etc.), and is about to finalize a distribution and agency contract in the U.S., probably in time for its participation in the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City in August. The brand is already pretty strong in the Benelux countries, Germany and Scandinavia. It is represented through foreign distributors in 30 countries.
AMG's chairman, Sandy Moodie, who is now 62-years old, has been semi-retired since he moved to a place near London four years ago. He wanted to sell his company because his sons have decided to pursue a different career in finance. In the end, after looking at other alternatives, he has decided to sell to three of AMG's longtime directors: Stephen Newlands, the 54-year-old managing director, Steve Craig, commercial director, and Glenn Andrews, product director. They have acquired the majority of the shares in the company for an undisclosed amount with the help of the Bank of Scotland and loan notes by the Moodie family, which is keeping a minority stake.
Newlands has been with AMG since 1995 and became its managing director in 2002. Last year he also became the new chairman of the Outdoor Industries Association, replacing Cory Taylor of Bradshaw Taylor. Craig has been with AMG for 23 years and Andrews, a former official of Mountain Equipment and Karrimor, for 20 years.
The deal also includes the group's four-year-old AMG Services division, a tent service and repair operation that is just starting to be profitable after opening up in the past 12 months to the tents of other brands submitted by its dealers. Located near Glasgow, the facility also acts as a testing center for checking the waterproofing characteristics of its products, which are made for the most part in China, in combination with a quality control center in Shanghai.
Named after the Scottish industrial port of Goven, Vango is the result of a transformation of an industrial textile operation, dating back to the 1980s, that consisting partly in the manufacture of heavy-duty cotton sails through the Andrew Mitchell Group, which AMG takes its name from. It lost much of its business when steamships started to replace sailing ships, but it is still a small part of AMG through a brand called Mitco.
In the last three years, AMG has invested a lot of money into research and development for Vango and Force Ten, its brand of family camping products. Its new patented AirBeam technology, which makes use of air pumps instead of metal poles to pitch a Vango tent in a few minutes (you can see the trick on YouTube), is now being applied to drive-away awnings and caravan awnings.
Vango has also benefitted greatly from the formalization last year of a contract as the official supplier of recommended tents and other products for the Scout Association of the U.K., which has some 435,000 members. Coleman had that title before.
AMG's contract with Asolo was signed in 2012. The brand was previously distributed in the U.K. by Lowe Alpine, which is no longer a property of Asolo's owners. Newlands feels that there are plenty of opportunities for the distribution of other brands in the British market, which is the second-largest in Europe after Germany.
In a long interview, he told us that the loss of Ugg and other Deckers brand four years ago caused a lot of turmoil, but was not fatal because the Moodie family had spun off that business in 2009 to a separate company, AMG Footwear, which was folded subsequently, after shedding the distribution of the Wolverine brand. Many of its staff were moved to the AMG Group and one of the group's three distribution centers in the U.K. was closed down, outsourcing its remaining operations.