Further funding for ACS Clothing
ACS Clothing has secured £8.8m follow-on investment from BGF to support its expansion into the American market. The deal marks BGF’s second investment in the Glasgow-based company, following on from an £8.5m funding round in January 2014, which fuelled the growth of ACS’s Xedo Software business and laid the groundwork for expansion into the men’s formalwear market in the US.
The US is the world’s largest tuxedo rental market, worth around $1.2bn in total, capturing weddings, school proms, and other formal events. Around two million weddings take place in the US each year, almost ten times the number held in the UK, building a wedding services sector worth around $50bn a year. Of that total, around $5bn per year is spent on wedding dresses, tuxedos and other attire.
Richard Freedman, CEO at ACS Clothing, said: “Our aim is to revolutionise tuxedo rental with higher-quality, better-fitting, designer groomswear with an innovative online system that makes dressing your wedding party simple, stylish and stress-free. The great benefit for the bridal dress designers is that it allows them to connect with and influence brides more than ever before, beyond the wedding gown right through to groomswear and accessories.
“Suit Up will be the only online tuxedo rental experience that combines the talent of today’s top bridal dress designers, offers their bespoke groomswear and has the ability to co-ordinate/colour-match the entire wedding party attire.”
ACS is also pleased to announce the appointment of Peter Abruzzo, as CEO of the US operations. Abruzzo has a background in tuxedo rental businesses, having worked alongside the CEOs of formalwear and bridal powerhouses such as Men’s Wearhouse, David’s Bridal, and After Hours, helping to lead the exponential growth of each brand.
The company has signed a lease on a 244,000sq ft distribution facility in Memphis, Tennessee, near its shipping partner FedEx, to deliver its formalwear direct to its customers across the US.
TWO’S COMPANY: RICHARD FREEDMAN AND TERESA ROBSON-CAPPS OF ACS CLOTHING
Richard Freedman, the chief executive of wedding and formal dress hire specialist ACS Clothing, is among this elite group of people. He was seeking someone with the track record to match his international ambitions. In ACS chairman Teresa Robson-Capps, Mr Freedman found quiet authority and experience. She may originally have come from a very different background, but she instinctively understood the unique company culture at ACS, which allowed her to slot straight into the business with relative ease. Such a dynamic is crucial for founder/ non-exec relationships. The result? A fascinating experience for Dr Robson-Capps and, for Mr Freedman, an adviser with all the corporate rigour, without compromising the company’s culture.
Richard Freedman CEO, ACS Clothing
My dad had a menswear shop in Glasgow that used to sell suits. I went to university in 1990, and back then life was quite difficult for menswear retailers. While at university I decided to set up a small hirewear department in my dad’s menswear store. There was no grand plan, it was really just intended to help stabilise the family business.
The hirewear business blossomed and we looked at how we could supply hirewear to other retailers. We soon began to get contracts with national retail chains such as Debenhams and Burtons, and so in 1997 we decided it was time to set up ACS.
Fast-forward 20 years and we have plans to expand into the US, the next big market for ACS.
The thing about a business such as ours is that it tends to require a reasonable amount of capital – of debt – to buy the hire pieces. Our plans for America are ambitious and we realised we would need to get some equity investment.
We were worried about private equity – having built up our business over nearly 20 years, we were nervous about someone else coming in and what their interests would be. When I learnt about the ethos of BGF, I thought that this would be the perfect way for us to really push the business into the US.
Having agreed the investment with BGF, the next step was to bring a non-executive chairman on board. It was vital that we got the right person.
We had a lot of CVs and conducted interviews and I thought: there are a lot of really great people out there, but how do we know what they will be like? Despite interviews, you only really know whether someone is right on that first day, when they actually come to work.
I thought the best way to find the right chairman was to contrive a mock board, a mock first day, and to discuss some of the real issues the company faced. Teresa’s background in retail and banking, and her understanding of payments and direct consumer services, were all relevant to us.
As well as the hirewear side, we have a software business – we sell software for bridal retailers to make it easier to manage their stores, and we wanted someone who would be on top of the technology as well as the business.
We’re a young, entrepreneurial, dynamic company. Aside from my father, our eldest board member is 44, and we don’t have much formality or hierarchy. Teresa’s experience in retail has been invaluable as we continue to explore new products and markets. She has all the corporate rigour, without compromising the company’s culture. I get very passionate and excited about new things, especially with our development in the States – where we now have a 240,000sq ft premises. At every board meeting, after being in the US, I come back with new and exciting ideas. It is very good having Teresa’s quiet authority and experience to complement that – it just works.
Teresa Robson-Capps Chairman, ACS Clothing
I got involved with ACS in February 2014, after the business had gone through a round of funding with BGF. I was approached two ways, once through a consultancy firm I was working with and also through BGF, who proposed me to chair the board. Then I went through a process of selection.
It was fascinating because Richard is a very creative individual, and he brought that to the whole selection process. We had an initial set of meetings and then I was brought back and we went through a mock board.
I also walked round the warehouse and met a lot of people. From my perspective I got to see a fantastic culture, and culture is very important to me. You could tell that the people had accountability for their own section and really knew the process, so it wasn’t just about fitting in with Richard, the family and BGF, it was also about how I fitted in with the overall culture of the business.
I have got a retail background but I think I was also brought in because of my digital experience, and ACS wanted to introduce the new digital platform. I also have an overall ability to understand the operational side of things.
It is fascinating working with Richard. He has fantastic capabilities and works in an entrepreneurial way but with control. We both respect each other’s abilities and what each other brings to the party to actually deliver strategies.
I don’t really think that I am a mentor to Richard; in a mentoring situation, it means you’re having to provide almost a kind of coaching.
I think with Richard, he is so sharp and business-oriented, you just have to mention something, and he will take it on board and you will see that reflected in the business moving forward.
There’s a difference between being a sounding board and a coach. Richard is quite capable of determining and ascertaining exactly what he needs for his business and moving on.
ACS is now expanding into the US and I think the business has many opportunities. We will be developing in the UK as well. Seeing our big new warehouse in Glasgow, with all the groomswear hanging in it, is very exciting. But it is about making sure that ACS delivers what we have planned.
When we had our strategy away day a year ago and we were bringing everyone up to the same level of understanding about the US opportunity and the strategy, we were just talking about it.
Then you go through the year and you see that what we were talking about developing we have actually developed. It made me think: “We’ve come a long way, in a short period of time, and this is really going to happen.”
ACS CLOTHING APPOINTS NEW CHAIR
Leading formal hirewear company, ACS Clothing appoints Dr Teresa Robson-Capps as its new Chair.
Europe’s largest independent supplier of formal hirewear, ACS Clothing, is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr Teresa Robson-Capps as its Chairperson.
Dr Robson-Capps’ extensive experience in technology, retail and telecommunications businesses, and latterly assisting high growth companies in non-executive, advisory and consultancy roles, will help ACS to deliver its strategic objectives as it moves to develop its service offering and extend its international presence.
Teresa was Deputy Head of HSBC Direct Bank from June 2009 to September 2011. During this time she developed and implemented a substantial change programme, integrating sales and service with increased conversion rates whilst improving both customer and employee satisfaction. Prior to this Teresa was Head of Contact Centres for HSBC, a role covering 11 million UK customers from 13 virtual sites.
Teresa was an Associate Partner at Accenture from 2003 to 2006 and in the three years prior to that, was MD of The Customer Division at Reality, a division of GUS plc. Previous senior executive roles include Customer Services Director at Cable & Wireless, Transformation Director at Zurich Insurance and MD of Sears Retail Services.
Dr Robson-Capps’ appointment marks the latest corporate development at ACS following investment of £8.5m in January 2014 by BGF (Business Growth Fund) to assist the company in expanding its operations and investing in its multichannel offering for its retail partners. BGF invested £8.5m in ACS and its bespoke software business Xedo Software, which provides a range of software products to the hire and wedding industries. Xedo has recently relocated to new premises in the centre of Glasgow and is in the process of recruiting additional software developers as part of its expansion plans.
Dr Robson-Capps was introduced to ACS by BGF’s Talent Network, which identified her as a highly regarded individual who would be a significant addition to ACS’s Board.
On the appointment, Richard Freedman, CEO of ACS Clothing commented:
“I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Teresa as our new Chair. As a result of BGF’s investment and our own excellent reputation within our industry, we have secured a first rate individual and we look forward to making the most of Teresa’s extensive experience and track record of delivering significant shareholder value.”
Dr Teresa Robson-Capps added: “I am delighted to be taking on this appointment. ACS is a young and extremely dynamic company with a very exciting future. Under Richard’s leadership it has grown substantially in recent years, and I look forward to the chance to contribute to its further success.”
ACS Clothing was established in Glasgow in 1997 by Richard Freedman and his father, Joseph. The business soon expanded initially focussing on the hire of highland wear to the Scottish market, before expanding into formalwear and evening wear across the UK. ACS Clothing has exclusive supplier agreements with retailers including Debenhams, Austin Reed, Greenwoods, Slaters Menswear and Burton as well as its own brand Cameron Ross.
Located in purpose-built facilities spanning 190,000 sq. ft. at Eurocentral, just outside Glasgow, the £11.5m business employs around 100 people. ACS stocks more than three million garments and processed in the region of 400,000 UK orders during 2013, with the wedding season being the period of highest demand. Stock control and garment sorting is completely automated using bespoke technology created by Durkopp allowing ACS to sort and process 5,000 items simultaneously. All garment dry cleaning and maintenance is carried out on the premises.
BGF first invested in Europe’s largest independent supplier of formal hirewear ACS and its bespoke software business Xedo in January 2015. In September 2015, we provided another £8.5m funding bringing our total investment in the business to £17.3m.
Richard Freedman and his father, Joe, founded ACS Clothing in 1997, building on Joe’s years of experience in running Gilt-Edged, a menswear store in Glasgow. The company took over Blackburn-based Etiquette Formal Hire in April 2011 and lists Debenhams, Slaters, Austin Reed and Burton among its clients, along with its own brand, Cameron Ross. ACS is now located in purpose-built facilities spanning 190,000 sq ft at Eurocentral, just outside Glasgow.
BGF’s funding is being used to support the expansion of its operations, including its multichannel offering for retail partners. ACS is looking to replicate its success in the US by establishing operations and recruiting a team to service the US wedding and prom mark. The company has signed a lease on a 244,000sq ft distribution facility in Memphis, Tennessee, near its shipping partner FedEx, to deliver its formalwear direct to its customers across the US.
Dr Teresa Robson-Capps, a former deputy head of HSBC Direct Bank, joined ACS Clothing in January 2014 as the chair of its board, bringing with her experience gained at companies including Accenture, Cable & Wireless, Great Universal Stores, Sears Retail Services, and Zurich Insurance.