Alphabroder buys Prime Line, boosts promo-goods lines

Phillydeals-18122017-0002
Philadelphia-based alphabroder, a privately held promotional-items distributor with $1.1 billion in yearly sales, has purchased Prime Line, adding mugs and other hard goods to its printed-clothing business at a time when Amazon and Fanatics are also starting to make their own clothing.

Alphabroder, the Philadelphia-based imprintable-sportswear distributor that leads its industry with $1.1 billion in yearly sales, has acquired Bridgeport, Conn.-based Prime Line, a company that prints mugs and other promotional items.

Prime Line sales totaled $116 million in 2016, according to the Advertising Specialty Institute. Alphabroder has not said what it is paying for Prime Line.

The deal marks at least the fourth acquisition by alphabroder since Connecticut-based investor Littlejohn & Co. LLC took control of the firm, then known as Broder Bros., in 2013. Alphabroder bought Northeast Philadelphia’s Bodek & Rhodes in 2015, Ash City Worldwide in 2014, and Imprints Wholesale in 2013. It has since consolidated a string of facilities that formerly competed and laid off workers to cut costs, while beefing up its headquarters and marketing operations.

The regional clothing-print industry has been consolidating at a time when online-retail giant Amazon.com has been preparing to begin printing and shipping its own clothing from a battery of automated Israeli printing machines at its Woot! plant in West Norriton, Montgomery County. Meanwhile Fanatics Inc., the pro- and college-sports-team online clothing leader owned by Conshohocken-based Michael Rubin, has purchased the Majestic plant in Easton, Pa., to produce its own clothing.

By adding Prime’s lines of “hard” goods like printed mugs to its “soft” items such as corporate-themed T-shirts, the merger “will create the industry’s first true ‘one-stop-shop,’ ” alphabroder CEO Norman Hullinger said in a statement.

Prime Line boss Jeff Lederer will continue to run the business for alphabroder.

By entering the highly fragmented printed hard-goods market, alphabroder is evolving into “a value-added distributor” with a range beyond the regional print shops it previously acquired, Littlejohn principal Drew Greenwood added in a statement.

Prime Line brands include MopToppers, Leeman New York, Rubik’s, and Built. The company buys items from non-U.S. manufacturers through its Source Abroad by Prime division. Last year, Prime purchased discount brand Jetline.