Acquisitions in the Uniform Industry. Go Big or Stay Local?

Acquisitions in the Uniform Industry. Go Big or Stay Local?


Ace ImageWear got its humble start when part-time boxer and full-time entrepreneur Ed Heilman decided to go off on his own in the linen supply business. Now, nearly 90 years later, we’re still proud to be family-owned and operated, servicing Kansas City, Missouri, and Houston, Texas.

While the economic landscape has changed drastically from when Ed was in the ring, his fighting spirit stays with us. Many industries see acquisitions and mergers of locally-owned businesses by national companies. The uniform industry is no different.

The Local Uniform Company in Kansas City

In the past few years, we’ve seen Cintas acquire G&K Services, and in other parts of the country, UniFirst has acquired other local providers, like Arrow Uniform to the north of us. Most recently, Kansas City-Based Walker Towel & Uniform was acquired by UniFirst. This makes us one of the only, if not the only family-owned, locally operated uniform companies in the Kansas City area. And, one of a few in Houston.

We’ve grown through merging with other locally owned companies ourselves. Ace acquired Beaumont based Shepherd’s Linen and Uniform Supply in 1979, which gave us a great start in the Texas market. Even though we acquired another small business, we remained committed to Shepherd’s history and the relationships they held with their customers. We kept the name for years, and still maintain our Beaumont, Texas location as an extension of our family - with family leadership and employees serving local customers. If it had been a national competitor that acquired Shepherd’s, we guess that it would’ve played out differently.

There are many pros and cons to an acquisition or merger, but what’s most important is how well the transition is handled. Sadly, the feedback is that businesses impacted by a move from a local uniform provider to a now nationally serviced account often experience interruptions, poor service, and missing garments.

Family-Owned Businesses are the Backbone of Our Economy

National companies acquiring small businesses carve out a larger stake in the marketplace with one less competitor. But can they handle the workload or maintain the relationships? Do they bring the family values that influence a great culture, and long term employees? Not likely. It’s clear that smaller, family-owned businesses provide better quality customer service and more personalized service; being able to talk to someone on the other end of the phone, receive attentive and fast responses to inquiries, and obtain customized solutions to business problems are all things you get from Ace. We don’t force rigid groupings of uniform services like many national companies, because we know no two businesses are exactly alike.

Customer Service is Job #1

What’s most important to us is that your employees have proper uniform garments and workwear to tackle the day safely and professionally in attire that speaks to your business. We care about our communities, we care about your business, and we care that we get the job done right, on time, and completely. While some national uniform companies continue to secure smaller businesses (and misplace your shipments), we’ll continue to keep getting to know you better and build a strong relationship.

The Ace Guarantee

With nearly 90 years in business, the Heilman Service Guarantee is one of the strongest promises in the industry. In fact, every customer agreement reads, “If we are unable to correct any problem within 10 working days of receipt of your registered letter, we will release you immediately from any and all future obligations.”

Avoid the Headaches of National Uniform Providers

If the quality of your uniform service has taken a turn for the worse or you want to see what local options are out there for your company and your employees, give us a call. See how you can Ace It and work with a local uniform company dedicated to customer service, and technology that ensures timely repairs, complete delivery and upfront billing. Learn why Ace ImageWear has continued to stay independent and family-owned for 3+ generations, contact us today.