15 December 2016, Written by Lin Evlin

GOLD Coast entrepreneur Mark Foote's LE Gear has been snapped up by leading uniform manufacturer and supplier, Australian Defence Apparel (ADA) for an undisclosed sum.

Foote, who placed sixth overall on the Top 40 Young Entrepreneurs for Gold Coast this year, has grown LE Gear into a leading supplier of law enforcement, military, public safety and outdoor products across Australia and New Zealand. 

Foote also developed a proprietary system to manage the company's online orders and keep pace with growing demand from its customers.

ADA's Chief Executive Officer, Matt Graham, described LE Gear as an "attractive acquisition" which was in line with ADA's growth strategy through diversification.

"We have gone down a fairly aggressive diversification path in the last 3 or 4 years, we are not just completely reliant on defence but also moving into other sectors such as law enforcement, police, emergency services and health," Graham says.

"What we realised was that, in order to grow into other sectors, it is simply not enough to just manufacture and supply clothing."

The acquisition will broaden ADA's offering to and open up access to new markets, new customers and key relationships with suppliers.

"It just made sense to find someone who was a key player in that market, or had access to capabilities and access to really strong brands that were in demand and LE Gear seemed like a really good strategic fit for us," says Graham.

"The other thing that really attracted us to LE Gear was its ability to provide our specialised tactical products directly to customers through LE Gear's online platform rather than just doing business-to-business transactions which is the core of our business so again, it expands ADA to a whole new market channel.

"Now that we have this new channel we can start working on the products that can go directly to consumers and this is something we have never really been able to do in the past."

Graham says that they were also impressed by LE Gear's loyal customer base which can be "leveraged quickly and easily in a global space", another key priority for ADA. 

Discussions between the two companies began six months ago and Graham says that ADA went through a lengthy and thorough due diligence process prior to committing to the acquisition.

"We went through a fairly lengthy due diligence process but at the same time we did talk to some of our key partners and they could see clear synergy between the two companies."

As for the integration of LE Gear into ADA, Graham says, it has been pretty much business as usual.

"In the short term, it is business as usual. We have right now about 350,000 users on our database that can easily be turned into reward programs so there is a lot of scope for us to be working on these sort of strategies. The integration at this stage is no real change, but to continue to add size and scale to the LE Gear brand," he says.

LE Gear will be a division within ADA which Foote will continue to run and will have responsibility for its performance. 

For the long term future, Graham says that ADA is focussed on scale.

"We have everything we can in the Australian defence space so we are looking to scale and expand distribution worldwide. We are delivering our first major product into the Middle East today. We are focused on expansion and strategic relationships," he says.

"We have gone through a bit of a turnaround from where we were three years ago. We have a great young team here and have a big focus on design and innovation and so we just have to capitalise on it. That is our strength at the moment."

Foote is the second of the 2016 Gold Coast Young Entrepreneur cohort to sell his business since the awards in November, following Dan Norris' recent sale of WP Curve to GoDaddy.
Author: Lin Evlin Connect via: Twitter LinkedIn





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