Scottish formal hirewear company sizes up growth following £8.5m BGF investment

Backing of ACS Clothing to support multi-channel e-commerce offering

Leading Scottish formal hirewear company ACS Clothing today announced a £8.5m investment from the Business Growth Fund (BGF).

Founded in Glasgow in 1997 by Richard Freedman and his father Joseph, ACS Clothing initially focused on providing formal highland wear to the Scottish market, before expanding into formalwear and evening wear across the UK.

The business now has a major presence across the UK, with £11.5m turnover and supplier deals with retailers including Debenhams, Austin Reed, Greenwoods, Slaters Menswear and Burton as well as its own brand Cameron Ross.

ACS also acquired formal hirewear company Etiquette Formal Hire in 2011, adding the Blackburn-based firm’s offering to its own.

The company also owns a software business, Xedo, which provides a range of services to the hire and wedding industries, including retail and inventory management.

BGF’s £8.5m investment will be used to expand the firm’s operations as well as developing Xedo’s SortMyWeddingOutfit website, a site where bridal parties can manage outfit hires for entire parties.

The Business Growth Fund is a £2.5bn investment fund created by five of the UK’s high street banks.

It is an independent company that invests between £2m and £10m to businesses with turnover exceeding £5m and significant growth potential, in exchange for a minority stake and a seat on the board for a BGF director.

Richard Freedman, founder and CEO of ACS Clothing and Xedo Software, said: “We are proud of what we have achieved in the UK to date and with the capacity to grow must now look to broaden our offering to our customers.  A major investment in our e-commerce capabilities and processing software is the quickest way to expand our business but we will also be exploring new international business opportunities and partnerships.

I was suitably inspired by the BGF story, recognised that their approach was quite different from other equity houses, believed that Simon could add value to our business, made the simple call to find out more and within a matter of months, here we are.”

Simon Munro, regional BGF director for Scotland who will join ACS as part of the deal, added:  “Our team has not only been impressed with ACS’ high tech and efficient operations but also with the scale of the business opportunity.

“Formal hirewear has huge market potential, both in the UK and internationally, which means that we have a number of exciting opportunities to review.  To put it into context the total global wedding industry is estimated at $320bn per annum, excluding honeymoon, wedding gifts and spend by guests.  The average cost of a UK wedding is £18,000.  There is plenty to go after.”

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