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Dickson Key To Going Global

Glen Raven acquisition continues to pay dividends with branded products, capabilities and a lesson in global business.

Jim Borneman, Editor In Chief

T he 1997-98 acquisition of France-based Dickson S.A. - comprised of Dickson Constant and the Dickson Industrial Group - is seen throughout Glen Raven Inc. as a shift in direction, one that led to a real understanding of global business. Although Glen Raven had pursued international sales, it maintained a hands-off approach towards integrating Dickson - which operates four facilities in France; and includes the Dickson® brand of solution-dyed fabrics, wide coating capabilities, and the technical prowess of Dickson PTL and Dickson St. Clair - into Glen Raven. That approach continues to pay long-term dividends.

The acquisition of Dickson S.A. added technical and marketing strength to Glen Raven’s global reach. One of the many new products added to the company’s offerings was a line of environmentally friendly media fabrics.

Respected Competitors
"We were competitors with a lot of respect for each other," said Eugene Deleplanque, general manager, Dickson-Constant. "Dickson had a lot of respect for Glen Raven, and I think that Glen Raven respected Dickson. For many years we looked for, and discussed, a way to join forces. We knew we needed to join forces to have a real, strong, worldwide network. Once we joined forces, it didn't really change our life. We kept on doing business the way we were doing business, with the advantage of Glen Raven knowledge to develop new markets."

Glen Raven's approach allowed Dickson and Glen Raven to co-exist successfully - both benefited from each other's strengths rather than imposing on each other's cultures.

"We also had the advantage of their [financial] control system - they had a very good control system in order to better manage the company," Deleplanque said. "But Glen Raven is not in Dickson's day-to-day business. We work on and reinforce the synergies, both in Europe and in America. For instance, we have a [research and development] team working together; we have sales and marketing working very closely together. There are many areas where we work together. When you look at the growth after the acquisition, the growth has been very good both in Europe and in America, showing that the strategy of reinforcing each other works."

Deleplanque explained that Sunbrella® brand fabrics have strength worldwide, particularly in marine applications. Dickson brands are used in awning applications in Europe, the United States and the rest of the world. Sunbrella also is used in awning markets, providing a dual branding strategy.

"When we are in a small country like France, we have to export; therefore, a very big part of our sales and marketing efforts is done for the international markets," Deleplanque explained. "More than 70 percent of our sales are exported outside of France. In every market, we try to be local. We try to hire local people and to be as local as possible."

Eugene Deleplanque, general manager, Dickson-Constant

Dickson Coatings
Dickson PTL's and Dickson St. Clair's know-how are a mixture of industrial textiles, chemistry and new technologies; and therefore, the companies are world leaders in innovation - masters at blending substrates, coatings and laminations to create a variety of differentiated products.

"They are very compatible insofar as we don't have the same products or customers, and it works very well," said Matthew Watson, general manager, Dickson Coatings.

"At Dickson PTL, we bring in highly flame-retardant substrates such as fiberglass and aramids. We then coat in polyvinyl chloride, polyurethanes and silicones; and we laminate. Dickson PTL has a focus on more technical, more niche markets compared to St. Clair," Watson said. "St. Clair does media fabrics - it weaves substrates and has a new line of environmentally friendly products. The Evergreen range of media fabrics has some unique products made in an environmentally responsible manner. The products are highly flame-retardant. When you dispose of them, there are no toxic gases emanated. If you burn them, eventually you only get water and carbon dioxide. They give a nice textile look, like an artist's canvas, and have very good printability."

"We will continue [to work] on the media products, and we really have a super range in them," Watson added. "In the tire industry, we've had some very good products ...; in protective apparel, mainly in gloves; and we'll reinforce the strengths of the three areas, bringing highly differentiated products [to market]."

"In our heat-protective gloves, we use a silicone coating on a knitted aramid base cloth," he explained. "You've got dexterity, washability, good mechanical performance in perforation and cut resistance, very good temperature and flame resistance. This is for firefighting and industries such as oil drilling - anywhere there is a risk of fire or heat. These gloves will resist up to 500°F."

June 2005