Christchurch clothing brand Cactus Outdoor has acquired Albion Clothing, one of just a handful of large-scale apparel manufacturers remaining in this country.

Cactus would not reveal how much it paid for Albion, but said the company would continue to operate as a separate business.

Ben Kepes, founder and director of Cactus, said there was demand for locally manufactured apparel was huge and he hoped the acquisition would enable the business to scale and re-grow apparel manufacturing this country.

Kepes said he intended to reach out to New Zealand fashion brands and labels in an attempt to increase and retain apparel manufacturing in this country.


"The aim is to consolidate into one but the company we've brought is going to run as a separate standalone company," he said. "We'll also make [apparel] for other [companies] so there is every chance that Cactus competitors would get apparel made in the factory as well - and we welcome that."

The opportunity to acquire Albion came about through the companies' 20-year relationship. Kepes said the acquisition would allow Cactus, which makes backpacks, workwear and outdoor clothing, to "own its own destiny".

Cactus already owns its own Christchurch manufacturing factory but wants to grow its manufacturing footprint.

"In the past couple of years we've been actively looking at ways to scale our manufacturing and have autonomy over manufacturing.

"Albion has been going since 1967 and is a well-respected manufacturer so it made sense."

Cactus has been negotiating the deal for the past 12 months.

Twenty years ago Canterbury was considered the home of apparel manufacturing in New Zealand, however, over the years the number of factories in this country has dropped dramatically as brands increasingly move production offshore to get things made faster and cheaper.

Albion operates a 1750 sq m factory located in central Christchurch and has for many years made the uniforms for the New Zealand Defence Force, Police and the fire service. The factory employs around 100 people who operate various sewing, cutting and steaming machines.


Kepes said he saw the acquisition as the "start of a movement" which could give local brands the push to get behind retaining manufacturing in New Zealand.

"We have always believed that market trends, technological developments and a consumer focus on provenance means that a brand can successfully retain domestic manufacturing. This acquisition gives Cactus the scope to scale its own operation, and we are also proud to offer contract manufacturing services to other brands," he said.

"We're committing to investing seven figures in building the manufacturing capacity in New Zealand. We're bullish about the investment we're making."

Cactus Outdoor has been negotiating the terms of the deal for the past year. Photo / Supplied
Cactus Outdoor has been negotiating the terms of the deal for the past year. Photo / Supplied

Cactus has manufactured its apparel in New Zealand for 27 years. Kepes said he believed the local manufacturing industry, with the support of other New Zealand retail brands, could grow to what it once was. "There's a lot of macro trends which mean it is going to be more viable to [manufacture] here [in the future]."

The ownership of the Albion factory would allow Cactus to experiment with manufacturing different items and "speed up" its pace of innovation, he said.

The brand also plans to modernise the garment manufacturing process through marrying up technology and automation with hand-crafted and artisanal work. It has recently installed a robotic fabric cutter to allow for faster and efficient cutting.

Ben Kepes, director of clothing brand Cactus Outdoor. Photo / Supplied
Ben Kepes, director of clothing brand Cactus Outdoor. Photo / Supplied

Buy NZ Made executive director Ryan Jennings said the acquisition was a win for New Zealand.

"The acquisition of one Kiwi brand by another and the successful retention of domestic manufacturing shows what's possible when businesses collaborate in hyper-competitive industries," Jennings said.

Kepes said consumers now wanted to know who made the product they buy, where it came from and the social and environmental impact of the manufacturing process - a trend he expected to continue.

"No longer can you just pretend that your [garments] are made well and hope that people believe that - we'll actually be able to prove this [with the factory] now which will be really good for us."