Just three years after opening its US distribution centre and sales office in Kentucky, leading Irish safety clothing and personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturers Portwest Limited has established itself in Australia. Portwest has just acquired Melbourne company Prime Mover Workwear for a sum in excess of $8 million. This is a significant step in Portwest’s strategic geographical expansion across the globe and similar acquisitions in other areas are anticipated. Owned by brothers Cathal, Harry and Owen Hughes, Portwest confidently expect turnover to reach $370 million by 2020, consolidating its position as the fastest growing workwear company in the world.

Portwest currently employs 20 people in Louisville, Kentucky at the sales office opened on St. Patrick’s Day in 2014. At the launch, Mr Steve Beshear then Governor of Kentucky, said: “I can’t think of any better way to celebrate St Patrick’s Day than by welcoming an Irish company to the Commonwealth [of Kentucky], I’m very excited Portwest chose Kentucky as its entry way into the US market. This is yet another great example of the Commonwealth being at the forefront of international commerce.”

Portwest specialises in the design and production of flame-resistant and high-visibility work-wear, rainwear, protective footwear, hand protection and personal protective equipment. 

Harry Hughes, Managing Director, Portwest Limited, explained that , “As part of its expansion plans, Portwest has strategically positioned warehousing across five major global locations - the USA, Dubai, UK, Poland and Ireland. The company has made considerable investment into factories in Bangladesh and plans are in the final stages for a new manufacturing facility in Myanmar, where production will commence later this year”.

“We are delighted to announce this acquisition in the Australia/New Zealand market”, said Owen Hughes, Acquisition and Financial Director at Portwest Limited, “This marks an exciting new phase of development for Portwest and we look forward to working with Brett Birkill in expanding our reach in this area.”

Prime Mover Workwear is the largest privately owned workwear company in Australia. It was founded in2004 by Australian entrepreneur Brett Birkill who will remain with the company as CEO for Australia and New Zealand.

“This deal is obviously very exciting for me, but I wasn’t about to sell to just anyone”, explained Brett Birkill, “I feel confident that the Portwest team will continue to uphold the quality and service I’ve spent 13 years building. They actually care”.

Although based on opposite sides of the planet, there is no denying the two companies share similar underlying values and core principals. Both are family enterprises with high quality product design and manufacturing standards and offer outstanding service. Each has been successful in their respective markets, competing effectively against large publically listed competitors.

Portwest has been designing, developing and manufacturing high quality workwear, high visibility garments, flame resistant clothing, footwear and PPE for well over a hundred years. It was founded in 1904 by Charles Hughes son of a small farmer on the harsh Atlantic coast. He was determined to make better workwear and footwear when he started his first Portwest factory. His core principles of exceptional design quality, value and service still apply in every aspect of the business.

This philosophy has ensured Portwest’s strength and position in the workwear marketplace and has positioned them as industry leaders with reported European turnover of over €150 million.