Rolling up fragmented industries is an age-old strategy. Sometimes it works. And sometimes better than others.
The Merger Verger was involved once in leading a series of roll-ups in the industrial packaging and crating space. Chick Packaging (now a part of the Swedish global packaging concern, Nefab) began life in 18-something in rural New Hampshire and grew through acquisitions to be the largest industrial packaging company in the US. While the strategy was highly successful, it never achieved one of the its fundamental underpinnings.
The cornerstone business – and in fact most of the bolt-ons – had deep customer relationships with one or more of the Fortune 100. The roll-up strategy called for leveraging those relationships into national contracts as the operational footprint of the company grew. It didn’t happen, not to anywhere near the degree it seemed like it should have.
The reason offers a cautionary tale for anyone contemplating a consolidation strategy.