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Superior Uniform Group (SGC) Q4 2020 Earnings Call Transcript

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SGC earnings call for the period ending December 31, 2020.

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Superior Uniform Group (SGC 1.54%)
Q4 2020 Earnings Call
Mar 01, 2021, 2:00 p.m. ET


  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to Superior Group of Companies 2020 fourth-quarter and year-end earnings conference call. With us today on behalf of the company is Michael Benstock, the company's chief executive officer; Andy Demott, its chief operating officer, chief financial officer and treasurer; and from the promotional products division, we have Jake Himelstein, BAMKO's chief operating officer and CFO. [Operator instructions] Now, I will turn the call over to Hala Elsherbini, senior managing director of Three Part Advisors, who will read the safe harbor statement.

Please go ahead.

Hala Elsherbini -- Senior Managing Director

Thank you. This conference call may contain forward-looking statements about Superior Group of Companies, the company, within the meaning of Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1935, the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and all rules and regulations issued thereunder. Such statements are based upon management's current expectations, projections, estimates and assumptions. Words such as will, expect, believe, anticipate, think, outlook, hope and variations of such words and similar expressions identify such forward-looking statements, which includes statements on the impact of COVID-19 on the company's business, including inventory, supply chain, manufacturing capacity at the company's own and contract manufacturing facilities, service capacity and customer demand.

Forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties that may cause future results to differ materially from those suggested by the forward-looking statements. Such risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, the following: the effect of the COVID-19 crisis on the U.S. and global market, our business operations, customers, suppliers and employees; general economic conditions in the areas of the United States in which the company's customers are located; changes in the market where uniforms are worn, where promotional products are sold and where call center services are used; the impact of competition; the company's ability to successfully integrate operations following confirmation of acquisitions and the availability of manufacturing materials; as well as the risks and uncertainties disclosed in the company's periodic filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including the company's annual report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2019, and the 8-K filed recently. Shareholders, potential investors and other readers are urged to consider these factors carefully in evaluating the forward-looking statements made herein and are cautioned not to place undue reliance on such forward-looking statements.

The company does not undertake to update the forward-looking statements contained herein to conform to actual results or changes in the company's expectations, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law. Please note that all growth comparisons that management makes today will relate to the corresponding period in 2019, unless otherwise noted. With that, I'll turn the call over to Michael.

Michael Benstock -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Hala and welcome, everybody. Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us to discuss our fourth-quarter results. With me today as usual is Andy, who will report on the overall SGC results and status of our operations, and Jake will report today on BAMKO's financials and the state of our current operations there.

Jake previously helped lead the third-quarter earnings call, if you remember, when Andy was not able to attend. As BAMKO becomes a larger and larger part of our company, we feel that the addition of Jake to speak to BAMKO's results and answer questions is helpful. As usual, when we are done, we'll be open for questions. So let's get started.

So let's get started. I am extremely proud to have reported our results this morning. Record results in all segments and significant increases in top and bottom-line results is positive news for our shareholders. I am especially proud to have done so in one of the most trying years in our 100-year history to report on how we pivoted and brought to get -- brought even greater shareholder value than ever.

To remind you, 2020 marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of this company. My great grandmother Rose started this business on the heels of the Spanish flu pandemic, entering us into the world of medical apparel in '19/'20. She was a bold women. Well, only after she started the company was she even given the right to vote.

She was a trailblazer. I've been preceded by many bold leaders, my grandfather, David Benstock, who saw the company through World War 2 and the support we gave to our armed troops during that time, and my father, who diversified the company greatly in the uniform sphere and took the company public in 1968. Our legacy of 100 years is phenomenal and to have ended our 100 years in the midst of a pandemic with the level of success we have achieved gives us certain bragging rights. I mostly don't want to brag about our 4,600 associates who worked harder and smarter with so little clarity as to what was going to happen this past year.

They fought for our survival. And not only did they succeed, but they exceeded beyond all of our expectations. Our work-from-home solution was deployed in mid-March across all countries that we operate in. None of us knew at that point what the future would hold nor with the contingency plans we have put in place to sell PPE and to heighten our focus on essential customers would yield in terms of our level of success.

As countries shut down, we benefited greatly by our long-term strategy of redundant manufacturing, moving production around the world like chess pieces to ensure continuity of supply. In keeping with our legacy, we also made record donations last year, millions of dollars in cash donations and essential products to healthcare systems. Our donations helped clothe over 100,000 caregivers. The full value of our donations well exceeded $5 million.

Charity is in our DNA. It always has been going back to our formation in 1920. Our business got started as an active charity when my great grandmother Rose helped three fellow immigrants get our business started as Superior Surgical. We are fortunate to be positioned today with greater strength and with more purpose than ever before.

Our revenues exceeded $0.5 billion in sales this year. If you look back to 2010, when our revenue was $105 million, we managed to increase market share during and following the recession and a subsequent cotton crisis. Here we are 10 years later, more than five times the revenue we were able to achieve in 2010. Our 2020 earnings increased over 10 fold over that same period of time.

The most amazing part about 2020 was that not only did we source and sell over $131 million of PPE, but even without PPE, every segment of our business hit new revenue records. 2020 was not without its challenges. There was a sizable contraction in the promotional products industry and in the nonessential side of the uniform industry, but we have intentionally positioned our company to withstand most any uncertainty for the future. We always like to say to our investors that we are somewhat recession-proof and that we are so well diversified across so many products and services.

But now we know we are pandemic-proof too. In saying that, the bragging stops, of course. My heart goes out to the millions of families who have lost loved ones during this pandemic. My gratitude extends to all the caregivers, first responders, teachers and other essential workers, including our own very owned warehouse and production associates beyond anything I could possibly put into words.

This pandemic isn't over, but our future is solid with or without future crisis sales. Around this time last year, we discussed our successful transformation to elevate our innovation, automation, sales strategies and leadership alignment for the next strategic phase of our growth. We continue on that same path in 2021. We accomplished a great deal during 2020, but the unprecedented growth we saw will require additional investments in human capital.

As we have leveraged our investments in the past and our shared resources infrastructure to control costs and deliver record-setting results, we will continue to do so in the future. Our annual net sales were up by an impressive 40% to over $526 million, along with a remarkable 240% increase in net income to $41 million. This truly outstanding results, further highlighting our resilience and strength. While the pivot to PPE sourcing was key to our growth in net sales and net income, we should emphasize again that we achieved notable organic growth in net sales in all three of our business segments even without the impact of sales from PPE.

Andy will, of course, provide more color to that. As we reported in third quarter, we are still seeing continued demand for PPE in our healthcare and employee ID retail business sectors, including reusable protective apparel, such as barrier coats and isolation gowns as well as scrub apparel. Earlier in the year, we bolstered our inventories in much of our legacy PPE as well as scrub apparel, which has supported much of our organic growth this year, and we believe the majority of which will be sustainable for the long term. Our fashion seal healthcare and CID scrub products saw sizable increases in sales across our traditional customer base.

At CID, in particular, we also found new channels with mostly e-commerce retailers to move the needle substantially with respect to revenue and operating margins. We've spoken previously about our WonderWink INDY line for fashion seal healthcare designed by CID. This new innovative fashion collection was essentially spoken for before even arriving in our warehouses. One of our key laundry distributor customers put out a press release at the end of December announcing the addition of the INDY-branded scrub line as part of their managed uniform service offering.

We are excited to continue our long-standing partnership with them and others who have come forward to support the long-term success of the first of its kind addition to our scrub offering in many years. We expect increasingly wide acceptance for this distinctive fashion scrub and anticipate that over a three-year period, it will ramp up to represent greater than high seven figures in annual sales. We continue to work on our international marketing strategy through CID. As we discussed last quarter, we are currently selling healthcare apparel into European markets at modest levels.

As part of our long-term strategy, we have contracted with a warehouse in Poland to begin distributing our products and to be closer to our customer base. This will allow us to build our footprint further across those markets. HPI, our employee ID business, has a diversified customer base, including COVID essential and nonessential businesses. Revenue from the smaller nonessential sectors within our HPI customer base was down by almost 30%.

This portion of our employee ID business includes the travel, dining and entertainment industries. These sales declines were largely offset by robust sales to essential retailers including pharmacies, grocery chains and big box retailers. While we are seeing lighter activity than usual on the RFP side of HPI's business, we do expect the resumption of higher activity later in the year as the environment stabilizes to a new normal. As establishments increase their capacity and hire more people, the need for uniforms and rebranding will certainly provide a lift going forward.

The essential side of our business still remains strong and should help mitigate most, if not all, the downturn that we have or will experience on the nonessential side of our business. Demand for PPE still continues. The challenge is often not how much we can sell but how we can find sufficient and reliable supply. The supply chain has been extremely tight on many products.

We're working with our teams across the globe day and night to source legitimate products that meet the rigid specs of this market. While many of our customers, including what we call nonlegacy PPE product as part of their normal Uniform shipments or as part of their employee start-up kits, there is still a substantial amount of business opportunities to be won across all the sectors of PPE. In our promotional products segment, which Jake will report on further, the BAMKO team turned a colossal crisis into a tremendous opportunity by correctly anticipating early in the pandemic that PPE products were going to be in high demand and that customers would use those products not only to protect their employees and their customers, but also to help sustain their brand identity. Through our unmatched sourcing and creative expertise, the team exceeded expectations by delivering very profitable sales, eclipsing $200 million, quite a milestone.

The Office Gurus returned to pre-pandemic double-digit growth with a 31% increase in the fourth quarter and an 18% increase for the year. I can't say enough positive things about our team's timely pivot to work-from-home solution that will enable us to continue to support all of our customers in the midst of an ever-changing government lockdown mandates. We onboarded several new clients during the pandemic, and grew our agent head count by over 300 people to nearly 1,700 agents. We are considered by many of our customers who use other call centers besides ours to beat their pandemic proof solution.

We are excited about the opportunity that work from home means to us in terms of modest investments we will need to make in the business and our ability to scale its growth even further. Headwinds on the supply chain side impacted our uniforms and promotional products businesses with logistic cost surging as we worked to serve our customers' elevated demands. This has happened across all, including domestic trucking, overseas air shipments and ocean container shipments. We saw pricing pressures, both from a logistics standpoint and from a fabric increase cost as well as some weakness in the dollar.

Other logistic challenges include the well-publicized backup of West Coast ports, the lack of availability of shipping containers and scarcity of truckers to move freight and this has caused severe logistic challenges as well as more than doubling of our costs associated with bringing product into our warehouses. As a result of these many pressures, we implemented a sizable price increase that is largely effective this quarter. I will now turn the call over to Jake to discuss BAMKO's results and then come back to you at the close.

Jake Himelstein -- Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer, Promotional Products

Thank you, Michael and good afternoon, everyone. I'm ecstatic with the results our team at BAMKO has delivered during such a challenging year. Our presence on the ground in Asia and our superior sourcing prowess distinguished us during a year marked by crisis and opportunity. BAMKO ended the fourth quarter with sales of $56.3 million, a 52.5% increase from Q4 2019.

Operating margin improved to 14.6% compared to 4.5% in last year's fourth quarter. For the full-year 2020, our sales were greater than $202 million, an increase of approximately 88% of over 2019. We leveraged our scale to deliver 13% operating margin compared to 4.3% operating margin in 2019. The this massive increase in operating margin is a testament to BAMKO's ability to realize economies of scale as we continue on our growth trajectory.

Industrywide promotional product spend was down approximately 25% to 30% in 2020 compared to 2019. Despite these powerful industry headwinds, BAMKO's core promotional product sales actually increased year over year by $11.9 million or 11.1%. In fact, the fourth quarter was the largest single quarter of promotional product sales in BAMKO's history. To reemphasize, in a year where our industry was down upwards of 30%, BAMKO was up 88% overall year over year and when stripping out PPE, BAMKO was still up 11% year over year, just a remarkable performance in a very challenging market.

Core promotional product sales were steady in the first three quarters of the year before increasing substantially in Q4 as we saw a sharp increase in employee gifting. Our backlog at year-end was $45.5 million, which consisted of $5.6 million in PPE and $39.9 million in nonPPE sales. Although total backlog figure is slightly lower than prior quarters, the nonPPE backlog continues to increase, showing a resurgence in promotional product spend. It's also the largest year-end backlog in BAMKO's history.

2021 brings with it both challenges and opportunities regarding the promotional products market. A primary challenge is the timing of a return to large-scale conferences and events, something we are not expecting to occur until at least the second half of the year. Fortunately, BAMKO's business is substantially less event-based than the industry as a whole. And BAMKO's continued strong performance has it well positioned to meet renewed demand as these events return.

A diversified portfolio of clients and industry sectors served by BAMKO includes a number of well-performing segments beyond the gig economy sector. These include other areas of strength such as home gifting, customer retention programs, customer acquisition, reacquisition programs, virtual conference gifts and gift with purchase items for consumers. All told, BAMKO is much better prepared to take on the challenges and opportunities in the promotional products market than the industry at large. Our acquisition of Gifts By Design immediately positions BAMKO to become an industry leader in corporate awards, incentives and recognition programs, which we view as an important and rapidly growing market segment.

We plan to leverage our large client base and sales force to extend this vertical to current and future clients. By joining forces, both companies will immediately become better with increased capabilities and product offerings. We are adding talent and proven leadership in a previously untapped vertical. Before I close, I'd like to point out that BAMKO was once again honored in 2020 by the Los Angeles Business Journal as the No.

1 Medium-sized Company To Work For in all of Los Angeles. Additionally, members of the BAMKO team recently won awards for salesperson of the year and Best Boss as selected by promotional product Trade publications. These are quite impressive achievements, which reinforce our commitment to our culture and our people. I'll now turn the call over to Andy for his operational and financial review.

Andy Demott -- Chief Operating Officer

Thank you, Jay. Good afternoon everyone. Our teams performed at an exceptional level in the midst of unprecedented times and delivered four quarters of impressive results, timely cost-cutting moves and an aggressive austerity strategy in addition to profitable sales growth, allowed us to improve our cash flow for the year. We continue to improve our liquidity and debt leverage position, bringing our debt-to-EBITDA ratio to 1.4 times at December 31, 2020, down from four times at the end of 2019.

This highlights nearly a full year in which we are in line with our historically desired range of one to two times debt-to-EBITDA and well under our covenant limit. For the year, we reduced outstanding debt by $31.6 million. We view our business through a long-term lens, striving for continuous improvement across our operational and financial platforms. And as a matter of prudent corporate governance, we filed a Universal Shelf Registration statement of $120 million on October 30, 2020.

This gives us greater financial flexibility for acquisitions and large sales opportunities as they arise in the future. We also increased our revolving credit agreement by $50 million at very favorable terms and extended the maturity to 2026 to support our continued growth. During the year, we continued to make business process investments to greatly elevate our technology and automation, bolstering cross-functional collaboration and driving enhanced efficiencies and fulfillment capabilities. I'll briefly highlight some key accomplishments.

We finalized the implementation of SAP at CID, completing critical software upgrades across our organization that further optimize our shared resources model. All of our Uniform segment businesses are now fully operational on SAP. We continue to expand our manufacturing presence in Haiti with more production being sourced from our own factories, giving us a distinct advantage over our competition. As we take a stronger position on fabric, we are able to reduce full package pricing.

Overall, we expect a nearly $300,000 savings per month beginning in quarter 3 of this year on incoming product. This should translate into even more improved margins in 2022. We continue to make large investments in our distribution facilities in Arkansas and Dallas. We expanded our distribution facility in Eudora, Arkansas, and are in the midst of the installation of our new and upgraded robotics distribution.

We expect to be operational in the new system late in 2021. Additionally, we are wrapping up the installation of robots in our distribution center at CID in Dallas now. We expect that these investments will help us to continue to drive down distribution costs even further. We completed the sale of our HPI warehouse in Georgia in December of 2020, recognizing a gain on the sale of $2.2 million.

The strategic consolidation of the Georgia and Arkansas facilities was completed late last year in accordance with our optimization efforts. Turning to our financial highlights. We had a tremendous finish to the year with fourth-quarter net sales up 34.1% to $145.4 million. The largest contributor was BAMKO with a 52.5% quarterly sales growth that accounted for $56.3 million of the $145 million in sales.

Rniforms and related productsnet sales increased 23.8% to $78.2 million relative to the comparable period in 2019. $24 million of that was PPE versus $841,000 in 2019. Jake reviewed BAMKO's outstanding results, so I'll just reiterate that we continue to see significant operating margin leverage opportunity in the promotional products division as it continues to realize economies of scale. The Office Gurus returned to high double-digit growth and reported a net sales increase from third parties of 30.6% to $10.9 million.

Throughout the year, the team redefined excellence in servicing existing customers as well as onboarding new customers with their successful execution to meet changing customer needs. For the quarter, we reported consolidated gross margin defined as gross profit as a percentage of sales of 35.7% compared to 32.2% in the fourth quarter of 2019. This margin increase is attributable to higher-margin sales based on product and customer mix. As a percent of net sales, consolidated SG&A expenses for the fourth quarter improved to 26% versus 27% last year, reflecting our ability to leverage higher volume sales across all business segments combined with continued cost mitigating actions to control operating expenses.

Income from operations for the fourth quarter increased to $14.1 million and operating margins climbed from 5.2% to 9.7% over the same period. Overall, fourth-quarter net income increased almost 320% to $12.5 million or $0.79 per diluted share compared to $3 million or $0.20 per diluted share in last year's fourth quarter. Now, let's shift to a review of the full-year results. On a year-over-year basis, net sales were up 40% to $526.7 million, clearly exceeding our guidance for the year.

Uniform's net sales rose significantly by 21% to $287.3 million. Additionally, we ended the year with record backlogs for the Uniform segment of $74.1 million in total compared to $15.4 million at the end of 2019. PPE backlog included in the 2020 year in total was $36.7 million versus essentially 0 at December 31, 2019. BAMKO closed on a record year, posting an increase of 88% and TOG posted an increase of 17.6%.

Of note, our TOG facility in El Salvador experienced a shelter-in-place mandate at the end of Q1 with 0 notice, which resulted in a loss of roughly $1.8 million in revenue while we deployed our work-from-home solution. TOG had 0 layoffs due to the pandemic and continued to pay all employees who are willing to work as we deployed our work-for-home solution. As a percentage of net sales, consolidated SG&A improved to 25.9% for the year compared to 28.5% reported in 2019. Our ability to maintain cost discipline while leveraging higher sales volume across our business segments continues to drive improvements in SG&A percentages.

We achieved the improvements noted in SG&A despite potential bad debts in our accounts receivable balances as we work through budgeting and economic scenario planning, given continued uncertainty from pandemic-related disruptions. To this end, we increased our provision for bad debt to $6.7 million in 2020 as compared to $1.3 million in 2019. We also incurred an increase in expense of $4.2 million on acquisition-related contingent liabilities, primarily driven by fair market value adjustments in these liabilities as a result of the tremendous operating results delivered by BAMKO and the promotional products segment. Our cost of goods sold were impacted by rising logistics costs, as Michael mentioned, impacting our uniform segment by more than $2 million.

Despite this impact, overall gross margin increased to 35.8% as compared to 34.2% in 2019, primarily due to customer and product mix changes. Fiscal year 2020 operating income improved greatly to $52.3 million compared to $21.6 million in 2019. 2020 operating margins climbed to 9.9% compared to 2019's operating margins of 5.7%. 2020 periodic pension costs were approximately $1 million compared to approximately $2 million in 2019.

Interest expense was $2 million for the year compared to $4.4 million in 2019, and our effective tax rate for 2020 was 20.3% compared to 21.1% a year ago. Overall, net income for the year grew by 240% to $41 million compared to $12.1 million a year ago. Diluted earnings per share improved by 235.4% to $2.65 per share compared to $0.79 per share last year. Now, for a few balance sheet highlights.

We continue to prudently manage our cash flow, and at December 31, 2020, we had cash and cash equivalents of $5.2 million. This is a decrease of $3.8 million since last year. During 2020, our excess cash from operating activities was used to repay outstanding borrowings on our revolving credit facility. We recently announced our quarterly dividend of $0.10 per share, which is paid to shareholders, February 26, 2021.

In total, we returned $6.1 million in cash dividends to our shareholders during 2020. Capex investments for the year increased $2.2 million to $11.9 million compared to $9.7 million a year ago. We anticipate continued heavy investing in our automation projects this year, and we expect capex expenditures to be in the range of $15 million to $17 million for 2021. Our fourth quarter and full-year results reflect the team's superb agility in navigating a very challenging environment while executing our strategy for long-term profitable growth.

I'll now turn the call back to Michael for his closing remarks and a general outlook for 2021.

Michael Benstock -- Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Andy. Our performance in 2020 can only be described as epic as a result of the tremendous gains we achieved in all segments of our business. We reached several milestones in the midst of a global crisis that impacted nearly every facet of our lives, and we excelled the ways that will be sustainable for the long term. The year highlighted our core competencies in delivering product and services to essential and nonessential businesses.

At BAMKO, we differentiated ourselves across traditional promotional products by showing our sourcing agility to pivot to PPE. At TOG, we provided critical support to our customers during the pandemic and to do so from home and emerging stronger was nothing short of a miracle. As we look ahead, we're excited about the efficiency and the agility that we continue to display as a company. Let me recap some initiatives that we're excited about that we haven't greatly covered so far in this call.

We hope that you saw SanMar's recent press release announcing their new custom WonderWink offering, gaining access to their customer base of over 21,000 companies with hundreds of thousands of feet on the ground, selling our special design products via this very important B2B channel is a terrific win for CID. The realignment of our design and product development teams in our Uniform segment was timely, and we will be augmenting those teams with even more talent as we forge ahead to take more market share. As Andy mentioned, our third facility in Haiti will considerably increase our near-shore production capabilities. As a matter of fact, in 2020, our own factories in Haiti manufactured 13% of our total uniform production.

All factories in Haiti, including our contract factories currently manufacture about 25% of all of our units. All this is done in the duty-free environment. This will grow, in each case, by approximately 50% this year, so that our own factories will be manufacturing more than 20% and overall contractors, the numbers should exceed 35% of our total units. As each quarter goes on, this will result in improvement in gross margins in our Uniform business as well as our ability to better service our customers from a nearshore location.

M&A activity, which we haven't covered yet, is robust. Our ultimate mission with each prospect is to find the right fit. I said that in the last call, and I keep repeating it. As a reminder, we're being extremely discerning in pursuing opportunities that are quickly accretive, highly synergistic, have short integration periods and have the ability to bring smart seasoned leadership that will integrate into our corporate culture.

BAMKO joining forces with Gift By Design, as Jake spoke about, is a great example of that and is a win-win partnership that sets our course for substantial opportunities ahead, we welcome their team to the SGC family. Additionally, BAMKO will be investing in a new warehouse management system, which will be implemented in its Oak Grove, Louisiana warehouse in the coming weeks. We also leased a 200,000 square foot building, which is being built right now in Arkansas, to handle all receiving which will also serve as a replenishment warehouse for our current Uniform and promotional segments to handle future growth. We are excited about the installation of an even more efficient semirobotic warehouse management system in our main Arkansas facility, which is on pace for completion later this year.

As Andy spoke about, we are wrapping up the implementation of robots at our Dallas facility as planned. Since these robots operate with a certain amount of AI and machine learning we expect their efficiency to gather steam over the coming months, helping to reduce our costs and provide better service to our customers. We are constantly evaluating our channel strategies. We are making a lot of progress in the e-commerce space to support our retailers' platforms, both online and brick-and-mortar, particularly in group sales.

Rollout of Phase 1 of our group sales strategy will be completed this month with Phase 2 planned for later this year. Giving our retail customers transparent visibility to their group customers down to each employee in the group is something that has not been achieved in the past. We are excited to bring this new technology to what is known as the group sales business. We do expect to spend higher marketing dollars in the future to improve and increase brand awareness through many digital campaigns, which we'll partner with many of our retailers to achieve.

We continue to bolster our management ranks, having gone through 3,200 people to 4,600 associates this year to support our growth more is needed to take us to the next level. Please note that we are growing at a faster rate in each of our businesses than the industries themselves are growing. As we increase our market share, we must have talent to take us to new record levels. We're also proud in case you missed it to be listed as No.

10 of America's Best Small Companies by Forbes Magazine. Much of this recognizes shareholder return and our financial operating results. We're also proud of our many award-winning teams across our brand-building enterprise. Throughout 100-year history, ,we've continuously cared for our team members, served our customers, supported the communities in which we live and work.

Our proven resilience and ability to excel during challenges is one of our organization's greatest attributes. We built this company to endure, and we find ourselves in a commanding position as we enter our 101st year of business. With that, we'd like to open the call for your questions.

Questions & Answers:


[Operator instructions] And the first question comes from Kevin Steinke with Barrington Research. Please go ahead.

Kevin Steinke -- Barrington Research -- Analyst

Hey, good afternoon, everyone.

Michael Benstock -- Chief Executive Officer


Kevin Steinke -- Barrington Research -- Analyst

I wanted to start off by asking about CID. And I know you touched on this on your call last quarter, but you again talked about the international growth strategy and opportunity there. Maybe could you just talk about the market dynamics in Europe and internationally compared to what you see in the U.S. for CID, similarities, differences and why now you feel like it's a good time to move internationally with CID?

Michael Benstock -- Chief Executive Officer

OK. CID has been selling internationally even before we purchased them in 2018 on a very small scale, mostly in South America. A little bit of business in Europe and a little bit of business in Australia. That has increased as time has gone on, again, very little effort or very little marketing on our part.

Though there's demand in all of those markets for fashion scrub products. I think scrub maybe they weren't always ubiquitous, but healthcare workers around the world, that is what they're wearing today, and they want fashion scrubs. Very conscious of that healthcare workers are in short supply all over the world. And generally, healthcare workers make more than their peers and can afford fashion scrubs.

And even when hospital supply scrubs, oftentimes, nurses are taking them home depending on the country to launder them. So it's really a mix. It's very different by country. What we find is there's a certain consistency across Europe.

And we've been selling in some CID WonderWink product nearly into every country in Europe with a single retailer here or a broker there, sometimes with a middle person in between us. But the thing that has prevented us from really growing that dynamic is having product on the ground in Europe. Once you have product on the ground in Europe, you can ship across most borders very, very freely. There's no duties between those borders.

When you have products sitting in Texas, and you've got to ship it to Europe or you've got to ship to South America, you're faced with how do you price that, you've already paid duty on the United States. Of course, you can get duty drawbacks and get some of that duty back whenever you're shipping it to another country, and they're paying duties, logistics costs are very expensive for smaller containers to ship to those countries. So we did decide that we were going to put the logical place would be a third-party location in Poland. It's central to the countries that we want to sell.

It's become a gateway for distribution to other parts. For us, it's -- I'd say it's beyond the experimental stage. It's -- we're making a strong commitment to Europe. We have even last year, had consultants working for us to help us make sure we're making the right moves in Europe, and these are people who have helped other companies in the space, expand their profile in Europe.

And we just think that the WonderWink product is -- the fabrics are great, the styling is fabulous. It's nothing that makes it a uniquely American product. It's a universal product that can be worn by all caregivers around the world. And so we're doing it because the product's good and and because we can and why should we leave that market to our competitors.

Some of our competitors have already entered Europe in a big way long before we did. And we expect to be able to take market share from them as well as some of the local people producing in those countries.

Kevin Steinke -- Barrington Research -- Analyst

OK. Yeah, that's helpful. Do you have the -- your competitors who have already moved into Europe, do they have that same kind of differentiation in terms of the fashion, fit, comfort, etc., that the CID products bring? Or do you kind of feel like you have some differentiation or first-mover advantage from that perspective?

Michael Benstock -- Chief Executive Officer

No. I think we had -- I think they have the same advantage that we have. I mean these are the same people we compete with in the United States. Many of them are great companies, they do a good job.

We are constantly trying to outdo each other from a product standpoint. Except for the INDY line, which is totally unique, except for some of the channels we might sell-through that they don't, our product certainly isn't the same. We do everything we can to see that our product is unique or else why would somebody buy it in a shop or online. So I think we're -- it's a level playing field.

I don't think they have a terrific advantage over us except getting there first. And quite frankly, some of these companies have been in business 20 years and started in the United States first, too. We -- CID has took a lot of market share from them in the United States. We intend to do the same thing in Europe.

Kevin Steinke -- Barrington Research -- Analyst

OK. Great. And then you referenced your new partnership or -- yes. I guess it's the WonderWink partnership with SanMar Corporation.

It seems like this is a channel you're excited about. So can you just talk a little bit more about that? And are there similar types of opportunities in the pipeline that you see?

Michael Benstock -- Chief Executive Officer

There are -- we're constantly working to become as omnichannel as we can while continuing to support our retail base of customers. And so SanMar was a big win for us. We've been working on that for a long time in collaboration with them, making sure we have the right products. So they could take big inventory positions to be able to service what is essentially the entire United States and 21,000 plus competitors.

And those competitors, you understand, are mostly promotional product companies who might sell into doctors' practices and dental practices and so on. That actually compete with BAMKO interestingly. The lines are getting pretty blurred between all these companies in terms of who's the supplier and who's not. But SanMar is probably the -- is the most highly regarded customer servicing that industry with apparel and have a very multi-inch thick catalog that essentially probably 20 -- probably 100,000 salespeople in the United States walk-in to their customers with to show them different apparel.

And now there'll be some pages allocated to scrub apparel in our apparel. So they made the announcement to their sales force back in December. They did a press release last month. We're very excited about it.

It opens up a whole new world for us. We have a multiyear commitments from them. We think we're going to -- it's going to turn into some -- and quite frankly, we believe it's additive to what we're already doing. We believe in the end, it will be -- it will support all the efforts that we're putting into our marketing, and we'll help support them as well.

But no, it's an exciting channel for us. And they're smart business people, and they made the right choice, choosing us to be their partner.

Kevin Steinke -- Barrington Research -- Analyst

OK. Fantastic. I'm just trying to put some pieces together here. So it's interesting to talk about SanMarch and then the international expansion for CID.

And then as you mentioned, the WonderWink moving into the laundry channel. I saw the announcement that you referenced there, it's public information. UniFirst had that press release out about their partnership with WonderWink. But frankly, I'm interested in talking about all this or more about this because I had a little bit of pushback from investors post your last call, thinking that, that 12% organic growth target you put out there for Uniform seemed aggressive, but it sounds like these types of opportunities or new channel partners, etc., that you're adding are -- really are what -- is what's going to kind of build up to that ability to grow 12%.

So any more color on that? Or how you kind of build up to that targeted growth rate that you put out there?

Michael Benstock -- Chief Executive Officer

Sure. Well, we felt pretty confident in a lot of these opportunities on the last earnings call and our growth projections, took that into account, although the announcements hadn't been made yet. So yes, this has been taken into account in our last growth projections, both of those opportunities as well as our larger entrée into the rest of the world, particularly Europe, we're very excited about it. I hope we can come to future earnings calls giving better guidance.

But for that, we feel very comfortable with the guidance we've given. And we tend to be conservative in nature. People know that about us. We wouldn't put out a 12% growth number unless we felt pretty confident about it.

I think you can see that we've usually exceeded expectations of the market over the last few years. So we hope to continue to do that.

Kevin Steinke -- Barrington Research -- Analyst

Great. That's helpful. You did mention briefly there are some lighter RFP activity on the HPI side of the uniform business. Can you just clarify, was that for the nonessential customer set or was that just kind of across the board? And maybe a little more of what's going on there? I know you said you expected it to pick up.

But just any more color on that.

Michael Benstock -- Chief Executive Officer

Sure. The essential side of the business is so busy right now, they're not worrying. They're just buying uniforms, and we've seen some extension of some contracts. Very happy to get those extensions rather than going to all kinds of redesigns right now.

And we're not seeing the essential side doing a tremendous RFP activity right now. I think they're focused on different aspects of the business of trying to service their customers and trying to reconfirm themselves, whether it's -- even on the nonessential side, I mean, what we see in quick service restaurants, for instance, is they're all trying to figure out how to make their takeout more efficient and how to make their when you pull up to a window, drive-in more efficient and how to scale their business so they can make better use of the large space they have that nobody is eating inside of. So it's kind of a funny time. We're just not seeing the RFP activity.

It's not out there. I'm not saying it's not out there at all. It's just out there to a much lesser degree. I think a lot of companies, especially on the nonessential side, Kevin, are board is still worried about survival, have been worried about survival, thankful for what they got in PPP money, but still trying to figure out what they're going to be when this is all over.

And first of mind is not -- front of mind is not uniforms. It's fine. We have uniform programs with them. We will likely get extensions of contracts beyond the initial periods that we're in or the -- some -- in some cases, we're in the 10th extension of some contracts.

But -- and that's fine with us. I'd rather have customers recommit for a few more years that we're already doing business with, then chase customers who we won't see any business for the next year and a half or two years in the normal cycle. So we do expect that as more people get vaccinated, as more people are allowed to come back to businesses, to restaurants and people start shopping again, in malls and so on, things get a little bit back to normal, maybe never what they were, but more back to normal, that we will see RFP activity. We've seen, when we've come out of recession in this country in the past, an incredible lift in marketing dollars spent, and that benefits BAMKO for sure.

And they've seen the same thing. And that has benefited us in the past. We came out of the recession in 2009, and I mean, you could see our numbers. I spoke to them actually in my script here today.

A lot of people are spending marketing dollars. And one of the things they wanted to do was rebrand. And so we expect when we come out of this, it will be quite robust, maybe more robust than ever. We've never -- even a recession has never impacted a country the way this pandemic has.

So we expect people to want to give their employees a lift, want their customers to view them differently to try to rebrand themselves. It all fits together. But it is somewhat delayed. I'm not worried about it because as long as the pandemic continues, even at a diminishing level, we're going to continue to sell the essential businesses what they need and a modicum of PPE as well.

So we -- nothing's changed with respect to our guidance that we gave with our Uniform business for this year and our overall business for this year.

Kevin Steinke -- Barrington Research -- Analyst

OK. Fantastic. I guess, I wanted to move on to BAMKO and you spoke about the 11% growth in traditional promo products in 2020 while the industry is down 25% to 30%. You mentioned BAMKO being less event-based, but maybe more color on what's allowing you to outperform the industry so significantly? Is it just your -- the overall financial strength, your ability to customize supply chain? I guess it'd probably be a little bit of everything, but just maybe speak to that more in terms of traditional promo products and the overall strength there?

Michael Benstock -- Chief Executive Officer

I'll let Jake respond. Jake, you're on the call, and Jake runs our sales and operations and CFO of BAMKO. He's the Jake of all trades. So go ahead, Jake.

Jake Himelstein -- Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer, Promotional Products

And nice talking to you again, Kevin. So yes, I think when you look at our industry in the promotional products segment, there's 21,000 companies, many of which are really small and struggle through something like COVID. I mentioned it before, down 30% in 2020 over the prior year. I mean the truth is we're able to capitalize on opportunities that our competitors can't do.

We pivot quicker, we're diversified in our supply base. And a lot of our competitors have been held up by PPP loans, some minor PPE sales. When those dry up, they may not be around, and we're there to pick up the pieces. And we've been very successful.

I mean 80% of the PPE we sold was to noncustomers. And of that, we converted 30% of them to promo customers. We continue to work with these customers to find additional opportunities to penetrate and get their promotional product business. So we're seeing the ability to do that.

And it all stems from being agile, having boots on the ground, forward-thinking and being ahead of the rest of the industry. And we're really like where we're positioned going forward here for 2021 and beyond.

Kevin Steinke -- Barrington Research -- Analyst

Great. Also, with regards to BAMKO, you spoke particularly about employee gifting being a benefit to growth in the fourth quarter, and you made the Gifts By Design acquisition. So what's the trend you're seeing there? What's attractive about that particular niche that you saw growth in and that you're investing in through this recent acquisition?

Jake Himelstein -- Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer, Promotional Products

Yeah. We've always done employee gifting throughout our history of BAMKO. We've always done at-home gifting or in-office gifting, acquisition programs for customers. It just wasn't a core focus, and it was something we did when customers would ask, hey, make us an employee retention program that speaks to our employee base.

We do it but this makes us substantially stronger on the employee and customer engagement side of the business. Gift by Design works with a huge customer base of blue-chip companies that we didn't have access to before and the ability to sell into these customers and kind of know the speak and be able to walk the walk and talk to talk about employee gifting and customer engagement programs. And we don't expect this to go away quickly, right? None of us really know what happens with the work-at-home model going forward. But what we do know is that a substantial portion of employees are going to continue to work at home post pandemic.

And we want to be there to capitalize on that. And we have shipped more at-home or direct-to-home gifts probably in the month of December than we did in all of 2019 combined. It's phenomenal, the need and desire for us to connect with employees. And as Michael said, coming out of pandemic, coming out of a recession, they're going to want to do that more and more.

They got to keep employees. They want to connect to them. They want to keep their people engaged.

Kevin Steinke -- Barrington Research -- Analyst

Yes. That's really interesting. OK. Great.

OK. So you mentioned M&A activity is robust. You mentioned that the recent shelf registration. So are you seeing larger acquisition opportunities in the pipeline that would necessitate perhaps raising capital? Or is this to be prepared on all fronts? What's the size of the opportunities you're seeing in the pipeline? I guess I'm putting a lot in there, but I just want to get more perspective on the robust nature of the M&A pipeline and the size of candidates you're seeing?

Michael Benstock -- Chief Executive Officer

There are a lot of companies for sale. There's a lot of companies for sale in all markets. During the pandemic, we've had a chance to look at many. And quite frankly, some of them were in such trouble that it really wasn't interesting to us.

Some of them the only profit they made or the only way they were able to keep their business even open to sell it was because they received PPP money. There's all sizes out there, Kevin. I'd say ranging from probably -- we don't look that low. We tend to draw kind of a line in the sand at about $10 million.

Even that's a little bit small for us. Unless it brings us something -- from a standpoint of something it does that we don't currently do or has really great people that we can bring into our organization to help grow the entire business, all the way up to $100 million. There aren't that many $100 million promo companies. Quite frankly, there aren't that many $100 million uniform companies, but there are a few, and some of them have gotten in trouble.

Some of them are just fed up. Just -- this pandemic has taken a toll on people. We're lucky. We've been energized, and we've moved forward.

And the group has done an incredible job. Probably never worked harder. It's never had more fun doing it. And during the time when it was -- from a family standpoint, it's about devastating for everybody.

So it's -- we think we're in a unique position with all of our systems in place now with most of our -- well, all of our integration is done, we're expanding our warehouses, but our integrations are done, to be a great platform in each of our businesses, that includes the call center business. No, call center business is a pretty small business to begin with. So maybe their threshold is something under $10 million. But we have looked at businesses, and we will continue to look at businesses that we feel add value or get us into a space that we're not currently in.

Kevin Steinke -- Barrington Research -- Analyst

OK. That's helpful. This is more of a numbers question here. But on the last call, you had mentioned that maybe capex would be a little lower than you thought in 2020, around $8 million, and you came in close to that $12 million mark.

So did you just have some catch-up there or timing-wise, you're able to accelerate things a little more. I know you're looking for a ramp-up next year, but maybe just talk a little bit more about capex this year and next?

Andy Demott -- Chief Operating Officer

Yeah. Kevin, I mean, there were a couple of things that we ended up adding in late in the year. Michael mentioned the third facility in Haiti. We're getting ready on that on what essentially is a prepaid lease but does run through capital expenditures.

We also invested in the robotics in Dallas, which, based on the very quick payback we get off of that, it was of the project that we bought to us and made sense to add in. And earlier in the year, we really did take a very cautious perspective on capex and slowed things down a little bit, but that was all really pre -- our very successful pivot to PPE, and we really saw it as an opportunity to get a head start on some things that will have very nice paybacks for us going forward.

Kevin Steinke -- Barrington Research -- Analyst

OK. Great. And lastly, I just wanted to ask about, Michael, you were talking a bit about -- at the end there about just bringing in new management and talent as you really scale up here and the business is really ramping up. What's the environment like for finding good management and talent? I know we're still in a labor market recession, but are you seeing healthy pipeline from that perspective as well because I know that's an important aspect of the business that's maybe not talked about as much.

So any thoughts there would be helpful.

Michael Benstock -- Chief Executive Officer

Yup. We're already -- we're doubling, more than doubling our recruiting department. Yes, I mean, the greatest thing is it's a recruiting rich environment today because a lot of the paradigms of yesterday that somebody had to live near the office because they were going to come in the office every single day are gone. We know that we can continue to work from home.

We know that -- we do want people in our offices, but they don't need to be there every day. And some people don't need to be there at all. Where teams need to collaborate like design and product development or marketing and design, they need some time together in the office, but they don't need all their time together in the office. That opens up a pretty rich target environment for us of people who, first of all, our reputation on BAMKO and in our uniform business is very, very strong.

So if somebody comes out of the promotional business or comes out of the uniform business, even out of the apparel business or even out of the supply side of the promotional business with all the different suppliers that are -- that supply to companies like BAMKO, distributors like BAMKO, those are great candidates for us. If I'm looking for somebody in project management, they don't have to be in Seminole, Florida or Coppell, Texas. They can be anywhere. They can be anywhere in the U.S.

and quite frankly, a lot of them could be anywhere in the world. BAMKO has proven that model over the years with their India and China office as we have it in El Salvador. What we want is the best talent we can find anywhere to work for us. And quite frankly, a lot of those people don't have the opportunities locally wherever they may live would be very happy to come work for us.

So we think it's a target-rich environment. There's a lot of people are employed right now. Great people usually aren't unemployed very long. So we're going to have to go out and actively recruit great people.

But they're out there. And we think we've got an awful lot to sell when we're pitching them on our company.

Kevin Steinke -- Barrington Research -- Analyst

OK, thanks and congratulations on the great results in 2020 in such a difficult environment and also congratulations on your 100 years in business.

Andy Demott -- Chief Operating Officer

Yeah. Kevin, I do want to clarify one thing, just so everybody understands. When Michael talked about our guidance and nothing having changed, in the third quarter, the guidance we had given was that we expect in 2021 to be about $450 million. Based on what we had in PPE orders that we already knew of at that point, we really were giving the base business.

As Michael mentioned earlier, we are continuing to book fairly significant PPE business as we go forward. And when he said nothing had changed, I did want to clarify the part about that with the acquisition of Gifts By Design, that was not something that we had contemplated into that $450 million number. So that would be additive to that number. But then going forward, it would be within the organic growth comparable range to what we've got across the rest of the promo business.

Kevin Steinke -- Barrington Research -- Analyst

OK. So the base is still $450 million and just layering on Gifts By Design. How sizable is that roughly?

Andy Demott -- Chief Operating Officer

It's about $1.5 million run rate per month.

Kevin Steinke -- Barrington Research -- Analyst

OK. OK. And we're still using the $450 million as the floor plus the Gifts By Design.

Andy Demott -- Chief Operating Officer

Plus Gifts By Design plus additional PPE as we book it. I mean we did -- we only -- we're contemplating what we knew about at that point. And so we really can't gauge how long the pandemic and the demand for that crisis PPE is going to last. So we wanted to give a realistic basis without that, and that's all additive to it.

Kevin Steinke -- Barrington Research -- Analyst

OK, got it. All right. Thanks.

Andy Demott -- Chief Operating Officer

OK. Thank you very much. All right.


[Operator instructions] And it looks like we have no further questions. So this concludes our question-and-answer session. I would now like to turn the conference back over to Michael Benstock for any closing remarks.

Michael Benstock -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you all for joining us today. It's always great to be with you and report great results. We hope we look forward to reporting strong operating results in Q1. See you then.


[Operator signoff]

Duration: 66 minutes

Call participants:

Hala Elsherbini -- Senior Managing Director

Michael Benstock -- Chief Executive Officer

Jake Himelstein -- Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer, Promotional Products

Andy Demott -- Chief Operating Officer

Kevin Steinke -- Barrington Research -- Analyst

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