The popular RB Sellars rural clothing brand is about to add the 110-year-old Rossi Boots range to its catalogues and regional stores after its owners acquired a majority stake in the Adelaide footwear company.
RB Sellars' parent company, the Propel Group, is also the business behind the iconic oilskin stockman's coat, Driza-Bone, worn by Australian Olympians, Hollywood actors, members of the British Royal family and generations of rural families.
In a move likely to put further rural marketplace pressure on high profile boot maker and bush-styled clothing retailer, RM Williams, Propel has just bought the Rossi Boots brand and wholesale business in a partnership venture with the original owners.
The Rossiter family has owned Rossi Boots (Rossiter's Limited) since Arthur Rossiter started bootmaking in his backyard shed in 1908.
The family keeps a 20pc shareholding in the business, and Rossi's Kilburn boot factory in Adelaide's inner north.
Propel will own 50pc, and the remaining 30pc stake has been bought by Adelaide-based private investment company, GP Securities, headed by Robert Greenslade and Creagh O'Connor.
Rossi is a good quality and affordable boot range with a lot of family heritage - it's a great fit with the RB Sellars and Driza-Bone brands.
"We are looking forward to the next chapter for Rossi Boots," said Paul Rossiter, former chairman of the family company and great grandson of the Rossi founder, Arthur.
The pioneer bootmaker's name has also been synonymous with footwear worn by the armed forces since 1915 when he designed a combat boot "fit for our boys".
It led to a long association with the military, and a focus on Rossi Boots needing to be tough, comfortable and ready for action in all environments.
Propel Group chief operating officer, Caroline Elliott, said moves were already afoot to feature the Rossi range in RB Sellars' popular mail order catalogues and its network of 10 regional stores.
Two more RB Sellars retail outlets are expected to open in the coming year, with South Australia and Queensland being potential candidates for the company's expanding footprint.
She said although RB Sellars had previously sold its own boot brand for a short time, there were no immediate plans to use the Rossi connection to release a new Sellars footwear label.
Traditionally a catalogue and online marketer, Propel is jointly owned by Victorians, Richard Sellars-Jones, who founded RB Sellars, and Michael Lempriere, whose family's agribusiness interests have long made it a big player in wool processing and production, and various other rural investments.
The Lempriere family and partners bought into the Driza-Bone outdoor clothing brand in 2008, teaming up to form Propel in 2017 with Mr Sellars-Jones, now managing director.
Driza-Bone's "outerwear" range, widely adapted to also service the urban leisure and outdoor recreation market, is made in Brisbane and overseas.
Mr Sellars-Jones originally combined his farming background and previous experience working for rural clothing maker Thomas Cook to establish RB Sellars as a mail order shirt business in 1996.
"Work shirts continue to be our dominant product line, although we sell a full apparel range and have two seasonal releases each year," Ms Elliott said.
"We're lucky to have an incredibly loyal customer base across Australia and it's continuing to grow strongly.
"We expect the Rossi footwear range to enhance that growth.
"Rossi is a good quality and affordable boot range with a lot of family heritage - it's a great fit with the RB Sellars and Driza-Bone brands."
The Relevant to rural customers
She said the rural customers were discerning and "expect quality without excessive prices".
"Propel Group's quality, functional, hard working products all stand the test of time and have relevance to our customer base."
Mr Sellars-Jones said Propel would continue with the Rossi range's direction of "safety meeting style", and he was delighted to have the brand as part of the group.
The company will also take advantage of its strong links with the farm sector as a supplier of clothing to farming groups and off-farm agribusinesses, adding boots to its package deals.
RB Sellars' embossed labelling service for shirts sold as uniforms for pastoral stations, corporate agricultural businesses and family farms generates a steady stream of repeat rural workwear sales.
"We'll now be looking after our customer base from top to toe - although we're not quite into hats at this point," Ms Elliott said.
"Hats are, however, an area we're keen to explore in future."