Alpha Tries Out the Commercial Market

Although Alpha Industries was regularly awarded contracts from the Department of Defense, there were often short periods of time between the end of one contract and the beginning of the next. Instead of laying off his employees during these down times like other companies did, Alpha’s founder, Samuel Gelber, decided to keep production lines running by producing small quantities of the same military jackets Alpha was making for the government to sell commercially.

While Alpha had been selling small numbers of excess military jackets to army/navy stores since the 1960s, it wasn’t until the early 1970s that Alpha began to think about intentionally making excess inventory to sell to the commercial market. Instead of selling all jackets under the Alpha name, Gelber created two new companies – Concord Industries and Intercon Apparel – to handle some of the early commercial sales.

Unlike its competitors, Alpha’s commercial jackets were exactly the same as the ones produced for the military. Gelber purchased the same fabrics and trims in bulk, so that all of the jackets met the same high-quality standards expected by the military. Only styles that Alpha was currently making for the government were manufactured and the only change made was the addition of new colors, including black and navy, for the MA-1 and L-2B flight jackets. To help the packing department quickly distinguish between the otherwise identical jackets, Alpha began adding three parallel bars to the commercial labels. This small addition would later become essential to the Alpha brand identity.

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