Industry legend to relinquish GAF Control after half-century innings

Stuart Foley is currently looking for buyers for GAF Control, the product sourcing and brand-house he has co-owned for over half a century, Appliance Retailer can today reveal.

Started in 1959 as a supplier of dimmer switchers, hence the ‘Control’ part of the name, Foley provided the F in GAF for 54 years.

Now at 82 years old, Foley is looking to sell the company and, if needed, remain in a consultative capacity.

“It has been a whirlwind,” Foley said, reflecting on his career. “When I started 54 years ago, I thought I would be in it for 20 years and that would be it, but 54 years have slipped by and I can’t say where the hell it has all gone.”

GAF Control currently markets the Tiffany, Pye, Sunair, Avanti and GAF brands of small appliances. The switching from lighting products to small appliances came in the late 1980s, when major retailers were looking for an alternative, cheaper line of appliances to market.

“Around 25 years ago, when retailers decided that they wanted to have inexpensive appliances in their range, we were there to offer it to them,” Foley said.

The move by GAF’s traditional retail customers to source their own trade brands out of China directly has been a big challenge for the company, Foley said.

“The biggest change has been major retailers trying to be importers and every other thing rather than being retailers and getting it all wrong.”

These mistakes included underestimating how difficult it is to set up an importing business and overseeing product engineering; producing appliances to meet Australian standards and ensuring a product delivered from a factory is the same as the product originally ordered.

Foley cited the poor product recalls record of the major retailers as evidence of this.

“Retailers thought importing directly would save another margin and would result in them having bigger profit margins but it’s caused them a lot of angst,” he said.

Despite this challenge, Foley said it he had no regrets.

“I built a business from totally nothing – at its peak it was $85 million — it’s been very profitable and it has been a very satisfying career.”

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