Duke Imports Offers Microfiber And Value
Initially founded by two employees, with a container of blankets, operating out of a rented storage facility, Duke Imports has expanded in the past eight years and now occupies a 75,000 square foot warehouse to meet the needs of its customers. The home textile wholesaler currently carries five lines of acrylic mink blankets, two lines of comforters and comforter sets, eight lines of microfiber bed sheet sets, and two novelty lines of dream catchers and hair accessories/extensions. After moving to Angola from Kendallville, IN, in 2005, Duke Imports rented a second warehouse to handle all of its business. Yet, wanting to consolidate into one central location, the company recently purchased a new building and moved in on June 1, allowing them to locate all of their inventory and warehousing functions, as well as office and executive staff, under one roof, which gave them the opportunity to streamline sales, shipping and receiving operations.
“We looked at several buildings, and had one specifically in mind that appeared to be vacant and we were able to come to terms with the owner,” says Marty Kirkendall, marketing director for Duke Imports. “What we were looking for was something that was larger than the combined size of our original building and the warehouse we rented, so we had room to grow beyond that capacity. The square footing is between 75,000 to 80,000 square feet, about five times the size of our former building, so we have a lot of room now and we’re filling it up.” Kirkendall notes that the extra space allows the company to keep its stock current, as well as replenished. “A lot of our customers buy in big quantities,” he says. “We need space where we have enough inventory to not get into stock-out situations, and we had some problems with that in the smaller building because we just didn’t have the space to bring in a large quantity of everything. Now we’re at a point where stock-outs very seldom occur, and when they do, it’s only a couple of days to a week.” Duke Imports also plans on increasing the number of containers at the warehouse by 10 to 15 percent, because the business is growing and adding new customers on a daily basis.
There was not much talk of moving out of Kendallville, Kirkendall says, as the city is well-positioned at the intersection of I-80 and I-90 going east and west and I-69 running north and south. In addition, the company is up to ten employees at the location. Kirkendall says that only four years ago, the company employed only three, adding two or three new people every year since that point as the company continues to grow.
Selling Sheets in Sensational Numbers at Reasonable Wholesale Prices
“We just keep chipping away,” Kirkendall says. “We maintain an online presence on our website, and do advertising on all the major search engines. The pace we are growing is comfortable. One thing that is important is that we’re very service oriented. Our general rule of thumb is just about every sale made is shipped the same day it’s placed.” One of the hallmarks of the company is its high quality product. Prices are competitive in the market, without sacrificing quality. “Sometimes our price may be a little higher, but we can virtually guarantee that our quality is going to be a lot higher. We actively seek out products of competitors and purchase them from vendors to compare their goods with ours, and based on current quality standards and measurements, we’re always ahead of the pack,” Kirkendall adds.
Duke Imports’ 800 Regal Comfort sheets (plain and prints), single comforters and medium weight blankets have sold well. Kirkendall adds that Duke will begin selling two new product lines of blankets in the second week of November. The extra soft, extra plush luxury items consist of a line featuring designs of various animals with Sherpa backing, as well as a line of animal skins. There will be a total of around one dozen different designs at first. The company requires a minimum order of $200, and offers a one time purchase at break-price level to new customers (a promotional code is offered in the Independent Retailer magazine ad). A volume discount on sheets is also offered, as customers that purchase a full pallet of sheets receive free shipping. A full pallet of sheets is 36 cases, with 12 to a case, for a total of 432 sets of sheets. “In an economy like we’re in right now where there’s a lot of unemployment, a lot of things aren’t quite happening like people would like them to,” Kirkendall says. “Because of that, a lot of people are coming to us to either start small businesses, so they can make ends meet, or they’ve run their course with unemployment payments and they need to make money to live on. We believe that’s one reason why our business has been so strong. We’ve picked up people that had to do something and decided that this was the thing to do.”
Kick it up a Notch
Duke Imports continues to expand its product line. “We have a new line that should be here in time for the Christmas season and be available and ready to order on our website before Black Friday. Customers should keep their eye on our site, because it’s going to be a great product, a luxury-level item available at a very reasonable price. We feel like Emeril Lagasse, when he says ‘kick it up a notch.’ We’re kicking our business up a notch or two with a new product that’s really nice,” notes Kirkendall.
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