Launched with only two employees, a container load of blankets, and a rented storage area of a small factory, home textile wholesaler Duke Imports has expanded greatly in the past eight years and recently moved into a new 75,000 square-foot facility to meet the needs of its customers.
The company, founded by Ravinder S. Sethi in 2003 as Duke Blankets and Rugs, Ltd., was initially located in Kendallville, IN before moving to nearby Angola. Duke 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.
Extra Warehouse Space
With the company consistently growing, it became necessary to expand the square footage of warehouse space. After moving to Angola in 2005, Duke Imports rented a second warehouse four years later to handle all of its business. Wanting to consolidate into one central location, the company purchased a new building this year and moved in on June 1st, 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 and 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 says that the extra space allows the company to keep its stock refreshed and current. “A lot of our customers buy in big quantities,” he says. “We need enough 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.” He adds that Duke plans on increasing the number of containers at the warehouse by 25 to 40 percent, and possibly more, because the business is growing and adding new customers on a daily basis.
There was not much talk of moving out of Angola, 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, Duke employed only three, adding two or three new people every year since that point as the company continues to grow.
What Makes the Company Successful
“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, although not too fast, because that’s supposed to be one of the downfalls of smaller companies. 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.”
“We’ve made a conscious decision that we’re going to provide a high-quality product,” he says. “That’s one of the hallmarks of the company. We’re able to keep our prices competitive in the market, but we won’t sacrifice our quality for price. 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 says that the unsteady economy has drawn a lot of people to sell at flea markets to bring in a little extra money, and Duke’s 800 Regal Comfort sheets plain and prints, single comforters and medium weight blankets have sold well in flea markets. He 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.
Duke Imports has a minimum purchase requirement of $200, and offers a one-time purchase at break-price level to new customers through a code in ads in Independent Retailer and the Merchandiser. They also offer a volume discount on sheets, 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. The total value of free shipping can range from $150 to over a thousand dollars if the shipment involves multiple pallets.
“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.”
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’ when he’s making food. We’re kicking our thing up a notch or two with a new product that’s really nice.”
For more information:
1105 North Williams St.
P.O. Box 888
Angola, IN 46703