Bedding importer offers microfiber, macrovalue
From its origins as a family business, Duke Imports has evolved into a huge import operation. “We’re one of the largest wholesalers in the Midwest,” says sales manager Marty Kirkendall, “We’re a multi-million-dollar company.” Duke got that big by being first on the scene in its category, and by continuing to be innovative, not complacent.
Kirkendall tells the story this way: “Ravinder Sethi, the president of the company, a seasoned veteran of 40 years involvement in the textile industry, took a look at the potential of establishing a home textile business in the Midwest. Recognizing a great opportunity for acrylic mink blankets, he decided to start an importing and wholesale business and became the original blanket importer in the Midwest.”
The company still offers innovative new blanket offerings. “Our blankets are very popular with flea market people. The new line of two-ply blankets we brought out a few weeks ago has just been moving out the door pretty fast,” says Kirkendall. “The Duke Regal Comfort Two-Ply Mink Blankets line consists of 28 new two-ply blanket designs. These are actually two separate blankets of different design sewn together back to back and finished with a binding or bordering fabric.”
What makes the two-ply blanket a unique product? “It provides clear crisp designs on both sides of the blanket, and there are two different designs on each blanket,” says Kirkendall. The product sells at wholesale for $20.00 each by the case, and seven items are in each case.
Duke Imports puts an MSRP on retail packaging for the benefit of the store owners and resellers of $99.99 for single-ply and $149.99 for two-ply blankets. The MSRP establishes a value line with the perspective customers, including flea market and swap meet resellers, before they reach the point of purchase. Most of Duke’s retailers are selling their blankets in the range of $35 to $65 each, depending on the venue in which they are selling.
In addition to price, two compelling reasons for flea market vendors to try Duke Imports are shipping and service. “We offer in most cases same-day shipping,” says Kirkendall. “We can ship even to a vendor’s flea market — we already have some customers who take advantage of that. We have been in the flea marketing business ourselves. We like to take care of people who are in that group. We know how tough it can be out there at a flea market.”
Duke Imports has branched out into other textiles, and now is a leader in innovative sheet products. For example, Duke offers microfiber sheets as an alternative to the more expensive Egyptian cotton that’s common on the market. By committing to a high-quality micro-fiber, Duke distinguishes itself from the competition. “The quality level in a microfiber product is gauged by the weight measurement of the number of grams in a square meter of fabric,” explains Kirkendall. “Typically, when we compare our company to all the other vendors out there who are importing and selling the same type of sheet, ours on average is 33 percent heavier. We determine that by buying sheets from our competition and measuring them directly.”
Kirkendall reports that flea market vendors have met with success selling Duke Imports bedding. “As long as vendors can get shoppers to stop by the booth to check our sheets out and feel them and compare them with others, they’ll come back and buy ours,” he says.
And Duke has continued to grow as the manufacturing process evolves. “Fiber technology has really come a long way in the last ten years,” says Kirkendall. “It’s manufactured to have the same feel and qualities and comfort of Egyptian cotton without the high price.” Duke has enjoyed great success with its “800 Regal Comfort Sheets,” which feature a sateen finish; its “1000 Regal Comfort Sheets,” that have a softer, matte finish; and its “1200 Regal Comfort Sheets,” which are embroidered.
But the company has news on this front. “We’re rolling out a new sheet line,” says Kirkendall, describing the brand new 1600 style. “Our 1600 is coming out in the neighborhood of 125 to 128 grams per square meter. By far that will be the heaviest sheet in the market.” The new 1600 style sheet set will feature $13 or $14 wholesale pricing per set when it comes on the market, with a retail price close to $40 per set.
But Duke Imports sets itself apart not only through new products, but also by making sure that vendors are happy to do business with the company. First, the minimum order is small. “It’s a very modest amount,” says Kirkendall, “a $200 minimum purchase.”
The company also makes new customers feel welcome. “What we will do is work with a customer on their first order or two,” says Kirkendall, explaining that the company might offer some flexibility on the minimum order for example, or on quantities of less than caseload purchases. “We’ll let them buy single pieces on their first order to try to help them figure out what will be the better sellers.”
And in the current down economy, helping flea market and swap meet vendors new and old boosts the bottom line. “There are so many folks out there that have lost jobs or are out of work, and they’re going into business to try to make extra money to support their families. That’s helping our business out,” Kirkendall adds. “We’ve helped a lot of people grow their business, and we’ve tried to do that because our business grows as theirs does.”
For more information, contact:
P.O. Box 888
Angola, IN 46703
Tel.: (260) 665-1100
Fax: (260) 665-1177
Web site: dukeimports.com