In The Bag

Bee Dee Bags

“It started as a small family business out in the bush,” and over the years, Bee Dee Bags has developed an enviable reputation for delivering quality retail packaging together with fuss-free service. Bee Dee Bags aims to provide a staggering 17,000 customers Australia-wide with exactly what they are after, stocking everything from colourful paper bags to reusable non-woven bags. The company also carries a great range of tissue paper and wrapping paper for every occasion, making Bee Dee Bags the ultimate packaging solution.

Market Saturation

Bee Dee Bags is the largest importer of carry bags into Australia, supplying high profile retailers such as Diva, Lorna Jane, Lovisa, Myer, Noni B, Rodney Clark, and many more. Company owner Bruce Dicker founded Bee Dee Bags in 1974 on his own. Two years later he employed the help of Ron De Brueys, who only retired last year. The company has gained a strong competitive edge since, maintaining a complete saturation over the entire of Australia.

In 2006, Bee Dee Bags won the Wagga Wagga Golden Crow Award for Outstanding Business and the year after took home the Best Small Business Wholesale Award. “The key to our success is that we’re about the only company still left repping town to town Australia wide,” explains Mr Gawne. “I send sales representatives into almost every single country town that’s above 200 people, everywhere from Port Douglas to Melbourne, from Darwin down to Albany, so I’ve actually got representatives physically travelling every single day of the year.”

Mr Gawne was once a sales executive for Bee Dee Bags himself. “I gave my life to the business for about 45 weeks a year,” he explains. “I was on the road just selling bags all over Australia.” He started his career at Bee Dee Bags in early 2004, at age 18. He began working in the warehouse before progressing into a phone sales role. Bruce Dicker noticed potential in Mr Gawne, sending him off to attend trade shows, and soon after he was on the road as a sales representative. Bee Dee Bags opened its Perth branch in early 2008 where Mr Gawne took on the role of National Sales Manager. With the business doing well, Bruce then appointed Mr Gawne as General Manager. Along the way, Mr Gawne has implemented a variety of systems and procedures to benefit the company.

Today some of Bee Dee Bags’ 55 employees are situated in China, ensuring the quality of the products manufactured in the Jaimusi factory. “We buy from 20 different suppliers throughout Asia,” says Mr Gawne. “We actually own one of the factories over there; we’re in a joint venture with a factory up near the Russian border in far north China. I personally travel to China, usually a couple of times a year, doing factory tours.” An import team located here in Australia inspects every single container to maintain the high standard Bee Dee customers expect. Around six years ago, Bee Dee Bags was importing 50 to 60 containers a year; this year, the business expects to import 400 containers of carry bags.

Attractive Options

Nothing is more frustrating than walking toward the car in the shopping centre parking lot only to have heavy carry bags burst open. Bee Dee Bags can make that customer pet peeve a thing of the past, with a superior range of Kraft Paper Bags. These bestselling bags are not called ‘bags of steel’ for nothing. Made with 110GSM Kraft paper, these high quality bags are heavier than the specified Australian industry standard, making them unlike anything else available on the market. Shoppers like the nostalgic quality of a paper carry bag and appreciate knowing they are receiving a more environmentally friendly choice.

While packaging obviously needs to be practical, in today’s competitive retail environment it also needs to make a statement. As a result, the Carnival collection of coloured Kraft paper bags has proved to be a huge hit with Bee Dee customers. “That’s a range we introduced approximately five years ago now and it’s just a bright, fun range for retailers to use and put out there.” Bee Dee Bags has developed this dazzling collection into a range of plastic bags, wrapping paper and tissue, offering customers a complete packaging solution.

A number of retailers have made the switch to using biodegradable plastic bags and non-woven bags in recent years; during the GFC, some did go back to using conventional plastic bags. “We offer a wide range of environmentally friendly options with EPI degradable plastic carry bags,” says Mr Gawne. “We offer the eco bags so they’re a non woven carry bag, so we offer all those different options to our customers.” It is estimated that a non-woven bag will last as long as 60 plastic bags. This is a huge advantage for retailers and for the environment. “The selling point of those is obviously the reusable factor, people getting a little more bang for their buck with customers continuing to walk around with them and advertise for that business.”

People Power

What makes Bee Dee Bags supplier of choice for 17,000 customers across Australia besides stocking an excellent range of top quality products? “The business is built on service,” answers Mr Gawne. “We’ve got an office and showroom in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Wagga Wagga and we’re in the process of opening in New Zealand as well.” Bee Dee Bags is currently shipping its full stock range direct from China into New Zealand. “As of next year we’ll be conducting sales in the whole of New Zealand and we’re going to run the trade shows so it’ll be another branch of Bee Dee Bags opened, Bee Dee Bags New Zealand.”

From humble beginnings, Bee Dee Bags has grown considerably, with annual turnover for this year at the $25 million mark. “We’ve been able to average over the past four years now around 17 per cent growth year in, year out.” Mr Gawne aims to take Bee Dee Bags to the US as well by opening up a branch on the West Coast. “It’s something that we’re hoping to achieve. Being in a different time zone, it will be a challenging venture. However once it is complete, Bee Dee Bags is looking to move to the world stage.”

Whatever new markets Bee Dee Bags expands into, continuing to provide an exceptional level of customer service is a priority. When customers call Bee Dee Bags they can expect to be treated like people, not numbers. “You’re talking to people, you’re not talking to a machine,” explains Mr Gawne. “We try to make sure our deliveries are on time, every time. Our stock leaves the same day that it’s ordered.” Bee Dee Bags currently runs on a delivery efficiency of 98 and a half per cent. From starting the business over 35 years ago to the present time, Bee Dee Bags has had very few employees leave. Many employees have in excess of 10 years of service with the company. Enabling customers to deal with the same staff year in, year out who know the account is just one of the ways the company provides exceptional customer service.

BeeDee Bags aims to be Australia’s most successful supplier of carry bags, and employs trade shows and repping on the road as key strategies. Trade shows like Sydney’s Fashion Exposed provide the perfect opportunity to hand out promotional material like brochures and sample bags. “We’re trying to provide the best possible product at the best possible price. We’re spending money to improve our services and systems to benefit our customers.”

The company is innovating, too; Bee Dee Bags is steadily converting its forklift fleet from gas to electric. “In two years time we may have up to 15 forklifts running around, so we’re trying to turn them into an all-electric fleet. We’re just trying to do our bit for the environment to reduce our footprint. We encourage our staff to bike to work wherever possible and we’re providing shower facilities for them to be able to do that.”

Bee Dee Bags has supplied Australia with countless bags of all kinds over the years. Check out its extensive packaging range from today and you will not be disappointed. For this small family company that started way out in Wagga Wagga, success is quite literally in the bag. With a focus on providing customers with a great range at terrific prices, Bee Dee Bags is packed, wrapped and ready to deliver. Now, would you like a bag with that?

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

December 19, 2018, 5:11 AM AEDT