Branding is in the Bag

Bee Dee Bags

Bruce Dicker founded Bee Dee Bags 40 years ago in Wagga Wagga with just four employees. Today, Bee Dee Bags is Australia’s largest importer of carry bags, with 17,000 customers throughout the country and sales representatives hitting the road every day of the year. The company’s General Manager, Cain Gawne, who was once a sales representative himself, is pleased to report that the recently opened New Zealand office and warehouse is running beautifully. “The business over there is a roaring success, much better than we could have hoped for actually,” he shares. Bee Dee Bags is the ultimate retail packaging solution and its journey onto the world stage is only just beginning.

The last two years have been a phenomenal growth period for Bee Dee Bags; along with the opening of the New Zealand branch, the company has also employed additional sales staff and new graphic designers. Bee Dee Bags is growing by double figures each year and now requires more warehouse space in Wagga Wagga, Sydney and Melbourne. What is the secret to the company’s unparalleled success in the retail packaging sector? “It’s our aggression in the marketplace,” says Mr Gawne. “It’s how we get out there.” Along with repping from town to town Australia-wide, attending all the major fashion and trade shows has proven a winning marketing strategy.

From the founding of Bee Dee Bags to the present time, very few staff members have left the company. Mr Gawne himself started his career at Bee Dee Bags in early 2004 as an 18-year-old working in the warehouse before progressing into a phone sales role. He began attending trade shows and it was not long before he was travelling all over Australia as a sales representative selling bags. In early 2008, Bee Dee Bags opened up in Perth where Mr Gawne took on the role of National Sales Manager and, with the business prospering, a semi-retired Bruce then decided to appoint Mr Gawne as General Manager. “Service is what the Bee Dee business is built on,” he comments. “I personally spend a lot of time developing the best team that we can assemble and they treat us right, we treat them right.”

Empowering customers to be able to work with the same team members year in, year out, who truly understand their accounts, is just one of the ways Bee Dee Bags delivers exceptional service. When customers call Bee Dee Bags a real person is on the line. Stock leaves the warehouse the same day it is ordered and Bee Dee Bags runs on a delivery efficiency of 98 and a half per cent.

Of course, the product tells the real story. The finishing touch to any great product is the right packaging. From bags to boxes and packaging tape, Bee Dee Bags is a one-stop shop for retail packaging. Customers from department store chains and boutiques to bottle shops can access the company’s personalised printing service to make branding bags easy. The company’s 110GSM Kraft paper bags are as strong as any other paper bag on the market and these “bags of steel” from the hugely popular Carnival Collection come in a rainbow of colours. “We’re pushing the paper bags wherever possible because it is a more environmentally friendly option,” explains Mr Gawne. “The plastic bags are still popular though, with more people focused on the bottom line.” Along with budget friendly packaging options, BeeDee also stocks a classy selection of laminated paper bags with rope handles perfect for that special purchase.

For retailers and shoppers alike, the lead up to Christmas is undoubtedly the busiest, craziest time of the year, and one can celebrate the spirit of the season with the delightful Christmas range of BeeDee packaging. Pair a festive carry bag printed with baubles and bows or angels and stars with tissue paper in green, red, gold or silver. Shoppers doing the last-minute dash can dress up a bottle of red with a tear resistant wine bag. These stylish bags feature matching rope handles and have a cardboard base for added protection.

There are many eco-friendly alternatives to standard plastic bags and Bee Dee is committed to minimising its environmental footprint. The EPI degradable plastic carry bags are one of the more environmentally sound options available along with the non-woven carry bags that are designed to be reused again and again. Non-woven carry bags will last roughly as long as 60 plastic bags and are much more comfortable for shoppers to hold. For something a little bit different, the jute carry bags are a sustainable, durable and fashionable choice, with colours ranging from loud lime to paradise pink. The reusable factor with non-woven and jute carry bags is a definite plus for both retailers and the environment. Besides carry bags, Bee Dee Bags also stocks postal satchels and garment covers for formal and bridal wear. With an extensive range of wrapping paper, swing tags and different types of boxes, retailers can have all their packaging needs met under one roof.

Bee Dee Bags has a supply network throughout Asia and is in a joint venture with the Jiamusi factory in far north China near the Russian border. In October last year, Mr Gawne did a three-week factory tour. “The experience was fantastic as usual; it’s a real eye opener every time,” he shares. “We’re working very hard with our supply base to ensure that we’re supplying our customers with the very best products and offering them absolutely everything that we can. It was a really good experience visiting our supply network over there.” Quality is paramount and an Australian import team checks every single container coming in to maintain a high standard.

Wherever viable, Bee Dee Bags purchases from environmentally sustainable suppliers and many other strategies are being incorporated throughout the operation to reduce environmental impact. Unloading as many containers as possible in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane prevents the containers from having to be road trained down to Wagga Wagga. Consolidating freight, which means sending freight in bulk rather than a little bit here and there, is another key strategy to reduce environmental impact. Bee Dee encourages staff and employees to cycle to work and provides shower facilities on-site. Skylights have been installed throughout all the warehouses and the process of converting all the forklifts from gas and diesel into an electric fleet is near completion.

From humble beginnings, Bee Dee Bags has certainly come a long way and this industry leader will be tackling new markets very soon. Finding ways to remain competitive from a price perspective and continuing to diversify the product offering is a strong focus; as Mr Gawne explains, “The most challenging part of this business is to continue to grow and grow and grow. We’ve got to diversify with our customers, not just with them but for them, to make sure that we’re offering more than ever. We’re trying to improve our purchasing so we can offer more competitive prices.”

Mr Gawne has plans to take Bee Dee Bags to the US soon with the model and the structure all ready to go. “We’re currently selling into Canada and are hoping to be selling into the US, the Middle East and the European market prior to the Christmas-New Year period. We’re going to start by servicing customers there and we’ll see where the market takes us but yes, there is a large possibility that we will be opening warehouses around the world.”

With an expected growth rate this year of around 14 per cent and an unrelenting commitment to customer service and quality, Bee Dee Bags is gearing up to deliver retail packaging to the world. Mr Gawne says that the door is always open to existing and new customers interested in what Bee Dee Bags can do for their retail packaging needs. “I’d like to thank everyone who has supported us over the years and I’d just like to reiterate that we are a diversifying company,” he says. “We are out there sourcing the very best products at the very best price and providing the very best service that we possibly can. Just keep an eye out for us in the marketplace and an opportunity is all we ever ask for.”

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September 22, 2018, 6:09 PM AEST