Company spotlight: Duo UK

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What does your company do?

Protecting products and engaging consumers by utilising the power of online and in-store packaging, Duo UK has been manufacturing and supplying branded mailbags, luxury paper bags, fabric bags, store bags and back of house packaging to leading retail and e-retail brands such as JD Williams, JD Sports and Tesco for more than 28 years.

We turnover over more than £25m and employ more than 130 people across two sites in Manchester and Derby. Having decided to invest heavily to cater for the growing ecommerce market in the mid-2000s, we have seen significant growth and increased turnover by 68% in the last five years alone (2010-2015).

Duo UK recently launched DuoGreen to help customers achieve their environmental goals, and is proud to be the only UK manufacturer to produce carbon negative, sustainable and organic mailing bags using GreenPE.

We understand that the packaging needs of our online retailer customers can change quickly so, we regularly review the performance of their packaging
Anthony Brimelow, Commercial Director, Duo UK

What is your USP?

As manufacturers, we have the engineering expertise to design packaging solutions that overcome our customers’ problem areas. We talk to CSR teams looking to improve the sustainability of their packaging, and discuss the communications they have with their customers to encourage them to recycle or re-use; marketing teams keen to improve the overall customer experience; and also distribution teams to improve productivity.

Being based in the UK, our manufacturing facility can work to incredibly short lead times and of course, customers can also visit our site to meet the team and see their products being produced. If the customer wants to change something or trial something different, we can and do react quickly.

In addition, for ecommerce retailers, we understand that their supply chain assurance is business critical. If they ever run out of packaging, their customers’ goods simply don’t leave the warehouse. We avoid this eventuality by offering a free stock management service that manages peaks and troughs in usage and 24/7 online ordering.

We understand that the packaging needs of our online retailer customers can change quickly so, we regularly review the performance of their packaging to ensure that it is working at its optimum. The wrong size or style of packaging can have an impact on productivity, cost and customer satisfaction, so we advise on changes to keep the operation running at its optimum.

How would you describe your company’s vision?

We always strive to research and develop innovations that help our customers adapt to their needs of tomorrow. Adaptability is key for this and it’s one of our passions as a manufacturer. Our engineering expertise enables us to develop unique business-enhancing packaging innovations.

We want to continue to improve our B2B services to replicate those that we all experience as a consumer. We have developed an online order management solution that enables our customers to order their products 24/7 as quickly and easily as it is to order trainers from JD Sports or a dress from JD Williams. We are also challenging the communication and frequency of delivery information to connect departments and locations within our customers’ businesses to enable more efficient transactions.

In 2015, we launched DuoGreen to help our customers achieve their environmental goals. After seeing a strong increase in demand for green products, driven partly from our own environmental goals but also our clients’ CSR policies and reacting to their own customers’ demands, we made the move to offer GreenPE mailing bags. GreenPE is a thermoplastic resin made entirely from sugarcane ethanol, a 100% renewable material that’s also 100% recyclable and 100% sustainable. This product is unrivalled in its environmental credentials and we are proud to be the UK’s first and only manufacturer of GreenPE mailing bags.

What is particularly impressive about GreenPE is that its environmental credentials extend all the way down the production chain. From a manufacturing point of view, we can use the same processes and machinery we use to create standard polythene products.

What are you doing currently in the ecommerce/multichannel market?

We’ve always been a company that works with our partners and customers collaboratively, and we believe our approach to supplying packaging
in this way makes us different from other manufacturers.

Rather than the responsibility of packaging selection falling solely on the shoulders of procurement buyers, we believe that a multi-functional collaborative approach that includes representatives from CSR, logistics and warehouse and marketing, will ensure the final range performs functionally, in-budget, on brand and ethically. Our customers tend to come full circle, from initially wanting just the cheapest and most practical packaging products to actually understanding how more considered packaging is cost-effective in the long term and delivers a greater competitive advantage.

Who are your customers?

Our customer base ranges from some of the UK’s largest retailers and e-tailers to smaller but fast-growing online brands entering an exciting marketplace who require a supply chain partner that will understand them and help them grow. We work with household name brands such as JD Williams, JD Sports and Tesco, to name but a few.

What do you see as challenges in the coming year and what are you doing to meet those challenges?

Expectations of experience and convenience for online retail customers will continue to adapt, so to meet this challenge, we are continuing to collaborate with our customers in order to develop product and service adaptations and innovations that enable them to react to change. Where the delivery used to be the end of the experience, retailers are challenging their end-to-end customer experience to include a seamless returns process. Packaging plays a huge part in making this process convenient for both the customer and the retailer. So, for example, including a twin glue line and perforation that allows the bag to be opened while maintaining a second seal makes it easy for the customer to return the product and process it back in stock as quickly as possible.

Rightly so, sustainability remains high on the agenda for many businesses. Sustainable packaging materials are available and it is our challenge to promote awareness of proven products such as GreenPE and to assist in communicating this message effectively to our customers’ audiences.


Customer case study: Claudio Lugli – Doubling turnover in online sales

Claudio Lugli is a high-end Italian fashion brand that has gained a reputation for producing inspirational, unique garments in strictly limited numbers. The brand is available in more than 250 physical stores across the UK and also sells online.

“We have been selling our shirts in retail stores for more than 25 years and in June 2014, we launched our online store,” says Navid Salimian, Marketing Director, Claudio Lugli. “Selling online was new to us and in the first few months, we had fewer than 100 unique user visits per month. To emulate our success selling in stores, we knew that we needed to a deliver the same luxury shopping experience online as you’d receive in-store.

“Although we were new to selling online, it was imperative that the postal packaging we chose reflected our core brand values. We realised very early on that while you can buy cheaper mailing bags that do the same job in terms of practicalities, in that they get the product to a customer wrapped in a protective material, they don’t deliver the same first impression.

“For us, operating in the luxury sector, we want to reaffirm to our customers that when they choose to shop with us, they are buying a high quality garment. We want them to feel excited about seeing what’s inside the parcel when it is delivered to them. We know that the feeling of excitement and satisfaction with a purchase increases brand affinity as we too have experienced this as online shoppers.

“Delivery presentation and packaging design has been a key component to the success of our online packaging sales, which now account for more than £30k of sales per month and receives more than 1,000 unique visits per month. But getting the right sized packaging range provided huge back of house benefits, such as increasing packing speeds and optimising delivery costs.

“Even though Claudio Lugli has a low returns rate, we wanted to make this process as convenient as possible for the customer. So should they need to return an item, we added a second glue line to the mailing bag so that the same packaging can be used to return the item. Any returns we do then receive always arrive back with us in the outbound packaging, so we know that our customer appreciates and uses this additional feature as well as ensuring our goods are protected.

“One out of every two of our online customers is a repeat customer, so we know that the experience they have when they’re purchasing from our ecommerce store is a positive one and we believe that the first impression of the product as it lands in their hands is integral to that success.”


Duo uk IN BRIEF

Date launched: 1988
Global reach: Duo UK has two UK polythene manufacturing sites and a global network of specialist packaging manufacturers. We distribute products internationally
Group Turnover: £25m
Customers: Duo UK’s customers range from the UK’s largest retailers to small, fast-growing online brands, which include JD Williams, JD Sports and Tesco
Number of employees: 130
Twitter: @duouk
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/duo-ltd
Website: www.duo-uk.co.uk