Case Study: On the front foot and striding ahead
Blue Box Socks is a Doncaster-based family business which, in less than 5 years, has grown to be one of the UK’s leading suppliers of disposable socks and footwear, with customers ranging from the Doncaster Superbowl to Australian fruit growers.
Blue Box Socks had been growing successfully for over 3 years when the owner, Rob Douthwaite, took a decision early in 2011 which transformed the business and has led to a doubling of turnover in the last 12 months, with the company now ready to embark on a period of further expansion.
The company has been operating since 2007 when Rob Douthwaite spotted a gap in the market.
Rob explains, “I was working for a leisure company that managed tenpin bowling alleys and health clubs. The supplier of the disposable socks that we used in the tenpin bowling alleys went out of business and we weren’t able to find another supplier locally. I ended up importing the disposable footwear that we needed. I realised there must be an opportunity for a local supplier as other bowling alleys had the same problem, so I decided to set up a web site and start a company supplying disposable socks to bowling alleys and that’s how Blue Box Socks began.”
Since starting out selling disposable socks to bowling alleys, Blue Box Socks has gradually extended its products and now offers a wide range of disposable footwear through its full e-commerce web site which attracts customers from all over the world, including children's play centres, factories, food production companies, construction sites, laboratories, hotels and health centres.
And those customers will always recognise a delivery from Blue Box Socks. Rob explains, “When I began selling the socks, I was looking for something eye catching that would make my customers remember my company easily. Rather than sending out orders in plain brown boxes, I decided to ship every order in blue boxes. No matter where my customers are in the world, from Kuwait to Japan or Doncaster, their order will always arrive in a distinctive blue box from Blue Box Socks.”
But, just over a year ago, Rob’s growth aspirations were being held back by an increasing need for warehouse space. Rob said, “I was working from home when I started the company, but that began to cause problems. I needed to buy in larger quantities to meet the increasing demand but I didn’t have enough storage space. I looked at warehousing units but I couldn’t justify all the extra expense of my own unit, with the costs of rates, heating and lighting. I took a step back and looked at other options for storage and took the decision to go with self storage from a local company called Ready Steady Store.”
“Outsourcing my warehousing to Ready Steady Store has allowed me to transform my business and has led to this fantastic growth with a doubling of turnover in the last 12 months. The main benefits have been that I can now buy in much larger quantities, so I get cheaper prices and lower freight costs, plus Ready Steady Store offers good pricing, so there are no business rates to pay. Keeping overheads down and buying costs low allows me to keep my prices competitive, which in turn leads to more business.”
“The cost benefits of storing with Ready Steady Store have been very important, but equally beneficial to my business growth are the services they provide. The staff are very easy to work with and very flexible. They accept all my deliveries from my overseas suppliers so I don’t have to wait around. I can concentrate on the customers and getting more business. There’s easy access with the store being located on a major route and I get use of a fork lift truck to move my stock.”
Being able to spend more time with customers has helped Rob tremendously and even throws up some interesting opportunities. Rob expains, “We export all over the world now, including Australia and New Zealand, and I came across one Australian fruit grower who found a new use for the try-on socks used by shoe retailers. He is covering his fruit with the socks to protect the fruit from being eaten by the birds. Now there’s a market I would never have thought existed.”
Storing with us has also allowed Rob to extend the product range with new products that open up new markets. Rob says, “This year we have added a range of disposable slippers for hotels and health clubs. These are selling well and I am already having to increase my stocks. It wouldn’t have been possible for me to add new ranges like this before, because I simply didn’t have the space. In fact, using self storage and the services offered has been so successful for my business that I’m already knocking on Ready Steady Store’s door to increase my storage space.”
Nick Houghton, our Doncaster Area Manager, adds: “We are proud to be able to contribute to a success story like Blue Box Socks. It’s rewarding to know we helped a local company grow to be one of the leading suppliers in their industry.”
Ready Steady Store - Self Storage Doncaster