On today’s episode of the Craft Industry Alliance podcast we’re talking about running a wholesale distribution company with my guest, Brad Krieger.
Brad is the president of Checker Distributors, a company his grandparents, Bob and Del Krieger, founded in 1948. Based in Maumee, Ohio, Checker is a leading distributor of quilting and sewing products. Independent quilt shops all over the United States and internationally order their inventory from Checker.
We start the conversation with Brad talking about his memories growing up when his Dad, Rob Krieger, was running Checker. Some of the employees who are still with the company babysat for Brad when he was a kid hanging around the warehouse while his dad worked and he has some funny memories of those years.
After college, Brad decided to get some experience outside of the family business and moved to Denver to work as a sales rep for a commercial printing company for three years. Then he became a sales rep for Checker in that area, and later back home in Ohio. Brad talks about the tremendous value he found starting in sales and learning the business that way. In 2007, he began working with his dad to help manage the company.
Rows and rows of fabric in the Checker warehouse.
Today quilt shops make up 85% of Checker’s business. Checker carries125,000 SKUs from just shy of 1,000 different brands, making it a one-stop-shop for independent shops looking to stock their shelves with fabric, patterns, and notions.
Many shops order at least some fabric some Checker and Brad says that fabric is a large growth area for the company, making up about 35% of their overall business. For several of the main fabric companies, Checker is the only US distributor they work with.
The 30+ packing station at Checker headquarters.
Checker processes about 900 outbound orders and 1,400 outbound packages each day. They receive roughly 250 inbound packages and 20 inbound pallets each day from their vendors. They have accounts in 45 countries and process orders six days a week. They’ll likely move to seven days a week later this year. The company currently has 165 employees.
I have my print patterns and my enamel pins carried through Checker and I ask Brad to describe what small businesses need to do to have their products considered. Brad wanted to clarify that although it’s helpful to have a strong following if your product has strong potential Checker will consider carrying it even if your following is still small. Checker also owns the Creative Grids ruler brand as well as The Gypsy Quilter and they are very open to designers who are interested in designing products that use those lines.
Checker ships internationally and due to a consolidated freight program, the shipping is affordable. Brad is really proud of the affordable shipping rates he’s been able to negotiate on behalf of international shops.
We talk about the changing role of Quilt Market, the industry trade show. Brad is very data-driven and four years ago he scanned everything he brought to Quilt Market and then looked afterward to see how many of those items registered a single sale during the show. When he realized that over 70% of the things they’d brought didn’t register a single sale, he decided to cut way back. Seven or eight years ago Checker had 20 booths at the show and now they’re down to 10. Still, he says there’s value in seeing products in person and meeting people face to face the Fall 2019 Quilt Market was a successful show for Checker.
I also ask Brad about this post by Jaftex president, Scott Fortunoff, about why Free Spirit is no longer working with Checker.
Brad’s Dad, Rob Krieger, with his daughter Callie, on the beach in Florida.
Brad is a dad to two young children. He says he’s hopeful that one day they might want to come to work in the family business, even though that’s a long way off right now.
And, of course, I ask Brad to recommend great stuff he’s enjoying right now. Brad recommends:
- traveling with his wife
- playing with his young kids
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