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Canadian Jim Ennis Eyes USA, Boosts 2009 Sales 30 Percent

November 30, -0001

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EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada – J. Ennis Fabrics has been quietly growing under the fabrics industry radar by making strategic moves to further its business in the USA, according to second generation owner, 42-year-old, Jim Ennis.

The company won't release figures but it says it employs 200 people and belongs in the ranks of the 50 largest wholesalers in the world. "We really have three brands that separate our divisions: J. Ennis Fabrics Home Décor, Contract and Specialty products, said Ennis. J. Specialty products supplies fabrics for awning, marine and automotive markets. Ennis also serves the re-upholstery market with a full range of supplies including drapery hardware and workroom supplies. Ennis also sells blinds and is developing a top of bed and finished drapery program for the hotel trade. "These divisions help differentiate products for the customer, highlighting the diversity we have and the capabilities to cross merchandise," Ennis said. The company exhibited its products at the Hospitality Design Show in Las Vegas this past May. Ennis attends other shows like Heimtextil and Shanghaitex annually.

The company will introduce 19 new fabric programs in 2009 alone. "We're being very aggressive during this recession and we expect to increase our market share as a result of our efforts," said Ennis. "The U.S. and international growth is driving this company forward right now." The company has never made an acquisition but has grown steadily. Ennis found that most companies do not invest enough money to keep up with the technology, "so what you're buying is just dated inventory," he said. J. Ennis prides itself on its state-of-the-art warehouse technology including narrow aisle and rail guided warehouses with 20-foot height, "stocked to the roof," as Ennis said. Aside from his native country, Canada, Ennis does business in Dubai, Singapore, Italy and Spain as well as Southeast Asia; 20 countries in all with the U.S. being the fastest growing, he said.

"We're not afraid to source anywhere in the world," he said. "Our vendor base is stable with over 200 suppliers. We're now expanding into drapery, bedspread and multipurpose fabrics. We've added ten new vendors in hardware and supplies."

Ennis said his company provides a decorative look in up-to-date colors at a midrange price and stocks the goods in its four-million-yard bar-coded inventory. "While our competitors have found it difficult to grow this year, Ennis is up over 30 percent," he said. "Price is very important now. Everything we sample, we can ship from stock same day," he pointed out. He also said that he converts 1,000 sku's in China for in stock delivery.

He now wants to add more distributors and showroom reps for his lines to continue the growth rate in the States, he said. He also has 35 sales reps in the U.S. and expects to add to this force.

To further the business in the States, Ennis made a recent installation of a customized $750,000 Canadian e-commerce website, one of his biggest investments to date. He hopes it will propel Ennis into the big leagues of fabric wholesaling. The interactive site allows the user to drape fabric on furniture frames and place orders online or check stock. "This is a completely customized website with a real-time 24/7 system which allows the user to check stock anywhere in the world," he said. Ennis promises to ship same day before 2:30 p.m. from receipt of the order by morning. The company began operations 37 years ago in what is now a 105,000-square-foot Edmonton location, the town which plays home to the Edmonton Oilers hockey team. With a total of three years as professional hockey player, Jim Ennis was a member of that team in 1988 and played with the great Wayne Gretsky. Not too long after in 1989, Ennis answered the call to join the family fabric business and hung up his skates. "I'm as passionate about fabrics as I was about professional hockey," Ennis said. Today, Jim owns the business with his four sisters who are all active in the business but he is the majority owner and his mother is on the board of directors. Jim is known to the trade for his aggressive marketing efforts and while his father (who passed eight years ago) was low key on publicity, young Jim is keen on exposure. He spends much of his time in product development and sales while his wife Kim is an interior designer who decorates the four free-standing company showrooms in Indianapolis, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, about 5,000 square feet each. With 13 children from Jim and his sisters, it looks like the next generation management is in place for the Ennis clan.

In 1989, Ennis opened an 80,000-square foot warehouse in Toronto. In 2001, Ennis opened 30,000 square feet in Vancouver and in the same year, made its foray into the U.S. in Indianapolis with 40,000 square feet. One year later, Ennis opened its mainland China operation with 25,000 square feet. "We sell China to China out of that office," Ennis said. The company serves the hospitality and furniture manufacturing markets from that facility in what has become a seven figure business. "Originally, it was just a quality control office to make sure our products met North American standards." Now, he says, J.Ennis offers the same North American quality standards in the fabrics it sells to the Chinese market. The company is also a container buyer of wovens from China where it also buys real silk and faux silk.


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