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March 2012 Issue 201

INSPIRING BUSINESS SOLUTIONS FOR DEALERS PRICE BASKET 2012 A peek at price and service GREEN GUIDE All things eco and beautiful CONFLICT OF INTEREST How to resolve a contract clash


Standing out in the crowd green guide

Green procurement


Greening the community

hen you are recognised for doing something well, it seems a natural choice to highlight that quality and expand on it, which is exactly what Trish Smith thought when SOS came runners-up at the Wandsworth Green and Heartbeat Awards in 2009. “We were thrilled to be short-listed and to have our green credentials recognised. We have implemented new initiatives into the business not only to reduce our own carbon footprint but also to improve our customers by greening their supply chain. Ever since then I’ve said that we’re going to hold a green event,” she explains.

Last month, Earlsfield-based dealer SOS office solutions held its debut Green Business Expo to build awareness within the local

Proof is in the tasting Smith decided that it was time to engage the community in a local exhibition to promote the company’s green initiatives and to prove to customers that being environmentally friendly does not have to come at an extra cost. “Being green does not need to be the more expensive option – our environmentally friendly products cost no more than conventional products and can often save you money. Show me an invoice and I will prove our products will improve your bottom line. As well as helping to save the planet,” insists Smith, who regularly runs green audits for customers. “Just by running through what a customer is buying and looking to comparable sustainably sourced products, I have proved time and time again that it really doesn’t have to be costly.” The company, owned by Smith and her husband has been running since 1994 and is a member of Integra. Smith says that she has always been interested in engaging with eco-friendly practices, however she is quick to add: “I’m no eco-warrior, and that’s not what I’m trying to achieve here. It’s just we should all be thinking about it – we’ve seen what climate change can do, it’s our world and our children that will see the impact. If we can make some changes that might make a difference then why not?”

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community. Nina Rosandic spoke to MD Trish Smith to find out more

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As we bring our Brother Futures section to a close, we are left reflecting on what to do with the insight we’ve gained over the last few issues. At the end of the day, it’s about constantly looking ahead and making time for that extra research, to feed careful and wellinformed steps to make sure your business is a sustainable one. For some, this may mean joining forces, and in this issue we take a look at the year in acquisitions. Who has been investing in who? And why (p18)? W Sustainability also feeds into this month’s green-themed issue. How are you supporting the green agenda? How can you cut costs by being more efficient? And how are you meeting the needs of a customer base whose environmental concerns are growing? As part of this, we interview our green dealer of the year, OfficeTeam (p26). If you think you could challenge the reigning champion with your commitment to the environment, then make sure you apply for the 2012 awards from next month. In terms of forward thinking, and standing out to be counted, both of this month’s dealer interviews are with independents who know the importance of getting their business seen. You and your 57 company may be fantastic in every way imaginable, but if no one knows about you, you’ll never see the return on your efforts. Just Office’s Mark Rostock tells us about his company’s award-winning marketing drive (p40) and the team at internet startup WAE+ talk about their sudden rush of success, down to a diligent PR strategy and commitment to brand awareness (p46). Moral of the story: OP dealers should be both seen and heard – so get shouting! Finally, this will be my last issue as editor of Dealer Support as I move on to concentrate on a career as a freelance journalist. It’s been a pleasure and here’s wishing you all the very best. Green procurement


Support network According to Smith, the event was not a difficult one to organise, down to the amount of support from


March 2012 March 2012

“Company buyouts are sometimes strategic, sometimes out of necessity.”

Nina Rosandic, Editor


DESIGNER Sarah Chivers

EDITOR Nina Rosandic





PUBLISHER Vicki Baloch



intelligent media solutions suite 223, business design centre 52 upper street, london N1 0QH tel: 020 7288 6833 fax: 020 7288 6834 email: web: web:

Annual subscriptions are ABC available at a cost of £68.00 for UK and overseas by surface mail, £90.00 for airmail. Subscription enquiries should be sent to the above address Dealer Support is the leading monthly publication for dealers in the business supplies industry. It provides information on the industry (both in the UK and overseas), information for and about the UK’s independent dealers, as well as information and advice on running a small business. The views expressed in this magazine are not necessarily the views of the publishers. Copyright of all the material published remains with Intelligent Media Solutions Limited. No part of this magazine may be reproduced, copied, stored in an electronic retrieval or transmitted, save with written permission or in accordance with provision of the copyright designs and patent act of 1988. Printed in the UK by Buxton Press



March 2012

INDUSTRY 8 NEWS AND VIEWS All news and views this month in the office products industry 12 PRICE BASKET 2012 An anonymous look at independent dealers’ price and service propositions and how they compete with the corporates 18 ACQUISITIONS AND MERGERS A look at mergers that took place in the independent channel 26 THERE’S GREEN IN ‘TEAM A chat with IDS League’s Green Dealer of the Year OfficeTeam

FUTURE CAMPAIGN 30 GET STARTED How the channel can prepare for the future 34 SOUNDING THE SEARCH The key to performing well on Google


36 LESSONS LEARNED The changing office products market and the opportunities for dealers that lie within

PEOPLE 40 JUST DOES IT Just Office surges ahead 46 WAE HEY! A new OP company takes on the giants



56 SENDING OUT AN ECO SOS An interview with SOS on its Green Business Expo 60 GREEN PRODUCTS An update on everything lean and green in the OP repertoire 64 STAYING IN THE LOOP A close look at closed loop programmes

MANAGEMENT 68 GROW YOUR BUSINESS This month: Managed print services – Part II 72 CONFLICT OF INTEREST What to do if you clash over a contract 74 FINAL WORD The latest from the stationery soap box

Flip over for the March edition of USP magazine



NEWS Spicers’s academy enjoys successful start Trainees already generating new business for dealers Spicers and P1 have announced the continued success of their New Talent Academy (NTA). The inaugural course ran in January and all the trainees are already generating healthy business for their dealers, with one graduate opening his first account two days after the course finished with a £6,500 order. The positive feedback from the dealers involved and the delegates themselves has meant the second program (NTA2) has almost sold out just three weeks after it was announced. It will commence in April and NTA3 is now being planned to meet the demand. Tom Rodda, Spicers’s sales and marketing director, said: “We always believed in this programme from day one and the response from our dealers has been great. We are very pleased with the whole format and that demand from our partners is so strong. “Having spoken to the dealers involved in NTA1 and met with all of the delegates we know we have created a winning formula. We will run as many programmes as we need to meet demand.” P1’s recently appointed sales director, Richard Stubbings, added: “I joined P1 just recently and went straight into the NTA training programme as an observer. It really is first class. The biggest compliment I can give to the programme is that I would genuinely never have believed the delegates I saw presenting at the end of just three weeks of initial training had not either sold before or not in this industry. “I really was blown away. I’ve been working with several dealers and groups now on the next NTA programmes and it is proving very popular indeed. The mix of affordability, the backing of Spicers, the depth of the training and the dedicated industry relevant skills content is proving to be the right solution.”

Systemcare promotes senior marketing manager Manufacturer restructures to improve customer service The UK based manufacturer of private label equipment, hygiene and workspace cleaning products, has promoted Amanda Stone from marketing manager to business development manager with immediate effect. The company is also extending Scandinavia sales manager Andy Page’s remit to include Russia, Germany, Austria, Ukraine, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia. Rémy Darmon, sales manager for southern Europe, will look after the rest of continental Europe including the customer base in France. In the move to maintain proactive support and close customer relationships, Page, Darmon and Stone have each been assigned an internal sales administrator to work alongside them. The internal team of sales administrators will report directly to Kasia Holland, the company’s new marketing and customer service manager. General manager of Systemcare Bruce Campbell, said: “The restructure of our sales team demonstrates our customer focused approach and will allow our customers to have not one but two points of contact, who will provide them with information and support. Creation of the new job roles will also enable us to explore new opportunities for Systemcare and its customers to maximise and capitalise on existing and future product ranges.”

INGRAM MICRO NAMED UK DISTRIBUTOR OF THE YEAR IT wholesaler takes home three prizes at European event Ingram Micro Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), a division of Ingram Micro, the global wholesale provider of technology products and supply chain management services, has won three awards at a European distributor awards event. The EMEA Channel Academy: 2012 Awards took place in Monaco last month in association with DISTREE EMEA – one of the region’s premier channel events. Ingram Micro nabbed the France & Benelux Distributor of the Year and the DACH Distributor of the Year awards, as well as the final award for UK & Ireland Distributor of the Year, which saw Computer 2000, Entatech, Micro-P and Westcoast also nominated. Alain Maquet, president of Ingram Micro EMEA, was pleased with the recognition from the vendor community: “The three awards strengthen our belief that we are delivering value to our vendors and resellers today, tomorrow and for the long term.”


MARCH 2012


CPD forms transatlantic FM partnership

Companies warned to meet PAYE deadlines

US disposables firm to help distribute new eco tissue line FM wholesaler, CPD has partnered with US company, the Paradigm Group to distribute the Emerald Brand of USDA BioPreferred certified tissue and paper to the UK marketplace. Emerald is a B2B and B2C international disposable and consumable brand manufactured by Global Sourcing, a subsidiary of the Paradigm Group. “Our Emerald Brand continues to gain demand beyond our domestic USA borders,” said its founder Ralph Bianculli. “After evaluating market candidates, we have selected CPD to represent and supply the Emerald product line in the UK.” Paradigm Group is a manufacturer and distributor of facility-related products, specialising in environmentally responsible disposables and cleaning supplies. With its 12 years of brand development and marketing experience, the Paradigm Group is assisting CPD’s management and sales teams with the Emerald rollout. “Emerald Brand continues to capture market share by providing an innovative ‘sustainable experience’ to consumers,” Bianculli added. “Emerald’s breadth of product collectively delivers unprecedented scale in the selection of sustainable break-room and facility products.”

HR experts warn firms to prepare now for payroll year end Companies are being urged to prepare now for the payroll year end to avoid strict penalties being imposed for the late submission of information. There is not just one but two HMRC deadlines associated with payroll submissions. Companies missing either face automatic penalties or interest charges. According to experts at Rawlinsons payroll and HR, HMRC applies time limits very strictly and failure to comply results in automatic penalties. The first deadline is 19 April. All outstanding PAYE for employees must be paid by that date otherwise interest charges start being incurred. A month later – 19 May – is the deadline for submitting P35 forms. These are a record of the end-of-year payroll totals for all companies’ employees and directors combined. Missing this deadline will result in an automatic penalty. “These are very important dates for those in charge of payroll in any business to be aware of,” said Sarah Coulson, payroll manager at Rawlinsons. “The forms must now be filed online and, while they aren’t hard to do, they can be time consuming. It’s important firms start planning now.”

INTEGRA CELEBRATES 15 YEARS IN BUSINESS The dealer group reflects on the last decade and a half

“A larger team will make it easier to always keep in regular contact with both existing and prospective dealers and will directly contribute to our member growth and development. We are very excited about the future with our new team members, and look forward to seeing the business grow as a result of their work.” Kim Gladstone, head of business development for XPD, on the new additions to her business development team

Integra Office Solutions is celebrating 15 years of business after it was formed back in 1997 through the merger of Instat, the first dealer group of its kind, and the NDA. Integra soon became the leading dealer group in the UK and still is today with a membership of 280 and combined member revenues in excess of £600m. The group will be celebrating the achievement with events and initiatives throughout 2012. Members can also look forward to additional opportunities in this year to increase their rebates and win prizes together with benefits from exclusive supplier incentives. Integra’s MD, Aidan McDonough, formerly the marketing director of NDA, commented: “We will be celebrating in style this year and taking a look back over the last 15 years. There have been some monumental changes within the group and the industry over the years so it will be interesting to step back in time. We look forward to using this celebration to reward and thank our members, staff and suppliers for their support.” The celebrations will culminate in a focus on the last 15 years at the Integra National Conference on 22 November. MARCH 2012




Computer 2000 appoints director of public sector Appointment geared towards increasing market share Computer 2000 has appointed Cathi Low to the role of director of public sector, as the company gears up to launch a major drive into the education, healthcare and government sectors. Low has rejoined the company after spending more than five years working at Ingram Micro UK, where she most recently held the position of director of value business. She spent the preceding 12 years at Computer 2000 and Tech Data Europe, in a number of senior positions. Peter Hubbard, Computer 2000’s MUK and Ireland MD, stated: “We’re delighted to be welcoming Cathi back to the company. With her proven capabilities and long experience of working in senior sales roles in distribution, Cathi is ideally-placed to lead our plan to build a significant and strategic public sector practice within Computer 2000. We are already working with a number of resellers on specific opportunities and there are more in the pipeline, so it’s great to have Cathi coming on board at this time.” Low added: “This is an exciting challenge for me and one that I’m really looking forward to taking on. There are massive opportunities in the public sector, and it’s a market in which many resellers are looking for enablement support. I’m looking forward to building a team and a set of resources that will enable our partners and customers to build good public sector value propositions that will win them new and profitable business.” Low will be working with all of Computer 2000’s collection of specialist businesses and key vendor partners to develop public sector campaigns and provide resellers with focused sales support.

news in brief... ACCOLADE JOINS NECTERE Glasgow reseller the latest to sign up Accolade is the latest dealer to sign up to dealer services provider Nectere. The Glasgow-based firms’s MD, Ron Arnott said he was delighted to become a Nectere partner. “There are many options out there, but Nectere provided us with a solution that takes over a large part of customer services, credit control and marketing,” he said. “This means we have more time to concentrate on gaining new accounts and developing customer relationships, whilst also saving money on fixed overheads.”

VOW FM AND INTERIOR SHOW TOUR Wholesaler hosts London and Leeds events The VOW FM and Interiors Roadshow is coming to Leeds on 17 April and Luton on 19

New starters at XPD

April. It boasts an FM-focused exhibition

Three people join the business development team

FM sales through category and product

Dealer group XPD has welcomed three new members to its business development team to help support the new XPD Solutions programme, including corporate solutions, telesales, pricing tool kits, and E-manager. Sarah Mundy joined in November as the business development coordinator, responsible for administrative work within the Selby office. In December, Briony Hartley joined in the role of telemarketing manager, to manage the telephone solutions programme, including management of the customer database, cleansing data and appointment making for customers. Suzi Pegg joined in January as a data analyst. She will be responsible for creation of corporate documents and correspondence with dealers.

£600m The combined revenue of Integra members to date


featuring more than 15 manufacturers and suppliers ready to help resellers increase their knowledge and training. VOW Sidekicks will also be on hand at the show to demonstrate the wholesaler’s marketing and sales tools.The events, which will take place from 10am to 4pm, will wrap up with a series of workshops.

NEC OFFERS END-USER TRAINING Manufacturer gives dealers helping hand NEC is offering end-user training from the comfort and convenience of the customer’s office, as well as hands-on support from a trained expert on the day of equipment


installation. NEC’s Ian Shanahan said: “Many

24-25 April The Stationery Show Business Design Centre, London

system administrators. However, it can be a

3 May BOSS Federation 2012 Heart of England Golf Day Solihull

MARCH 2012

customers request training for their teams and strain for resellers to meet the demand and often it isn’t the best use of their time. At NEC, we can help to remove this pain.”


OFDA OFFERS MEMBERS HELP AND ADVICE AT OFFICE FRIENDLY SALES CONFERENCE OFDA want our members sales teams to increase their earning potential, work closer with customers and learn new skills.

‘Your Personal Invitation’

More than 100 delegates are joining together to take part at the 2012 Office Friendly Sales Conference, held at the Nottingham Belfry on Friday, 18 November. With leading industry speakers and more than 30 suppliers, this year’s conference is the place to find out about the latest developments, try out new products and uncover new business opportunities. We’ll be launching our New Media Centre - the go-to place for personalised marketing mailers and prospectors and lifting the lid on sales techniques to help them sell more Facilities Management products than ever before. We will also be showcasing Call2Action, the new OFDA lead generation service and interactively working on key sales topics. And to round off the day, we’ll hosting a special gala dinner for them to turn work into play!

Avery Launches Solutions for Small Businesses Range

VOW offers secure shredding service

New range offers comprehensive marketing tools

Wholesaler partners with Iron Mountain to offer new service

Avery has launched a new range of branding, merchandising and promotional solutions, providing affordable and customisable products to help micro and small businesses produce professional, creative and effective sales and marketing materials The new range offers significant growth opportunities for dealers by providing a comprehensive solution that responds to the growing demand for more cost-effective, straightforward and flexible ways for small business to promote and market themselves. The range empowers businesses to quickly and easily design and print a comprehensive range of marketing materials using free online software and templates. From customisable company brochures, business cards and compliment slips to retail labels and signage, product information tags and even QR codes, the range will appeal to businesses operating in both retail and service-based environments. Avery’s free online software gives access to thousands of design templates that allow any product in the range to be personalised with a business’ own branding, graphics and images. These designs can then be saved, adjusted and printed whenever consumers require. To find out more the new Solutions for Small Businesses range please visit

VOW has added to its VOW+ services by introducing a partnership with Iron Mountain to offer a new secure shredding service in the coming months to its VOW+ resellers. The wholesaler announced its new initiative at the VOW+ Partner Event held on 3 February as part of a range of tools and services aimed at helping its supporting resellers to secure business and sell more into existing customers. Simon Wallis, VOW business development director and coordinator of the VOW+ programme, said: “We launched a pilot with Iron Mountain in Q4 2011, and I have been impressed by their professionalism and proactive support in developing a strategic partnership. “They are a trusted brand when it comes to managing information from its creation to secure destruction. Our resellers showed a real interest in this solution when we introduced it at the VOW+ Partner Event and we are looking forward to rolling out the service to supporting resellers over the coming months.” Arun McIntosh, business development director at Iron Mountain, added: “We trialled a pilot programme with VOW successfully last year and experienced first-hand the organisation’s commitment to delivering exceptional service. Iron Mountain is delighted to bring its experience in secure destruction to enhance the suite of services offered through VOW’s network of resellers.” MARCH 2012




Service Basket

Dealer support has gone undercover to get a customer’s view of the office supplies industry. Double agent George Carey contacted a selection of suppliers to find out just how easy it is to order office essentials


MARCH 2012



Contract stationer


Mail order



Contract stationer

































Up-beat and friendly

Friendly and fairly well informed

Friendly and helpful



He seemed very keen to get me off the phone

His only answer was "check the website"

He was polite but ultimately just directed me to the website

Everything is done by email, so fairly impersonal

While he was very pleasant, he didn't really have a definite answer to any of my questions

She was very helpful, although catalogues are only sent after you have joined up. An email was sent to me with details, within five minutes of getting off the phone

He was very helpful and enthusiastic and wanted to come and see me that day

He was very personable and seemed very knowledgeable


A no frills site that was easy to use

Clear and logical but not very inviting

Easy to use with handy reviews

Nicely laid out and easy to navigate

The best of the lot, very well laid out and easy to use

It was very clear and easy to use with helpful tips along the way

Everything was in the right place; simple and effective

A nice looking and highly functional site


A good offering of green products

There was a good selection of reasonably priced eco products

It offered all the usual eco-friendly products at very competitive prices

There was a good green range, which was well promoted

A good offering and a nice section on the website dedicated to green products

The company provides a solid range of eco-friendly products

A comprehensive offering

There was an excellent eco-friendly offering, with the option to source anything not already offered


Very good

A wide range of products


They had everything I required

A very large range

A good range of products to suit all budgets

An impressive range of products and alternatives

Excellent, lots of choice


Pay as you go

30 days

Pay as you go

30 days

30 days

Payments are due at the end of the month after the month of delivery

30 days

30 days











Next day

Next day

Next day

Next day

Next day

Next day

Next day

Next day


Despite very competitive pricing, an abrupt conversation and no credit left me rather cold

A request to fax through my shopping list felt a little archaic and the service wasn't great

The prices were good and customer reviews proved useful but it's not really a service

An efficient and competitively priced option, although lacking a personal touch

A perfectly pleasant experience but it would have been nice to speak to someone who knew more

Everything was done in good time and the prices were the best

Surprisingly personal and accomodating service

Fast and friendly service with a consultative feel made this the standout option













Service Basket Awards Best Service – Red Box Excellent service was provided from the start. The initial phone call was extensive and my salesman took the time to find out about the business, offering to come down and see me that day. When I emailed a shopping list to get prices, I mentioned that I was in a rush and the prices were emailed back to me that afternoon. It was also suggested that we meet up a few times a year to go through my spending patterns and see what could be done to get a better deal. An honourable mention goes to Lyreco for what was undeniably also a very personal service.

Best Website – Viking From the homepage onwards, the website is inviting and intuitive. I found it the easiest to navigate and one of the most attractive. All sub-headings were clear and the varying ways to search for products were nicely laid-out, giving the option to search for products or brands. The ‘my office’ function, which is ever-present on the right hand of the screen, was extremely easy to use, offering handy lists, such as ‘my lists’, ‘favourites’ and ‘most ordered’. While none of the functions on the site were unique, it was all put together in the best and most user-friendly manner.

Best range of products – Red Box The website had a very good range of products but was not the most expansive of those that I contacted. However, when I started to mention products that I could not see on there, I was informed that they could be acquired, although there may be slight costs attached. Overall the impressive collection of products available as standard, combined with the promise to source those I could not see, represented the best amount of choice and served to reinforce the company’s standard of service.

Best environmental offering – Euroffice It was the only one of the websites to have an obvious separate section dedicated to eco-friendly products in the menu on the left-hand side of the home page. When I raised the issue with other companies, they all offered green products but as the website is often someone’s first point of contact, if only to look up a phone number, the fact that it was prioritised on the homepage sends a good signal.

Best prices – Staples Staples just came out on top overall. As predicted the large superstores and contract suppliers were generally slightly better on price. There was very little in it between the top three of Staples, Banner and Euroffice. Each company seemed to do well in different areas, with Staples tending to more competitive on pens, whereas Euroffice generally offered better prices on paper.


MARCH 2012





y time as a secret shopper was certainly informative but on the whole didn’t throw up too many surprises. In general the bigger multi-national companies were cheaper but did not offer the same levels of service. Having said that, it certainly wasn’t the case that every company stuck to its pigeon-holed image. I was surprised by the level of service that Lyreco offered, which was reminiscent of an independent dealer. My sales rep was very keen to come down and meet me to have a chat about the company and find out more about the my individual requirements. Euroffice also offered good service but in a very different way. Although communication was email-based, replies were very prompt and didn’t leave me frustrated and needing more information at any time, as it did with Banner and Amazon. It is imperative for any business to have a web presence these days, but I found that those offering a purely web-based service simply didn’t offer enough. While the prices are excellent, with some, the level of service was almost non-existent. Although Banner’s customer service assistant was very friendly, he was extremely uninformed and I was directed to look something up on the website on at least four occasions. I was left wondering why they had bothered with phone operatives at all, as he couldn’t tell me much more than if I had simply gone straight to the website anyway. The experience did emphasise the importance of good service, which in my opinion is worth a small difference in price. The chance to speak to the same person every time, who knows the needs of you and your business, is very attractive. As the saying goes: “People buy from people”, and that was certainly my experience. The peace of mind gained from good customer service is priceless, within reason. While Red Box came out on top, there is still plenty here for independent dealers to think about. The personal and efficient customer service offered by Lyreco could mark a change in the way that contract suppliers approach the office products industry. If that is the case, dealers will have to go to even greater lengths to differentiate themselves and therefore justify their higher prices. Although I opted for service, businesses across the UK are experiencing tough times and paying more for the personal touch may cease to be an option. The message is clear, dealers will have to keep adapting if they wish to remain successful in the face of price-slashing big business. DS


MARCH 2012





t the end of 2010, Plimsoll analyst, David Pattison suggested: “With too many companies chasing weakened demand, it is inevitable that there are likely to be a number of high profile mergers and takeovers.” The most talked about, you could say, has been Unipapel’s buyout of Spicers and subsequent sale of the UK division to BeCap. However, beyond that there has been plenty of activity up and down the channel. According to Pattison: “Further consolidation is needed to sort out the remaining dead wood... Bad companies fail in a recession; good companies simply do not. These companies will lead the industry out of recession with some smart acquisitions to help maintain their recent success.” So who has been taking the business plunge in the OP market this year, and to what end?

A new offering It was around this time last year that Cheltenham’s Abbey Business Equipment acquired one of its major suppliers, Abbey Furnishings. The two companies had collaborated for many years on a number of projects, including Abbey Furnishings receiving its biggest order in its 30-year history from a substantial MOD contract in 2010 that Abbey Business Equipment had secured. In this sort of partnership the buyer’s company is bolstered by a specialist division, while the acquired company can engage in big business that may not have otherwise been possible. Such has been the case this year for dealers looking to build on their managed print offering. Xerox Auhorised Dealer of the Year 2011, Danwood acquired Xerox concessionaire Document Express (DEX) as a means of strengthening its MPS proposition, while RED BOX’s second acquisition of the year, Enfield-based Sainsbury and Sainsbury in September was partly owing to the fact that the 85-years-established office supplies, furniture and copy solutions company could add to RED BOX’s MPS presence. Similarly, in June, Milton Keynes-based dealer United reported a record quarter in its MPS division, following a two-year strategy to diversify its managed services and recent acquisitions of a photocopier business and vending company.

Geographical reach out

Following last year’s Plimsoll Industry analysis, author of the 2010 study David Pattison stated that the findings suggested the office supplies market was due considerable consolidation in 2011, with the number of companies in trouble leading to heightened takeover activity. So, Nina Rosandic asks: “How did we fare?”


MARCH 2012

Like a good came of Risk, taking over as much space on the map is a good way to make your mark. Having taken over neighbouring North West company Oakham Business Systems earlier in the year, Salford Quays-based Business by Technology (BBT) Group took over North Wales dealer SOS Office Supplies in November last year, “in order to hit the ground running in a new geographical area…and serve an even wider customer base,” according to director Chris Hutchings. Also, RED BOX MD Gordon Christiansen commented that his acquisition of Essex-based Zipp Office Supplies back in April was based on the fact that Zipp operates in an area that has potential for growth and, “expanding our geographic footprint is a strategic move for us and significant step in achieving our future growth plans”. Another significant cross-country deal of note this year was London-based Bates Office’s acquisition of Doveys Office Solutions in Crewe. The two Integra dealers joined in August, taking the combined turnover for the two companies to £11m.



Uniting digital minds When it comes to pioneering digital and online moves in the industry, strength in numbers is important to get ahead of the game before the industry sets foots in your tracks. Last year, digital office solutions specialist Apogee Corporation made five acquisitions, the last of which was Churchill Office Solutions in December, a Midlands-based dealer providing document output solutions from Ricoh and Canon, and telecommunications and mobile offerings. The other four transactions were completed with Waterlooville’s A Healey Office Equipment, South Wales Photocopiers, Gemtec in Hull and ABS Technology. Apogee’s sales revenues are up by more than 40% year on year. On the web side, online office supplies company UK Office Direct was bought out by web experts Euroffice in July, as part of the company’s bid to dominate the online space. Michael Griffin, founder of UK Office Direct, said he was delighted to have built UK Office Direct into a business of scale and profitability. “Now is the appropriate time for us to pass it on to new ownership and we look forward to working with the Euroffice team to ensure the smooth integration of the business,” he said.

Back to the source The start of 2012 has been punctuated by dramatic moves in the manufacturer channel, with the sale of Avery Dennison’s office and consumer products division to 3M for $550m, subject to approvals. Avery, with 2011 sales of approximately $765m, intends to use the proceeds from the transaction to reduce debt, make additional pension contributions and repurchase shares. Bill Smith, vice president and general manager of 3M’s office supplies division, said: “This acquisition complements our global business…and will allow us to better serve our customers with accelerated product innovation.” Also this year, amidst a flurry of allegations, UK stationery firm Helix appears to have been saved from extinction with the buyout by French manufacturer Maped, which will allow the company to maintain its operational autonomy. On another positive note, Pukka Pads has hit the acquisition trail, taking over a number of business form companies last year, and UK-based paper products manufacturer Cardinal Brands, in order to expand its product base.

Modelling distribution The disties have had a go too, with Westcoast dipping its toe into the continental EU market with the acquisition of Belgian ICT and home entertainment products distributor Europea Trade in February this year. Europea Trade was


MARCH 2012

“Bad companies fail in a recession; good companies simply do not. These companies will lead the industry out of recession with some smart acquisitions”

founded in 1991 and current sales are around €120m.
Westcoast’s founder Joe Hemani believes sales can be grown to €200m over the next two years by extending Europea’s product portfolio. Also, electronic distributor Advent Data was bought out by Micro-P’s parent company DCC in March last year. Advent’s Raj Advani and Robert Barneveld released this announcement: “Selling the business we have worked hard building for 20 years was a big decision but having met the management teams at Sercom and Micro-P, we knew immediately it was the right decision both for us personally as well as for Advent Data. Both businesses have a similar ethos, so we believe Advent Data will be a natural fit for the DCC group. The low crossover of customers presents an exciting opportunity to achieve some aggressive growth in the coming years and we very much look forward to some exciting times ahead.” Advent has remained a standalone business, retaining all staff and premises.

Regroup and conquer When it comes to company buyouts, sometimes it is strategic on both sides, sometimes a deal is born out of necessity, but with so much movement going on, it would not be wise to bury your head in the sand and miss out on the opportunites that may lie within a partnership with a fellow dealer. Whether you’re looking for a buyer, a partner, or to scoop up a new proposition under your wing, it seems there may well be a good deal to be had and dealers should be looking to have these conversations – if only window shopping. DS



Celebrating its 175th year in business, Sinclairs is a British manufacturing institution with its eyes on future progress. We find out what gives this stationery firm staying power


or a business to thrive for nearly two centuries, it must be doing something right. If any company could claim this, it would be Sinclairs, the leading British manufacturer of world-class paper-based stationery products. Sinclairs is one of those rare family-run organisations that has managed to stay one step ahead of the curve and, thanks to famous brands like Silvine in its portfolio, continues to appeal to both new and loyal customers alike. It would be all too easy for a company like Sinclairs, on this, its 175th anniversary, to rest on its laurels and bask in the glory it has accrued from its years in service. However, Sinclairs would not be the success it is today if it did not look to the future for inspiration. It is for this reason that it is one of the only stationery manufacturers of note left standing in the UK. DEEP ROOTS

Sinclairs, whose home is in the ancient market town of Otley set in Wharfedale in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, was founded 175 years ago in 1837, the year Queen Victoria began her long reign. William Sinclair, an Otley man, had learned his trade as a printer and bookbinder in a local printing firm, but at the end of his apprenticeship, he began his own business, initially further down the valley in Wetherby. He relocated his business back to his hometown of Otley in 1854. Following William’s death, his two sons continued the business, moving to a new site and new factory in 1884. This site, now greatly expanded, remains the current home of Sinclairs. The company underwent great expansion during the 20th century, with new buildings and new machinery. The range of products grew as the years went by, after the famous trade name of Silvine was introduced in 1901, with the traditional hand-made ledgers being replaced by the types of books and pads we use today. A new warehousing facility in Otley was


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acquired in 1991. The company is now owned and managed by the fifth and sixth generations of the family. FUTURE FACING

Despite these financially challenging times, Sinclairs has managed to thrive. It continues to invest in its brand awareness, new machinery and is continually focusing on growing its business through its established channels of trade. As part of this, Sinclairs is working closely with office products wholesalers to support the dealer channel. It now has a presence in all their catalogues and attends the exhibitions. Sinclairs also carries out dealer-specific promotional activity, including the provision of click-and-print marketing materials for resellers. The firm also works hard to keep its image and seminal brands cutting-edge and up-to-date.

A lot of the manufacturing is gone in the UK, but we’re still there, providing work across the board BRANDS AHEAD

As traditional office products take a hit, it seems brand loyalty still rings true. “People actually like to support the brands,” says sales director Alistair Kirkpatrick. “You can buy cheap, but is it fit for purpose?” Sinclairs is building on the enthusiasm for British brands and as a result is promoting the fact that 99% of its products are made in Yorkshire. This not only has an appeal for the end-user, but it helps the dealer too, as supplying locally allows them a certain level of flexibility with their orders and processes. This, in turn, helps reduce their carbon footprint, as the amount of miles the product needs to travel is significantly reduced when compared to those shipped from overseas. Sinclairs under its World Aware badge prides itself in being an environmentally responsible organisation, working tirelessly to reduce its impact on the earth. Apart from lower carbon output in transport miles, other green initiatives include using raw materials sparingly, maintaining machinery at the highest of levels, minimising waste, and using less packaging. Sinclairs is ISO14001 certified. Its Silvine range of stationery products continues to be popular with end-users, and Sinclairs ensures it stays so, with a new office fashion range recently launched and an accompanying consumer competition to win a luxury break. The Silvine Safari range, which features bold animal prints across a series of notebooks and stationery products, has seen success across the board with all ages, which is testament to the industry’s desire for fresh and innovative products. A large number of products are recyclable and they hold FSC Accreditation. IN IT FOR THE LONG RUN

Contact us Alistair Kirkpatrick Sales director 01943 46 11 44 A.Kirkpatrick

As the UK comes to terms with the fact it needs to rebuild its industry to compete in a global economy, firms like Sinclairs stand out as shining examples of made-in-Britain gone right. “This is the sort of story we like to think the Government wants to hear,” says Kirkpatrick. “A lot of the manufacturing is gone in the UK but we’re still there, providing work across the board.” Indeed, the company currently employs 115 workers in its 300,000 sq. ft. headquarters and remains one of the largest employers in Otley. After 175 years of success, the future looks bright for Sinclairs, to which Kirkpatrick attests: “Being the only major stationery manufacturer left in the UK, I’d like to think we’ve done something right along the way.” DS MARCH 2012




Lean, mean and green With many companies fighting to get to the top of the green tree, sustainability and environment director Simon Worsfold has pushed OfficeTeam to the top of the IDS League for 2011 Green Dealer of the Year. Nina Rosandic gets the lowdown on the business’ eco-credentials


ith over 25,000 customers nationwide, OfficeTeam has been built up through a combination of organic growth and the strategic addition of over 30 acquisitions. Future development and expansion is clearly at the top of the agenda, and today, one of the key driving forces behind that is the company’s approach to being green. One of the acquisitions was of Whitegrove stationery in 2005, which at the time of sale was a £20m organisation with 150 staff, one of which was Simon Worsfold. “I came in heading up IT for Whitegrove,” he says. “A few years ago I was very keen for us to develop our environmental standing at OfficeTeam and contribute to the general movement, from a business point of view.” He was given the role of sustainability and environment director, and a few years later, admits that the social and environmental aspect has since become the heart of the business.

Team spirit Worsfold headed up the project to gain the ISO 14001 accreditation, which the company managed to achieve in six months, having been quoted 18 months by the certification bodies. Worsfold says simple changes made a difference: “A lot of it is legal, for example, disposing of your waste properly, whereas previously we would just place it all in a skip without thinking and it would be collected once a week. It opened our eyes and made us think. Fortunately our employees could see the benefit and they wanted to achieve it - they were dedicated to the cause.” This staff involvement has led to the formation of EAST, the environmental and sustainability team, made up of a group of OfficeTeam employees from across the country who meet to form ideas around the firm’s green agenda.

Process makes perfect As part of its dedication to ISO 14001, the company started using recycled bins, and by not putting plastic, paper and old printer plates in the bin, managed to cut down its


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landfill by 80%. Worsfold explains that the company is also addressing its carbon footprint. “We’ve got a few electric vans running around, which due to their limitations, run around in city locations. Our customers love them, when we put our first one out it spent more time outside customer premises being photographed for their newsletters than it did delivering stock.” Beyond its popular congestion-zone-exempt electric cars, the company has made choices to bring down its average CO2 fuel consumption figure. “Three years ago our average CO2 figure was 200 and something, and a lot of our cars now have just 119,” says Worsfold. The team is constantly looking for new ways to improve its environmental approach. “It’s amazing to see what other people are doing, and it’s important to look within your own business to see what can be done.”

Spread the love OfficeTeam offers sustainable options to its customers through its product offering and recycling schemes. The company has a range of EcoTeam products created from a minimum of 50% post-consumer waste and once used, can be recycled into EcoTeam products for the future. The company also runs a Close the Loop scheme, whereby the team collects and recycles paper waste from customers, which is then remanufactured into recycled paper (read more about this in our green paper feature, p64). OfficeTeam also provides bins for all its customers to recycle toner cartridges. “That’s good ‘a’, for our customers as they don’t have the headache of recycling and ‘b’, they’re being pushed back up the manufacture chain for parts to be reused.” The company uses as few boxes as possible, opting for a much more eco-friendly option. According to Worsfold, OfficeTeam was the first in the industry to use a range of resealable bags, which are made up of 100% postconsumer waste. “We deliver a purchase in the bag and we take the bag back with us. They can last for three of four uses, which saves four boxes – and the customers love it. Everyone has a headache trying to get rid of waste because of council tax and when we hand out these bags it’s a refreshing conversation stopper.”

Spreading the word Although all of this work is very positive and a great example of how we all should be working, does it translate to the end-users – do customers care? According to Worsfold they do: “Customers care very much,” he says. The company has a dedicated ‘OfficeTeam Cares’ website, designed specifically to educate the customer about how they can work more responsibly, complete with hints, tips, posters and interactive calculators that place estimates on how much a company can save on waste and landfill if they engage with the dealer’s recycling schemes. The site has been up and running for 18 months and last year it won the company a Green Apple Award. Constantly looking at new ways to spread awareness among customers, OfficeTeam holds road shows with bigger clients and sets up stands in their businesses for a day, to talk to them about the environmental impact that OfficeTeam products have on their business. “With one legal firm, we built up a pyramid of copier paper boxes in their restaurant, and we took out a day’s use every hour. There was a huge mountain of paper in the morning and by the evening there was nothing there, and it was very striking – they even streamed it on their internet,”


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explains Worsfold, who is continually thinking of innovative ways to grab customer attention. “We give away green products because some people think they’re not good enough, but once they get their head around it, and have it in their hand, it’s different.” The company is also piloting an environmental audit service, to allow them to go into customer companies and help them to address the way they work and achieve their own environmental standards. “We’re sharing our experiences with customers, and trying to promote a sustainable CSR ethic in their businesses,” says Worsfold.

Setting the future bar In terms of looking to the future, environmental awareness is placed firmly at the fore of the company resolve, or as Worsfold puts it: “It’s in the DNA of the company.” Employee involvement and satisfaction are just two of the many positives associated with clubbing together for a shared concern. “A lot of the initiatives are thought up by the environmental and sustainability team, and every year we give our employees a day’s pay to go and spend it doing something for the community.” Worsfold spends a lot of time in client offices, offering advice free of charge, and feels that it is time well spent. “The fact that I am willing to go and talk to customers, and we don’t charge them for that service, well it works really well and we’ve had great feedback from people we work with, and we have the satisfaction of seeing what they’ve achieved.” DS

“It’s amazing to see what other people are doing, and it’s important to look within your own business to see what can be done”





GO 30

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If you’ve been following this Futures Campaign in any detail, you’ll be aware that the industry is changing. Here are 12 tips on what you can do in 2012 to prepare for the future and ensure your business changes with it


eading the Dealer Support and Brother Futures Campaign over the last three issues, dealers will be left wondering: What can I do right now to ensure I’m in business in 2020? Here are some tips on what you can do to keep your eye on the ball. 1. GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE Look at trends not just in the UK and Ireland, but around the world. Look also to the competition; research emerging markets, technologies and trends; and attend conferences outside the OP industry. Also, don’t keep it to yourself. Sharing is caring for a challenged OP industry. Get on Twitter, spread the word and keep up the conversation. Phil Jones, sales and marketing director of Brother UK, frequently attends (and speaks at) conferences on big picture philosophies, it is here that he meets people he may not have even considered as business opportunities. For example, one man he met a conference had a domestic solar panel business that grew from start to £5m in one year – a smart dealer would corner such a person and find out if there’s something they could do together. In other words, think about areas where you might not be the primary supplier of it, but you could be the primary offerer of it. 2. THE DOCUMENT IS STILL KING – BUT IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK If paper is in decline, other areas in the world of paper open for diversification include managed print services; design and origination; document management and archival storage; and confidential shredding services. “A lot has been said already about managed print services,” admits Aidan McDonough, MD of Integra. “But it will affect dealers’ businesses.” 3. ACCESSORIZE, DIVERSIFY AND USE THE TECHNOLOGY YOURSELF Telecoms and hardware solutions will be important in the future, as will other product areas like FM. Don’t just sell the technology – use it too. Social media, mobile applications and cloud-based technology can really help your business as well as your customer’s.

4. EXPAND, BUT FOLLOW THE THREE LAWS OF EASY GROWTH Phylip Morgan, MD of the Network Group, shares his three laws of easy growth: n Measure the no – Who are you saying no to, i.e. “I’m sorry, Mr Customer, we don’t sell or provide that service”? The products you’re saying no about are your next most logical opportunity. n Use the core – Can I expand this new area by using my existing resources (staff, systems etc.). If yes, then the chances of success are greater and the risks far lower. n Use your best customers as guinea pigs – Who are the customers that you can afford to drop the ball with? Approach your best (not necessarily biggest) customers and explain what you’re doing and if they can help and give you feedback. They will be flattered at the approach and will give you good feedback. Once you’ve ironed out the kinks, roll the opportunity out to the rest of your customer base. 5. GET CLOSER TO YOUR CUSTOMERS Understand their needs and wants are different from competitors, says McDonough. “Look at other products, services and solutions as an additional source of revenue, not just in vertical markets,” he says. “Dealers should be carrying out gap analysis to establish where the opportunities are with their customers. The product opportunities are there, they just need to maximise them within their customer base.” Steve Harrop, MD of Office Friendly agrees: “Competition won’t disappear because we’re trying out new areas and certainly the core changes mean we have to maximise what we supply to our existing customers.” 6. USE LOCAL TO YOUR ADVANTAGE “I genuinely think independently minded dealers can utilise their flexibility and ‘localness’ to maximum extent and continue to be key suppliers,” says Harrop. “We mustn’t forget that we can do that ‘extra’ mile and that’s a hugely positive factor. It does need, however, the support of the bigger partners to provide cost-effective logistics, sourcing and knowledge.” 7. INVEST WISELY IN PEOPLE “Invest in the right people for the job,” McDonough recommends. “Join a dealer group that is able to provide a business with the right tools, knowledge, and opportunities. Listen to what like-minded dealers have to say, what works and what doesn’t, another key benefit of being part of a dealer group and one of the key benefits we provide to our member through networking opportunities throughout the year.” 8. UNDERSTAND YOUR DEPENDENCIES Dependencies are two-fold in a business – the people you sell to and the people you buy from. “I would always be reviewing dependencies,” explains Jones. “We do this at Brother. We don’t want a customer to be bigger than X per cent of our turnover, for example, because when they do you become dependent all of a sudden. Any small changes in their business model have a tsunami-type effect in yours. You need to minimise those impacts by ensuring you have a very good spread of customers in your top 20.” The other side of understanding your dependencies is undertaking systematic reviews of your suppliers and questioning their financial stability and whether you think you’ll be doing business with them in 2020.



9. ENSURE YOUR EMPLOYEES ARE D.E.A.D. GOOD AT WHAT THEY DO Now is the time to make sure everyone in your company is focused and ready for change. Here are Morgan’s top tips for how a good employee should be: n Disciplined. There’s less margin for errors and laziness, develop a culture where team members keep each other on their toes. Be careful that you lead by example on keeping your promises, punctuality, cost cutting etc. n Enthusiastic. Keep your team motivated. In tough times most business leaders resort to using more stick than carrot. Resist the temptation. It’s tough but you must keep calm and carry on. n Attitude. Have the right attitude. People can creak and even crack under pressure. Watch attitudes in the team and nip things in the bud early. If anything looks suspect, engage early. Don’t wait for your gut feeling to be proved right. n Dedicated. What is your (and your team’s) development area? What new skills do you need and what bad habits do you need to conquer? 10. BE LIQUID “Cash is still king,” comments Morgan. “Whatever your business model, the businesses that will survive will be those with good liquidity.” Bank overdrafts and increases are tough to come by at the moment and will be extinct by 2020, he says, so dealers need to get smart with how they access cash. He recommends dealers get on top of their accounts and file them early, proactively send them to your suppliers, underwriters and lenders to draw down good credit lines. Be tight on credit terms if you offer them and get proactive – “call them to make sure they are paying you next week rather than wait till they’ve not,” he adds. 11. KEEP ON TOP OF YOUR COSTS Jones recommends ensuring your business is fit and flexible enough for change – which includes keeping on top of costs and deciding what parts of your business are core and non-core. “If necessary, have someone else do the non-core things,” he adds. This can include things like outsourcing your credit control or even your logistics. For example, do


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you really need that warehouse you think you do? Morgan agrees that cutting back is needed: “Cut your costs ruthlessly and carry nothing and no one, grow the gap between your sales, cost of sales and expenses to increase your profits.”

In tough times most business leaders resort to using more stick than carrot. Resist the temptation. It’s tough but you must keep calm and carry on

12. BE READY TO MAKE TOUGH DECISIONS The next decade will be far from easy – and the independent channel needs to be prepared to make uncomfortable decisions. “When we at Brother need to make a tough decision, we’ve got to take the call on it,” says Jones. For example, Brother decided to outsource its logistics and warehouse storage, which wasn’t easy at the time, with layoffs and business restricting, but it has had significant benefits on the business in the long-run and has meant it’s a stronger company for it. “It was a nightmare – six months of hell,” remembers Jones. “But looking at it today, it runs like a dream; it’s absolutely efficient.” He gives the example of IBM, which was a computer giant a decade ago – growing and acquiring businesses like there was no tomorrow. They soon lost their way and came tumbling down. Instead of giving up, the company decided to jettison all its non-core business and focused what it did best – services. “Look at IBM now,” says Jones. “From the brink of collapse, it’s certainly one of the largest servicebased organisations in the world.” This took some gutsy decisions, but in the end saved the business. FINAL THOUGHT Preparing for a leaner, slicker business doesn’t mean you can’t reward yourself and hit the golf course from time to time. If you’re going to be in this for the long-haul, you’ve got to be ready. “Things are tough and will get tougher before they improve,” concludes Morgan. “Keep a good work-life balance and make sure you’re keeping healthy. The great news is your competitors are not as smart as you and will hit the canvas in the next round or two as you deal the big punches. This fight may go the distance though, so keep fit and pace yourself.” DS

With thanks to Phil Jones, sales and marketing director at Brother UK; Aidan McDonough, MD of Integra; Phylip Morgan, MD of the Network Group; and Steve Harrop of Office Friendly for their advice


Love it or hate it, Google rules the world. In this analysis of the internet marketplace, we bring you confirmation that online is now an essential channel, with a clear focus to get to grips with on how this medium changed the market


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hile the internet fuelled the growth of the IT channel, it also impacted on the way we research and buy in our personal lives, affecting independent retailers and changing our retail landscape irreversibly. However, it’s not all bad. The internet has opened up wider markets and made customers more accessible than ever, especially with the sharp rise in smartphones, which are fast becoming the remote controls of people’s lives. The purchasing cycle used to be simple. You’d present the features, benefits and price of a particular product and your customer would hopefully buy into this and purchase from you, remarking on what a friendly person you were in the process. However, the internet has taken away this traditional salesperson approach, enabling customers to research, review and compare products on-the-go without even uttering a word to anyone. They want to connect with products and companies how and when they choose and are happy to buy online and confident of what they will receive. Rather than seeing the internet as a threat, you should look at it as an opportunity, adjusting your sales and marketing efforts accordingly to remain competitive and to stay at the forefront of your customers’ minds, as well as being at the top of a Google search. Strike a balance. Pure e-tail brings with it a challenge of customer retention as it’s all about price/page ranks, whereas a hybrid approach fosters customer loyalty, as you still offer the convenience of e-commerce backed up by local service if needed. THE JOURNEY STARTS HERE It’s important not to be fooled into thinking just because your customer may no longer care about the personal approach, you don’t need to do your research. Data about customers’ purchasing behaviour is of paramount importance, helping you to define your up and cross sell strategies, website design and user journey, search campaigns, advertising, market segmentation, product mix, inventory holding and distribution. Ask yourself why they buy, what they’re thinking before, during and after a purchase, how they choose a particular product, how they process information and what any hidden influences might be. This way, you’re subconsciously supporting them through the purchasing process without the physical salesperson there to guide them – self-service. Never assume that the off-line and online retail experience is the same; all the top web brands participate in A/B testing, that is, constantly offering different choices to optimise what is the best route for conversion. DON’T JUST MOVE YOUR CATALOGUE ONLINE In the office products industry, we’ve become acclimatised to seeing huge catalogues with pages and pages of similar products. While this works in print, it doesn’t translate well online. Steer clear of brochure sites that represent products and services. Find innovative ways of displaying your products in ways that you could cross sell and upsell so that your customer doesn’t turn to a different supplier for each type of office product. Perhaps a YouTube video that talks through the attributes of a more technical product or user generated content (reviews) to gently reaffirm a choice.

Develop and consistently improve your website and online presence and think about what your customer wants: engagement, solutions and advice. After all, your website is your shop window and salespeople rolled into one. For example, Brother implemented a livechat option that allows customers to talk ‘real-time’ to an agent; it’s a very popular tool for customers needing help and has proved excellent for conversion. Brother also introduced slider buttons, to allow people to quickly filter down searches and get to what they want quickly.

Rather than seeing the internet as a threat, you should look at it as an opportunity, adjusting your sales and marketing efforts accordingly to remain competitive

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION With the rise in online resellers offering next-day delivery, even from mainland Europe, the idea of being a local provider looks set to die out and you will have to fight even harder to retain your long-term customer base. This means that it’s essential to stay front of mind with customers and ensure your offering is as compelling as possible at the point they need it, social media can be a good tool for this. You have one major advantage in that Google does prioritise local search in many instances, so make sure that you are set up and registered with them. TRIGGER HAPPY If you need a new bathroom installed, you’re likely to research online and spend a good deal of time coming to a decision (a considered purchase). If you have a leak in your bathroom, you’ll reach for the first number in the phonebook and probably won’t look into the quality of their work (a distressed purchase). The same applies to buying office products. Low value, repeat purchases often involve less time and effort from customers. They tend to stick to the same brand, ordering via a catalogue or using a repeat online basket option, unless something exceptional happens, like stock running out or delivery prices rising sharply. Conversely, a first time buyer or someone looking at a high value product is likely to make more effort and become more involved in the purchase. They’ll look for more in-depth product information, read reviews and ask their social circles for advice. Most customers who buy printers are either growing, moving or replacing a broken product, so knowing these triggers, you can set up your proposition accordingly. Most importantly, don’t group all of your online customers into the same category or you risk alienating them. It’s important to remember that a first time buyer may turn into a repeat customer at some point and you’ll want them to feel that your website and in store proposition can support them equally. A TRUE MULTICHANNEL MODEL The most important thing to remember is to maintain a multichannel model. Don’t put all of your focus into your online offering at the expense of your physical presence. Customers want to see consistent communications across all channels and may still want to speak to someone over the phone or visit in certain situations. They’ll be disappointed if your shiny website is just a front. It should support your existing offering rather than overshadow it. DS



2020 vision In the concluding article of the Futures Campaign, we look at what we have learned about our marketplace over the last few issues and what opportunities it presents





ver the last three issues of Dealer Support, we have teamed up with Brother to deliver a series of articles showcasing some truths about the changing times ahead for the office products industry. Some of these truths have been self-evident, others inconvenient, in every case, they have been hard-hitting. In this March issue, we have presented you with a practical advice guide on what the independent dealer can do to ensure his or her business stays at the top of the game, alongside another article on how the internet will be both an opportunity and a challenge for the industry. In this concluding article, we summarise some of the major themes addressed in the series so far, and take a good hard look into the crystal ball. CHANGE IS IN THE AIR There is no question we are in disruptive times. These are the times when those who don’t change will be left behind and those who do change will be saying: “Thank goodness I did.” Generation Y is here and purchasing business supplies, and they are prepared to do so in a very different way. They have less time and money, therefore, when they do spend money, they expect a good service. Here is where dealers’ ears should prick up – service is the independent’s piece de resistance and the future is full of opportunities to use it. SERVICE AT A PRICE Dealers should, by all means, sell their service. This does mean sell and not give it away. Good deals come ten a penny on the internet, with Google and price comparison sites available at the click of a mouse. Independent dealers need to flip the way they think. Convenience is the new good deal. In this busy life we lead, we all value convenience and are willing to pay for it. The stationery buyer is no different. Yes, they can spend hours shopping around for the best price, but there is still something to be said for service. Dealers know this better than anybody, but still insist on giving away things like next-day delivery. Yes, give it away, but not to every customer who knocks on your door. Get to know your more profitable customers. THE PAPERLESS OFFICE IS HERE For all those who speculate – at dealer conferences and awards dos – just if and when the office will go paperless, the time is now. Of course, let’s be realistic. As long as there is wood on the trees, there will be paper in the office – but a lot less of it. Therefore anyone who has made it their business to sell paper should be thinking about what else they can sell. MIXING BUSINESS WITH PLEASURE Technological advances like the ubiquitous iPad and ‘the cloud’ have brought around the consumerisation of IT, which means that personal devices and equipment can no longer be segregated into the binaries of work and play, rather there is a cross over and it becomes less clear as to what is business and what is consumer in the world of



supplies. The concept of bring-your-own-device is becoming more popular, as the walls of the office become less clear-cut. People are working from home and bringing home to work and documents need to be accessible from both of these places. With this in mind, future forecasting predicts that people could wind up with personal stationery budgets, which they can spend on whatever they personally need. No longer will the dealer be selling to one point of contact in a business, instead, everyone is their customer – B2Me instead of B2B. Daunting or an opportunity? You decide. YOU CAN’T BEAT BRANDS With personal stationery budgets in mind, brands are likely to come into the forefront. If you had a personal stationery budget, wouldn’t you buy the best? Of course people will always appreciate a good deal, but when it’s not their money to spend and they need only spend it on exactly what they need, they will want to ensure they buy the best. THE SNOW GLOBE EFFECT All parties agreed that the most poignant comment to come out of the Dealer Support/Brother roundtable belonged to Julie Collins, marketing director of the BP Group: “If you took this building, turned it upside down and shook it, everything that falls out, I’ll take care of.” With this in mind, dealers need to think harder about what it is they sell and become a veritable one-stop-shop for their customer. The kind of products they sell need to match the working style and techniques of the future generations and with the decline in print, comfortable mainstays like EOS will no longer help you. Without the same need for paper, filing cabinets and storage is also changing. Dealers have to be ready to go with the flow of these changes, and look at what products will be necessary in a digitised world. Perhaps these are accessories; maybe they are more technical products like software or IT. Depending on how much a dealer is willing to invest in developing his or her business, a lot can change. Of course, the market is saturated already with experienced IT resellers, but don’t forget – dealers hold the golden ticket that is loyal customers.

LOCAL MATTERS LESS With the internet, customers no longer expect the companies they do business with to be on their closest High Street. Proximity in 2020 has less to do with where you are located and more to do with your relationship with your costumer. Getting their loyalty will be more of a challenge and new engagement strategies will need to be deployed in order to keep your customers close.

If you took this building, turned it upside down and shook it, everything that falls out, I’ll take care of

CASH IS KING The credit crunch is still biting hard. There is less credit to be had and wholesalers, in particular the distributors, are less inclined to give it. As dealers move into the world of IT, and away from their familiar wholesalers, they have to be prepared for the inevitability that there won’t be the credit. Sixty days’ credit is unlikely in the future – meanwhile, this when customers are taking longer to pay and expect more credit themselves. Dealers will have to be ready to say no. WORK BETTER For the dealer community to thrive and be more competitive, efficiencies must be found. The high operational costs to be found in the OP industry, according to Brother’s Phil Jones in his interview in January’s Dealer Support, is putting it at risk. He says the industry is not prepared for a break in the chain and that it “wouldn’t take a management consultant to figure out that there’s an opportunity there to streamline costs”. GET IN OR GET OUT What has become very clear from this series of articles is that the industry is changing and there won’t be room for everyone in 2020. The kind of lifestyle dealers who have been comfortable in their own skin for too long will find it hard to coast for much longer. In the next decade, it will more than likely be those kind of dealers who retire and move on for the fresh blood. But the independent office supplies channel is filled with fighters, who don’t give up easily. Most will be open to change and many will be willing to give a new style of business a try. This may cost money at first in training and investing in products with less credit to help, but it will be worth it for those that do. COME TOGETHER, RIGHT NOW This brings us to our final point. The plethora of acquisitions and mergers that have occurred over the last few years are set to continue in the next decade. Businesses should be looking to each other for opportunities and areas of collaboration – both inside and outside the industry. Anything that will enhance a company’s offering to the market should be considered. Don’t be afraid to join forces, even with those companies you once considered the enemy. As uncanny premonitions written in 1900 of what the world would be like in 2012 go viral on Facebook, we hope in 2020, this Futures Campaign will also be passed around the industry, with at least one “I told you so”, maybe a “glad that didn’t happen” and more than a few people saying: “Good thing I changed when I did.” If you do one thing, at least think about what a business would want from its supplier in 2020, and try to push yourself to get there. DS





Just winning Devon-based dealer Just Office beat Office Depot to scoop the reseller’s marketing excellence award at the 2011 BOSS awards and went on to represent the UK as a contender for regional reseller of the year at the European Office Products Awards in January. Nina Rosandic asks co-director Mark Rostock how it feels to go up against the big boys – and win


aving been in the industry for 24 years, Just Office directors Mark Rostock and Andy Unstead know a thing or two about the market. Having started the company back in 2001, the business has gone from strength to strength and the last six months have been testament to what the pair have built. Not only did they beat both Viking and Penkeths, giants in the world of UK office supplies, to the BOSS Federation marketing excellence award, they were also runner up in the dealer excellence category. The team went on to visit Paperworld, Frankfurt to be part of the glitz and glam of OPI magazine’s European Office Product Awards (EOPA). “It was a different experience going over to the awards at Paperworld. It was a great thing to even be in the last four, especially for a small team with limited resources to compete with the big boys – I think the guys that won [Dacris Impex] are the second biggest in


MARCH 2012


Romania, so for us to be mentioned in the same list – a little dealer in sleepy Barnstaple – we were chuffed with that.” Back to the start Childhood friends Rostock and Unstead “stumbled into stationery” while on the hunt for a “real job” and got work with a local traditional dealer back in 1987. They started at the bottom, doing deliveries and working in the shop, getting an all-round grounding in the industry back in a time when, according to Rostock, “people weren’t as mad as they are now. Back then they’d ring up and ask for green document wallets, and if you only had pink in stock, they wouldn’t complain, it would be fine.” The pair stayed there for about four or five years, when a few of their colleagues went off to start their own company, Electrotech, selling cash registers and scales. “It was one of the first modular dealers back in in the early 90s,” says Rostock. The company soon found that they were being asked for stationery all the time, prompting Rostock to join them. “The stationery side proved so popular that Andy had to come across as well.” The company got bought out by Pro-Tech, an office supplies company based in Taunton, that then got sold on to the Think Group in about 1999. “We were with the Think Group for a couple of years – comprising at the time of Advantage in Hereford, Office Equation in London, and Advantage in Aylesbury – and had a phonecall on a bank holiday in May 2001 to say that the Think Group were about to go belly-up, and that we would be made redundant in a week,” says Rostock. “After a week spent frantically deciding what to do, we set the company up in three days and we’ve been here ever since.”

For us to be mentioned in the same list – a little dealer in sleepy Barnstaple – we were chuffed with that

We are family So close that they are almost like family, Rostock and Unstead went to primary school together and have known each other since they were nine years old. “It’s almost like being married – you know what the other one’s thinking,” I do more operations and the backoffice stuff, and Andy is front office and sales. It works really well as we’re a good balance; he’s an optimist, I’m the pessimist and we meet somewhere in the middle.” MARCH 2012




The company is run from a single business unit with a furniture showroom on “one of the best industrial estates in Barnstaple”. The company has a telesales operation, with two ‘proactive’ and two ‘reactive’ sales staff, reaching out to mainly B2B customers within a 30-mile radius. “We keep a local base to enable the best service we can,” explains Rostock. The company supplies mainly from Spicers and stockholds the fast-moving lines, mainly paper and envelopes. As members of Superstat, the pair were able to enjoy the EOPAs with dealer group MD Chris Collison and merchandising director Graeme Hargreaves, as fellow award nominees in the dealer group category. “We use Superstat as the spine from which we hang everything else on, their quarterly mailer is something we wouldn’t be able to do alone, due to cost. But we do all of our own fluffy stuff on top of that. Being with the group gives you a heads up on what’s going on month to month, quarter to quarter, however, we have such a strong marketing machine, and we have a clear idea of our branding and what we want to achieve,” says Rostock.



MARCH 2012

Marketing prowess Just Office, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, impressed the BOSS judges with its year-long campaign targeting existing customers, which has lead to a retention rate of 71% between June 2010 and 2011. They also successfully lead customers to increase their spend by encouraging them to buy more products from each product group – the average order value was £83 in 2010-2011, compared with £74 in 2009-10. Just Office gains new business with a stringent ‘six pack plan’, a six-stage process that includes phone, letter and face-to-face communication to target prospective customers and as part of this, a sales assistant is tasked with booking Unstead 40 prospective client meetings a month. “Our ethos is that if they’re not willing to see you, just for five minutes, even

just to drop off catalogues, they probably won’t deal with you.” Rostock explains the process: “Natalia [the sales assistant] calls first for fact finding, then will ring again a week or so later to book in an appointment, then Andy will go in and see them and report back, and then she’ll follow up – that’s when the prospect follow-up procedure kicks in – it’s all semi-automated, and it happens like a machine.” Should they not be interested, Just Office will move on to another likely target. “If they just want to haggle on price, they won’t be loyal customers, other than they’ll continue to come to you for cheap paper or something,” explains Rostock. Not just a pretty face The company carries a strong brand identity, that is fresh, contemporary and appealing to a modern audience. Rostock describes how the team is at an advantage, as the design, look and feel is all produced in-house: “We have a girl called Jo who came onboard as customer service, but she really has a good eye for that sort of thing.” The team brainstorm marketing ideas together, everyone is involved, and then they are able to bring their ideas to life. “It’s been invaluable having that in-house resource. It might not always be the absolute best, but we can turn it around and you’re better off getting something out, rather than thinking about something and waiting for perfection.” The team has also built a good relationship with a local printer, “so if we have an idea, he can knock it up and it can be in the post in two days, which enables us to be quite reactive,” explains Rostock. “It’s about building loyalty when there is no loyalty – customers are so fickle now, you’ve got to do something that makes them think.” Just Office sends out birthday gifts to its clients, in order to be kept at the forefront of their minds, and to set them apart from the competition. “We all do the same thing – a pen is a pen is a pen, so why should they buy off of us?” They also arrange offers, games and competitions to engage customer interest.


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Staying in the know Keen believers in team training, Just Office was one of the first independent dealers to get involved with Spicers Academy. “It has different modules on there and we select what we think would be best for the team here and they can do it in their own time. It works really well. This was actually the catalyst for us for the six-pack and prospecting pack,” says Rostock, comparing the many courses the two had been on in the past. When they started with the academy they realised they had to get their sales and marketing processes strategically mapped out and put into action, and once the rest of the team got involved, “it just seemed to happen”. The benefits, they found, were that they didn’t have to send their staff off for days on courses – they

could do it in their own time. “We are looking to build meaningful certification for our staff to work through,” says Rostock. Action plan Rostock explains that the company is focusing on getting into the FM market, both with existing customers and new prospects, and trying to align themselves with specialists in that area, but he admits: “It’s a bit of a slow burn. We’ve found a different breed of customer, which requires a different approach – I never saw myself as a toilet roll salesman but there you go!” The team is also driving the promotional gift side, as part of the Superstat initiative, which Rostock believes will fit well with his local client base: “Locally we have a lot of businesses, for example, hoteliers that that sort of product lends itself to – every hotel has their own pen and printed material – so we’re going ot have a push at that.”

If they just want to haggle on price, they won’t be loyal customers

Future feats Looking forward, Rostock firmly believes that it is important to address the younger generation. “We need to make sure our website is up to speed and that it looks and functions to a new generation of buyers. It has to look good and function properly,” he says. Just Office has tried everything in terms of an online store, and has found Evolution to be the best for their needs. “At one stage we had about three websites and it was just ridiculous, but once Jo came on-board we decided to put all our eggs in with Evolution and it’s been brilliant.” The website caters for any buyer, whether it be B2B, B2C, credit card or account, however the main focus is still on local SEO. “We can’t really add any value if we’re delivering something to Newcastle,” says Rostock. The company has also just started to get busy on the social networking front, with Facebook and Twitter. accounts up and running. “It’s all about having that presence – it’s not going to be about the product in the future, but more about how you connect with the end-user and just make sure they think of you first. We will be investing in this I’m sure, but at the moment, it’s a bit of a ‘suck it and see’ approach, It’s trial and error, there’s a lot of people out there promising the earth, you invest and they might not always deliver. We’re trialling things ourselves. Our webstore provider Evolution should be on top of that, so hopefully it’ll just be a case of tweaking it at our end to our customer base.” Rostock rounds up by adding: “We just want to build on the success we’ve had, really; we’ve got a good team and a good ethos and really we’re trying to bring a bit of fun into purchasing office products. It’s a mundane thing to have to do but it’s something we all need and we just try to do it with a smile and a bit of fun.” DS


MARCH 2012



Fast train Last year a new office supplies company burst onto the scene with bold claims about taking on the industry giants. With a background in IT and marketing, Birmingham-based WAE+ is new to the world of business supplies, however, just a few months on and there are over a thousand buyers signed up to its site and it’s looking at a 2012 turnover of over £1m. Nina Rosandic speaks to business exec Iain Charnock-Shields and technical director Darren Cresswell


MARCH 2012


Why office supplies? Darren Cresswell: Well interestingly, none of us have a background in office supplies, each of us has a specialism in a different area. I have a background in client websites and also the electronics industry. Iain Charnock-Shields: I’ve been doing sales for a few years in a few various roles, but never in office supplies, and it just seemed like a new challenge to me. D: Basically we saw an opportunity in the office industry for a new approach to office supplies, an approach that’s a bit more modern, but still keeps the customer in mind. So we thought we could bring our various skills together and make something of them. I: What I’ve certainly found recently is that some office supplies companies are kind of stuck in the past a little bit, it’s very much big catalogues and you have to phone up and place your order – it’s time consuming and not particularly efficient. We’re trying to build a more 21st century approach, really. In what way? I: We try and make it as efficient as possible for our clients; our clients log into the website and all of their regular products are sitting there in front of them and it literally takes seconds for them to place an order, rather than even the four or five minutes it takes to go through something like Amazon, which is quite efficient anyway. D: We want the end-user to be able to order anytime without requiring human interactivity at any stage. They can call up, and we can either go and visit them, or speak on the phone, but if they’re just pushed for time, they can literally just login and get their prices, and place their orders, any time of the day. You’ve only been in the business for five months and you seem to have grown very quickly. When did you first come together as a team and start planning? D: The company started trading 29 September last year, but we started working on the website, the branding and the structure, and negotiating with suppliers around June. I think the reason we’ve managed to put everything into action so quickly is because we have an in-house development team, as part of our main group of companies, which makes things a lot cheaper and means they can turn things around a lot quicker. I: That is one thing that is good about having the development team. We don’t have to visit anyone, I simply walk across the office to Darren and it’s done in half an hour – it’s sorted. Could you explain the set-up? D: Everything runs from the one office and we ship core products from here, which allows us to buy in bulk and get the good prices, but mainly, we order though VOW and Spicers and integrate them into our own despatch system here and it seems to work quite well. In terms of staffing, WAE+ has a core team of six, including our MD Ben Slater. We have a few in despatch and a few in sales. We don’t have specific roles, so we can all work across different areas. If there’s a lot more deliveries on one day, we can help with despatch and if we need more on customer service, we can jump on the phones. I think it allows us to be more efficient in that way, and deal with more things, with a smaller team. And who are you targeting? I: We’re currently basing the focus on the West Midlands area, as it’s where we are and we can physically build relationships with people that way. Also, we are looking at investing in our own transport, so we want to build our core geographical customer base to make that more feasible, and to make our delivery schedule more versatile. We’re looking to offer same day delivery, and that will allow us to do that, so that’s the focus of where we’re going at the moment. D: Yes, that’s the immediate focus at the moment, but because of the website, we do have customers up and down the country – in fact we’ve had a few in Scotland. We have 1,000 businesses and people registered on our website, who have placed an order. In the next few months MARCH 2012




we’ll be contacting them to see how we can help them out. You mentioned catalogues as being oldfashioned, do you not have one of your own? D: In terms of catalogues, as a company, one of our aims is to be environmentally friendly, and we view catalogues as the opposite. We’re in the process of doing our very own concise catalogue, which is more like a pamphlet I: Yes, it’s 24 A5 pages with some core products that are really popular across the board that almost everyone needs, rather than sending out a 2kg catalogue that’s full of paper that barely gets looked at and just gets put in the bin every six months. Big catalogues are just not a way we see the future of the business being, and how we see the future of the industry as a whole, so its not something we’ll be investing time in as it’s not going to last. So the environment is a key concern for WAE+? I: Regardless of what industry you’re in, everyone’s got a responsibility to look after the environment as best they can and to prevent waste, and that’s another thing we’re looking at for the future. If you think about five or 10 years’ time, people like accountants and lawyers aren’t going to be required to store documents in paper form – it will be CD, DVD, whatever, and these things are better for the environment, rather than getting through a pallet of paper every week. Which is something we’re trying to help our clients to do, even if means we won’t be supplying them with their pallet of paper. In our office you can hardly move for the number of recycling bins we have everywhere. It’s something we do as best we can and we try to help our clients do it as well. Within reason, we try and use the most environmentally-friendly way of shipping things we possibly can. We try and use couriers with electric vans. It’s always something we’re thinking about. Are you part of a dealer group? D: We are part of the Superstat group, so we major with Spicers, but we are also dealing with VOW. We have managed to strike up our own deal, merely because of the number of orders we’ve been putting through. For us, it gives us confidence in what we’re doing. We started at the end of September and we’re growing fast, but not quicker than we planned for. We’re putting certain strategies in place to make sure we don’t just wake up one morning with a whole load of orders and not know what to do with them. There is a structure in place at every step of the way – to make sure we keep customer assurance. One of the things we do is make sure that the despatch team sign every despatch letter with a personal signature, as a way of showing the customer that we put our time and effort in with every order. We also send out a little pack of

One thing we realised, from our various industries, is that if you don’t change you miss out


MARCH 2012

Haribo sweets with every order, jut to say thanks for ordering with us. So how do you attract these orders? Is it mainly web-based referrals? I: We have two main ways that we’re going about this – there’s the organic growth from web referrals and people searching for certain products and being directed to the website. But we’re running a little bit of cold calling, but not too much, I believe the softly, softly approach works best for us. We are also running a little marketing campaign I guess you could call it – a letter just introducing ourselves with a little sachet of coffee in it. Having only been around for a few months, a Google search throws your name up a lot, and you clearly have a keen PR company pushing the WAE+ name, do you think that’s important? D: We’re a new company, we don’t have a big presence in the market but we do have goals to achieve in the next few years or so and one of those goals is to get brand awareness, so that you know we’re there. We try and make it

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more modern and also more personal. We want people to know that yes, there are the big companies out there, but we’re here too and we might surprise them with what we can do. Are there any product areas or services you are looking to branch into? D: We don’t have a particular product focus; We want to make sure that we can offer a good deal, no matter what it is the customer needs. In regards to services, it’s something we’re looking to this year, as we progress beyond getting everything in place. We are looking into partnering with businesses in the local area, to foster the idea that we are an office supplies company, but we are also a partner to their business. On the website, our slogan is: ‘Your perfect office partner’ and at the end of the day, our aim is to make sure we help run the business in the way they want it. That’s the best reward for us – seeing the companies we supply doing well. So it’s been five months, how have you found it being at the helm of a new company? I: There’s been a lot of challenges; It’s been tough. We get the occasional problem, everyone does, but we’re so focused on doing well, the top focus being providing excellent customer service, and we’ve found that if you look after the customer, everything else tends to fall into place. D: Now that we’ve had experience in the industry, we’ve found that people aren’t generally used to a new, innovative company pushing the boundaries of office supplies, and we tend to get recognition from suppliers that we’re trying something different. For example,


we’ve been looking at a mobile version of the website, to enable our customers to order from their smartphone, which is something we’ve been looking to put in place, and we can because of the development team and the experience we have on board. It makes it busy, but it also makes it exciting. We don’t know what’s around the corner, but I think that in five or 10 years, we’d still like to be on the cutting edge. We don’t want to be stagnant and resting on our laurels. We’ve had a good couple of months, and that’s all it is, a couple of months, and we’re a long way off from getting where we want to be and even then, we’ll want to change. One thing we realised, from our various industries, is that if you don’t change you miss out. Some things won’t change, such as customer service and a commitment to value and quality, but we’ll always plan to prioritise being at the forefront of things. What’s the company’s focus for the remainder of this year? D: Beyond the mobile site, we want to push more services and more products. Also, hopefully, there’ll be few more of us in the next few months as we continue to push our brand awareness. We’ve been changing our forecasts month-on-month as we’re beating them. We make realistic forecasts on what we think we can achieve and we’ve been beating them. We’re looking to turnover a million at least by the end of the year, if not a lot more. However, it’s brand awareness that we’re concentrating on, rather than facts and figures at this stage – we’d rather people know what we’re here for, which is to be a good supplier. DS

As a family business we constantly shock our existing customers with our ability to nationally service their accounts, thanks to the integrated systems we have in place with ECi. Once we get in front of a potential client we have the ability to match and even better any service they can get from the larger dealer channel.


I started at 18 as a service engineer and worked free-ofcharge for two years. I then moved on to join my father at this business and have been here ever since, thankfully dad is still here with me.


Winning a large furniture supply and installation job for the local authority and delivering on time and on budget.


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Dealer Support March 2012  
Dealer Support March 2012  

Dealer Support March