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September 2011 Issue 195



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page 32

Looking to new horizons

“One solution in the workplace safety market is signage that warns of potential hazards”

It may have been a quiet month for business, with much of the population still sunning themselves in exotic holiday destinations, but here at Dealer Support Towers, I’ve been on a high-energy bootcamp for an education in all things office-related. Three weeks into my editorship and I’ve had my eyes opened to the world of the business supplies industry. I’d like to thank those of you who have warmly welcomed me into the sector, and as my diary begins to fill with conference and exhibition invites, I’m looking forward to meeting many of you in the coming months. My first day in the office was accentuated with a gloomy headline, suggesting a quarter of OP firms risk closure within the coming year (see news section). It’s a tough market out there, but my most valuable learning curve has come from meeting up with dealers who have successfully managed to ride the crest of the recession wave with smiles on their faces, particularly the lucky trophy holders of the IDS League, who impart some winning tips on page 36. I caught up with Mandy Reilly, whose entrepreneurial spirit has enabled Giraffe Office Supplies to blossom since its launch just two and a half years ago (page 24). We speak to Midwich’s Jonathon Francis (page eight) and Mark Dawson at MSE (page 13) who both pick up on the growing MPS trend, and we take a special look at the total cost of ownership of such deals (page 18). Also, with an ever-changing internet landscape, dealers are urged to review the options for expanding their web presence, whether it be via a stand-out website (page 34), or exploring the potential of online group buying sites (page 20). Lastly, for September’s Green Guide, turn to the back of this issue. Nurturing a business is a constantly evolving process, in which forward-thinking is key. Whether it be embracing new technology, new marketing channels, or simply keeping a tight rein on your overheads, there is a lot of light among the grey and independents continue to emerge triumphant. As clichéd as it sounds, a magazine is nothing without its readers and it is my job to make sure we continue to supply you with the high quality news, tips and trends you have come to expect from Dealer Support, so please do get in touch with any comments and suggestions at Don’t be shy! Until next month.


DESIGNER Sarah Chivers

EDITOR Nina Rosandic







PUBLISHER david collingbourne

Nina Rosandic, Editor


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

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Contents September 2011


INDUSTRY 08 Branching out We talk to Midwich’s Jonathon Francis 13 Compatibility matters MSE’s Mark Dawson focuses on the reman market 16 What we learned this month Facts, figures and banter from the world of office supplies 18 Looking to the long term We analyse incorporating TCO for your ROI 20 Ecommerce for all We get the lowdown on Huddlebuy, ‘the Groupon for SMEs’

PEOPLE 24 Sticking your neck out Giraffe Office Supplies’ MD on a recession start-up


MANAGEMENT 30 Safety First Adding PPE to your product base 34 Virtual salesman Make your webstore speak to your clients 36 IDS League 2011 Tips from the top

AND FINALLY… 40 Final Word Luke Chapman talks SAAS

Turn to the back for this month’s green guide

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Distributor interview

Taking stock As leading distributor midwich ties-up preparations for its second technology exposed exhibition, print and imaging business manager Jonathon Francis takes a moment to talk to Dealer support

How are you finding the current market? in the challenging market conditions, we must add value to the reseller community. we believe that our dedicated print team is the best in the industry. we employ individuals that understand their brand, individual brand messages and have the ability to take these brands to the reseller community. our aim is to ensure that we take the right message to the resellers’ primary target market. even in difficult times, resellers can can grow sales by delivering the right message. we have added new partners, for example Dell and Panasonic, to our line up as we believe they offer our reseller partners something different.

Technology Exposed kicks off this month, could you tell us what to expect at the event? Last year’s show was a great success, with over 600 resellers in attendance. this year the show is bigger and better, with up to 80 world-leading it, Av and niche vendors attending. the show is an ideal place for resellers to come and also bring their customers along, as there will be no mention of trade pricing on the day. there will


september 2011

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Distributor interview

Any recommendations for dealers looking to expand in the IT and AV markets?

be many products exclusive to the UK market alongside UK first-showings from a number of internationally renowned vendors.

You recently appointed a number of new sales staff – is this a sign that you are confident there is a lot of business out there for the taking? We aim to increase the sales of higher-end B2B print products. While we appreciate there is a place in the market for entry-level printing products and continue to support our dealers who operate in this space, it is important to focus on the value-added sale. By adding more staff to our print sales team, we have the opportunity to support resellers to sell more high-end print products, which represents a better margin opportunity for both the reseller and vendor partners.

Could you tell us about any product areas that are doing particularly well, or any trends worth considering? Managed print has been a topic for discussion over the last few years, and we are definitely now seeing transition of transactional printer sales over to a MPS solution. While there are many different versions of MPS, there will be an offer that suits the end-user’s requirements. Dealers should be considering managed print discussions, where resellers can secure a print contract for one to five years, often saving the end-user money. The initial outlay may be higher, but the cost saving will come with cheaper running costs. The market is expanding Kyocera, Lexmark, Samsung and Ricoh all have an MPS offering today, while our other vendors are considering their options. The office equipment channel, which traditionally focused on copier solutions, is now installing a balanced deployment of printers and copiers, with the machines infield all being on an MPS offering.


september 2011

“Pick wellrecognised brands with established routes to market and a distributor that will support you fully in the long, medium and short term”

The AV market can be daunting to those not involved. Resellers should look for a distributor with an array of sales specialists who can help with the most technical enquiries, field sales representatives who can train resellers on AV products at their premises, a good portfolio and stock holding. The single biggest advice we could give to any prospective reseller would be to choose which brands and distributor you work with carefully. Pick well-recognised brands with established routes to market and a distributor that will support you fully in the long, medium and short term and is not simply looking for a quick fix. We are keen to work with reseller partners on marketing campaigns and our marketing strategy is to be more solution-led, creating a need for why the end-user should purchase. We produce marketing that can be either re-branded or tailored to the resellers’ needs. This must be an important factor for the reseller community when choosing their distribution partner.

Plans for the coming year? We have continued to add solution-led technologies divisions to our distribution portfolio; CCTV, barcode solutions, pro audio, connectivity solutions and video conferencing are all new market areas that promote growth. If you are selling into a specific vertical market, though your main focus may not be the above, in this challenging market I encourage resellers to promote these new technologies. The majority of verticals will use all these technologies and will provide an incremental, profitable revenue stream to, and an opportunity for, individual resellers’ businesses. DS Technology Exposed takes place at Ascot racecourse on 20 and 21 September. Visit for more details.

Look out for your copy of the Green Guide at the end of this issue of Dealer Support

the rything e v e u o y We bring about w o n k o t you need ts and c u d o r -p o ec the latest market, r e p a p e th trends in , views s w e n h t i together w ings h t l l a n o sis and analy n the i l a t n e m environ ustry. d n i s t c u d office pro


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r 2011


July 2011 Issue 193



Issue 192




June 2011



CALL: 020 7288 6833 HEAD IN THE CLOUD computing Low-down on cloud


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manufacturer Interview

Missing a trick Even in times of economic crisis, business users are still opting for OEM consumables and overlooking the comparatively low-cost solutions that the remanufactured channel has to offer. MSE’s director of marketing and sales (EMEA), Mark Dawson tells Nina Rosandic about the importance of re-educating the industry


icro Solutions Enterprises (MSE) is an industry leader for remanufactured toner and inkjet cartridges, headed in Europe, the Middle East and Africa by imaging supplies veteran, sales and marketing director Mark Dawson. With 23 years’ experience in the sector, Dawson has a lot to say on the state of the current market. “When I first started in this business, the two key drivers were: save the user money and allow the dealer a bigger margin. The situation is very different now. I don’t think any of my traditional competitors would want to admit it, but although dealers may make a bigger percentage margin selling an OEM product, the cash margin could quite easily be smaller.” However, the originals continue to dominate. “If you take the typical laser printer market, we are now in a situation in the UK and Europe where around seven out of 10 HP printers (for example) are running on HP original cartridges. This means that only three out of 10 are running on alternative cartridges, and with colour it’s even less. Considering the business has been going since the 80s, why is it that the industry has been unable to achieve a higher penetration?” september 2011



Manufacturer Interview

Left Mark dawson Above MSE’s MAnufacturing centre

With this in mind, it makes sense for a dealer not to try and align their offering with bottom-end price points. “When it comes to MSE cartridges, we do say please, please, please Mr Dealer, be sensible with pricing – don’t give it to the user at a third of the price of the original, WHY? make some money and we win,” says Dawson. What 1. Failure to deliver theallgoods the reseller has the to do is identify high-quality reliablefor Dawson insists blame must fall on the industry products, time in an quality effectiveproducts sales approach to to strugglinginvest to produce high for resellers persuade customers to convert, whichcartridges the product offer customers. “When it comesafter to colour in will speak for andhas the failed deal will pay to particular, the itself industry to deliver overcome the technological barriers that exist when building a product likeas thethe original.” A cartridge can that onlywill beperform as good pitch The majority of end-users viewacompatibles as and a ‘high-risk’ Once a dealer has sourced manufacturer product option, theytohave been “We they canparticularly trust, they if need be able toburnt sell it.before. MSE has are living in the Google everyonethe knows can made the conscious step age, to introduce MSEthey University, cheaper cartridges, no secret,”for heits says. abuy module-based trainingit’s programme dealer “When people say it’s that a price that only isapplies partners. “We understand the market, typical end-user not in a specific situation, where theytime are to already using going to allow the reseller much present the a specific application, forofa opportunity specific useriswho product – the window onlyisawilling couple to of tolerate the in performance a price advantage. minutes. Wesacrifice make sure that person isfor focused, But when you look at it,the when it comes to colour knowledgeable, knows features and has the marketing cartridges,and if nine out ofavailable ten userstowould consciously pay collateral literature strengthen the quality more than three times the price an OEM product, it’s of their pitch, particularly when for approaching users who not a had pricea sensitive market,with it’s acompatibles quality sensitive have bad experience in the past.” market.” Importantly, dealers must ensure that the quality pitch If only 10%with of end-users are usingservice, compatibles, the is followed-up quality customer availability, first product hurdle has to be to address the majority, and alter the and in the channel. negative perception of the compatible solution. MSE are working on a conversion strategy; rather Dealers must be aware of the risks than competing forincrease businessinamongst the products 10% minority, it There has been an new-build makes morethe sense to approach the 90% infiltrating channel. “Our start up ismajority an emptymarket original that currently take goingdoctrine, for the ‘safe’ cartridge. Based onconfidence the right toinrepair the option of a high-end original to avoid cheap sub-standard intellectual property of the OEM expires on first use. alternatives. However, there are operators unable or unwilling to


September 2011

“The majority of end-users view compatibles as a ‘high-risk’ option, particularly if they have been burnt before”

collect cartridges, and choose instead to produce them on a moulding machine. The pricing can be cheap and attractive, but there are a number of risks involved that dealers must be aware of with these solutions,” says Dawson. Obviously, there are ecological issues involved, as well as questions of performance, but most significantly, there may be legal implications, as he explains: “Canon has taken unprecedented legal action in the US against such practices, and not just with the manufacturer and distributor, but all the way down the channel.”

AND FINALLY… How can independent dealers compete with the big OEMs offering MPS contracts? “The office supplies dealers should see MPS as an opportunity, rather than a threat. If the dealer is operating in a big enterprise market, it will be tough competing with the likes of Ricoh, Canon, and the OEMs that go direct, and are dealing with companies with thousands of printers. But our belief is that the classic SME wants flexibility, lower costs, more knowledge, control and an understanding of what they’re spending on printer consumables, however, they are frightened of these big contracts. You have to bare in mind that on average, five per cent of company revenue is spent on printing and most offices don’t have a clue. Plus, some of these OEM MPS deals aren’t very flexible,” explains Dawson. “We don’t position ourselves as a provider of MPS, but our mission is to help dealers provide MPS where appropriate. We’ve tried partnering with companies strong in monitoring and billing software, and maintenance, allowing us to be consultative in our approach to the dealer and help them put the pieces together.” DS

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what we learned this month

What we learned this month A round-up of office supplies tidbits and trivia from the last few weeks


In the news

Photo: Flickr’s louise_a


The estimated yearly savings to be made by the UK government with the new centralised office supply purchasing deals with Banner Business Services and XMA

twitter This month, Evolution software ran a ‘Friday Fun’ game on Twitter, inviting tweeters to come up with an office product-related movie title pun. Here’s our top five: @Silence of the laminators Nyclondoner

@Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Berols POSonlineUK

@The Trexus chainsaw massacre Big_Atom

@The Blair Witch Projector IntegraOffice

Think you can do any better? Join in on twitter using #OPFilm

@Lady and the Stamp ClarkesSupplies

DATES FOR THE DIARY Midwich Technology Exposed What: The distributor’s annual technology showcase When: 21-22 September Where: Ascot Racecourse, Berkshire Info: XPD group conference What: The conference and exhibition for XPD members When: 7-8 October Where: Belfry Hotel, West Midlands Info: Green IT Expo 2011 What: IT for sustainability conference When: 1 November Where: Central Hall, Westminster Storey’s Gate, London Info:


Integra Spotlight Supplier Conference What: Integra’s national member conference When: 24 November Where: Forest of Arden Hotel, Birmingham Info: Everything for the Office Show What: Spicer’s inaugural exhibition and awards When: 7-8 December Where: Ricoh Arena, Coventry Info:

september 2011

Post-it note ‘love walls’ provide calm after riot storm After the UK riots, thousands of people chose to express their feelings on Post-it notes. Within hours of rioters ransacking shops and setting buildings ablaze in Peckham, hundreds of multi-coloured Post-it notes declaring love for the area were stuck to the windows of its smashed-up Poundland store. But even with the riots over, the Post-it note phenomenon is still flourishing. In Manchester’s Arndale shopping centre, locals estimate the number of notes could be as many as 4,000. Peckham’s Poundland is on its third wall - with the council promising to preserve the walls in its local library. Cultural commentator Stephen Bayley contrasts the use of ‘low-tech’ Post-it notes with the ‘high-tech’ smartphones used to to organise the chaos. “Charming, sentimental, non-destructive, clever, responsible and recyclable, these Post-it messages represent very different values to those revealed last month.”

Young minds put pen to perfume A group of young entrepreneurs have won an award for their new invention - a pen that doubles as a perfume pot. The Junior Achiever Young Enterprise Company of the Year Award was given to pupils from St Paul’s School, Barnes. The group is in talks with businesses to expand the product and take it into hospitals. “The initial idea was to use it for perfume and aftershave, but it also works for hand sanitisier,” said 17-year-old team leader Jai Kapoor.

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See the bigger picture Customers are increasingly interested in the long-term costs of investments and dealers are picking up on this to provide a more-service driven approach. Matt Jane considers the impact that total cost of ownership is having on purchases


he economic downturn gave all companies a financial wake-up call and led many to scrutinise every penny that is spent within the organisation. As a result, total cost of ownership (TCO) has become a buzz-phrase associated with new purchases, especially around IT investments, with customers now keener than ever to ensure they gain best value from their investments. Clients’ willingness to consider sometimes more expensive initial outlays for the promise of overall cost savings could prove beneficial to both customers and dealers alike. As consumers become more aware of the issues associated with TCO, they will increasingly know that cheaper products can be unreliable and present a false economy. “The ease-of-use and the time savings a premium product offers consumers represents a strong consumer message when dealers are advising customers,” says Gregg Corbett, marketing director at Avery Office Products. “While traditionally associated with the IT industry, total cost of ownership is becoming increasingly relevant to many other product industries, particularly those related to IT, such as printable labels, business cards, signage, and name badges.” Printing is a key area for TCO to be considered, as there are many inexpensive printers available, but consumers are increasingly looking at the costs of replacement consumables


september 2011

“The dealer must do due diligence on the TCO of the device specified to the customer to ensure that the managed service price being quoted is sustainable and profitable in the long-term”

and ongoing repairs. Graham Cox, sales and marketing director at Kyocera Mita, recalls the company’s initial launch of its ECOSYS printer range nine years ago, which promised overall cost-effectiveness despite an initial higher outlay, yet, despite intense marketing, customers were still only interested on the cost of the hardware. “The reason for this was primarily because hardware purchasing and consumables purchasing were controlled by different budgets, so it was of no concern to the IT manager if the great deal he’d secured on hardware ended up costing the facilities department a fortune in toner,” he explains. “The economic crisis has precipitated far tighter cost controls, with organisations looking at every aspect of their business and joining the dots between costs.” One of the driving forces for dealers in the new climate of TCO awareness is in delivering a service-led model, with customers requiring a more consultative sales approach with different procurement options available to them. This means dealers must now look after the long-term needs of customers, and considering how their clients’ requirements could change with time. “Recognising the functions and features a business will require in the long-term, such as duplex and wireless, means they are able to sell a product that will last the business through periods of growth and enable them to improve their operational efficiency,” explains Phil Jones, sales and marketing director at Brother. “It’s not all about the money, but operational and cost efficiency improvement, hand in hand.” Managed print services (MPS) have been well adopted by many medium and large organisations as a means of streamlining print processes. Jones suggests resellers can


benefit from this by working directly with channel-centric vendors to promote MPS agreements. There is also scope to offer consultative support to smaller businesses, which may not necessarily need a full MPS system. “By discussing a customer’s exact requirements and tailoring a solution to their needs, dealers can add value and improve customer loyalty,” says Jones. “The consultative approach will generate additional margin and provide a lasting, reliable service for the customer.”

Giving the best deal In order to provide clients with the best TCO, it is important that dealers themselves are getting the best deal from vendors on hardware, consumables and service. “The dealer must do due diligence on the TCO of the devices that are being specified in to the customer to ensure that the managed service price being quoted is sustainable and profitable in the long term,” says Cox. “It’s also worth bearing in mind that consumables prices in particular can be subject to currency fluctuations, so you should confirm your arrangements with the vendor as far in advance as possible.” Dealers need to invest in their skills in order to provide customers with the service they demand. Jones suggests the starting point in deciding whether an MPS contract is right for your customers is to understand the pros and cons of the traditional pay-as-you-go model. “You need to be able to demonstrate the cost benefits of both models, which means a longer sales cycle and more consultative sale,” he explains. “It may be worth considering dedicating someone in the

business to specialise in the area. One thing is clear: the option of ‘doing nothing’ will simply lead to an eroding of your EOS volume as your largest customers are hoovered up by the copy-centric print players.” While it may involve more work for dealers in the short-term, there are definite benefits in considering this new sales model. For example, with customers considering TCO, they will be thinking about the supplies and servicing to get the most out of their investment, which could open up new sales avenues. “This is particularly true of the managed print market, where historically a dealer may have specialised in copiers and multifunction products, there is an excellent opportunity for them to also capture the printer revenue by offering a fully managed document service,” says Cox. This consultative approach that dealers can offer through providing a complete TCO calculation can help them increase their influence with the client and help customers make informed decisions about the ongoing investments, such as cost of consumables. “This, in turn, should lead to a business case that the customer believes in, positioning you as a trusted advisor and circling the wagons around your key account,” explains Jones. With more interest in the long-term investment details of purchases, dealers can ensure they have a strong, ongoing dialogue with clients. If the service provided lives up to the initial promises, then dealers and customers can look forward to a long and prosperous relationship. DS september 2011





roup or social buying is the latest craze to sweep the internet and the bank accounts of bargainhungry consumers. The model is simple: heavily discounted bulk deals are generated to entice a massmarket via daily email shots, using time limits to encourage the impulse-buy reaction that has become prolific in the virtual age. As a great outlet for an infinite range of products and services, from restaurants and beauty services to home insurance and festival tickets, many websites have sprung up in a bid to get a piece of the group buying action. Among the hopefuls were Chieu Cao, Per Larsen and Saurav Chopra, who together came up with Huddlebuy, a group buying site channelled towards the SME market, with the business supplies buyer in mind. For independent dealers, there are two sides to the coin; on the one hand, there may be opportunities for promoting product or voucher-based deals upon the sites, as a powerful marketing tool for expanding customer reach. On the other hand there is the concern that if these sites are sourcing a wide range of office supplies via manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors at price points that dealers cannot match, there is the threat of independents being undercut out of the marketplace.

How does it work?

Strength in numbers? The past year has seen an explosion of the online group buying trend, spearheaded by the likes of GroupOn and LivingSocial. As the trend filters into the B2B market, Nina Rosandic asks Huddlebuy co-founder Chieu Cao whether dealers need be wary of the platform



Various social buying sites operate in slightly different ways, but they all deliver customers to retailers in return for a cut of the total revenue and build client bases by offering good quality deals that introduce potential customers to a brand. The leading sites have become big money enterprises – having only started up two years ago, market leader Groupon turned down a $4bn takeover offer from Google last December and LivingSocial recently secured a $175m investment from Amazon, reportedly valuing the company at $1bn. It is yet to be seen whether the B2B model will inherit some of this success. Huddlebuy is making a good start with close to 30,000 unique users to its site last month, and 0.5%-1% of the users it emails buying a deal.

What is on offer? “The group buying model is really shaking things up, as its allowing small businesses to have access to products and services they haven’t been able to get before, at a fraction of the price,” explains Cao. “We can help SMEs grow their brand. We focus not just on the products they need in the workplace, but also the more innovative services they need. Marketing services have been really successful, for example how to get more popular on Facebook, how to build your website, how to do press releases more effectively – things that can really jumpstart a business.” “We save our buyers money and time. That’s what small businesses lack, and they may spend their time googling for a good price, but can they trust their supplier? Everyone we put on our site has been vetted.”

Opportunities for dealer suppliers Both Huddlebuy and SMEDiscounts, the two B2B group buy market leaders, are actively working to brand themselves as supporters of SMEs. “Independents are

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our friends; we help the little guys. We try very hard to position ourselves as representatives of UK small businesses,“ says Cao. Cao asserts that rather than trying to phase dealers out of the marketplace, dealers can benefit from becoming suppliers on the site. Among the Huddlebuy catalogue of deals, Euroffice has launched a voucher-based promotion whereby a £30 voucher was available for £10, making an attractive 67% saving. Ryman ran a similar deal with a 50% voucher, at £15 for £30’s worth of products. Vistaprint is running a deal whereby simply signing up entitles you to an 80% discount code. Deals on Canon printers, shredders, coffee machines and bubble envelopes are among the OS deals currently listed on the site, and Cao says they are trying to expand on such deals, due to notably high demand from customers for office supplies.

Championing the indies In terms of dealers being wary of the impact on the supply chain, Cao insists that, for the most part, his suppliers are SMEs. “We have worked directly with big manufacturers, like Canon, but we mainly source from distributors and dealers,“ he explains. “We would rather forego the big brands if we have the option to work with the smaller businesses, as it works for us in many ways. We have built an eco-system where our buyers are also our suppliers and vice versa.” The main benefit of running a deal on Huddlebuy or a similar site is the input that the site team has on marketing, branding, copywriting and making sure the deal is a profitable one for the supplier, as Cao explains: “Some small businesses are not very web-savvy, they have a great business but they don’t know how to promote themselves.”



“Some small businesses are not very websavvy, they have a great business but they don’t know how to promote themselves”

“We leverage a lot of business marketing and social media and we give dealers advice on how to market online, or tap into new channels,“ he adds. “When they’re on our site they get the SEO benefit. Their brand and deals are shared and requested online through email and social media and often picked up on by local press.” Huddlebuy does not take a fee when suppliers sign up. “It’s strictly a revenue share – if they don’t convert, we don’t make money,” says Cao. “It’s a very competitive market for a lot of small businesses that have a hard time breaking through encumbents like Viking or OfficeMac. They tend to have contracted customers, but we are targeting other types of businesses through cross-selling across the site.”

Verdict It is still early days in terms of finding out what the impact these sites will have on the marketplace. Priyen Patel, policy advisor for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) throws doubt on the power of the platform in terms of office supplies promotions, as most SMEs will have already established contacts for suppliers of day-to-day products, so in order to convince them otherwise, the deal on offer would need to be spectacular. Also, Patel does not believe that SMEs will become reliant on these sites. “They’ll be used as one strand of their marketing policy, as they have the benefit of reaching large volumes of potential customers, but I think they’ll use it alongside techniques that are more personal,” he says. For now, Huddlebuy is growing and is set to expand to a global market. Cao concludes: “The most basic focus for us it to have a great business that serves our customers and our suppliers well. That’s our goal. We’re not thinking lofty goals and forgetting the fundamentals.” DS

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dealer interview Giraffe Office Supplies

Head in the clouds feet on the ground


september 2011

dealer interview Giraffe Office Supplies


aunching a business amid an economic downturn is either madness or genius, yet a considered approach of starting small and building gradually seems to have paid off, however as Reilly explains, “it hasn’t been easy and I’m not one to count my chickens before they hatch, but the business is expanding, and we’re going in the right direction.” Reilly’s success has grown from a wealth of experience learnt previously helping to build a multimillion pound company. She began her journey into office supplies 23 years ago, when straight out of college, she found herself in a supporting role to the MD of a printer maintenance factory.

Starting your own business is a gamble at the best of times, but a mid-recession launch would be a risk too far for most. Not so for Mandy Reilly, who started her own company, Giraffe Office Supplies, just two and a half years ago. Nina Rosandic charts the journey of a successful entrepeneur

IN AT THE DEEP END “After taking my A-Levels, I got a job at a relatively new company in which the main area of business was the repair and maintenance of typewriters and office machines.” Being only the second member of staff alongside the MD, and having never used a computer before, it was a definitive case of ‘learning on the job’ for Reilly. “I was running the office and training clients on computers, fax machines and photocopiers. I remember the first time I had to demonstrate and train a potential customer on an Amstrad PCW9512. I got to work one morning to find one on my desk. I taught myself the basics in a few days – I hadn’t used a computer before! Needless to say, I learnt a hell of a lot very quickly and thrived in that environment.” september 2011



dealer interview Giraffe Office supplies

CV COmpANY: Giraffe Office Supplies NAme: Mandy reilly stAFF: 3 tUrNOVer: £225k GrOss mArGIN: 35% DeALer GrOUp: nemo bACK OFFICe sYstem: vision WebsIte:

leARNING THe TRADe Reilly quickly learnt how to successfully manage a business, taking on the responsibility of employing and training new staff and identifying new areas of supply, “I soon realised we were missing out on valuable business – we could capitalise on our customer base by expanding our offering and supplying existing clients with a range of office supplies and services.” The company quickly grew as a result, finding new custom by providing and maintaining office equipment, and covering the supply of stationery, furniture, print and promotional items. “As the company went from strength to strength, my role became more of an internal one, handling the HR and accounts side of the business.” Led by Reilly, the company recruited internal and external sales staff, and IT engineers to bolster the business. At its height the company employed over 20 staff, with a turnover of over £2 million. TURNING poINT The success wasn’t to last forever – sales staff left, the recession hit, and various debts pushed the company into administration. “I had a quick but hard decision to make regarding my future. I hadn’t been customerfacing for a long time but still had the drive and enthusiasm to make a business work. I decided I could channel everything I had learnt into starting my own office supplies business.”


september 2011

Peter M Tutty Partnership is powered by...



dealer interview Giraffe Office Supplies

Giraffe Office Supplies

dealer bookmark

I soon realised we were missing out on valuable business – we could capitalise on our customer base by expanding our offering and supplying existing clients with a range of office supplies and services

Barry Schofield Partner Peter M Tutty Partnership Hull


40 years experience in office refurbishments, with a library of the latest regulations and a keen understanding of environmental importance relevant to our industry. The customer is ‘king’ and service is vital.

CV WHAT’S IN A NAME? Giraffe was born in a little unit in Boden, modest but adequate and cheap to run. Sixteen months ago they moved to more prominent premises with street frontage near central Stockport. “The first premises served our needs, but we were set back and you wouldn’t know we were there. In terms of the positives of gaining a shop front, it isn’t a case of building a retail outlet to source business off the street, but more a way of promoting the Giraffe name. We are virtually on the corner of two main streets now, so although we aren’t really cashing in on passing trade, we have more signage space to build familiarity with the brand, and the recognition of the Giraffe logo helps.” Reilly insists the company’s success is attributed in part to the branding and a name that stands out. “I thought long and hard about the company name – I wanted something different, something that people remember, rather than going down the surname route.” The Giraffe name also lends itself well to promotional material. “We have a little toy giraffe and a ‘stress-ball’ giraffe that we give to new and potential customers, which act as a constant visual reminder of our services. You walk into a customer office and it’s there sitting on the desk. It may be a little novelty touch, but as a promotional tool, it works.” SHOE-STRING FOUNDATIONS In the climate that Giraffe was started, it was a difficult task securing external funding, with banks pulling lending

opportunities as opposed to investing in hopeful new ventures. “I approached a business development manager who realised that my business plan was sound, having gone back to basics using all the knowledge I had gained over the previous 20-plus years of building up a business from basically scratch.” Reilly has managed to stay ahead by concentrating on gradual growth, not committing on overheads and working extremely hard from the outset, “It was always my intention to start small, and not try to run before I could walk. I started on small premises, with just myself and a driver. I was using local advertising and taking every imaginable opportunity for sales, while concentrating on developing key sales techniques as I went.” Reilly looked up support initiatives available to local small businesses, “I got in contact with Stockport council to see if they were running any funding schemes and they had what they classed as Stockport 50/50: if you take on a young unemployed person living in the Stockport area, you receive a £1,000 incentive after six months. Apprentices don’t cost a lot of money but obviously require a certain amount of training, but one would hope you would get a certain amount of business back. If you’re looking at taking someone on, then it’s a plus if you can recoup some of those costs. It’s worked out really well. “These are still difficult times and will remain so for a few years yet I think. Even now banks aren’t really

I started my career at Twinlock, the loose leaf & filing manufacturer. In 1973 I joined Tuttys to develop the office systems, pre computers. As technology developed, we started to reappraise working methods for our customers.

Winning moment

When all the perseverance, effort and advice that I have given the customer is finally acknowledged and accepted.


I don’t think I have a catchphrase. I adversely use some non-dictionary words at our suppliers if they let us down on service!

Word for the wise

Progress is probably the most stable back office system in the industry. Having looked at other systems, we have stayed with what I think is still the market leader.

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dealer interview Giraffe Office Supplies

open to lending to small businesses. We still have relatively low overheads, so I’m quite sure we could ride out a double-dip recession. There were a lot of businesses out there that were massively overcommitted at the start of the recession, which is why they failed. We’re still not over committed in terms of staff, premises, storage, and stock.” PROACTIVE APPROACH Reilly insists that had she not had such a direct approach when looking for business, they wouldn’t have been so successful. “We needed to open doors. It was the worst time in the world to launch. But you have to look at the positives, you can only go two ways: either you’re going to fail within the first two months because you haven’t got any customers, which is why we needed to pound the streets and knock on doors, or if you grow too quickly you’ve got the opposite problem - too much business and not enough credit. It’s a fine line. The suppliers need to gain trust in you before they’ll increase credit with you. “There’s only so much business you can go after when you start, and having been in the industry, reconnecting with your business contacts is key. However when my last company went into admin, the MD started up another business and he went after that those contacts, he had a head start. I hadn’t been customer facing for so long, the only way I could get customers to come on board was knocking on doors, literally.” Reilly took a direct approach, going door-to-door, and using telesales, mailshots and local adverts, “I was turning up on doorsteps saying ‘Hi, it’s me, can we have a look at what you’re buying, take at look at the pricing and save you some money.” DEALER GROUP Giraffe Office Supplies joint NEMO just a few months into trading. Reilly believes that joining a dealer group is imperative for getting competitive pricing. “It’s difficult out there trying to negotiate good pricing with suppliers, especially when you’re just starting. Your turnover is pretty low, obviously. I found there wasn’t a great deal of help from suppliers to start off with, they seem to be concentrating more on the big boys, and not as interested in the smaller newer companies. I know how much things should cost, and when the pricings are coming in at 50% more than it should be, then you need to do something. A buying group seemed to be the right thing to do and NEMO seemed to fit the bill. They have been very helpful, as have the other members, particularly when it comes to finding out product information.” LOCAL BUSINESS When starting with just one employee and a driver, it seems to make sense to build upon acquiring local business. “We have customers in Chester, Wales, and Birmingham as well as around the Greater Manchester Area. We use a pick-up and deliver service for some, but for the last 15 months or so, since we’ve moved here, we have tried to concentrate on the Stockport area and that’s proved successful. There are a lot of businesses in the Stockport area — our customers range from professionals such as solicitors, accountants, and manufacturing companies, to doctor’s surgeries and we are starting to do more in local schools. We concentrate on local when it comes


september 2011

Either you’ll fail because you haven’t any customers, which is why we had to pound the streets, or if you grow too quickly you have the oppositetoo much business and no credit. It’s a fine line to marketing, we promote the ‘local’ tag, and we support local businesses. We can promise early morning deliveries customers like to know they’re the first drop. However, there’s also a lot of competition here, but we can keep our prices down. I’ve developed relationships with suppliers such as Spicers, Beta, Antalis, Robert Horne, JG, Micro P, UFP as well as locally based suppliers, i.e. printers, and that way I can find the best products and the best deals”. BACK TO BASICS In terms of beating off the competition, Reilly insists that customer retention depends solely on good quality customer service. “We have built up a high level of trust with our customers and this is paying off. Also, new customers are being secured regularly via telesales and face-to-face meetings. In the last year, about 15% of our business was generated through recommendations, which is fantastic as it shows that Giraffe Office Supplies is providing what customers need, and exceeding expectations. “We deliver what we say we’re going to deliver. We have slogans, and we stand by those - we say ‘we believe we are the best’ and we do actually believe we are the best! Sometimes people don’t realise what bad service is and just take what they get. It’s very simple, for example, we email an order acknowledgement straight away, confirming when they should expect their order to arrive. It’s a very basic thing, but I know of one or two suppliers where you order and you don’t hear from them until it turns up - that’s bad service.” LOOKING TO THE FUTURE Giraffe Office Supplies has managed to achieve a turnover of £225k without the support of an online presence, having used a more organic approach of telesales and old-fashioned door knocking to score client deals rather than building a company website. However, this is something that is in the pipeline. “Our site is under construction at the moment, and it’s something we really need to develop. It was a case of establishing ourselves first to keep the costs down.” Reilly is looking for more staff is to build the business. “I am planning on taking on an external sales executive in September/October of this year, with a further internal sales person after Christmas. Now that the business can support more staff, we need a field sales rep, someone who’s out and about on the road. I think that a face-to-face role is important and in-keeping with the personalised quality service we strive to deliver.” DS


Giraffe Office Supplies

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July 2011 Issue 193





1 Issue 192



June 201





UD HEAD IN THE CLO computing Low-down on cloud HOME MADE in the spotlight UK manufacturing IDS LEAGUE 2011 Analysis: part one

12/07/2011 11:33



BRAND POWER Are brand s best? SPICE OF LIFE Alan Ball opens up CREAM OF THE CROP IDS winner s revealed

CALL: 020 7288 6833 EMAIL: WEB: *TERMS & CONDITIONS In order to qualify for a free subscription, the recipient must be a director, manager, proprietor and/or buyer in dealers, wholesalers and distributors supplying office products, individuals manufacturing office products, and other individuals with purchasing authority in the UK or Ireland. For those who do not qualify there is a £68 annual fee. For details or to subscribe, contact Sinead Coffey on, +44 (0)20 7288 6833 or visit


Grow your business

A safe bet Safety equipment and protective clothing may be a new product area for some office supplies dealers, but in an ever competitive world, could help provide another string to a dealer’s bow. Matt Jane looks at some of the options for providing PPE


september 2011

Grow your business

“By investing in robust health and safety solutions, organisations can demonstrate their commitment to staff and improve their reputation”


ffice supplies dealers will be aware of the growing need to explore new avenues in pursuit of more profitable and diverse business ventures. The model of solely focusing on basic office stationery has largely become outdated as clients seek a one-stop shop solution from their dealers, who are increasingly tasked with providing everything the modern workplace requires, which in itself is an evolving shopping list. One product area that dealers may have encountered in recent times is that of personal protective equipment (PPE), which companies have a legal requirement to supply and covers a surprisingly wide range of industry sectors. The description of PPE products, as defined by the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, illustrates the wide reach of this market and demonstrates the breadth of organisations that dealers could potentially be speaking to about their supply. The regulations state PPE is “all equipment, including clothing affording protection against the weather, which is intended to be worn or held by a person at work and which protects him against one or more risks to his health or safety”. This includes items such as helmets, gloves, eye protection, high visibility clothing, safety footwear and harnesses, although hearing protection and respiratory protective equipment is not covered by these regulations as there is other legislation covering this (see box out). While the common perception of workplace safety solutions and PPE will be for heavy industrial units and

manufacturing plants, there is a much wider range of business sectors that will require some form of PPE. For example, retail units have loading bay workers who require high visibility jackets, protective gloves, and safety footwear. Similarly, schools and other education settings have on-site maintenance staff who similarly need protective clothing, equipment and signage. The depth of industry sectors offers dealers a perfect opportunity to discuss new product areas with existing clients, who will welcome the opportunity to have their safety equipment delivered along with their regular stationery orders. “People buy from people, so the office supplies dealers can work with their customers where they think they have an excellent working relationship and an advantage,” explains Richard Pape, apparel category manager at Kimberley Clarke Professional. “They can exploit this advantage to develop the account and sell that customer a wider range of products. This can include workplace solutions that include PPE and wiping solutions.” IMPORTANCE OF SAFETY The strength of the legislation that governs workplace safety solutions and the need for companies to adhere to a strict set of guidelines provides dealers with a strong case for supplying these solutions. “As a legal requirement and responsibility, companies are obliged to purchase these products,” says Gregg Corbett, marketing manager at Avery Office Products. “Often, this results in an alternative attitude to other office products, many businesses won’t want to scrimp on health and safety, and are therefore less likely to argue over price, instead worrying about the quality of the product.” september 2011



Grow your business


s well as the legislation, there is also a strong business case for improving the working conditions for employees, something that dealers could promote during

sales discussions. Firstly, by investing in robust health and safety solutions, organisations can demonstrate their commitment to staff and improve their reputation. “People spend a huge amount of their time at work and so it is vital that their environment not only creates a safe and welcoming space for them, but that it is designed to aid and assist their job function,” suggests Corbett. “By promoting healthy working environments, employees can minimise the risk of accidents, reduce the potential for injury and ill health and improve performance.”

One solution in the workplace safety market is for clear signage that warns employees of potential hazards. These accidents can be a costly drain for businesses, with the HSE suggesting slips and trips at work cost employers around £500m each year. “This comes from compensation claims, with around 16% of accidents from trips resulting in claims and sick leave, with over 90% of those injured absent from work for at least a week,” says Corbett. “The simple fact is that these injuries and associated costs can and should be avoided. As a result, it is essential that signage and labelling solutions are of a high standard, ensuring they stick in place and clearly display their message.” One of the key advantages for dealers in offering this additional product range is that it strengthens their position as a supplier, and can bring profitable returns. “As these new products will be in addition to the products that they currently supply, they can ensure their long-term profitability by ensuring that their customers purchase more and more items per order,” says Pape. As these additional orders can be sent with existing deliveries for more traditional office supplies, the cost of processing and delivering is only marginally more, so additional supplies can go straight on dealers’ bottom line. FIT FOR THE JOB It is an employer’s responsibility to carry out risk assessments in the workplace to ensure the level of PPE products are sufficient if the risks cannot be reasonably removed. “Depending upon the size of the company, they should employ someone who is NEBOSH trained (in the UK or equivalent),” says Pape. This may also be an area


september 2011

“As a legal requirement and responsibility, companies are obliged to purchase these products”

that dealers could provide valuable expertise to a customer and help carry out workplace safety evaluations. While ensuring the correct equipment is in place is a legal requirement, it is also important that these PPE products are worn when needed. Recent research from 3M found that a third of companies in the UK have employees who don’t wear eye safety equipment, with the main explanation being that the safety spectacles are uncomfortable. “The main reason for people not wearing safety eyewear is lack of comfort and one reason for this could be lack of consultation during the decision-making process,” explained 3M occupational health and environmental safety group product manager, Sue Poole. “One of the key challenges facing those responsible for specifying any form of PPE is gaining the acceptance of the wearer, and resistance to a particular choice will make enforcement all the more difficult.” Some of the main reasons for PPE equipment not being accepted in the workplace include comfort; inhibiting movement or ability to work; too hot; poor fitting; and unattractive. It is also important that products are replaced at regular intervals, as damaged eyewear, for example, will negate any safety benefits it may have. By offering products that are designed for a specific purpose and by consulting all necessary people in the process, dealers can ensure that they not only sell quantity of PPE product, but also that the quality ensures the equipment will be used appropriately and keep workers safe. DS

PPE REGULATIONS EXCEPTIONS The PPE at Work Regulations do not apply where the following regulations require the provision and use of PPE against these hazards: • The Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002 • The Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 • The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 • The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (as amended) • The Noise at Work Regulations 1989 • The Construction (Head Protection) Regulations 1989

Grow your business september 2011




Every click counts In an age where web transactions outweigh traditional sales communications, your homepage doubles as your most valuable salesman. Andy Strevens suggests how to make the virtual face of your company stand out from the crowd


september 2011



re you unique? This is a question that has plagued the industry since the dawn of time and one that can rarely be definitively answered. If you were to write down five services or benefits for a customer choosing your company over anyone else, it would probably look something like this: • Over 20,000 products available • Nationwide delivery network • Part of one of the largest buying groups in the UK • Free delivery over £30 • New online-ordering webstore If you take a look at a few office supplies websites you will see most of these on the homepage. So, if everyone has the same set of ‘unique’ selling points, why does a customer choose one company over another? I believe the answer to this can be quite simple - the answer is ‘character’. I’m not talking about having a fuzzy little mascot, but more the living human beings that make your business a success. We all know that the best way to create a new customer is to get a human being involved to give them a call, so that the seasoned sales person can woo them into submission. However, we can’t possibly do that with every potential customer, or everyone that visits our websites. So how can we use the same face-to-face sales tactics online?

“If everyone has the same set of ‘unique’ selling points, why does a customer choose one company over another?”

Digitally-created character I admit that this could be the tricky bit, especially if you struggle with the more creative side of things, but it is not impossible. The way to look at this is from the customer’s perspective. I’m sure you buy things online and have had to search Google to find what you needed and I bet that you didn’t buy that item from the first site you came across? The same can be applied to the sales call, we have all had the boring scripted sales call but, on the other hand, we have all probably had a decent sales call that was interesting? There could be a few reasons why people choose other sites but I reckon it comes down to how it actually feels and how things look, this is what gives your company (or website) character. • How easy is it to find the search box • What does the site feel like when browsing? • Is it slow? • Are the menus animated with a smooth movement? • Are the menus animated with an annoying movement? • Is it easy to see what’s in your basket? • Is it easy to find the company telephone number? • What do the product images look like? These are just a small selection of things that people unconsciously think about when using your website, it’s called the user experience, or UX, and the character of your site determines the user experience. What do I need to make my character unique? It kind of defeats the object if I were to write down each point to make you unique but I thought I would give a few ideas for you to think about.

1.Lose the industry standard spiel What I mean is don’t bother with the lines mentioned at the top of this article — are people really that interested that you have 20,000 different products or that you are part of the largest buying group? Maybe if you were presenting to a large corporate customer they maybe interested but, again, if three other people are pitching the same line then who would be the standout supplier? Why not lead with a line like: “Hi, thanks for visiting Ltd. We’re pretty sure we have all the office supplies you will be looking for but if we don’t then call Kevin on 0123456789 as it’s his job to make sure it’s all there and he obviously hasn’t done his job correctly!” Or “Welcome to Ltd, we have been supplying the UK with office supplies for over 30 years and have put all of the things we think you will need (and more) on this site. If you can’t find what your looking for then please give us a call on 0123456679 and we will endeavour to sharpen our pencil!” I’m sure this is a little more appealing than the boring 20,000 products line, isn’t it? 2. Less is more There is a tendency to overcrowd websites with little ads and links to product sections but in reality they aren’t paid as much attention as you would think. The trick here is to have less so that it focuses attention on a few key ad boxes and links, rather than throwing everything at them — this will also make your site stand out from the rest. This also includes any product section links you may have down the side of your webstore. These should be reserved for a few popular sections such as envelopes, labels, paper and you should have a few of your gap areas, such as business card printing, promotional products, workwear, bespoke folders, or what ever you see fit. 3. Move away from the template One of the great advantages of using a ready-made webstore system, such as Evolution for example, is that it has a choice of design templates you can use straight away. You just choose the template, choose the colour, upload your logo and that’s it. The problem is that everyone seems to be choosing the same designs. It really does make sense to have your own bespoke webstore template created, that way you can make your site stand out from the crowd and properly communicate your core services and product ranges. I can understand that a smaller dealership may find it hard to justify the cost of this exercise but if you get the design right (and there is no reason why you shouldn’t as you are calling the shots) then that site will stay with you for the next couple of years, so it should be seen as a longer term investment rather than a quick hit. I’m not saying here that if you have a bespoke template then all of a sudden more people will come to you site, what I am saying is that it will increase your rate of conversion on those people that do visit your site. Of course, like most new projects it comes down to time and resources, which there usually are not enough of at the best of times. There are however companies out there that can help with making your web presence stand out from the crowd. DS Andy Strevens is director of Big Atom, a digital marketing agency catering to the office supplies industry. september 2011



IDS League

words from the wise As the IDS League 2011 trophies hit the desks, Nina Rosandic checks in with the winners in search of some tips from the top





gordon Christiansen, md reD BOX, LONDON

darren Carr, md Dg OffIce SuPPLIeS

“We are always keen to participate in the IDS League because we want to know how we stack up against other industry players. To come out as winners for the second time is very pleasing and a useful message to our customers that they’re dealing with a market leading enterprise. “good people are at the centre of what we do and our success last year is a result of good planning and what can be achieved when people work together as a team. ensuring our staff feel valued and involving them in the planning process has enthused and focused everyone’s attention and efforts on what’s important; a lot of which has been about laying the foundations for future growth.”

“Winning the IDS League 2011 has been a huge and timely ‘pat on the back’ for all at DgOS.The award has added armoury to the business and strengthened the team resolve. I would like to thank Spicers for all their continued support, helping us to grow across all areas.We have worked very hard on acquiring new business, having amassed 600+ new clients this year, and invested heavily in our own in-house analysis software accounts, leading to a 20% rise in customer retention. “Be skilled, focused and driven in all you do, my ethos is be great at a few things, not mediocre at many. I see too many people trying too many ill-fated programmes and losing sight of what makes us great.”

September 2011

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DEALER OF THE YEAR 2011 Michael Burke, MD Burke Office, belfast


“Burke Office are thrilled at receiving this award from Dealer Support, an accolade we value very highly. It vindicates our hard work and efforts in a highly competitive environment. We will be adding content about the award on our website, stationery, letterheads and emails, promoting our latest success. “We are committed to being the best at what we do – with no compromise. Our people feel a strong sense of worth, fun and value in their contribution. We never take business for granted but if you give value first, the business will follow. • Diversify without compromising your core product range and USP. • Stay disciplined on money matters – expenses, cash-flow, credit terms and margins. • Keep networking and meeting new people as often as possible. • Keep reading positive/motivational stuff everyday and stop watching the news!

Eddie Richards, co-director WG Office Supplies, dartford


“We are pleased that we are still for a 3rd year running in the ranks of the top companies for the IDS league and thank Dealer Support for their help with promoting our business. Dealer Support have for many years been a great help to us in relation to letting the market know the good news that we have had and has also helped, through the likes of the IDS League, to promote our success to our clients. “At WG we attribute our success to exemplary customer service – a bespoke service is the key to independents standing up against the larger enterprises. It’s easier to gain customer retention if the customer isn’t made to feel like a small fish in a big pond.”



jeff Whiteway, CEO OfficeTeam, croydon

Jim Brown, Co-founder Paperstone, London


“We are very pleased and proud to have won this industry award and we will be using it in our marketing and branded material wherever possible, on the basis of if you’re good at something and have been recognised for it then you should shout about it! “Being ‘green’ isn’t about making minor tweaks but needs to become part of the DNA of the company. There is far too much ‘green wash’ used by others to promote a company’s environmental credentials which customers soon see through. We had to have a team of senior directors and managers leading the move to make our business more environmentally aware. Every aspect of the business needs to be reviewed, resulting in operational efficiencies and improved customer service. There is not an overnight fix, but a long term strategic plan, but it certainly pays dividends.”



September 2011

1st “We are thrilled to win the IDS web dealer of the year award; and it feels particularly special as this a hat trick for us. Everyone at Paperstone has contributed and this is recognition for the whole team. Winning the web dealer award gives us an excellent opportunity to communicate to our customers that we are a leader within our sector.” Three steps to web dealer success: 1. SEO 2. Site usability 3. Providing a great web shopping experience


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Not ‘software as a service’ ‘solutions as a sale!’ The key is that, without a solution based approach, you won’t even get through the front door

Luke Chapman, MD the Business Performance Group


ow often nowadays do we hear the term ‘SAAS’? It is now the chosen MO or sales pitch of the software and technology industries — they have changed the way they sell by moving away from the ‘system’ to focus on the ‘solution’ that their products brings to the customer. The office supplies industry has to keep up with the times and both develop our businesses and the people within them. This is the only way to deliver the needs of our customers, both now and in the future. Therefore, we must follow this lead and focus on the solution - in simple terms, how can we align our proposition and strategy to the solutions our customers are looking for? Take MPS as Phil Jones discussed in last month’s Final Word - MPS isn’t about product, nor is it about the traditional EOS versus copier click mentality, it’s about finding the right solution for each client. In some circumstances, the best solution could be to change nothing at all, if what the customer is doing now is already the best solution for them. The key is that, without a solution based approach, you won’t even get through the front door. If this happens, you will either miss the new opportunity or risk the business you already have. If you are up against someone selling a solution, or a system to hang a solution on, and you haven’t got one, you are unlikely to be successful. Get into ‘Solutions as a Sale’, or get left behind. The best place to start is to look around at your competitors, what are they doing? What is their sales strategy and approach? So many dealers are successfully winning new business by offering eco-audits and procurement reviews, they are focusing on the customers’ process and looking to deliver a solution that offers an overall efficiency improvement in terms of ordering, logistics, invoice reconciliation and control. Ultimately providing them with a ‘total business cost saving’, not one based on product alone. Equally, there are an increasing number of auditing solutions coming to the market focused on the developing MPS segment, could one of these help you to create a new solution or refresh your current solution sale? Stationers take note, and make no mistake, a product focused approach will not survive in the long term. Start looking at ways in which you can develop a solution based sale now and how you can coach your team to deliver it. DS


september 2011



guide september 2011


eing British, most environmentally-themed conversations are dominated by our incessant whingeing about the unpredictable weather – but that’ll be the effect of global warming and it’s all our fault, right? The moral obligation is to embrace a ‘greener’ way of life and work together to save the planet. However, in terms of good business management, it’s important to know how to marry eco-concerns with sound investments. For all those cynical about curbing their environmental impact and addressing their carbon footprint, consider it a positive by-product of finding a more efficient and cost-effective way of running your business. There are mixed views on whether or not end-users are interested in sourcing green goods for the office, as we find out in our green procurement section – Jonathon Hills suggest ways to capitalise on environmentally friendly alternatives when it comes to pitching to customers. However, we’ve found that smart dealers realise there are sustainable practices that go way beyond adding an eco-friendly range to the product catalogue. As Matt Jane finds out in our product round-up, manufacturers are reviewing and developing their processes, and it makes sense for dealers to do the same. By cutting down on your energy and waste consumption, not only will you be saving on your overheads, you can position yourself as a company that cares about the future.


CONTENTS GREEN NEWS WHO’S DOING WHAT Who cares about the planet? These suppliers, manufacturers and dealers do

GREEN PRODUCTS WHAT’S NEW IN ECO? Manufacturers are rising to the environmental challenge, giving dealers more choice

GREEN SPOTLIGHT PAPER Paper production is under pressure to reduce its carbon footprint

GREEN news


GREEN products


Green in the news… We take a look at the latest eco initiatives within the office products industry Economy making offices greener The age of austerity is making us more environmentally conscious at work, according to a national survey. The YouGov poll, commissioned by office products manufacturer Avery, found that nearly half (47%) of the UK’s office workers said their offices have actively become greener as a result of the economic downturn as staff put more effort into recycling, turning off unused lights and saving on the heating bill. Fifty per cent of office workers say they have personally become ‘greener’ and 24% say they could be even greener at work with more encouragement from managers. Nearly six out of ten (57%) believe a greener workplace has more chance to save money. Nicky Amos, an expert in corporate social responsibility, said: “It’s clear that the current economic situation is forcing

many workplaces to become greener. More and more office workers are behaving in an environmentally sound and more efficient manner. This survey reinforces what many companies are finding - that a greener office can help the bottom line.” The survey found the most common practical ways that office workers were personally greener in the last year included recycling paper (69%), turning off computer equipment and machinery when not in use (67%), switching off unnecessary lighting (61%) and choosing double-sided printing (48%). Other green actions included re-using cardboard boxes (42%), choosing more environmentally friendly office products such as recycled stationery (20%), turning down the heating or air conditioning (22%) However, despite this, only 17% of respondents said their office was ‘very or completely green’. Only two per cent said their office was ‘as green as possible’ and more than a quarter, 28%, said their office was ‘not very green’ or not at all green.

Celebrating green Times The Commercial Group has achieved fourth position in the Sunday Times Best Green Companies list, and the independent Cheltenham dealer was also named highest ranked newcomer. The national recognition sees Commercial placed alongside many blue chip companies and, according to the group’s COO Richard Keating, it is a testament to how the company has upped its green ante in recent months. “Commercial has not only bucked industry trends with a 25% growth in its 2010/11 financial year,” explained Keating, “but the company is firmly on track to reach its £34 million turnover target for this year too. This growth is a prime example of how the environmental agenda can underpin company growth and success.” The company has achieved 71% reduction in its fleet emissions since 2006 and has also

reduced its electricity emissions by 66% since 2007, heating by 51% since 2008 and flights by 68% since 2009 and, overall, the company hit its 75% reduction in normalised carbon emissions in 2010. Alastair McCall, editor of The Sunday Times Green List, added: “Commercial has done outstandingly well in its first year of entering The Sunday Times Best Green Companies competition. Finishing fourth, it was comfortably the highest new entry in the rankings with the next closest new entrant being Marks & Spencer in 19th place. “Commercial has managed to achieve in all of its key environmental impacts, not least a 15% cut in its carbon footprint since 2008. You can only do that when you have your workforce fully onside - and Commercial clearly has.”

GREEN spotlight

Inbrief NEC NEC Display Solutions Europe released the latest addition to its Office Cool range with the launch of the MultiSync EX231Wp monitor. The MultiSync EX Series delivers performance with less material and packaging consumed, less waste produced, less harmful substances and less energy required for transportation. Innovations such as the human sensor which detects user activity in front of the monitor reduces its power by up to 94% with inactivity, the ambient light and auto-brightness sensors and ECO mode reducing the already low power consumption. “The LED backlighting not only helps create a slimmer and lighter display, but also allows for very low energy consumption,” said Birgit Sommerer from NEC Display Solutions Europe.

INTERNATIONAL PAPER International Paper has produced The Little Book of Commonsense - a guide to sustainability and the paper industry. The guide demonstrates and illustrates how and why to get the best usability from paper and dispels some of the most common misconceptions concerning paper and its performance, and in particular its sustainability in terms of the environment. It illustrates that, even in a global digital world, paper is as relevant as it has ever been for learning, productivity, creativity and sustainability. As for its environmental credentials, paper is surprisingly sustainable. Every year more trees are planted than harvested, which is one of the reasons there is over 30% more forest in the EU than there was 50 years ago. Younger trees are also much better at absorbing carbon and all paperbased forest products trap carbon and store it until it is recycled.

GREEN EVENT Green IT Expo: IT for sustainability November 11 Central Hall, Westminster

GREEN news


GREEN products


Green around the bills With environmentally friendly products still on consumers’ radar, dealers are fortunate to have a wide range of options available to them. Matt Jane looks at how manufacturers are supporting the green push


n the early nineties, children were encouraged to be environmentally conscious by the cartoon character Captain Planet, who would challenge viewers to become ‘Planeteers’. While Captain Planet and his trademark green quiff may have vanished from television screens, it seems the message of looking after the world’s natural resources continues to live, with manufacturers keen to provide customers with green products, and promoting environmental credentials becoming big business. The green agenda is increasingly important to manufacturers, especially as consumers become more aware of the advantages that investing in green products can bring. “Over recent years, there has been increased awareness in the media regarding the effect of manufacturing on the environment and how much room there is for improvement,” says Harriet Bambridge, sales and marketing manager at DCI/ Jet Tec. “Therefore the green agenda is particularly important in the manufacturing industries as having environmentally friendly products and manufacturing processes have become a key selling point.” There are several reasons for the growing demand for green products that have been produced in a socially responsible manner. Firstly, there is the environmental legacy of the office supplies industry itself. “In the UK, over 10 million people work in an office environment, where items have traditionally been produced to be used once or twice and then simply thrown away,” explains Gregg Corbett, marketing director at Avery Office Products. “The consequent waste produced was too large to be ignored. With the introduction of modern manufacturing technologies, even desktop accessory products can now be made from recyclable materials, designed to be hardwearing and robust, yet stylish.” There is a much greater incorporation of green practice in everyday life, which has influenced consumer decision in the workplace. “As a result, there is not only a demand but an expectation that in their workplaces they are generally able to do the same,” suggests Corbett. Research undertaken as part of Avery’s Green Office Week supports these claims, with workers saying they would like to go green if they had more encouragement and support. “This is an opportunity for knowledgeable salespeople to take advantage and provide the help and information their customers need,” continues Corbett. “This year’s Green Office Week poll found that only 17% of respondents think their office is ‘very or completely

GREEN spotlight

GREEN news


GREEN products

The green agenda is particularly important in the manufacturing industries as having environmentally friendly products and processes have become an important selling point

green’, with more than a quarter, 28%, saying it is ‘still not very green’. This is both an enormous challenge and a great opportunity.” Customers will ultimately purchase responsibly produced products if they are presented with the choice, and as long as the product is fit for purpose. “A customer does not need to compromise on quality or value for money when buying a product, which is also environmentally friendly so selling green should be a simple sell providing the products you propose are suitable for the task or customer in question and the product has real green credentials,” says Tania Cheesmond, marketing manager at Fellowes. CUTTING THE CARBON One of the key areas where office products are seeing environmental improvements is in carbon reduction programmes, driven by improved customer knowledge of the product development process. “The manufacturing industry is so extensive that if each manufacturer endeavoured to reduce their carbon footprint, it would make a substantial difference to the environment and protecting the future,” says Bambridge. Sustainability is another major focus for consumers and manufacturers alike, and there have been some large redevelopments in the production of key office supplies, such as pencils. Wooden pencils are increasingly being sourced from sustainable forests, and Natalie Lewis, customer marketing manager at Staedtler, suggests the company made a conscious effort to source wood certified by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC). “PEFC is the world’s largest certification system and provides a guarantee to purchasers of wood and paper products that they are promoting the sustainable management of forests,” she says. “Certified wood is also obtained in a manner that prevents environmental damage and ensures the employee rights of those involved in the process.” Ensuring sustainability is also related to reducing waste, something that has also been high on the green office agenda. Karen Harrison, marketing manager at AF International says manufacturers have a duty to “support customers’ efforts to become more eco-friendly and source new green packaging alternatives, such as swapping aerosol products for greener pump-action products”. She suggests manufacturers will eventually have to move away from traditional harmful products and look at sustainable alternatives. MAKING BUSINESS SENSE While the promotion of green products is a noble move for manufacturers and dealers, it will all count for nothing if customers do not ultimately make the conversion to eco-


GREEN spotlight

friendly products. There is an ongoing perception that green products are more expensive than the traditional alternatives, something that manufacturers are increasingly trying to dispel. “Becoming more environmentally efficient not only helps to cut down on how much waste we create, but can also lead to cost reductions,” explains Harrison. “Selling products that can be refilled means customers get all the convenience and value that they want, but it also encourages them to be more environmentally friendly.” Total cost of ownership and eco-savings are also a key aspect in the printing market. “Dealers need to position investment in printing technology as a mid-to-long term investment, rather than focussing around the short term price saving opportunities at the point of purchase,” explains Neil Sawyer, head of marketing at Samsung Electronics. The green agenda is an all encompassing process that needs to be driven through the entire chain, from design to manufacture, distribution to selling. “Each link in this chain needs to be developed intelligently and directed towards being an environmentally sustainable business,” suggests Sawyer, who adds that this process should not be viewed separately to cost reduction, as the two are intrinsically linked. “Samsung encourages businesses and users to look at all aspects of the green agenda to drive down unnecessary consumption in the office and at home,” he continues. This is possible by integrating paper, power and toner saving solutions into a wider range of their devices. PROVIDE REAL SOLUTIONS Customers are increasingly wary of dealers trying to simply cash-in on the ‘green’ movement. “It is important to avoid ‘green washing’ or ‘green marketing’,” says Cheesmond. “Now there are a range of icons, accreditations and certifications that are easy to identity and spot on packaging and in literature.” These certificates act as reassurance to customers that the products really do live up to the promises that dealers say. “If you see a product with an FSC tree logo on it, then you can be completely sure that the product you are buying will not be contributing to the destruction of the world’s forests” says Cheesmond. “The FSC is an international, non-governmental organisation dedicated to promoting responsible management of the world’s forests – it is the ultimate ‘green’ recognition.” While independent endorsements do act as a strong support to a product’s green claims, it is important that dealers do not abuse the power of a label. Corbett says, “It is essential that manufacturers and dealers do not overstate or exaggerate claims, as this is viewed poorly by increasingly savvy consumers.” There is huge scope for dealers to promote the use of environmentally friendly products in the workplace, with consumers increasingly seeking products that fit with their wider green initiatives. The strength of the green agenda should ensure dealers can continue to promote the business case for helping the environment, something that even Captain Planet would have approved of.







Paper manufacturers are increasingly striving to ensure every sheet of paper sold is as kind to the environment as possible, through schemes like recycling and carbon reduction. Matt Jane considers how this is ensuring paper remains a strong product for dealers


espite the constant boasts from the electronics industry that the ‘paperless office’ is just around the corner, paper still remains a very prominent feature in the office, and this looks set to continue well into the foreseeable future. Paper is also an area that has seen a seismic green shift in both the production process and product lifecycle and consumers now demand that the eco-credentials of their purchases are of a high standard. One of the biggest developments in the paper industry has been the focus on reducing the carbon footprint of providing paper to businesses, with carbon neutral and totally chlorine free (TCF) paper increasingly being discussed. “The product carbon footprint is more than a buzzword,” suggests Johannes Klumpp, marking and sales director for Mondi Uncoated Fine Paper. “Neutralising the carbon emissions from the production of paper is a global concern for both companies and customers.” The WWF Paper Buyers Guide suggests that using recycled paper is one of the more effective ways to reduce the environmental footprint, as recycled paper products prolong the storage of

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carbon and therefore reduce the CO2 emissions. “If there is an increased demand for recycled products, there will also be a greater demand for more efficient collection systems, which reduce waste to landfills and subsequently decrease emissions from methane gases,” explains Klumpp. Despite the demand for recycled paper, around 60% of paper products fall into landfill explains Matthew Botfield, environment manager for Antalis McNaughton. “The residual graded waste is used to make newsprint and packaging here in the UK, but most is exported,” he says. “The UK, Europe’s largest exporter of waste paper, is sending waste paper to the Far East where there is an insatiable demand for making cardboard and packaging,. SUSTAINABLE LIFE As an industry, paper manufacturers are taking their carbon credentials seriously. Paul Farrell, divisional director at Robert Horne, says this requires an ongoing commitment in all areas of the production lifecycle, including:     

taking a sustainable approach to resources promoting sustainable forest management implementing environmental management systems providing products that are ‘fit for purpose’ and recyclable encouraging recycling of paper and board.

He adds that “half of the energy used to make paper in Europe is from renewable energy”, which ensures the paper industry is a major user of low carbon energy and keeping it at the forefront of ecological developments and green production. Another way in which the paper industry’s carbon footprint is being reduced is through a reduction in the amount of waste that is sent to landfill, another key strength of recycling products. “Paper sent to landfill releases methane gas, which is 23 times more harmful to the environment than CO2,” explains Shannan Hodgson, corporate affairs manager at Arjowiggins Graphic. “Recycling 8.6 mega-tonnes of paper in the UK would save 11 mega tonnes of carbon emissions each year, equal to taking 3.5 million cars off the road.” Despite the overall positive ecological effect of recycled paper, it can still have a higher carbon footprint than virgin fibre paper, although Klumpp says that this is by no means ubiquitous to the paper industry and should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. “A general statement is not valid as many factors need to be considered when assessing a product’s carbon footprint, such as transportation, the degree of fossil fuels used for energy and so on,” he explains. “Moreover, it is important that virgin fibre procurement is from responsibly managed forests that are FSC or PEFC certified, but the bottom line is that without virgin fibre there is no recycled fibre.” Farrell adds that the range of virgin fibre papers is generally wider than recycled and can also be more cost effective. “Having a balanced choice of both certified virgin fibre products and recycled grades ensures dealers can offer products to fit clients’ environmental responsibility, performance requirements and budget constraints,” he says. This range should be as varied as possible and include the different weights of paper, which can also have an impact. “Including lighter weight papers, such as 70 or 75 g/m2, in their portfolio is quite a simple way of improving environmental footprint as fewer natural resources are used than in the production of heavier weight papers,” explains Farrell.



CHOOSING GREEN When looking at suppliers, dealers should be aware of the overall green strategy of the whole business, rather than just looking at the manufacturing process, and the various accreditations that can be awarded to organisations are a good starting point. As well as the FSC and PEFC certifications, which ensure sustainable and ethical forestry management, there are several key accreditations for dealers to look for that will guarantee a manufacturers green credentials. “Dealers should also look for ISO14001 or EMAS environmental management system for the responsible production of products,” says Farrell. Hodgson also highlights the EU Eco-label and the Blue Angel label. “The EU Eco-label is given to products that meet strict levels of environmental and performance criteria, which takes into account all aspects of a product’s life from its production to its eventual disposal,” she says. “Blue Angel is an eco-label endorsed by the German Ministry for the Environment and requires recycled fibres to be 100% post consumer waste and prohibits the use of environmentally damaging optical brightening agents.” The paper industry is continually improving its environmental credentials, through increased carbon reduction strategies and improved production processes to ensure the long-term sustainability of product. Whatever the office of the future looks like, the demand for paper looks set to stay, and the continued efforts of manufacturers should ensure the paper used is greener and kinder to the environment.

PAPER FAST FACTS 60% of paper products fall into landfill with the residual graded waste used to make newsprint and packaging in the UK, but most is exported to the Far East Paper sent to landfill releases methane gas, which is 23 times more harmful to the environment than CO² Recycling 8.6 mega-tonnes of paper in the UK would save 11 mega tonnes of carbon emissions each year, equivalent to taking 3.5 million cars off the road

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Dealer Support and green guide  

Dealer Support and green guide edition