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Big Interview

The word in office.


CEO of soft-carrier p28 September 2013

p40 Gem comes in Boris speaks out p14 p15 New UK wholesaler causes a stir; ACCO’s Elisman speaks exclusively

Board games

Latest on Depot/’Max as activist investor flexes its muscles

Thomas Veit,

Contents September 2013



7 Round-up

Spicers boss wants new UK event, NOPA rallying cry and Q2 results

The German reseller continues to marry the old with the new and attracts more than 700 visitors to its customer day

65 Family values

14 Analysis

“Nobody in the market can touch me!” - bold claims from Multi Distribution’s Raja Zamir

Starboard increases pressure on Depot/’Max as results come in, ACCO interview, back-to-school

Category Analysis

21 Green matters

Frankfurt date for EU project, Depot announces awards

55 Jan/san

Why it could be a case of get on board or miss the boat

24 Facilities focus

SPR spruces up Genuine Joe while United gets ‘Fresh’

61 Stamping

Making the creative difference



28 Growing under pressure

5 Editor’s comment

soft-carrier CEO Thomas Veit on evolving his company and staying ahead of the game in a tough German market

66 On the move 67 5 minutes with...

44 Going global China’s Ninestar eyes international expansion with new HQ and European upgrade

49 Kaut-Bullinger

Marc Nijhof

68 What’s on


Key dates for your calendar

46 Niagara Calls

70 Final word

OPI talks Staples, acquisitions and being progressive with Canadian dealer Beatties Basics

61 “If that manufacturer wants to then cherry-pick certain lines to an alternative provider at a similar cost then I would say that that does not justify the investment that Spicers is making and we would have to reassess our relationship with that vendor”... For the full article turn to page 40

Liz Moseley


This month’s cover is supplied by Bi-silque

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Editorial Editor Andy Braithwaite +33 4 32 62 71 07

Features Editor Heike Dieckmann

Editor’s comment

+44 (0)20 7841 2949

Sales and Marketing VP – Continental Europe, Middle East and Africa Ewan Dickson +44 (0)20 7841 2954

VP – North America and UK Chris Turness +44 (0)20 7841 2953

VP – Asia Tony Yao +86 186 021 29588

Digital Manager India Pride +44 (0)20 7841 2959

Sales Executive Fergus Cox +44 (0)20 7841 2952

Events Events Manager Lisa Haywood +44 (0)20 7841 2945

Production and Finance Operations Manager Nicky Coulson +44 (0)20 7841 2943

Designer Charlotte Gerhardt +44 (0)20 7841 2950

Accountant Charles Edwards +44 (0)20 7841 2956

Publishers CEO Steve Hilleard +44 (0)20 7841 2940

Director Janet Bell +44 (0)20 7841 2941 OPI is printed in the UK by The carrier sheet is printed on Satimat Silk paper, which is produced on pulp manufactured wood obtained from recognised responsible forests and at an FSC® certified mill. It is polywrapped in recycleable plastic that will biodegrade within six months.


No part of this magazine may be reproduced, copied, stored in an electronic retrieval system or transmitted save with written permission or in accordance with provision of the copyright designs and patents act of 1988. Stringent efforts have been made by Office Products International to ensure accuracy. However, due principally to the fact that data cannot always be verified, it is possible that some errors or omissions may occur. Office Products International cannot accept responsibility for such errors or omissions. Office Products International accepts no responsibility for comments made by contributing authors or interviewees that may offend.

Interesting times I apologise in advance for making you having to put up with two comments from me this month (see page 7 ) , but I’m currently wearing two hats as I transition into the Editor’s role. Nothing like a bit of good old multitasking, is there? Incidentally, a grateful nod in the direction of former Editor Bruce Ackland for his efforts in putting this issue of OPI together. It’s certainly an interesting time to take on the Editor’s mantle at OPI: we are facing the same issues as many of our readers and have to make sure that we stay on our toes to remain relevant, report fairly on the key topics and lead the way in terms of covering new trends and issues. And we have the additional challenge of trying to do all this on a global basis, not just focusing on We are planning some interesting new developments one or two markets. We are also keeping a in the coming months close eye on the evolution in the print world and the need to develop new products and solutions to meet the expectations of our increasingly mobile and digital-savvy readers. Many of you will be familiar with our mobile app – if not, why haven’t you downloaded it yet?! – and we are planning some interesting new developments in the coming months following the appointment of Niall (pronounced ‘Neil’) Hunt as our new Managing Editor. Niall is an award-winning journalist with a strong background in digital publishing, and is joining the OPI team in early September. One of my first missions in my new Editor’s hat (see pic) will be to attend the EPIC IS/TriMega show in Texas this month and I look forward to seeing those of you from the independent and wholesale channels in the US who will also be there. Andy Braithwaite, Editor

Office Products International Ltd (OPI), Diamond House, 36-38 Hatton Garden, London EC1N 8EB, UK Tel: +44 (0)20 7841 2950 Fax: +44 (0)20 7841 2951

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News Round-up Editor’s news comment It’s been a busy last few weeks of quarterly results, and nothing so far has suggested that we are about to see an end to the downward trends in traditional office supplies categories. In fact, there are indications from a number of quarters that declines are accelerating due to the combination of digitisation and more prudent spending by businesses. Staples’ Joe Doody even suggested that companies are cracking down more on office supplies ‘leakage’: employees taking supplies home with them. One recent story from the US told of a mailroom employee who stole $1.3 million worth of toner cartridges over a six-year period, while a UK man appeared in court in July accused of stealing office supplies with a value of over £120,000. To what extent has the OP industry been kept afloat by staff pilfering over the years?! Restructuring and consolidation continues unabated. Major European manufacturer Hamelin is the latest to be forced into taking drastic measures as it announced the closure of four facilities while rival Biella has sold off its plastics division to Ring International and in the US Cenveo has bought the operating assets of National Envelope. Meanwhile, the Depot/’Max merger appears to be on track, and we could even know the name of the new CEO of the combined companies by this time next month. Andy Braithwaite, Editor

We can’t possibly feature every news story in these pages. For all the latest news, videos and analyses, don’t forget to visit

OPI takes the lead in UK event London, UK

OPI has thrown its hat into the ring as a potential organiser of a new industry event in the UK. At the end of July, Spicers CEO and BOSS Federation Chairman Alan Ball called for the UK business products market to embrace a single industry event in an effort to take out duplicate costs. Ball’s announcement has already generated much debate on Twitter, and the Spicers CEO says he has received messages of support from a variety of industry players, although he acknowledges that the proposal has not been met with universal enthusiasm. OPI CEO Steve Hilleard has also said that he has received several messages and phone calls – including encouragement and endorsement from Spicers – suggesting that OPI should be involved in helping to initiate such an event, or indeed even to organise it. “I am flattered that so many industry participants acknowledge our professionalism, experience, independence and – perhaps importantly for the success of any potential venture – our international reach,” he said. Hilleard was involved in discussions with the main US wholesalers and buying groups at the end of 2011 which led to the joint IS/TriMega EPIC event that is taking place this month. He believes the same vendor sentiments that were the catalyst for this new US show apply in the UK market. While vendors will welcome such an event, there will obviously be concerns among the wholesaler and dealer group communities. Hilleard is therefore planning to convene a meeting of key stakeholders in the near future so that their issues and concerns can be openly debated in the hope of achieving a consensus in these exploratory discussions that could move the project forward w w | OPI Magazine


News ■ Round-up

NOPA calls for dealer action baltimore (MD), USA

Hamelin announces major restructuring Hérouville Saint-Clair, France

US trade association NOPA is urging its members to react to proposed changes in purchasing legislation in the federal government channel. NOPA is concerned that hundreds of dealers will be locked out of selling to the federal government if the next phase of the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI) office supplies contract (known as OS3) goes through as planned next year. OS3 would likely see firms and organisations awarded a blanket purchasing agreement benefit from a mandatory federal purchasing rule, locking out those dealers that hold what is known as a Schedule 75 contract. NOPA has drafted a letter that dealers can customise in order to voice their concerns over the proposed FSSI changes. The jan/san reseller channel is also the subject of a new FSSI BPA and trade association ISSA is calling for its members to contact their congressional representatives to voice their opposition to the proposals.

Stationery group Hamelin is to close four production sites in Europe as part of a business-wide reorganisation project. Three of the four sites to be shut down are in France (La Monnerie-le-Montel, Troyes and Villeurbanne) with the other in Italy (Padova). Works council negotiations are currently taking place in line with European labour laws. The France-based group blamed a combination of digitisation and the economic crisis for what it called “an unprecedented market situation”. The restructuring project is designed to reduce Hamelin’s existing production capacity and help it adapt to “the new emerging market conditions and requirements”. At the same time, Hamelin said it would invest in the development of its leading brands Oxford, Canson and Elba, adding that it was committed to ongoing product innovation and adding value for all its stakeholders. Hamelin Brands CEO Eric Joan told OPI that it had been a difficult decision to make, especially with around 180 employees set to be made redundant. If negotiations with works councils go according to plan, the four sites will be shut down before the end of the year. Some of the production equipment will be moved to other Hamelin facilities. Reports in the French press had suggested that a site in the UK would also be closed, but Joan said that the current plan only involved the closure of the four facilities mentioned above.

Biella sells plastics division brügg, Switzerland

European vendor Biella has sold its soft plastics division to the ProOffice subsidiary of Ring International Holding (RIH). No financial details of the transaction were given, but Biella confirmed that it has sold the machinery at its Hungarian factory in Kimle to ProOffice. Biella recently announced major job cuts at Kimle, and RIH said the site was closing with tools and machinery being transferred to its existing production facilities in the Czech Republic. Biella said it would continue to offer soft plastics products as part of its portfolio, but will now source them from third parties and has signed a strategic supply agreement with ProOffice.


OPI Magazine | September 2013

Naperville (IL), USA

OfficeMax has begun trading on eBay with its own store on the online selling platform. ‘Max is offering its full range of products on the eBay store, with free shipping on orders of $25 or more. Smaller orders have a fixed delivery fee of $4.95. Payments have to be made via Paypal and OfficeMax coupon codes and gift certificates are not valid. The first feedback from a customer was received on 26 July and at the time of writing ‘Max had received 174 feedback ratings, 169 of them positive. It may seem strange that ‘Max should choose to open a store on eBay when it already has its own e-commerce site, but presumably it will be encouraging shoppers to visit its main site. “The new store builds into OfficeMax’s broader omnichannel approach to serving our customers,” Nicole Miller, ‘Max’s Manager of Communications and Corporate Affairs, told OPI. “We want to be wherever our customers are shopping so they can buy anytime, anywhere

News ■ Round-up

‘Max opens eBay store it’s convenient. Our partnership with eBay is an example of this approach.” Miller added that ‘Max would be testing various types of promotions and marketing strategies on its eBay store in the coming months.

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News ■ Round-up

IS wins new Stora Enso CEO national evokes “serious account challenges” Indianapolis (IN), USA

Independent Stationers (IS) has sealed a new national account award with ChamberSolutions, a membership organisation for chambers of commerce and business associations. The agreement is a two-year contract with two optional one-year extensions to provide office supplies, paper, ink, toner and cleaning supplies to ChamberSolutions members across the US. ChamberSolutions previously held a contract with OfficeMax and the new agreement with IS is being aggressively promoted as an alternative to purchasing from big box suppliers. The programme is being powered through a new e-commerce site developed by the US dealer group called MyOfficeStore which links ChamberSolutions members with their nearest IS reseller. ChamberSolutions CEO Kenn Penn called the contract with IS “game-changing”. “Through ChamberSolution’s MyOfficeStore programme, chambers of commerce can provide community-based solutions in the field of office products and ensure that ‘buy local’ is a competitive and attractive offering,” he stated.

NEWS IN brIEF ■ European supplies reseller Manutan has acquired Ironmongery Direct, a distributor of fixtures and fittings to tradesmen working in the building and home improvement channels in the UK. Headquartered in Essex, Ironmongery Direct was founded in 1969 as a traditional ironmonger’s shop, and has seen strong double-digit growth over the last five years. 2012 sales were over £18 million ($27 million) and operating profit margin was around 7.6%. (France)


After what he called “another disappointing Stora Enso CEO Jouko quarter” for Stora Enso’s Karvinen has highlighted Printing and Reading division, the challenges facing the Karvinen revealed that company’s paper business. the majority of the €200 “Serious challenges million ($260 million) in cost [need] to be addressed in savings announced in April European paper and further would come from this unit. transformation steps [have “Printing and Reading is now been] launched,” he said. loss-making and experiencing a decline in demand that was in many grades substantially worse than the long-term structural decline,” he admitted. Like many other paper manufacturers, Stora Enso is diversifying into other categories such as packaging and biomaterials. It has also confirmed its expansion in the Chinese market with the news that its integrated pulp and board project in the country has received the go-ahead from the local Jouko Karvinen authorities. Helsinki, Finland

■ UK dealer Bluefish Office Products has strengthened its position in the centre of the country with the acquisition of Daventry-based Mello Office Supplies. This now takes Bluefish’s annual sales beyond the £20 million ($32 million) mark. (UK)

of diversification across market segments. American Communications has a broad product and service offering and its clients include telecoms carriers, service providers, enterprise clients, end-users, and resellers around the world. (USA)

■ Clover Holdings has acquired American Communications, a global supplier of new and used telecommunications hardware. Clover called the deal a “significant addition” to its telecommunications business and in its strategy

■ European alliance Interaction has said sales of its Q-Connect brand grew by 7% in the first half of the year. The organisation said the brand – which is distributed in over 20 countries in Europe – saw a relatively slow start at the beginning of

OPI Magazine | September 2013

the year, but sales accelerated in the second quarter. The brand is now on track to achieve full-year sales of €140 million ($185 million). (Belgium) ■ Australian reseller Officeworks has been named as a vendor for office and educational supplies alongside OfficeMax and Staples on the new Queensland state contract. The award – a three-year deal with options to extend for a further two 12-month periods – marks an important step in Officeworks’ efforts to develop a stronger public sector offering. (Australia)

News ■ Round-up

Slow start to ADVEO reports solid Q2 BTS season Madrid, Spain

rosemont (IL), USA

Figures released by leading market intelligence firm NPD confirm that this year’s back-to-school (BTS) season in the US got off to a slow start. NPD’s Weekly BTS Tracker revealed that spending was down by a total of 3.3% in the five-week period to 8 August. NPD’s figures cover retail sales at the main office supplies chains and mass market resellers as well as the leading online players. Lora Morsovillo, President of NPD’s Office Supplies unit, told OPI that the figures were in line with the firm’s predictions, with double-digit year-on-year declines at the start of July more than offsetting slight improvements during the first two weeks of August. “Consumers are holding off their BTS shopping later and later each year and, despite the declines we saw in July we are expecting the overall BTS season to be up in the low single digits compared to last year,” said Morsovillo. The challenges facing the office supplies superstores during this important shopping season were underlined with a 5.6% decline seen during the five-week period. Staples and Office Depot, in particular, have been pushing BTS with initiatives such as celebrity endorsements. Depot has partnered with pop group One Direction in an anti-bullying campaign and exclusive BTS product selection, while Staples has teamed up with teen actor Jake T Austin for its annual BTS supply drive in cooperation with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. An increasing percentage of BTS shopping is being done online. NPD’s figures show that online BTS sales actually grew by 6.2% in the first five weeks of the BTS season, although it still represents a relatively low proportion of total spend. Staples, for example, is looking to develop this channel and has recently introduced customised lists for teachers on The battle for consumer dollars will be won and lost in the next few weeks as the 2013 BTS season reaches its climax. The winners will probably be those who are able to best balance their merchandising by combining the latest must-have tech products with attractive promotions on traditional Lora Morsovillo supplies.


OPI Magazine | September 2013

European distributor ADVEO reported a slight drop in sales for the second quarter. The company’s Q2 sales came in at €278.1 million ($368 million), a decline of 1.2% compared to the same quarter last year, and a sequential improvement on the first quarter sales trend when year-on-year sales had fallen by 6%. ADVEO’s performance is still being affected by steep declines in the Spanish market which accounts for about 30% of its total sales. On the other hand, the group highlighted gains in France where sales in the first half of 2013 were up by 8% thanks to dealer groups Calipage, Plein Ciel and (the recently added) Buro+.

The traditional stationery reseller is continuing to struggle, said ADVEO. At the same time, multiple retailers and scale-driven resellers such as the global office suppliers are becoming a stronger part of ADVEO’s sales mix, and this is having a detrimental impact on profitability. Gross profit for the quarter fell by 1.8% to €46.4 million, EBITDA fell by 8.3% to €10.6 million and pre-tax profit declined by 10.6% to €3.6 million. Despite these negative numbers it was still a quarter that did yield positives for the Spanish company as the figures were an improvement on the first quarter. Furthermore, ADVEO said that year-on-year comparisons should continue to improve during the rest of the year.

Cenveo to acquire National Envelope Stamford (CT), USA

Cenveo has agreed to acquire substantially all of the operating assets of National Envelope. Quality Park owner Cenveo will pay around $25 million for the acquired assets. In conjunction with the agreement, Hilco Receivables has agreed to acquire substantially all of National’s accounts receivable and Southern Paper has agreed to purchase its inventory. National Envelope entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June and the agreement requires the approval of the bankruptcy court. However, both parties have said they expect the transaction to be finalised by the end of the third quarter. Cenveo said it expects National to deliver around $300 million in incremental annual sales and $30 million of incremental EBITDA when the integration of the two companies is complete.

News n Analysis

Starboard muscles in on Depot board Three directors and a place on CEO selection committee for activist investor


what at times seemed like a saga of soap opera proportions, Office Depot and its main shareholder Starboard finally reached an agreement in their board of directors dispute just hours before Depot’s annual shareholders’ meeting on 21 August. As late as 20 August, it seemed the two sides would go head to head at the shareholders’ meeting after Starboard had apparently rejected a “good faith” offer from Depot. With Depot facing something of a shareholder revolt and it becoming increasingly likely that some of the

board members would be voted off and replaced by Starboard’s nominees, news that an agreement had been reached came through just hours before the meeting was due to start. “We are very pleased to have reached an agreement with Starboard which we believe is in the best interests of all our shareholders,” said Depot CEO Neil Austrian. Starboard’s CEO Jeff Smith commented: “As Office Depot’s largest shareholder, we look forward to working together with the Office Depot board with

Main terms of the Depot/Starboard settlement: • S tarboard nominees Cynthia Jamison, Jeff Smith and Joe Vassalluzzo have joined the Office Depot board after the resignations of directors Marsha Evans and Scott Hedrick the day after the annual meeting. • Office Depot has expanded the board from ten to 11 directors to accommodate the additional director. • Following the appointment of the new directors, the board will select a new non-executive lead director. • Vassalluzzo has joined the CEO selection committee in the search process for the CEO of the combined company, replacing Evans. • If the merger with OfficeMax is completed, Office Depot will include both Smith and Vassalluzzo as continuing directors. • Starboard agreed to withdraw its proxy solicitation and committed to vote in support of Office Depot’s director nominees at the annual meeting. • Depot will pay Starboard’s expenses and fees related to the investment firm’s legal attempts to force a date for the annual meeting and its proxy vote actions, up to a maximum of $800,000.


OPI Magazine | September 2013

Starboard CEO Jeff Smith the common goal of maximising value for all shareholders through the OfficeMax transaction and the CEO selection process.” The tone of the two CEOs was much less conciliatory just 24 hours before those statements were issued. Austrian had accused Starboard of putting its own interests ahead of those of Depot’s other shareholders and of making unreasonable demands. Smith responded by saying Depot had misled shareholders by painting a one-sided picture of negotiations, had made “onerous” demands on the investment firm and had acted in “bad faith”. This was the culmination of several months of heated exchanges as Starboard took legal action in a Delaware court to force Depot to hold an annual meeting and launched a proxy fight to get its nominees elected to the Depot board. Depot had steadfastly maintained that any changes to the board and to the CEO selection committee would be harmful to the OfficeMax merger and CEO search, but cracks began to appear in its stance after it

Bob Nardelli: A CEO candidate?

became clear that shareholders were in favour of Starboard board representation. The outcome is certainly a victory for Starboard. It has gained representation of almost 30% of the Depot board (despite owning just under 15% of Depot’s shares) and has a say in the CEO selection process. That could be important as Starboard put forward a number of possible candidates for the job. One of those who has made the final shortlist of five candidates could be former Home Depot and Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli, who Starboard hired as an adviser last year at the same time as ex-Staples exec Joe Vassalluzzo. 65-year-old Nardelli would be a ‘heavyweight’ candidate for the CEO job at a merged Office Depot/OfficeMax, and fits the bill in terms of a public company CEO with Wall Street experience. However, his appointment would certainly be a controversial one given the question marks over his management style while at Home Depot and his failure to prevent Chrysler sliding into bankruptcy. But as we have seen in its negotiations with Depot, Starboard likes to play hard-ball, and it will be interesting to see what effect this now has on the integration process with OfficeMax and the choice of CEO for the combined companies.

ACCO CEO confident of a return to growth


spoke exclusively with ACCO CEO Boris Elisman following the company’s second quarter results at the end of July. It was a quarter of contrasting fortunes for ACCO’s three reporting divisions – North America, International and Computer Products Group (CPG) – with CPG reporting an eye-catching 17% drop in year-on-year sales. Elisman admitted that this was a very volatile category and sales had been hit by the lack of a major tablet or smartphone release during the quarter and continued pressures in the PC and laptop categories. Hopefully that will change in the second half of the year with Apple expected to launch new versions of the iPhone and iPad shortly. ACCO is also increasing the number of products designed for Android devices, while it has changed its go-to-market models in

Canada and Japan in order to drive more CPG sales. While CPG (essentially the Kensington brand) still represents only around 10% of ACCO’s total sales, Elisman said that it was a key component of the company’s growth strategy, especially in terms of mobility products which now account for about a third of CPG’s sales, and he is expecting the division to return to double-digit growth in the medium term and for operating margins to stabilise in the mid-teens. Of course, the same

them for profitability and invest in new growth categories to overcome the secular declines. For all of us in the office products industry today, that is the biggest challenge.”

Critical mass ACCO is also reducing its dependence on the traditional office superstore channel. The mass market, including the drug-store chains, is Boris Elisman now ACCO’s largest channel with around and the introduction of 31% of sales, and Elisman ACCO products in Brazil, believes there is still room the market where ACCO to improve, especially believes it has the biggest by offering a range of opportunity. products across all The Mead integration different price points. has been “more or less One of the reasons for completed” in the US,

“The trick is to harvest the categories in decline and manage them for profitability and invest in new growth categories to overcome the secular declines”

growth goals can’t be expected of other ACCO product categories which have been experiencing structural declines due to the digitisation of the workplace. “This is something that has been with us for many years and is nothing new for us,” stated ACCO’s Q2 results in brief* Elisman. Sales: “There are • Total company: $440 million (-5.3%) categories • North America: $287 million (-5.3%) in secular • International: $116 million (-0.4%) decline and • Computer Products Group: $37 million categories (-17%) that are Gross profit margin: 31.1% (+1.1%) growing. The Operating profit: 45.7 million (+0.7%) trick is to Pre-tax profit: $33.5 million (+11%) harvest the categories *Pro forma/adjusted v Q2 2012 in decline and manage

the Mead acquisition last year was the possibility of achieving cross-selling synergies, including in the mass channel, and ACCO is on target to achieve $20 million in sales growth from this in 2013. That, admits Elisman, is a modest figure, but has the potential to be hundreds of millions of dollars in the long term. “It’s a slow process in a competitive marketplace,” he stated. “No-one is abdicating their positions to us, and we have to go out and win business.” Successes so far include the shipment of Mead-branded products into the Middle East and North African markets

Elisman noted, but he confirmed that ACCO would be consolidating its Canadian operations into one facility in the second half of this year. Overall, the Mead integration is on track to be completed by the end of 2013. Elisman wouldn’t be drawn on whether ACCO will actively look to make further acquisitions once the Mead integration has been completed, but it wouldn’t be a surprise. “Consolidation will continue on the vendor side,” he forecast. “I can’t predict the pace of that, but it’s a tough market and you will have other manufacturers that will exit this space.” w w | OPI Magazine


News n Analysis

Elisman seeing green shoots

News n Analysis

A no grow zone? Where’s the growth going to come from for the big boxes?


quarterly results have highlighted the struggle OP companies are continuing to face to achieve top-line growth. Office Depot, OfficeMax and, most recently, Staples all reported declines in sales in the second quarter and the trend looks like it will continue for the rest of the year


at least. For all the talk of opportunities, new categories and synergies, tens – in some cases hundreds – of millions of dollars are being wiped off the top line each quarter which means that cost-cutting is inevitable in order to prop up margins. Depot and ‘Max are obviously heading towards a merger, but have stated that they will maintain their independent, competitive strategies until such time as the merger is confirmed. That doesn’t hold totally true for Depot which confirmed that it had put development of its new – and much heralded at the time – smaller store format on hold as it cuts back on capital expenditure ahead of the merger.

OPI Magazine | September 2013

There are some new initiatives at Depot such as the revamped loyalty programme, the back-to-school (BTS) promotion with pop group One Direction and the addition of new mobility products in stores to try and offset declines in the technology category, but these aren’t expected to have a material effect on sales. Likewise, sales growth at Copy & Print Depot and in the breakroom category is not sufficient to offset the overall downward trend.

Contract pressure On the contract side, Depot is starting to feel the effects of some pre-merger ‘leakage’ as Staples and the independents start to aggressively go after customers and CEO Neil Austrian said there would be “continued pressure” with enterprise customers as they took a wait-and-see approach with respect to the merger. On the flip

side, there were gains reported in the K-12 schools and SMB channels – both areas that Depot has been throwing resources at lately. In the International division, the overriding message is about slowing the rate of decline rather than any kind of growth trajectory. There were pockets of growth in the second quarter such as the French retail stores, or contract sales in the small Swiss and Austrian markets, but the division made an adjusted operating loss and sales are expected to be down in the mid-single digits again in the third quarter. ‘Max, to be fair, showed a bit more enthusiasm for new ideas and projects during its quarterly conference call as CEO Ravi Saligram recognised secular declines in traditional categories and the quickening pace of workplace digitisation. Perhaps Saligram has more at stake than Austrian if, as thought, he is vying for the role of CEO of the merged companies. ‘Max will continue to invest in its new Business Solutions Center concept and said that same-store growth is being achieved in a number of “accelerator” stores. It also pointed to recent additions to its services proposition such as the website creation partnership with GoDaddy. Australia was singled out as a major cause of the sales and margin drop at Max’s International Contract division with the blame put fairly and squarely on the economy. This is not the first time the Australian economy has had a hiccup though, and it seems that ‘Max has woken up to the fact that there is a small business customer in that market

Staples sees weak Q2 All eyes were on Staples at the end of August to see if it would buck the downward trend reported by its two main big-box rivals a few weeks earlier. Unfortunately for the Framingham-based giant, its performance was worse than expected, especially in its North American retail and international units, sending its share price sliding by 13% on the morning it released its results. Q2 highlights • North American comparable store sales down by 3%, due to a 2% decline in traffic and a 1% drop in average order size • Retail weakness in business machines, technology accessories, ink and toner and computers • sales up by 3% • North American Contract (NAC) sales up by 1.4% due to growth in facilities and breakroom supplies, furniture and tablets • Print solution sales declined at NAC • International sales down by 8.3% due to broad-based weakness in Europe and Australia, although there were operational improvements in Europe • Lower European retail comps of 6% • Operating profit declines at both North American divisions, and widening of operating loss at International CEO Ron Sargent said that Staples continued to make progress on its strategic plan to reinvent the company despite these latest results. However, the

Turning back to the issue of growth, assuming that the merger is approved at the end of this year, then – to some extent – the pressure will be off to improve the top line as

company lowered its full-year forecast and is now expecting 2013 sales to be down in the low single digits versus last year. Sargent warned of “more aggressive” cost-cutting Ron Sargent actions in the second half of the year to try and offset the predicted lower sales. On the plus side, the facilities and breakroom category continues to show strong growth – it was up by around 20% at NAC and in the mid-teens at US retail in the second quarter as the category is rolled out into more stores. About a dozen of the new, smaller 12K format stores have been opened with “encouraging” results, with sales achieving an average of 95% of those of their big box equivalents. NAC sales teams have also been increased to add specialists in new product categories such as facilities and print and as Staples eyes grabbing share in the aftermath of the Depot/’Max merger. The big question is when will all these growth initiatives combined have sufficient scale to put the top line back into positive territory? Staples didn’t have the answer to that, but don’t be surprised if this time next year we finally start to see results.

the new entity works towards achieving up to $600 million in synergies that have already been identified even before it tackles the $2 billion cost base that the combined

Tens – in some cases hundreds – of millions of dollars are being wiped off the top line each quarter store networks represent. It would be understandable, therefore, if growth initiatives were put on hold while the integration took place. But that would be a mistake. The underlying secular issues

are not going to disappear because of the merger. In fact, with the current pace of change, who really knows what the market will look like in, say, 18 or 24 months’ time? That robust balance sheet of the ‘NewCo’ should be used to drive growth as quickly as possible, and probably in the small business channel. That means not only investments in expanding these adjacent product categories and growing digital capabilities, but in service-related acquisitions. It’s all very well establishing partnerships to help SMBs create websites, but that’s hardly transformational. Going out and acquiring the service partner (or partners) might be. w w | OPI Magazine


News n Analysis

with the news that it was going to target this segment. That certainly sounded like a bit of ‘déjà vu’ from a few years ago. Taking a leaf out of Staples’ book, ‘Max has been increasing online SKUs in categories such as health and safety, packaging and art supplies. That helped to achieve double-digit growth in the quarter. However, online sales are reported in Contract division revenue, and therefore this underlines the pressure in other areas of the Contract business. It’s surprising that neither ‘Max or Depot have followed Staples’ lead by integrating their dotcom websites with their retail stores and providing a fully integrated offering for small business customers. Surely that will be on the agenda post-merger. Incidentally, ‘Max announced that it had just established a ‘Digital Innovation Center’ to help develop digital solutions for an omnichannel shopping experience. That sounds like a carbon copy of Staples’ Velocity Lab which opened at the end of last year, but at least it shows that ‘Max is still willing to invest in innovation.

News n Analysis

Lyreco in Chinese alliance Global reseller signs contract agreement with leading stationery brand


name of Lyreco’s new strategic partner in China will no doubt be familiar to many OPI readers, but more likely due to its status as a manufacturing powerhouse rather than a contract stationer. Comix is one of China’s most recognised stationery brands; it makes over 2,000 products ranging from PP files to shredders, employs more than 3,000 people and last year achieved sales of around $250 million. However, since 2009 it has also been developing a B2B contract business after it acquired two leading local resellers in Beijing and Shanghai. Today the B2B operation includes sales offices in Guangzhou and Shenzhen, meaning that the sales force can cover the main coastal cities in China as well as the country’s capital. A network of 25 service centres has recently been rolled out to increase service levels and proximity with the customer base. This


strategy has enabled Comix to offer a market leading proposition in the Chinese B2B contract market, and the business unit now employs 400 people and generated sales of around $50 million in 2012. Comix is looking to more than double its B2B sales in 2013 after securing an award for stationery and office supplies on a major contract from the China State Grid – the world’s largest utilities group – which could be worth up to $65 million to

enables us to offer our customers a solution in 11 countries in the region including the five largest economies of China, Japan, India, South Korea and Australia.” Lyreco’s Group Development Director Ludovic Teinte told OPI that the search to find the right partner in China had been going on for a number of years. One issue had been the lack of any viable national players despite the strength of

Comix is looking to more than double its B2B sales in 2013 the company. In addition, Comix is understood to be looking at making further acquisitions and exploring the possibility of developing a franchising model. Lyreco CEO Steve Law said: “The Comix partnership strengthens Lyreco’s unique coverage across Asia-Pacific and

OPI Magazine | September 2013

local resellers. Lyreco had considered working with several local partners at the same time and even setting up its own greenfield operations in China before the recent emergence of Comix.

B2B strategy However, Comix is not the only leading OP manufacturer to have developed a B2B strategy in the last few years. Deli is doing something similar, notably in its home region in and around Ningbo, while M&G acquired the Shanghai-based B2B operations of Japanese reseller ASKUL earlier this year. The rise of these local companies is bound to add further complications to the likes of Staples, whose own foray into the Chinese

market has so far not gone according to plan. With the decision to exit the Indian market still fresh in the memory, one wonders how long Staples will continue to invest in China. Losses have narrowed in the last couple of years under a revamped management team, but that may not be enough as Staples tightens in belt, especially in its international operations. Lyreco’s new partnership with Comix completes a quartet of alliances for the global reseller in the BRIC markets over the last 18 months following agreements with Inforshop (Brazil), Samson (Russia) and Benir e-Store (India), and brings the number of new alliances signed in that time to eight. Teinte said that the new agreements were performing as expected following Lyreco’s induction process. Now it seems the Group Development Director will have to turn his attentions to the US and Mexican markets where Lyreco’s global contracts partner is currently OfficeMax. That relationship will not be tenable if – as seems likely – the Office Depot/ OfficeMax merger goes through at year’s end. According to OPI sources, Teinte and his team were in the US in July sounding out potential new partners, visiting a number of major dealers such as WB Mason and Hi-Touch, as well as wholesalers and dealer groups. Mexico would probably be less of a priority in the short-term, but candidates could include the now Gigante-owned Office Depot de Mexico and other local players such as Lumen or Ofix.

Paris, France

European OP industry leaders are being invited to gather in Frankfurt later this month to ratify an ambitious project for the environmental Christophe Girardier labelling of products. French trade association UFIPA is asking top industry stakeholders to attend its European CEO conference at the Sheraton Frankfurt Airport on 17 September. UFIPA has been working for over 12 months on a universal rating system that shows the environmental footprint of products and it quickly realised that such a project had to be implemented at a Europe-wide level in order to achieve credibility. Following a successful meeting in Paris on 27 June that was attended by representatives of leading European resellers, UFIPA is now looking for wider senior level industry buy-in for the project in Frankfurt – from both resellers and manufacturers. Key issues that UFIPA is looking for agreement on include: the overall principles of the project; the make-up of a steering committee; the business model and financing. Project Manager Christophe Girardier told OPI that the project needs the support of both international firms and key local market players. OPI is the official media partner of this European labelling project and we’ll be providing more details of this initiative in the Green Thinking supplement which will be published in October of this year.

Lyreco provides supplier audit update Marly, France

Lyreco has posted a new YouTube video, giving an update on progress of its supplier audit initiative. The global reseller introduced a factory auditing scheme for direct-sourced Lyreco branded products in 2011, and this was extended in 2012 to include suppliers of its private label items. The goal for 2013 is to have all factories making Lyreco’s products assessed under the scheme. Depending on the outcome of the audits, factories are either validated, blacklisted or go through a ‘support’ period in which they are required to make improvements. The video YouTube link is:

Office Depot updates paper purchasing policy Boca Raton (FL), USA

Office Depot has released a new greener paper purchasing policy designed to increase its use and tracking of environmentally preferable paper products. The new guidelines – drafted over a 12-month period with input from the World Wildlife Fund, other environmental non-governmental organisations and several paper suppliers – update the company’s 2004 paper policy and have garnered support from a wide range of forest sector stakeholders. The policy scope includes all paper purchased or sold by Office Depot globally, with initial implementation focused on high-volume categories such as copy paper and marketing papers, and a secondary focus on other paper-based office products and delivery packaging. Improvement targets will be set for high-volume paper categories first, with the intention to add further categories as new data is gathered from vendors and across regions. These targets and all progress towards them will be communicated in the annual Office Depot Corporate Citizenship Report. The previous version of the Office Depot paper policy had a preference for “certified” fibre, but gave no guidance on which forest certifications were acceptable. The new policy includes Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), American Tree Farm (ATF), Program for Endorsement of Forestry Certification (PEFC) and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) controlled wood schemes as minimum requirements. However, there is a preference for FSC-certified products which should see an increase in the use of FSC fibre in the virgin copy paper that Office Depot sells. The new policy also includes a set of specifications for greener papers divided into three shades of green: light green, mid green and dark green. “By offering a clear perspective on how different papers are greener, our new paper policy allows our buyers and our customers to make informed decisions on their paper purchasing,” said VP of Merchandising Linda Boykin. Commenting on Depot’s new paper policy, FSC’s Director General Kim Carstensen added: “Office Depot’s new purchasing policy sets an important precedent by recognising the very real benefits unique to FSC and reflects a deep understanding of what it takes to protect forests for future generations. When companies ask us what a good forest policy should look like, we will point to Office Depot. We commend Office Depot for its forward-looking leadership.”

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News n Green matters

Frankfurt meeting for EU green project

News n Green matters

Green certification for Bong Kristianstad, Sweden

Envelope and packaging manufacturer Bong said it has been recertified with the right to carry the Carbon Trust’s Carbon Reduction Label on its mailing and packaging solutions made from DuPont Tyvek. The products awarded with the Carbon Reduction Label are mailing solutions manufactured from DuPont’s Tyvek material. The label applies to all Tyvek mailing and packaging products produced by Bong Security Solutions in Luxembourg, a subsidiary of Bong. They were the first European mailing products to ever achieve Carbon Trust product carbon footprint certification in June 2010, and are marketed exclusively by Bong throughout Western Europe, Poland and Russia. “The information on the label continues to provide our customers with reliable and independently verified data which they can use to make decisions about the benefits of choosing Tyvek mailing solutions,” said Bill Callcut, European Product and Marking Manager, Bong Security Solutions. “The label has also proven to be an effective and valuable incentive for us to further reduce the carbon footprint of our warehousing and distribution process. We want mailing solutions made of Tyvek to be the first-choice material for European businesses that want a robust mailing product with strong green credentials.”

Nectere greens head office Birmingham, UK

UK dealer services group nectere has made major improvements towards reducing its carbon footprint. An entire roof of solar photovoltaic panels has been put in place at nectere House in Birmingham, and the group is predicting that it will reduce its carbon emissions by well over a tonne per year. “It is very exciting to be able to get this project finished,” said Managing Director Paul Musgrove. “We are really dedicated to protecting the environment and it’s a massive step into becoming a carbon neutral company.”

Depot recognises green purchasers Boca Raton (FL), USA

Office Depot awarded 28 of its contract customers for their commitment to purchasing greener products during its Leadership in Greener Purchasing Summit at the beginning of August. Depot’s


OPI Magazine | September 2013

Business Solutions Division SVP Steve Calkins and Senior Director of Environmental Strategy Yalmaz Siddiqui presented the awards to the winners. 17,000 customers were evaluated on their purchasing habits, and Leadership in Greener Purchasing awards were handed out to 28 firms that proactively seek out products with environmental attributes and eco-labels. The summit took place just a few days after Depot was revealed as one of the Yalmaz Siddiqui founding members

of the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC), a new non-profit group dedicated to helping organisations optimise their purchasing for maximum benefit to themselves, society and the planet. The biggest obstacle to sustainable institutional purchasing, according to the group, is a lack of standardisation in how sustainable purchasing is defined, guided, measured and rewarded. “As a founding member, we believe the council will help unleash the power of institutional buying to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainability,” said Depot’s Siddiqui, who is also co-chair of the SPLC steering committee.

News n Facilities focus

SP Richards revamps TC acquires Genuine Joe security firm Atlanta (GA), USA

Tadworth, UK

US wholesaler SP Richards has given its own brand of cleaning, breakroom, facilities and safety supplies a redesign. The “modern and simplified” branding will appear on all Genuine Joe product packaging from now on, and the range has been expanded to comprise more than 350 products. Chris Whiting, Category VP for Cleaning and Breakroom Supplies, said: “The Genuine Joe brand has experienced phenomenal growth since its initial launch in 2005 and it has helped dealers establish a foothold in this vitally important product category. “The fresh, clean look of this See Whiting talking about the rebranding effort importance of the was based heavily jan/san category on our customers’ in an OPI video on input. We’re excited to roll out the new branding campaign and anticipate an even greater level of growth in the months ahead.”

Integrated services provider TC Facilities Management has acquired London-based security business Equinox Security Management. TC said the acquisition was a

Grainger reports solid quarter Chicago (IL), USA

MRO reseller Grainger saw Q2 sales increase by 7% on a local currency basis to $2.38 billion, while operating profit jumped by 11% to $350 million. Below is a summary of Grainger’s second quarter results on a regional basis. USA • Sales: $1.89 billion (+7%): 4% from volume, 2% from price and 1% from acquisitions • Operating profit: $339 million (+9%) Canada • Sales: $289 million (+5%) • Operating profit: $37 million (+11%) Other (Asia, Europe and Latin America) • Sales: $261 million (+17%) • Operating profit: $13 million (+15% as reported) • Strong revenue growth was reported in Mexico and in Japan, while earnings improved in both Japan and Europe.


OPI Magazine | September 2013

key element of its expansion programme aimed at providing integrated facilities management services across the UK. In addition to cleaning services, TC – which employs around 6,000 staff and has annual sales of £66 million ($102 million) – covers catering, ground maintenance, pest control, security, washroom and waste management.

ISSA reports success with green product tool Lincolnwood (IL), USA

A green product initiative in the facilities management sector in the US is gaining traction. Cleaning industry trade association ISSA has said that more than 1,200 active users – including purchasing professionals, facility managers and building service contractors – are already using its new online purchasing resource called Transpare. ISSA has developed Transpare in partnership with US technical analysis company Ecoform. The tool uses uniform metrics which can be sorted according to those criteria most important to the customer, and ISSA says that it helps to combat greenwashing. “We are very pleased with the purchaser response to this new tool in such a short time,” said ISSA Executive Director John Garfinkel. “It reinforces ISSA’s belief that providing decision-makers with the right information can actually increase their appreciation of how cleaning can help them achieve their overall organisational goals.”

News n Facilities focus

United’s Fresh approach Deerfield (IL), USA

United Stationers has revamped its cleaning and breakroom offering to its independent reseller customers. Known internally as ‘Fresh’, United’s cleaning and breakroom programme has undergone a number of enhancements as the wholesaler looks to re-inject a stronger level of growth into the category, both for its resellers and for itself. The double-digit growth United was seeing in its janitorial and breakroom category has slowed over recent quarters as its larger national resellers move to a greater level of direct purchasing. The main components to the refreshed programme are: • an extension to the number of SKUs available on a next-day, wrap and label basis • more bulk delivery options for stocking resellers that will enable more competitive pricing • simplifying the order and invoice process for OP and cleaning and breakroom combination orders • a greater level of dealer training • demand generation marketing

“Many of our resellers participate in jan/san, but surprisingly there are quite a few that don’t,” Todd Shelton, President of United’s CFO, told OPI. “We think it will be a major part of the portfolio going forward for OP resellers… and we are using Fresh to help focus our selling teams on working with resellers to be even more successful in this space.” In United’s most recent quarterly results, janitorial/ breakroom grew by 2.6% and is now the wholesaler’s second largest category behind technology and ahead of traditional office products. However, breakroom still represents a relatively small proportion of these sales, and United believes that products such as beverages and snacks are a natural extension for its independent resellers.

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Few thought it would ever happen, but the historic combined Independent Stationers and TriMega trade show – EPIC 2013 – takes place in San Antonio, Texas this month. The tagline for the event is ‘Where BIG Happens’ and there are certainly big expectations for this mega independent reseller show. Hundreds of dealers from both groups will be there for a packed two days that include a trade show, seminars, roundtables and group-specific meetings. Don’t forget to check on between 18-20 September for news updates from the show and read a review of EPIC 2013 in the October issue of OPI. Mike Gentile, CEO Independent Stationers “We are in the midst of an industry sea-change. The big box retailers are desperately consolidating and struggling for relevancy while the independents are gaining share. We will have 500+ progressive dealers in attendance. On top of the fact that it’s a most provocative event with the two largest global dealer groups meeting together, it is a great opportunity for all attendees – suppliers, service providers, wholesalers and independent dealers from both dealer organisations – to take a huge step forward in cooperatively working towards mutual goals which will ultimately strengthen the independent dealer channel. “Plus, we have a live bison attending. What could be BIGGER than that?!”

$64.8 billion Total US e-commerce sales in the second quarter, according to estimates from the US Commerce Department – an increase of over 18% versus 2012


Amount raised at ACCO’s golf day on 5 August in support of City of Hope

350 million

Number of ink and toner cartridges recycled since 2005 through Staples’ cartridge recycling programme

News ■ And finally...


TWEET CHAT follow us on Twitter @OPInews, @andy_opi, @discofficeitems Get a $20 @amazon gift card when you purchase a desk organizer! Giving away a competitor’s gift card? Totally crazy! @officedepot We know it’s hard to choose, but which #OneDirection product do you HAVE to get for #bk2school? @TriMegaOrg Calling all women! Office Products Women in Leadership (OPWIL) just announced they’re going to have a booth at EPIC 2013! @Trevor_Holt It costs £148K to bring up a child to age 18... we can at least help you save on the stationery for school :) @SpicersCEO Remember, no-one owes you a living, nobody has to take responsibilities for your failings. Take responsibility and do something about it. @3MInnovation Innovation is risky, variable, full of errors & failures that may ultimately lead to new successes.

SNAP SHOT poll results Do you think we will see more frequent examples of wholesalers bailing out financially-challenged dealers?

Yes No 67% 33%

A Los Angeles street artist known as ‘Plastic Jesus’ played a prank on consumer electronics retailer Best Buy in August by secretly placing a fake tech product on the shelves at five stores. The ‘Useless Plasticbox 1.2’ came with a lookalike Best Buy info sheet and was placed next to other tech products. The info sheet read: “Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of use.” The artist was having a dig at the need of consumers to always have the latest tech accessories.

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Big Interview | Thomas Veit

A tale of


From a small-scale distributor of IT accessories to a growing European broadline OP wholesaler – Germany’s soft-carrier has come a long way indeed


started out as an idea in a student flat in Germany became, for a while, a very new, innovative and hugely successful business model, particularly so in the then still very traditional German market. But soft-carrier and its owner/CEO Thomas Veit have had to constantly evolve and reinvent themselves in order to survive and – better even – thrive in a sector that has seen many global competitors staking a claim. Most importantly, however, its original raison d’être – the distribution of IT and computer-related products – has changed so dramatically through price erosion and technological advances that Veit has had no choice but to change tack and make soft-carrier the broadline, service-orientated OP wholesaler that it is today. But times are tough, he admits in a frank interview with OPI’s Heike Dieckmann… OPI: Before we start with soft-carrier’s business performance, revenues, product spread etc, can you just take me through the company structure? TV: Sure. I own the business and it operates under Luxemburg law as a limited company, so soft-carrier SA is the parent company of all the subsidiaries. These include businesses in Germany, France, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Austria. The largest and most active of them is soft-carrier here in Trierweiler, Germany, where our logistics centre is located. That said, all our administrative functions are carried out in Luxembourg. OPI: Why Luxembourg? TV: Well, it’s very close to Trierweiler, only about 30km away. And Luxembourg


OPI Magazine | September 2013

soft-carrier | Big Interview offers great advantages for employees – taxes and social security contributions are much lower and the state of Luxembourg also contributes to these social security payments; that’s quite different from many other countries. So there are several advantages and many people in the border area here in Germany simply prefer to work in Luxembourg. That’s why we looked at a business model that would accommodate this peculiar situation. Soft-carrier itself also enjoyed a one-off tax bonus at the time of company set-up. So basically, all employees working in Luxembourg – that’s about 30 people – fall under that country’s employment law, and that includes everyone working in sales, marketing, purchasing and accountancy, for example. They all live in Germany and commute on a daily basis. All the employees here in our logistics centre, meanwhile, are employed and paid according to German law. OPI: How many staff do you have in total? TV: We are a very lean organisation and have a total of 120 staff. So 30 of those are in Luxembourg, six in France, one in Switzerland and the rest here in Trierweiler.

Softcarrier fact box Founded: 1986 Owner/CEO: Thomas Veit Revenues: €65 million ($86 million) Staff: 120 Coverage: Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg Business model: Wholesale distribution

OPI: Are these numbers representative of the size of your various markets? TV: Sort of, with the exception of Luxembourg which is a very small country so that would only be about 1% of overall revenues. I mentioned Austria as a subsidiary earlier, but that’s basically just a post box. We then have a partner in Switzerland and that was actually our first foray outside Germany. Switzerland now accounts for about 5% of our total revenues and considering that’s all done by one person in the field, we are very happy with that. The French joined us in 2006 when we set up a joint venture with Papeterie de l’Est, a

from your German logistics centre, aren’t they? TV: Yes, they are. We can service Switzerland within 24 hours and also most of France. Some areas take 48 hours, but that’s never been a problem. OPI: I’ll get back to country specifics in a moment, but for now can you tell me a bit more about your current turnover and how that’s developing? TV: Our revenues are about €65 million ($86 million) and they really haven’t changed much in the last few years. We now have a lot more products – over 50,000 in total – and also some very different products from when we started, but, generally speaking, their individual value is a lot lower. Especially when it comes to IT products, prices have fallen so dramatically that you almost can’t compare them anymore. Products like switches, which 15 years ago cost DM500 each, don’t cost more than €25 today – and they are technically much more advanced. In some categories, prices have dropped as much as 90%.

Colmar-based – again very near the German border – wholesaler of office supplies. It’s interesting that Germany is without a doubt our strongest market, but it’s in France where we’re seeing the biggest growth and that is also very atypical for the market. So France is currently about 20% of total revenue, but I can see that growing to 30-35% over time.

OPI: That’s phenomenal. What did you do when that started to happen? TV: We had no choice – we had to move into new products areas and acquire new customers. Sales in our IT supplies range have been decreasing rapidly, for example, but we’ve been able to completely offset this extreme drop with office supplies. In fact, OP has become a considerably stronger category for us than everything to do with computers and IT; it’s about 60% of the whole business now. The whole IT category accounts for about 30% and that includes anything from Apple accessories over network cables, connectors and switches to consumables. We don’t sell hardware or components. The remaining 10% come from our creative and school ranges, including presents, greeting cards, wrapping paper, etc, and a ‘miscellaneous’ category that comprises largely facilities management (FM) products. These two segments are worth 5% each.

OPI: In terms of deliveries, all your orders outside Germany are fulfilled

OPI: Everybody’s talking about FM at the moment. Is that a new category for you

“Germany is our strongest market, but it’s in France where we’re seeing the biggest growth”

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Big Interview | Thomas Veit and have you introduced it as a result of customer demand? TV: I can honestly say that I have never experienced customers driving serious

OPI: You also have something like a ‘brand shop’, haven’t you? TV: Yes, we do. We’ve been offering our dealer partners access to this online shop/

“The market is shrinking, revenues are under threat and everybody’s looking for products that can offset and compensate for this shortfall” product range expansions. They don’t say to us that we should include hospitality products, toiletries or whatever it may be. Basically, we throw something into the ring and see how customers react to it. But to answer your question, we’ve been selling FM for about five years now. The reason everyone’s talking about it now is because we are all losing our traditional revenue sources; for us it’s IT supplies, for many of our competitors it’s office supplies. The market is shrinking, revenues are under threat and everyone’s looking for products that can offset and compensate for this shortfall. And in the age of the one-stop-shop, customers like to get everything from one place, especially c-category items. OPI: How do the margins in these ‘new’ categories compare? TV: To be quite frank, they are rubbish everywhere. As a distributor/wholesaler, you can optimise your margins much more with accessories than with, say, hardware or components. That said, with printing accessories, you absolutely can’t. Office supplies have slightly better margins than most IT-related products unless it’s certain accessories, but as a general rule we haven’t found that any of our relatively new categories – creative and FM for example, have helped us improve our margins. OPI: Soft-carrier doesn’t have an own brand and never has, is that right? TV: That’s correct and we will keep it that way. All the other OP wholesalers have been trying to establish themselves in this area, with 5 Star, Q-Connect and so on, with varying degrees of success. Soft-carrier made the very conscious decision to only distribute branded goods and that clearly differentiates us from our competitors. It also really helps with our relationships with vendors. When our competitors sell 30-35% of own brand goods, it’s very attractive for vendors to be working with a partner that deals with branded goods only.


OPI Magazine | September 2013

catalogue of branded office supplies since 2006. It’s very well used, with over 4,000 dealers signed up at the moment. Basically, they have to spend €1,000 a month in the shop to get a 10% rebate at the end of that month. There’s also a similar concept for technology products where dealers get a 5% rebate at the end of the calendar year if they order at least €3,000 worth of products. Initiatives like these help both vendors and dealers create brand awareness and loyalty. OPI: You mention independents – do they make up your core customer base? TV: Definitely. About 80% of our business comes from traditional independent dealers, often with a small retail presence. The remaining 20% of revenues are generated through web-based operators, some very large ones, some smaller ones.

soft-carrier | Big Interview We increasingly work with companies that think like us and work like us. By that, I mean they believe in and work with modern technology, are IT-led and are often using web-based shops and web platforms. It’s often the larger clients that operate like that, but the traditional ones are also catching up. OPI: Do you work with Amazon? TV: We don’t. Amazon is a very two-edged sword and a difficult concept for independent dealers in Germany. On the one hand, Amazon cannibalises their revenues while on the other hand it’s of course also a path to generate sales. OPI: Let’s move on to your competitors. Presumably they are quite different now to what they were years ago? TV: Yes. When we started out with only computer accessories, the large distributors like Ingram Micro and Tech Data didn’t exist in Germany. That all started with Computer 2000 (now part of Tech Data) and most of the competitors at the time were small regional or national competitors that then merged with the global businesses. With the much more expanded range we have today, the situation is quite different. ADVEO is probably our biggest competitor now, in France as well as in Germany. In Germany, PBS Deutschland should be added to the list, and of course we also compete with Büroring and Soennenecken, as they both offer distribution facilities. I don’t think ADVEO is much bigger than soft-carrier in Germany anymore, but in France it’s considerably larger. The French market, in wholesale terms, is very consolidated already, much of it due to previous Spicers acquisitions. It’s now completely dominated by ADVEO but I

OPI: Calipage dealers in France are of course linked to ADVEO, so are you losing out on that front? TV: Even Calipage dealers are customers and often we are their secondary supplier, although ADVEO would rather they weren’t. But without doubt, Calipage is a very strong brand in France – quite different than in Germany – partly for reasons of convenience and partly because of a lack of alternatives, and soon there won’t be many independent dealers left that are not tied into such a scheme. But I don’t see that as a threat, rather as an opportunity. Such a strong tendency towards monopolisation always leads – if the state allows it – to the emergence and thriving of alternative independent organisations that have the freedom to establish something new with others and to develop their businesses. We are such an independent. OPI: So going back to the competition, what’s the situation with PBS Deutschland – you don’t hear much from them? TV: I can’t say much about that, except that the situation is very tense there and that, as you say, it’s gone very quiet. But, to be honest, it’s very quiet in the market as a whole, almost for the past year now. Since last autumn, there’s been enormous pressure on the market and we simply don’t know how our various competitors will hold out. OPI: Why since last autumn in particular? TV: I don’t know. It’s as if a button was pressed. All the conversations we’ve been having, especially with OP manufacturers, show that they have suffered enormous setbacks – up to a 20% loss in revenues, and in the area of printer supplies, in some months it’s been up to 30-40%.

“A strong tendency towards monopolisation always leads to the emergence and thriving of alternative independent organisations. We are such an independent” believe this presents real opportunities for an agile operator like soft-carrier. We are independent and we can offer an alternative. We may not be the first call wholesaler for many, but we are often chosen to be the secondary source of supply. It’s a very interesting situation in France, The market is under enormous pressure – much more so than in Germany – and it’s growing very well for us, even in 2013 when we are suffering losses in other markets.

Why this started happening towards the end of last year is a mystery to me, especially in Germany, where the market is in a better state than in many other countries. It’s affecting the whole industry – manufacturers, competitors, resellers; I don’t know if it’s due to the growing paperless office, the conservation of resources or even the saturation and overstocking by end-users. In the technology category, it’s even worse – negative growth wherever you look. The w w | OPI Magazine


Big Interview | Thomas Veit PC market in Germany shrunk by more than 20% in the first few months of 2013. The only products that are doing well are tablets and smartphones. So much is being replaced by digital and virtual products now. I see it happening in my own company. We’re working on virtual desks, with virtual servers. We are still printing things like delivery notices, but even that is being scaled down substantially. Employees almost have to justify themselves nowadays if they print something. OPI: On this note, I read that you haven’t had any printed catalogues since 2007. Is that because of environmental concerns? TV: Let me put it like this: first and foremost, I’m an economist, but within that context I take environmental concerns very seriously. For example, if I can use a cardboard box from an order arrival again at order despatch, it’s firstly beneficial from a financial perspective. We don’t waste any material, we reuse wherever we can and all that obviously has an enormous impact on the environment, but my starting point is always whether it makes economic sense. OPI: Going back to the struggles in the German market, you said earlier that revenues at soft-carrier have been fairly stable, so is this depressing situation not affecting you? TV: Revenues are stable, correct, but what we are finding is that we have to work much harder for those revenues. We’re picking more positions, we’re sending out more orders and parcels. The trend is definitely that order sizes are getting smaller. Our customers are also demanding a lot more in terms of fulfilment services. We deliver, for example, much more directly to the end-consumer now, on behalf of the dealers. This trend has developed enormously over the years, and since 2009 it’s certainly doubled. Many dealers see soft-carrier as their warehouse, a place where they can source their goods within 24 or 48 hours. They have a lot less capital tied up in logistics which they can invest back into their shop or B2B business. For web-based clients, it’s often the case anyway that they don’t have a warehouse, but even for the more traditional dealers, using us as their warehouse eases the pressure on cash flow. OPI: Soennecken’s Dr Erdmann said last year that German dealers love their warehouses and are often reluctant to rely on just the wholesalers.


OPI Magazine | September 2013

“I’m an economist, but within that context I take environmental concerns very seriously”

TV: That’s quite possibly the case for Soennecken members, often quite large dealers with very specific company structures. We definitely see the stockless model as a hugely growing trend. OPI: What’s your opinion of the cooperatives – Soennecken, Büroring and all the various smaller and often associated groups? TV: First and foremost it’s competition and those with a logistics operation often face the same pressures as we do. I wouldn’t like to judge whether cooperatives still have a role today and whether they are still necessary. In Germany certainly, companies that sign up

How it all began… OPI: How did soft-carrier start up? TV: It all began in my student flat in Trier in the south-west of Germany in 1986. At first there were three of us, but I was always the initiator, the entrepreneur in the driving seat, so to speak. Now it’s just me; I own the company 100%. OPI: What were you actually studying – did it have anything to do with logistics or indeed IT? TV: No, not at all. I studied business economics, but before that, I did the typical German thing – an apprenticeship. This meant I worked in a bank for three years where I learned about finance and economics. The idea for soft-carrier came during my time at university. In the 1980s, PCs were being developed and started to become ever more important, and the question was simple: what do you do after university if you want to be independent and not be employed by anybody? The three of us read a lot, travelled a lot – particularly in the US – and we came to the conclusion that the idea of computer supplies and accessories had real potential. At that time, it was seen as insignificant, but we thought that the whole concept of computerisation would establish itself really quickly, that computers would be accessible to everyone and that new business opportunities would arise from it. But we weren’t IT specialists and we didn’t know much about logistics. We basically came at it from an entrepreneurial point of view and simply saw lots of opportunities in computer accessories. OPI: What kind of range did you have at the beginning? TV: When we started, we had maybe 200 to 300 data storage devices and accessories in stock. Now we have over 50,000 SKUs. OPI: Who were your customers? TV: We sold to resellers as a matter of principle. We were criticised for that at the beginning and told that we should deal directly with the end-users. We did that for a bit, but only half-heartedly and essentially have always been a trade-only wholesaler.

soft-carrier | Big Interview

“This ‘pack mentality’ [of groups and alliances] is fundamentally very alien to me”

to these cooperatives and groups are often very very loyal and longstanding members. It surprises me sometimes that these members don’t more often look for alternatives away from their chosen group. I can’t really comment on the potential benefits of all the various groups and alliances, as this ‘pack mentality’ is fundamentally very alien to me. I don’t doubt that it makes sense for a small business to join an organisation which, by virtue of its size, has a different kind of purchasing power and can be more involved in the ‘bigger picture’, but often any entrepreneurial spirit and flexibility is somewhat left behind. OPI: From a wholesale point of view then, I assume that the Interaction alliance doesn’t hold any appeal for you? TV: That’s correct. It doesn’t suit my thinking or my way of working, probably because I am a loner after all. At soft-carrier, we have our own ideas and we’re doing pretty well in the markets where we compete. OPI: There were hundreds of wholesalers in Germany not so many years ago, many more than in most other countries (see also ‘Hot Topic’ on page 40). What’s the situation like today? TV: There are still an awful lot, many organised in various umbrella organisations like Egropa and InterES. The top companies are generating sales of around €20 million, the smaller ones are moving in the €2-€5 million range. These are all regional operators and many of them have shifted their areas of expertise to focus on specific categories, like packaging material or tobacco products, with office supplies or even just stationery as a little sideline. OPI: So what sets soft-carrier apart from the competition? TV: Much has to do with the relationship we have with the client. We don’t make a big fuss when we recruit and accept new customers. When we receive an enquiry, the potential customer doesn’t notice that they’re being credit-checked, for example. And if we consider that this customer is a potentially good customer for us, then they’ll have their goods the next day. We’re extremely unproblematic and we’re also very quick.

And of course we have an enormously broad range of goods in stock. Our competitors have maybe 12,000 items and the trend is downwards. We offer 50,000+, and that means choice. OPI: Do you have any expansion plans? TV: Well, we didn’t go to France looking for acquisitions, it was the other way around, so this is perhaps how I imagine the future. Unless you’re taking on a struggling company, there’s not really much happening at the moment: Spain, Italy, Greece, even the Netherlands all have their problems. And in Central and Eastern Europe, for example, where we’ve certainly kept an eye on what’s going on, contacts we’ve made haven’t been solid enough. So we’ll see – we are not averse to the idea, but we are also not desperate. OPI: What does the future look like, for soft-carrier and the industry at large? TV: Soft-carrier will continue to focus on its logistics activities, that’s our core function. We’re also working on a fairer pricing proposition for our customers, one that reflects size of order and number of picks within that order much more accurately and, as I said, fairly. The delivery of services mustn’t be undervalued either. For us, this includes a focus on social media and other web-related products and services. OPI: What’s your opinion on managed print services (MPS), a popular service extension currently? TV: We looked into this subject and we couldn’t see how we can find an interesting approach to it as distributors. Moreover, I very much view the whole MPS trend as a last ditch attempt to secure business in product categories that are in steep decline – it’s just a transitional model before printing dies out. We’ve been massively affected by this; our toner and ink sales have been declining by anything up to 20% every year for the past five years. We realise what is happening and we’ve adjusted to it. We all have to adjust to changing markets and to changing customer demands. The digitisation of products will play a big role in that. We have to come to terms with the fact that in the next few decades we’ll have fewer resources and we’ll move far fewer products. The pressure to consolidate or pull out of the market altogether will be considerable. But I think soft-carrier is well placed for the challenges ahead. w w | OPI Magazine


Sponsored Article | Bi-silque

The world in its sights

From its humble Portuguese origins, Bi-silque has become a global category leader with the knowledge, tools and passion to help resellers grow

Ten “We are transitioning the company … into a global enterprise”

André Vasconcelos


or so years ago, you might have said: “Bi-silque; what is that and how do you pronounce it?” But times have changed. What started as a family business – and remains so today – has evolved into a global leader in the world of display and presentation products, selling into 60 countries across the globe. The business is on a strong growth path, and has its eyes firmly set on helping resellers to extend into new categories that augment declining traditional product ranges. VP Americas Beth Wright concisely outlines the company’s strategy: “We’ve transitioned the company to take a holistic view that helps resellers with category management in order to achieve growth. We seek to understand our customers’ objectives, whether it’s private label or with one of our brands, and help them to get there. We focus on helping our customers grow the category, not just change suppliers.” This bold ambition stems from those humble origins. The Vasconcelos family founded the business in 1979, and André

OPI Magazine | September 2013

Vasconcelos, the second generation, is CEO today. He says: “We are transitioning the company from a family business into a global enterprise and are adjusting our internal strategies, focusing on talent retention and investments for our future.” The fact that all products are still developed and manufactured in Portugal is a key differentiator for Bi-silque. This principle enables ultimate flexibility, fast lead times and the widest possible range; all backed with absolute quality assurance. Over the years the production facility has expanded significantly, with investment in state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment to keep Bi-silque ahead of the field. Graeme Gladwinfield, Marketing Director, says: “We’ve made substantial investments in lean manufacturing and innovative production aids that draw out our overall costs and allow us to maintain our competitive advantage. We are unbeaten in the volumes we can produce,

Bi-silque | Sponsored Article

covering the entire range from low-cost entry-level products to high-end interactive boards, all manufactured at our site in Portugal.” The business extended its reach to other countries, and made the crucial move to enter North America six years ago with its MasterVision brand. As Wright says: “There was a hole in the marketplace for a global supplier that manufactured products ranging from entry-level items all the way to interactive boards. Global customers

approached André and asked why he wasn’t operating in North America, so in 2007 he decided to enter the market. We started with a team of two, we now have a team of 16 and are looking to double our business again this year.” Bjarne Mindested, SVP and Chief Commercial Officer, highlights the international potential: “Bi-silque has a great deal of international success supplying over 60 countries, however it still has lots of room for growth, through geographical expansion and category development. We have a strong commitment to European growth but are increasing our focus on the USA, Eastern Europe and South America. In order to expand our reach to dealers we are developing a new distribution strategy to enable localised ‘drop-ship’ deliveries with a market leading service. Bi-silque is also developing innovative technology led solutions that will provide a huge opportunity for dealers as the world of presentation and display becomes digitised.

“Bi-silque is also developing innovative technology led solutions”

Case study: WB Mason WB Mason’s VP of Marketing Dan Orr and Director of Marketing Lindsay DiRuzza shed light on the mega-dealer’s relationship with Bi-silque and the MasterVision brand Why did you decide to work with Bi-silque? Lindsay DiRuzza: As we reviewed the visual communication category, we were looking for a supplier that provided innovation and category management. The category had been stale for the past few years and we didn’t really have a strong interactive board partner to work with. Once we saw Bi-silque’s exciting interactive board product and introduction into personal boards, we realised that their MasterVision technology and brand was unique and the price point was right. One of the things we immediately liked about Bi-silque was that the team is totally passionate about the product. Our salespeople can feel that passion and that’s so important when you’re trying to sell something. When Bi-silque came to the table they brought new life to the category. How did you hear about Bi-silque, as the company was quite small in North America when your relationship started?

LD: Beth Wright came to us two or three years ago as a new vendor. We initially put a couple of dry erase boards in our range here and there, and as I got to know Beth we started to work more closely together understanding how WB Mason could position the MasterVision brand to grow our overall category. Beth and her team were charged with growing the business in the US and she felt that we’d be a good partner to fuel that, particularly in the North East. We are pleased with the results so far! How do you receive Bi-silque products? Dan Orr: We purchase most of the Bi-silque MasterVision line through United Stationers, which is also a strategic partner of Bi-silque. The team is flexible and adapts to the speed of WB Mason! Does Bi-silque help you with product promotions at all? LD: This year we’ve worked with Bi-silque for our catalogue page layout and section flow. We decided that we’d lead with interactive boards and more expensive products, and then feature the commodity boards in order to breathe new life into the category. Bi-silque laid out how they wanted their boards to look on the page, and they

did a really great job. The images look excellent, and they have really good content. Do you use Bi-silque’s green range? DO: Yes we do. Especially in the board category, the consumer shopping experience becomes challenging when we feature products with the same specifications from several different vendors. When we merchandised earlier this year, we considered the unique factors of the MasterVision products that set them apart from other vendors, and ‘green’ was certainly one of those factors. So will you continue to work with Bi-silque? LD: Absolutely! DO: We see it as one of the top emerging suppliers in our industry. WB Mason likes to get on board early with innovators like Bi-silque so that we maintain market leadership and provide the best possible assortment to our customers.

w w | OPI Magazine


Sponsored Article | Bi-silque So the company isn’t shy of ambition. Bi-silque has significant plans to substantially increase its market share, and is investing heavily in R&D, production facilities, pre- and post-sales support, human resources and marketing. As Wright says: “We have entrepreneurial spirit and punch above our weight, and we’re making significant inroads into our competitors’ market share.”

Space to grow One of Bi-silque’s key growth enablers over recent years has been interactive board technology. In offices all over the world, tools such as whiteboards, flat panel displays and projectors are changing the way people work. By 2018 it is forecast that the annual unit volume of interactive solutions could reach 1.2 million and, importantly, the volume in the corporate sector will increase to 30%. This equates to a $630 million business, supplemented by vast opportunities for new and replacement products. The OP industry has always sold technology products including printers, copiers, computers and projection solutions, and Bi-silque has slowly but surely proven

like materials or visual design, but the biggest innovation for Bi-silque has been the use of interactive technologies. We have innovated in all elements of the category from aesthetics, performance, technology and materials.” Bi-silque’s approach to innovation contributes to its position as a global market leader. The company was recently awarded the prestigious Portuguese certification NP4457 for innovation. This involved a four-day intense audit, which looked at the entire business, from processes and people to marketing and product development. “I was amazed how detailed the audit was,” said Gladwinfield. “Investigations questioned areas such as: ‘How do you capture ideas throughout the organisation, from partners, suppliers and customers? How are those ideas pooled together? How do you decide what to do next?’ The certification certainly highlighted how we are ahead of the game in capturing ideas from different sources and delivering them into the marketplace.” The Bi-silque R&D team is constantly engaged in projects within the categories of writing, displaying and planning, and looking at ways to digitise these traditional solutions

“The certification highlighted how we are ahead of the game in capturing ideas from different sources and delivering them” that the interactive solution is no harder to sell. In fact, it should be a crucial focus as customers look for solutions for the ‘office of the future’, which will be very different to that of today. The manufacturer has brought the technology to the industry through its focus on innovation; conferences, training sessions and meetings will always need ‘front of room’ presentation aids, but these are changing from traditional easels and whiteboards to interactive collaborative solutions. Marketing Director Graeme Gladwinfield says: “For many manufacturers innovation in presentation products has been down to elements


OPI Magazine | September 2013

and to use new innovative materials. A new product that’s just hit the market is an interactive table (pictured below), an extremely tactile product that will open up many new markets for resellers. While an interactive board may be used predominantly in offices and education, for example, interactive tables can be used for training, games or information points in any number of channels and verticals. The world is hungry for technologically advanced products such as this.

“By 2018 interactive solutions in corporate sector will reach $630 million!”

Bi-silque: the facts •

• • • • •

• •

A holistic view As OP resellers’ product ranges have evolved, the way the channel buys, sells and communicates is also changing at

The world’s leading specialist manufacturer of presentation and display products Founded in 1979 by the Vasconcelos family, and still family owned HQ in Portugal, with a factory site of eight acres 500 employees Sales to more than 60 countries across five continents More than 2,500 SKUs All products manufactured in Portugal, all produced and shipped within ten days of order Up to 40,000 boards produced each day 50% of sales are Bi-silque brands, including BiOffice, Earth-it and MasterVision 50% of sales are private label for the world’s leading resellers

Bi-silque | Sponsored Article Bi-silque’s green ambitions A crucial element of Bi-silque’s innovation strategy is its environmental considerations, and the company has set pretty high goals for itself. By innovating to use new eco materials and production techniques, the vendor is creating ranges that help to set it further above its competitors. “Our green vertical strategy is certainly one place where we’re innovative,” says Gladwinfield. “For example, Bi-silque was the first manufacturer of eco-friendly notice boards. We were then the first company to extend this green offering to easels and mobile whiteboards. This had been overlooked by our competitors that, even though they have a green strategy, thought it was too complicated, but it is all down to material choice and technology.” Bi-silque’s green policy covers everything, from product design and development to sourcing and manufacturing, both in terms of making current processes more eco-friendly, and embracing new sustainable manufacturing techniques. “For example,” says Gladwinfield, “we have virtually eliminated the use of solvents across the whole site, such as the superglues usually used by many board manufacturers. Instead we use a mechanical jointing technique. We’re the only company that makes green ranges out of recycled raw materials, so we’re being innovative in material choice. “Another aspect of our holistic green strategy surrounds the use of energy; we process all our combustible waste on site, most of which we incinerate to feed the heat treatment of pallets and to dry our timber frame products (see photo below). We also utilise the steam generated to heat all the plate presses within the factory and this energy generation equates to 750,000 kWh a year, or the energy used by a small town. The rest of our waste is re-entered into our production process as raw material, or the final, smaller percentage that can’t be reused is made into briquettes. We’re not quite zero landfill, but I would love us to get to that point soon.”

“The world is hungry for technologically advanced products”

a dramatic rate. As the industry approaches the inevitable end of the catalogue era, innovation in marketing is as crucial as in product development. Bi-silque is aware that this change will occur at different rates in different regions and markets, so is still investing in traditional collateral such as images and catalogues, but this is now being complemented with a substantial investment in online, enriched material. QR codes are being rolled out to enable mobile devices to connect to sales and support material and creative videos are being produced to engage and attract the younger, more online-savvy, customer. However, Bi-silque’s biggest development is in the area of augmented reality marketing. Augmented reality will enable life-like 3D representations of products to be seen in front of customers’ own eyes, using tablet and smartphone technology. Customers will be able to visualise the product in place,

change its colour configuration and see it in their own environment – then simply buy it. Bi-silque will be launching this technology in 2014. “We’re investing in marketing tools for all our channel partners,” says Gladwinfield. “We are investing heavily in website development to make sure that it is user-friendly from a dealer’s point of view, and we’re adding dealer-specific tools such as user portals. For example, dealers in the UK can now log on to our site and find the depth of information about our product ranges that they’re after. They can download data for their back office systems, grab high-resolution images to make flyers or even download pre-made flyers. The reason we developed this is that a lot of smaller dealers, and some larger ones, want access to resources quickly, in the way they want to receive them.” This holistic approach to supporting dealers has been helping Bi-silque to make strides in the market (see box on page 37 about the vendor’s work with WB Mason). The company really does see huge potential for resellers around the globe that are looking to sell products in an increasingly-digitalised world, and are willing to move away from the historic core segment into vertical markets. Manufacturing and industrial workplaces, for example, are increasingly using display boards to aid their processes, while Bi-silque has long since had a range dedicated to the education market. Antimicrobial products have been another new area for Bi-silque recently, to find new ways for resellers to approach educational, food or health institutes where there’s a strong demand for these products. “We’re using these as a channel opener,” says Gladwinfield. “Resellers are looking for a hook to take products such as boards into new verticals and we’re taking this even further; while it’s important for a whiteboard to be antimicrobial, the items users touch most are actually the pens and erasers, so we’re ensuring we have a complete package of these products. We offer a full solution.” Seeking these opportunities and helping resellers to make the most of them is the ambition of this forward-thinking company. Investment is being ploughed into increased resources, larger premises and improved customer service in all of Bi-silque’s regions worldwide. As traditional office products are forecast to contract over the next few years, the vendor is ready to enable resellers to reach new and evolving customers. Bi-silque knows that the world in five years will be very different to the world today. w w | OPI Magazine


Hot Topic | Wholesalers

Sparkling and new: Gem OP

There’s plenty going on in the world of OP wholesaling right now. In the UK, all eyes are on new entrant Gem Office Products by Heike Dieckmann


is an interesting place to be at the moment – wherever you look, there’s something going on. ADVEO is talking about further, though not imminent, European expansion; German competitor soft-carrier is moving ever further away from its original stronghold of computer accessories to regain lost revenues (see our Big Interview with Thomas Veit on page 28); United Stationers is ruffling feathers in the US with its rejuvenated trUchoice programme (see more on page 43) while Vasanta has been causing controversy with the acquisition of dealer customer YES2 Solutions. And you can add to this that times are still tough, (consumer) money is tight, the industry as a whole is consolidating and everybody is trying to maximise their offerings and find more and more USPs. And just as OPI hits readers’ desks (or screens for that matter) this month, Gem Office Products in the UK is poised to ship its first office products, going into direct competition with the country’s two broadline OP wholesalers VOW and Spicers.


OPI Magazine | September 2013

But while Gem OP is a brand new kid on the block, umbrella organisation Gem Logistics most definitely isn’t. The company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of DCC, an Irish publicly-listed company worth €13 billion ($17 billion). Within DCC, Gem falls under the DCC SerCom segment, a leading distributor of IT, communications and home entertainment products in Britain, Ireland and France.

Logistics excellence As such, Gem’s competencies as a distributor are not being called into question – the office products division will run out of its large and sophisticated logistics operation in Raunds, Northamptonshire which has plenty of capacity to accommodate the thousands of OP and related SKUs that will move in and out of there. Deliveries to resellers as well as to end-consumers, on behalf of those resellers, will be made by third-party providers – Gem Office Products does not have its own fleet of vehicles. The company has also managed to recruit a team that comprises a core of OP experts, with Colin Learmouth, David Orr, Andy Hirst and Anthony Haworth all familiar names in the industry. The key question here is does the UK need another OP distributor? From the outset, the answer is a resounding “yes”. The number of

OP wholesalers in the UK has been whittled down from over 20 to just two over the past two decades or so, and Haworth, now Gem Office Products’ Commercial Director (formerly Spicers’ Director of European Purchasing), quotes choice as the primary reason for offering an alternative. He says: “Our interest in the OP market was sparked by enquiries and requests for support from vendors and resellers since I moved to Gem [in February 2012]. We conducted an extensive market survey in early 2013 and it quickly became clear that resellers were craving an alternative supplier option. The findings of our survey were overwhelming, with over 70% of those resellers interviewed interested in a new partner.” Everybody OPI spoke to concurred with that market need. Of course,

Wholesalers | Hot Topic it very much depends on what’s on the table in terms of determining whether dealers and vendors are going to actively support a new OP distributor, and run the risk of alienating their existing partners in the process. Adam Noble is Managing Director of Irongate Group, a dealer that is part of the Challenge Consortium and which is currently closely aligned with VOW as its single-source primary wholesaler. He comments: “Yes, as a general comment, I would prefer if there was somebody else because it gives me more options.” But, he asks, “if there was a third wholesaler or distributor that was competing against the two established ones and if they were all of a similar size, wouldn’t it make it more difficult for them to be able to give us the sort of services and the prices that we’re getting today? At the moment, the wholesale channel

the things that both Spicers and VOW offer are significant value-added services with delivery schedules, pick and pack, dispatch, catalogues, marketing support, etc; some of these with the assistance of the buying groups. But we can only offer those services because we receive a basket of orders and that basket allows us to invest margin into those services. “The other thing that’s worth noting is that the industry has got significant overcapacity for the amount of dealers, wholesalers and manufacturers. The wholesale channel, the dealer channel, the contract stationery channel everybody’s struggling to post results. And you only need to look at the number of manufacturer closures and the number of restructures to prove that extra choice is just going to add extra cost.” It’s no surprise that Ball – and

“With Gem Office Products, we can spread our risk and feel a little less vulnerable. And quite frankly, Gem are not making high soft money or indeed pricing demands that are unrealistic” is getting X amount of revenue from the dealer channel. If that revenue is shared between three or maybe even four, then VOW and Spicers would presumably have to look elsewhere, even other markets, to recapture that lost revenue. We need wholesalers to be good at stationery and office supplies so that they can buy well and then pass those prices onto us.” Spicers’ CEO Alan Ball is quick to agree that if there was a third viable competitor, prices would undoubtedly go up. He says: “Two of

undoubtedly Robert Baldrey too who preferred not to comment – are not thrilled about the prospect of another competitor. Both have recently come under criticism for some of their strategic decisions which ostensibly create some conflict of interest, notably Vasanta’s purchase of struggling dealer YES2 Solutions and Spicers’ launch of its B2C website MemoEtc. Both companies have been at pains to explain and justify their decisions and the occasional blurring of lines, but they have nonetheless

Anthony Haworth left a bitter note among the dealer community. Gem Office Products’ promise – and its core differentiating factor, according to Haworth – that it’s strictly trade-only are as such being welcomed. He says: “In our survey, resellers were very vocal about their frustrations and what they wanted from a supply partner – clear and transparent pricing, a non-competing partner, exceptional service and a true partnership approach were all high on their wish lists.”

Manufacturer view Dealer demand aside, absolutely crucial in getting Gem Office Products off to a good start is the right manufacturer support. There’s been a definite reluctance to talk openly about supporting the new competitor in the market, but Haworth – without giving names - is confident that the distributor will start with a broad range of office products and quotes approximately 60 vendors to be part of the initial offering. One of these 60 agreed to speak to OPI but prefers to remain anonymous. The spokesperson says: “One of the key restrictions that we have is that much of our range is

w w | OPI Magazine


Hot Topic | Wholesalers built around the key accounts in the UK. As that would be the two main wholesalers, and they are not broad range stockists, it’s quite restrictive. Also the route to market is a bit restrictive. What we’ve signed up to with Gem Office Products is certainly broader than what we’re currently doing with the contract stationers and probably equal in terms of SKU count with the wholesalers. But in addition to attacking the customers of the two wholesalers, Gem is also heavily involved with the retailers and the mass market operators like Argos and John Lewis, and this is very attractive for manufacturers as they can diversify their distribution base.” Spicers fell foul of many OP vendors at the beginning of last year over pricing issues and a slimming

Gem Office Products fact file Parent: DCC plc, Ireland (€13 billion) Business model: OP distribution Head of Category: Colin Learmouth Logistics: Raunds, Northamptonshire, UK Staff: 30-40

down of its supplier base. The vendor OPI spoke to is not one of those ‘culled’ but it was at risk and like many of its peers, is concerned in this shrinking and consolidating market. The source says: “With Gem Office Products, we can spread our risk and feel a little less vulnerable. And quite frankly, Gem is not making high soft money – or indeed pricing – demands that are unrealistic. It’s a dangerous game if, as a brand manufacturer, you build your strategy around

joining Gem on hold for now. The source says: “We haven’t signed up yet, but that’s not because we have doubts about the viability of a third player; it was essentially a timing issue for us. I just couldn’t see this happening in the timeframe they are talking about. So we’re going to wait to see how the market reacts.” Secondly, he adds, the company is concerned about ramifications from the two other wholesalers: “We’re not a brand leader in the categories we operate in and we’re very mindful

Gem is heavily involved with the retailers and the mass market operators like Argos and John Lewis a particular customer or indeed channel. That said, Spicers and VOW are a large chunk of our revenues, so it’s unthinkable to lose them, but I think what this new competitor does is that it offers choice.” Gem Office Products’ launch date – sometime this quarter – is ambitious, so much so that one manufacturer that is essentially interested has put

of our contractual agreements with Spicers and VOW. Essentially, we couldn’t take the risk at such an early and uncertain stage.”

Ramifications And his concerns are clearly justified, as Ball makes clear: “Obviously we cannot dictate to a supplier if they do or do not supply

trUchoice – the manufacturer’s perspective Having first added a layer to the supply chain, usually between manufacturers and resellers, wholesalers are then permanently tasked to take as much cost out of said supply chain as possible. At the same time, they increasingly offer more and more add-on programmes and services in an effort to boost margins and remain profitable. United Stationers’ trUchoice programme is one of many initiatives that fall under that broad service umbrella and it’s ruffled more than a few feathers. OPI covered initial reaction to the programme, which this summer is getting its first outing in the more generic OP arena but was in fact launched last year and has so far largely focused on office furniture, in the last issue of OPI (see OPI 231, “Too good to be true?”, page 18). The dealer groups aren’t happy and that’s no surprise given the amount of manufacturer rebate dollars at stake and the fact that part of their raison d’être is coming under threat with the programme, but what do the manufacturers think? They are the ones that – in cooperation with go-between United – will have to change their systems in terms of order taking, processing and fulfillment. They are also the ones that might sell a greater range of their products to dealers via United, but might indeed run into issues with the groups in the process. OPI contacted a variety of vendors and asked for their opinion. Notably those in the traditional OP space were most reluctant to talk and perhaps it’s

Steve Schwarz


OPI Magazine | September 2013

a case of early (potential) adopter uncertainty. As United’s VP of Merchandising Steve Schwarz told OPI: “We’re talking to the more traditional manufacturers right now and are making system changes at their end so that when we electronically send them an order, they can identify these orders, label them differently, etc. We have in the pipeline about 10-15 vendors that we’re hoping will come on board with us over the next couple of months.” There was a smattering of manufacturers, however, that are happy to have their views published. There appears little concern from that part of the supply chain with a general “what can we lose?” attitude. Here’s a short selection of feedback comments: “I believe United continues to find ways to help their dealers succeed. The trUchoice programme is another service model that enables dealers to leverage United’s buying power with manufacturers. Bi-silque and our MasterVision brand would participate in activities that help grow our overall business while assisting our customers in being more profitable.” Beth Wright, Vice President Americas, Bi-silque Visual Communication Products

Wholesalers | Hot Topic to another party. However, if Spicers is investing in a broad range of products across a multiple range of SKUs for that manufacturer, then in doing so we would expect to have the best commercial terms and the support in the marketplace to allow us to sell that whole range of products. If that manufacturer wants to then cherry-pick certain lines to an alternative provider at a similar cost then I would say that that does not justify the investment that Spicers is making and we would have to reassess our relationship with that vendor.” One of Gem’s key positives starting out is that it will immediately have considerable scale rather than just scratching the service with a very limited range. It’s also backed by a huge organisation and as such will have deep pockets and support. The number of SKUs frequently bandied about is 8,000, but that is a fairly fluid number according to Haworth. This is considerably less than what Spicers and VOW are offering and perhaps more in line

with a typical contract stationer range. Truline also has a similar range but obviously has the back-up of VOW. A large percentage of that ‘new’ SKU count will be office supplies, with some other categories like facilities management thrown in with more restricted lines. And, as Haworth adds, resellers will also have access to the parent company’s wider product portfolio’s such as Advent Data’s EOS, Micro-P’s mobile solutions, etc. Will that overall range be big enough to tempt dealers away from their first call wholesaler? Unlikely, says Irongate’s Noble: “If I knew I could buy something from Gem Office Products and it was 10% cheaper, I still wouldn’t be able to buy it because my order’s being picked and packed by VOW and delivered. A dealer who is locked in with supply and a range of services from VOW or Spicers can’t suddenly start going out and cherry-picking prices away from those two as that

“As a US manufacturer of office equipment like whiteboards, Ghent’s strengths of make-to-order and drop ship never quite fit the traditional wholesaler model. Therefore, access to our products has been limited. Any programme that enables more access to a wider variety of products may be good for manufacturers.” Janet Collins, President, Ghent Visual Communication Products Group “HP views the trUchoice program as a positive influence in today’s fast-paced, multi-layered distribution structure. The key focus is the benefit this programme offers the independent dealer in terms of supply chain efficiencies and being able to offer critical ‘choice’ in regards to how they receive their goods from the manufacturer. HP is extremely supportive of our channel partnerships and services a very large majority of our global product through these means. It has been our experience that whenever you can provide loyal customers true choice or options in the way they procure/sell your product it is a very good thing for driving business growth.” Sam Richardson, Senior Director of US Wholesale & Distribution, Hewlett Packard As Richardson points out, Schwarz says that trUchoice gives dealers more options and, importantly, does so at a low cost. He gives an example: “We’re currently talking to a paper manufacturer that has the capability of putting out whole pallets of paper but with different kinds of paper on it, including specialty papers for example that United doesn’t stock. That’s business which

would create friction in their relationships.” What’s more likely is that Gem Office Products will be talking to dealers that tend to buy from various sources or be used as a secondary supplier. As Haworth puts it: “We’re not going out targeting dealers with a view to become the market leading wholesaler/distributor overnight. We recognise that we’re new to the market and we need to prove ourselves. But we believe we have a viable service proposition to give to any OP reseller in the market.” Haworth is talking a three-year plan for now – that’s plenty of time to dip your toes in and create some ripples. In the meantime, Spicers and VOW’s venture capitalist owners will be keeping a close eye on what’s going on in the market.

is typically done by a paper broker or merchant, but with trUchoice we can now offer it to a dealer. So we can give dealers a pallet price that is much lower, but you can mix that pallet directly at manufacturer level. It gives dealers a lot more product to pick from than what we stock and in essence, they don’t have to go to a paper merchant anymore.” United’s role here can arguably be described as that of a broker itself as in some instances it won’t even see or touch the product if it gets delivered directly to dealers by the manufacturers. Hence, the dealer groups’ argument that United isn’t fulfilling a wholesale or logistics role in this case certainly appears valid. That said, it’s only a part of the overall equation and relationship. Also, the practice of cross-docking will presumably be much used too, whereby inbound shipment from manufacturers will be cross-docked to United’s fleet for those pallets that are labelled to go to a specific dealer, for example. Says Schwarz: “With trUchoice we can effectively and profitably ship product at a lower price, when the order size is large and we don’t have to put the inventory away, go back and pick it, pack it and deliver it. What we’re offering to our customers is a new level of service at a lower price. And at the end of the day, that’s what our customers want – a lower price.”

w w | OPI Magazine


Sponsored Article | Ninestar

Spreading its wings China consumables and printer manufacturer Ninestar foresees global expansion with new Zhuhai base


impressive global expansion plans of China’s Ninestar have taken another significant step forward with the opening of its new high tech industrial park which will manufacture and promote its Pantum printer and G&G consumables to the global market. Ninestar is aiming to make Pantum one of the top five printer brands worldwide by 2016 and the new base will be at the forefront of achieving this goal. Located in the Nanping Science and Technology Industrial Park in Zhuhai, the new base covers over 250,000 sq m and is large enough to house more than 20,000 workers.


OPI Magazine | September 2013

This expanded workspace allows plenty of room for subsequent staff expansion of Ninestar’s current 6,000 employees of which 1,000 are engineers. The facility will be capable of producing 1.5 million Pantum laser printers within five years with industrial output value exceeding 10 billion Yuan (approx $163 million).

“Ninestar has brought itself to the top level of production..dependent on vision and bravery” Ninestar’s new construction is a statement of intent on the company’s future goals with its ‘bird’s wing’ design motive symbolising the company spreading its wings globally. Ninestar CEO Jackson Wang says: “The completion of the Ninestar High-Tech Industrial Park represents a significant upgrade for our company and will provide

Ninestar | Sponsored Article an enlarged production scale, improved innovation, a new level of sales management, marketing and customer and logistics services. This is a new and exciting era for the company and one that will see us achieve our ambitious goals.” Ninestar is one of the largest suppliers in the global aftermarket and is the number one producer in the chip aftermarket. On top of this, it boasts 200 million users worldwide and currently owns thousands of patents.

Global Strength Furthermore its ability to match the quality of established OEM brands has enabled it to develop and harness strong relationships with powerful resellers such as Staples, Walmart, Carrefour, Office Depot, Spicers and Amazon. The company also has a comprehensive global recycling strategy with its recycling factory in the US. Hongyuan Luo, secretary general of printer committee CCIA, says: “Ninestar has brought itself to the top level of the production chain.

New High-Tech Industrial Park

• 250,000 sq m • 20,000 worker capacity • 30,000 sq m office building • 50,000 sq m dormitory • 10,000 sq m cafeteria and integrated facilities

Mr. Yan Wei

Ninestar Holland is now recognised as a key European after-sales and logistics centre The success of Ninestar has been dependent on vision and bravery, large financial support and operation and it has established a model of success that competitors should follow. ” Ninestar Image Tech Limited General Manager Yan Wei adds: “This new facility cements our status as a true multi-national group and an industry pioneer as a high quality one-stop technology solutions company.”

Ninestar Holland B.V. • • • • •

5,500 sq m 24 hour dispatch 700+ ink items 600+ toner items 100+ ribbon items

has also helped make it the European fulcrum of Ninestar’s global expansion plans. Conveniently located near Rotterdam seaport and Amsterdam airport, Ninestar Holland is able to provide efficient delivery to a variety of customers. While it offers fast and customised delivery, the facility is also an after-sales service centre with a dedicated professional sales team. In addition to Ninestar Holland being an important part of the company’s success, the development of the Industrial Park and Ninestar’s solid and ever-growing reputation as a technology driven solutions provider predicts an increasingly significant future role in the competitive global printer and consumables market. Contact or visit for more information

Holland In addition to global expansion, Ninestar has also announced that its European service centre facility in Holland has upgraded to a full 24-hour logistics service. Ninestar Holland has a reputation built on quality, ease of order and comprehensive product offerings and is now recognised as a key European after-sales and logistics centre. Its position as a one-stop solution for printers and consumables - including chips, components, inkjet, laser and matrix aftermarket products w w | OPI Magazine


Dealer Spotlight | Beatties Basics

Springing from grass roots by Heike Dieckmann


do wallpaper and library books have to do with office products? Very little from the outset, but this is how Beatties Basics started out in the southern Ontario town of St. Catharines over 150 years ago – as a community lending library and wallpaper shop set up by D W Bixby in 1860. Plenty has changed since then, notably the involvement of the Beattie family in 1926 when Lawrence Beattie, grandfather of current owner and President Ted Hoxie, became a partner in the firm. But it was still another 29 years later before what was then known as Beattie Stationery became a typical retail stationery store. The trading name then changed to Beatties Basics in 1998 when Rodger Beattie, Ted’s cousin and company President at the time, decided to raise the profile of the Basics Office Products buying group. Today, Hoxie says, the company is best described as a full service business products provider. Its focus has also changed somewhat, he adds: “During Rodger’s era, we had nine retail stores and 45% of our business was B2B while the majority - 55% - was retail. Today, only 15% is retail and 85% B2B.” Retail now means three stores, the main location being adjacent to the dealer’s HQ and warehouse in St. Catharines. It’s a 20,000 sq ft large-scale outlet that comprises a showroom both for office furniture


OPI Magazine | September 2013

Canada’s Niagara region is better known for cascading waterfalls than for OP firms. Beatties Basics is one of just a few strong independents left in the area that is standing up to mighty rival Staples and business machines. The second largest store at about 10,000 sq ft is located just 20 minutes away, in the town of Niagara Falls, while the third and smallest one (4,500 sq ft) is in a small community across from Buffalo called Fort Erie.

both at retail and B2B level. Business machines have been a part of the its overall offering since 1979 when it bought a small machines dealer, but the focus on the segment has increased considerably since then. Hoxie explains: “Beatties made two acquisitions over the past 12 months – St. Catharines Business Machines Changing market and Océ Canada’s service contracts The Canadian economy arguably in Niagara and Waterloo – which fared better than that of many other both primarily benefit our business countries over the last few years, but machines division and brought about independent dealers in the country, C$1.2 million in service revenue to much like everywhere else, have had to deal with a shrinking market and the company. We’re now a full-service growing digitisation, and adjust their business machines dealer and our business model accordingly. main product lines are Canon, HP, Says Hoxie: “We’ve changed Brother, Samsung and Kyocera. our focus over the past ten We have eight account managers years to become a more that strictly concentrate on that sales and customer-service product line and 17 field driven organisation and technicians, all supported by to expand our product our customer service team.” offering away from the MPS also falls under the traditional OP mix to business machines umbrella everything used in the and Beatties is an authorised office.” HP Managed Print Advanced Beatties Basics has Specialist. It has been actively been fortunate in that selling MPS programmes for it could count on many several years, with all the long-term staff members service functions that this and a solid, longstanding contractual model entails. and community-orientated Indeed, in total 45-50% of reputation in this endeavour. sales in the business machines Out of the various new division can be attributed to directions the company has service-related offers. That Ted Hoxie taken, perhaps the most equates to about C$3-3.5 million successful and certainly the in service dollars alone. fastest growing is the investment That’s still only a small part of in its business machines business, Beatties portfolio. Predominantly

Beatties Basics | Dealer Spotlight operators and stockless dealers – but the one to keep up with and beat is none other than Staples. Part of the reason for this is also that there are simply not many dealers left in the area where Beatties operates. About 25 years ago, there were about eight or nine independents in the Niagara region, now it’s just one or two others because some were bought by Beatties over the course of the years while others simply closed.

Service proposition on the retail front, the company is a technology dealer for Apple, Lenovo and Acer products, mostly with accessories and after-sales technical service rather than low-margin hardware products. The company also supplies furniture with its own showroom, sales specialists, designers and factory-trained installers. Much like most progressive OP resellers, Beatties Basics has expanded its product categories by adding educational supplies, promotional products, legal supplies, printing services and the current favourite – facilities management.

The factor that differentiates Beatties, says Hoxie, is the service proposition and value-add: “We don’t believe in going to customers and giving them a standard package; we try to listen to what their needs are and then develop a custom-tailored package accordingly.” Unlike the multi-nationals, Beatties Basics is very much a regional player and despite moves to extend that reach somewhat, be that through more sales offices or further acquisitions, it will remain regional. That said, Beatties is one of the founding shareholders of Basics Office Products and Hoxie

“The market is changing, new non-traditional competitors are entering the Canadian market and you really need to reinvest back in your company” Within that latter, fast-growing segment, Keurig coffee services in particular have been a big success. All that said, traditional OP is far from dead as a category, says Hoxie: “We are averaging 3-4% growth in OP and, in a shrinking market, all that growth is coming at the expense of the competition.” Asked who the prime competition is, he puts it quite simply: “Staples, Staples and Staples. They’re a very strong organisation in Canada – both in retail and with Staples Advantage – and a tough competitor.” Of course, there’s more to it than that – OfficeMax and the non-traditional competitors including Walmart, Target and Costco all have a role to play, not to mention the slowly but ever advancing threat of Amazon, plus other online

is currently Chairman of the buying group. Membership of the organisation creates more of a level playing field with regards to purchasing power, database management, marketing and vendor relationships. On top of that, servicing far-reaching, even nationwide, customers has also become a reality, but it’s a work in progress, Hoxie admits. A group of progressive dealers has implemented a National Account

Program which Beatties offers national Basics at a coverage with glance competitive Founded: 1860 and consistent Owner/President: pricing. This Ted Hoxie alliance has now Headquarters: St. been going for Catharines, Ontario, about five years Canada and national Staff: 120 sales continue to Model: Three retail grow annually, stores, B2B presence he adds. Dealer group: Basics As alluded to Office Products before, Hoxie Coverage: Southern believes the Ontario, Canada industry is at a Revenues: C$25 crossroads once million ($24 million) again and that to succeed in the future, dealers have to make serious investments – in terms of finance, personnel, training, new non-traditional product lines and technology – in order to remain competitive. He says: “We’re going to see a market correction like we saw ten years ago. The big boxes are already downsizing their store locations and their square footage and we’re not impervious to that; we face the same issues in our local marketplaces. It’s decision time right now. The market is changing, new non-traditional competitors are entering the Canadian market and you really need to reinvest back into your companies, on all fronts. “There are some dealers that have been in business for many years, are comfortable and they don’t want to change. But there are difficult times ahead for those dealers that just rely on traditional OP. Independents have the ability to adapt and change more rapidly than large corporations and the future remains bright for those that are continually adding to their product lines and services to meet the needs of the ever-changing business customers.”

w w | OPI Magazine


Kaut-Bullinger | Show Review


the future

‘Building the future together’ was the theme of Kaut-Bullinger’s recent customer day. PR spin aside, this seems infinitely possible for this driven and progressive, yet still traditional reseller

by Heike Dieckmann


are companies that manage to marry the old with the new, the traditional with the modern. Kaut-Bullinger is one of them and nowhere was this more evident than at its customer day (‘Kundentag’ in German), held at the company’s HQ in Taufkirchen, just outside Munich, on 19 July. The one-day event kicked off with a press conference that, with the exception of OPI, mostly involved the German trade press. And it set the scene for a day packed full of information and insight into the company. The stats were impressive: the ‘Kundentag’ attracted over 700 customers to one of Germany’s largest independent multichannel operators – that’s up from 500 for the previous 2011 event.

Product displays In addition, 80 manufacturers from four different product categories – engineering & imaging, office technology, office furniture and office supplies – displayed their wares to those that ultimately use them and they did so with great

enthusiasm. Originality of display – the words informative, gimmicky and interactive also spring to mind – was clearly important. What was also evident is that the company’s office systems division, the Büro-Systemhaus which incorporates three of these four product segments, is becoming ever more important and is in fact the fastest growing part of the company. Emerging technologies like 3D printing, sophisticated LED lighting concepts and generally-speaking a more solutions and service-orientated approach are a big focus now, said Cordula Adamek, the division’s Managing Director, and have become a definite USP of Kaut-Bullinger. This is particularly important in light of a tough B2B market and a continuously challenging and generally declining retail environment. That said, Kaut-Bullinger’s flagship store in the centre of Munich has been enjoying great success over the past few months following a major renovation project, but its other regional stores have not been faring so well and are performing below expectations, Managing Director of the company’s retail segment, Jürgen Diebold, added. A new feature this year was the standalone so-called Made in Germany exhibition area, where ten exhibitors including edding, Ideal and Sigel showed and explained the benefits of producing locally. In many ways closely linked to the local focus, there was a big emphasis on sustainability, with a specific display area for the company’s

various environmental efforts. The topic also ran like a thread through several of the seven presentations that were part of the overall offer of the day and where customers could learn about subjects ranging from sustainability over e-procurement solutions and 3D printing to document management and MPS.

Logistics planning What was undoubtedly a highlight for many customers were the well-attended tours of Kaut-Bullinger’s logistics operation that ran at various times of the day. They not only showed the intricate details of fulfilling an order but also highlighted one of the biggest challenges the reseller is facing at the moment – capacity. As Group Managing Director Johannes Peter Martin put it, the current warehouse is bursting at the seams and is in desperate need of expansion, especially if more acquisitions are on the agenda (which he added they are). Plans to that effect are underway, with an adjacent field already having been bought, but planning and building permission issues are currently delaying any real headway. Martin is positive, however, that building will hopefully start in 2016, but at the latest in 2017. The intention is that the new warehouse, will eventually house the firm’s entire logistics operation. That’s just one of the big plans on Martin’s agenda, plus of course topping attendance levels and customer satisfaction at the next Kundentag in 2015! w w | OPI Magazine


Sponsored Article | VOW


OPI Magazine | September 2013

VOW | Sponsored Article

w w | OPI Magazine




Round-up Security and data protection

Category Analysis calendar October Mailroom and packaging MRO and safety November Imaging supplies Back-to-school December/ January Office machines Facilities management February Writing instruments Arts and crafts March Managed print services (MPS) Security and data protection April Breakroom supplies Green products May Paper June Core office products Visual communications July/August Health and wellbeing Furniture September Jan/san Marking and stamping

Document and information security vendor Martin Yale reported double-digit declines in the second quarter. Sales for the quarter fell by 16% to $9 million and the firm made an operating loss of $670,000. The company blamed the drop on a reduction in government spending in European countries along with increased competition globally in all major product lines.

Office machines

Shredder manufacturer HSM relaunched its company web portal in July. The site – which is available in seven languages – is designed to be both a resource for HSM’s reseller partners and for end-users. HSM is working with Commerce Connector in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and the UK, and consumers in these countries can link through to approved resellers directly from the HSM site.

m BreakrreoenoMountain

mG US coffee fir t of Q3 impressive se an ed ew by has post gr r te for the quar results. Sales year to 11% year on ite a desp $967 million e ad an a. In th decline in C % 5 8 ts represen US – which e th – s le sa ny’s of the compa as 14%, w growth rate s of Keurig le sa driven by packs. Green single-serve id that it n Mountai sa rms g to grow its e, both in te will be lookin coffee spac e fic ds of e ar th tw n wes share in ical expansio new of geograph h ug ro th d in the US an . products


Manufacturer Double A has made its first export shipment from its Alizay mill in France. Double A acquired the former Metsä Board mill earlier this year and production began in June. Six containers of paper were shipped out of the port of Le Havre at the end of July bound for Dubai. More shipments out of Alizay to other key Double A markets will soon follow, the company said.


Xerox had to move quickly in August to respond to an embarrassing issue with the scanning accuracy of some of its co piers. Certain models wh en used in ‘norm al’ mode were found to be randomly altering numbers in scanned docume nts. The issue wa s caused by compression so ftware used in so me of Xerox’s devices. Th e company said it would be developing a so ftware patch to dis able the highest comp ression setting, thereby eliminatin g the possibility of character subs titution.

w w | OPI Magazine


Jan/san | Category Analysis

Time for

action Jan/san continues to be a category to capitalise on for OP dealers but the time to take advantage has never been more pressing

by Bruce Ackland


a category that has had the mantle of saviour for a few years now, there are still a good many questions around jan/san and whether office supplies resellers are making the most out of the opportunity. Despite the concerted efforts of all interested parties to ensure the traditional office supply chain gets full value from the category, there is still a nagging feeling that the opportunity isn’t being fully grasped with both hands. At SP Richards, cleaning and breakroom supplies have been the wholesaler’s fastest growing category for the past five years

Vendor voice “The office supplies channel has grown significantly for the AF brand, we have seen an increase in this area, and at present we don’t see an end.” Karen Harrison, AF International and it has made significant investments to help accelerate growth and add expertise in the field to drive results. SPR’s Category VP for Cleaning and Breakroom Supplies Chris Whiting certainly doesn’t mince his words in declaring that the category is “absolutely critical to the future of our dealers”. At UK wholesaler VOW it’s a similar story especially as some more traditional categories are on the slide. “We have to focus on new product areas that can help us continue to grow with our existing

customers”, says Facilities Supplies Category Head Debbie Nice. “Jan/san is very important as we know that our dealers’ end users are buying these products already so it’s a natural progression for them and us.” Over in Hungary the top wholesaler is also benefitting from the robust category with Corwell saying it represents “a remarkable part of our turnover”. Corwell follows international trends very closely and identified jan/san as a growth area for the future some years ago. Marketing Director Gabor Pataki says it is still one of its fastest growing areas although he recognises that there are still barriers to capitalising on the category that remain years on. He says: “Minimum order quantities are sometimes too high for an OP wholesaler. Suppliers have to respect that there are two steps to the end-user (wholesaler – reseller) so they should adapt their pricing accordingly. We also have to open the eyes of more and more resellers to realise and understand the big possibilities this category can bring.”


Chris Whiting

Indeed, the engagement of the dealer community is still surprisingly an issue with a category which you’d imagine was a well-worn selling point by now. Of course not all of this is down to lack of interest or w w | OPI Magazine


Jan/san | Category Analysis Training

US dealer Q&A Solace Hummel – Hummel’s Office Plus OPI: How important is jan/san to your business now? Solace Hummel: The jan/san category is of growing importance to our business. With the ongoing decline in office supplies (5-7% annually) as well as the shift in toner business to print management and MPS solutions, jan/san is of critical importance to all of us as independents and could represent up to 30% of our total revenue within 3–5 years. OPI: How are you looking to grow jan/san in the future? SH: Our focus will be on creating a position where a specialist drives key account growth and is also a resource for our outside sales team. We will also look at an acquisition of a small jan/san house to enhance our current infrastructure. These investments will be supported in our purchasing model and with a dedicated purchasing buyer. OPI: What would be your advice to dealers who are not yet capitalising on jan/san? SH: With the decline in our traditional market segments (paper, office products, ink & toner, furniture), it’s important to diversify our product offering in order to grow sales. We would encourage all independents to look at your current distribution model as in most cases it is already better than most jan/san dealers. This is due to the fact that jan/san dealers typically have to cope with line charges, minimums to meet, freight charges and typically no next day delivery. OPI: How do you see the market as a whole developing in terms of size? SH: We as independents have to become a sourcing solution of products in a much larger scale than we currently exist. In order to do that, we need to have strong partnerships on all fronts in sales and distribution. Whether we are doing it now or not, it is our competitors’ number one focus bar none; especially Staples. It will continue to grow for the companies who make it a priority. Those that do not will be limited with what they have left to sell.

Ralph Bianculli Jr

business nous on the part of dealers and wholesalers could still be doing more here. Pataki explains: “We have already done much in terms of assisting dealers’ efforts, but much more could be done for sure, we are still learning this market. We are continuously working on how to help our customers be more successful with jan/san products.” Corwell’s current promotional efforts here include dedicated promotional leaflets, sales rep incentives and e-newsletters with the company’s latest initiative being a private label project. At SP Richards they have been aggressively adding new SKUs and filling product gaps and the wholesaler believes they now have a product selection that addresses 99% of the end users’ needs to keep their office healthy, safe and clean. They are also exploring adjacent categories too such as safety and first aid products.

Marketing support is obviously pretty key here but over the next few years most agree that the emphasis should be on training and encouraging dealers to increase the knowledge of their sales force to give them the confidence to engage new buyers. Nice adds: “The end-user market is served by specialist jan/san suppliers who are confident in advising and training end users. When the wholesalers introduced printer supplies 15 years ago we were in a similar position, but knowledge and confidence developed to enable EOS and technology to become a normal part of the product range. This is very much the same issue here.” SPR agrees that training and education is vital and it’s not as easy as it may sound to

Vendor voice “Jan/san continues to be a growth opportunity. This isn’t necessarily due to macro market growth but rather the consolidation and market shift out of the traditional channel.” Faye Roy, Lee Products recondition the sales mentality to jan/san. Whiting says: “We want to educate our customers on how to find the person in the back of the facility who is responsible for the jan/san, facility and safety products. It seems easy, but in fact, this has been quite a challenge for many sales representatives to move outside of their comfort zone. Our Business Development Managers (BDMs) have worked directly with dealers to make qualified end-user calls. After a couple of joint calls, the idea of going ‘off the carpet’ becomes less intimidating.” Whiting also believes hiring a category specialist is crucial for dealers but only if the new hire is managed properly and is aligned with the marketing strategy of selling what is in the programme, rather than focusing on products that are not supported by e-content or marketing from their wholesaler.

Competition Another key question here – and many dealers will be asking this right now – is how they know they are doing well in this category and making the most of it? There’s no blanket answer to this but there are guides as to what kind of percentage of sales you should be looking to be doing in jan/san. The Paradigm Group’s Ralph Bianculli Jr says: “Our OP sales have been very healthy in jan-san/breakroom and our OP dealers continue to do a good job growing this category. Our baseline to determine how w w | OPI Magazine


Jan/san | Category Analysis well an OP dealer is doing in our category is this: jan/san & breakroom should constitute 17% of overall sales. If more than 17% of your overall sales consist of jan/san and breakroom items, you’re doing a great job.” While the positivity within the category continues there is that feeling that dealers still yet to capitalise fully here could find they miss the boat entirely as others seek a piece of the pie. This could most likely come from other adjacent category resellers such as industrial supply companies or online behemoths such as Amazon. Bianculli says: “I predict that the major industrial suppliers (Grainger, MSC etc.) are gearing up for a major push in the jan/san and breakroom category – and why not? It’s a perfect cross-sell with their industrial goods. Although they’re selling the category now, I think they realise the opportunity for growth and the need to sell a ‘solution’ instead of a product.” And on the Amazon subject, Paradigm and Bianculli are already seeing how keen the company is in this area. Paradigm has seen tremendous growth with and says it has become a

Product breakdown for jan/san sales Q2 2013 for total retail and commercial in the US (office super stores, ecommerce, contract stationers, and independent office product dealers) Dollar Sales for Q2 2013 (Apr-Jun): $189.0M Y/Y % change +14% Unit Sales for Q2 2013 (Apr-Jun): 14.5M Y/Y % change+10% Papertowels, Towels, Napkins 35% ■ Paper napkins&&Dispensers dispensers 35% Tissue & Dispensers 31% ■ Tissue & dispensers 31% Beverage Cups 11% ■ Beverage 11% 1% Beverage cups Accessories Hand Cleaners 11% ■ Beverage accessories 1% Platescleaners & Bowls 6% ■ Hand 11% Cutlery 4% ■ Plates & bowls 6% ■ Cutlery 4%

Source: The NPD Group/Retail Tracking Service

major channel for B2B buyers in the smaller offices although Bianculli says he doesn’t see it as a threat to the larger pieces of business in the near future. Bianculli adds: “We are now in discussions to add our entire breadth of product on their site in addition to the 20 SKUs currently being sold.” Food for thought indeed and if there’s a clear developing message in this key category right now it’s probably that it’s pretty much now or never for jan/san if you’re a dealer looking to take advatnage.

UK dealer Q&A Mark Dilley – Abacus Cleaning & Hygiene Supplies

OPI: How different is selling and marketing jan/san compared to traditional office supplies? Mark Dilley: The janitorial market is very different in terms of what suppliers provide for marketing. The office supplies industry bombards us with information/marketing material and in my opinion this is sometimes too overwhelming and defeats the object as dealers (especially small ones such as us) have to be very selective in what we/they choose to use. Janitorial suppliers leave it up to us and provide very little assistance when it comes to promoting their products. Most of our marketing on the janitorial front is done with simple Word derived mailshots. Although not very glamorous it still gets results. We do subsidise this with some of the marketing materials provided by our wholesalers though which also proves useful in getting the general message across. OPI: How are you looking to grow jan/san in the future? MD: We are always trying to grow the business in whatever way we can but things are tough out there. You gain customers and lose others. We try to get a broad mix of customers and not rely on one or two markets. We have also established a third business here (which I won’t go into) in the hope that we can cross-sell to three different markets

and continue to grow our business organically and at a sustainable rate OPI: What would be your advice to dealers who are not yet capitalising on jan/san? MD: Put pressure on the wholesalers. They talk about wanting to enter this market but their cost prices are way off the mark especially if you are going to be able to compete with the likes of Bunzl, PHS, Jangro and indeed independents. We know because we are already in this market. Secondly, sell such products to their current customer base. Incremental business is the quickest way to establish yourself when selling new products and as long as dealers are relatively competitive they can exploit opportunities by being their usual responsive self. OPI: What are the barriers that dealers face in entering jan/san in a significant way? MD: Wholesaler prices firstly. It took many years of dealing direct with manufacturers before we got to the prices we enjoy today. VOW started off with good intentions and they had some good deals with plenty of stock initially, however this seems to have died a death somewhat. Spicers in my opinion has never really been in this market. Although they hold a reasonable range of products their cost prices are nowhere near competitive enough. Also the need to hold stock is a major factor. We have 3,000+ sq ft of unit space which is never enough. We are currently looking to move to even larger premises which will be the fourth time since we started the business.

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Marking and Stamping | Category Analysis

Getting The stamping and marking category is one that has always appeared to be hamstrung when it comes to innovation and new products but the market is responding well to this conundrum. Director Franz Ratzenberger as “inspired by romance and nostalgia, lending it a very vintage feel”.

by Bruce Ackland



‘green’ and antimicrobial products continue to offer room for innovation as well as meeting an established customer demand it is creative design that is adding a renewed sparkle to the stamping and marking category. Indeed the move to increased innovation by way of design creativity in general was highlighted at this year’s European Office Products Awards (EOPA) which featured a Design Excellence category for the first time. Don’t be surprised to see the big stamping

Colop’s range designed for women

Microbial and healthcare is a real growth opportunity in the category and marking manufacturers picking up an award over the next few years especially with companies such as Colop bringing together focus groups to help create new and enticing looks. A prime example of this is Colop’s decision to form a focus group of women from its various departments and produce a line of stamps for purchasing managers and global end users. The first product of its type to be made by women for women, the range features vintage style and pastel colours and is described by Colop’s Sales and Marketing

Over at Trodat, the Mobile Printy has brought innovation to the school year with a new pocket design for school children that again highlights the increased desire for new design aesthetics. Wholesaler VOW endorses the view that the education sector offers excellent opportunities for innovation as well as healthcare. Simon McLoughlin, Category Head, Traditional Office Products, VOW adds: “Motivational stamps for the education sector and antimicrobial stamps for the healthcare arena both probably present the best opportunities for innovation as these areas are selling relatively well.” Indeed, antimicrobial and healthcare is a real growth opportunity in the stamps and marking category according to VOW. “Antimicrobial will be a key development for next year, with doctors and healthcare establishments a key focus for sales,” McLoughlin explains.

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Category Analysis | Marking and Stamping “We see this as a growth area going forward. Dealers have the opportunity to promote these products not just to the health sector but also to catering and larger workspaces.” Colop’s Ratzenberger confirms that antibacterial products have become a more and more important field in the office product business, especially where stamps are used by many different people such as in the health sector, banks, education, tourism, etc. McLoughlin also sees the environmental option as an enticement for sales in stamping and marking although by definition as they are small in size and long-lasting they have far less environmental impact than many other categories. Nevertheless the ability to re-ink stamps with replacement inks is of significance here. While Colop was the first company in the stamp business to introduce a line of ‘green’ stamps in the market in 2008 with its GreenLine products, Trodat has been busy analysing and reducing its carbon footprint. Trodat has been extending the number of its products which are recognised as being carbon neutral and from this year more than 70 of the company’s best-selling products come with carbon neutral certification. The products are made with the highest content of recycled plastic that it could technically achieve, with the residual CO2 footprint of these products offset by investments in Gold Standard climate protection projects recommended by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). WWF’s Dr Hildegard Aichberger says: “This should be preferred to just offering green secondary product lines because of the more positive climatic effect.”

End of an era as stamping legend passes on Walter Just, the man who created the Trodat stamp brand, passed away at the age of 91 in November. Just joined the family firm Franz Just – founded by his father in 1912 – after the Second World War and registered the Trodat trademark in 1960 with the products proving so successful that the company changed its name to Trodat in 1968. He led the international expansion of the group until the mid-1980s before stepping aside from operational management in 1984. He continued to serve on the Trodat board until his unexpected death. In later years, Just devoted much of his time to charitable and cultural causes. He was awarded the gold cultural medal of the city of Wels for his cultural activities, and he was also awarded a silver medal of honour in June 2012 by the territory of Upper Austria.

Trends So exactly how is the stamping and marking market right now and what does the future hold? For Colop it’s something of a mixed bag with some regions decreasing in demand while some are growing and others remaining stable. The South East European and East European markets are developing well for Colop – especially Russia – while growth can also be

Trodat and Colop’s green campaigns

Recognising trends is one thing but capitalising on them is something quite different seen in Latin America as well as from Asia. The company also sees a lot of potential in Germany where more than half of all stamps sold are still “old-fashioned” hand stamps


OPI Magazine | September 2013

which can be replaced by modern self-inking. As a whole the market is hard to assess as it is not well tracked with little data out there, reliable or otherwise, but it certainly seems that the educational and healthcare areas are of most potential here. In terms of current and future trends alongside antimicrobial and motivational areas, wholesalers are still seeing demand for custom stamps that allow businesses and individuals to personalise their stamp. In the words of McLoughlin: “In some departments, particularly in smaller companies, the stamp is still likely to be regarded as a workhorse and an old favourite.” Alongside the aforementioned move towards design-orientated stamps with the product being embraced as more than just a functional requirement, Colop has also seen significant growth in online sales in many of its active regions. Of course recognising trends is one thing but capitalising on them is something quite different. In these terms marketing is still an area that needs particular consideration especially in such a narrow category. The use of social media, especially with the trend of stamps being used as lifestyle accessories, is vital. Colop for one has been active on Facebook for a while and uses the platform to inform, entertain and communicate directly with the end user. Timing your marketing is also vital as there is usually a peak in demand at the start of the new catalogue year. Taking an overall approach to this segment it certainly seems that enforcing stamps as a lifestyle item and not just a workplace product is the most exciting opportunity here if allied to the right marketing in keeping with this creative-led area.

Multi Distribution | Sponsored Article

It’s a family


With its national ambitions, UK last-mile delivery business Multi Distribution really can save dealers money, says CEO Raja Zamir Raja, where did Multi Distribution come from? We’ve been going since September 1999 as a last-mile delivery service for the office products industry. I used to be a driver myself, working for a customer of what was then Kingfield Heath. Kingfield was having problems getting the deliveries to my employer in time, so the local director at Kingfield asked me if I could do the deliveries as I was known for my good service. After a year I was still making deliveries for this one company, and the local director asked me how much I would charge to manage all his deliveries. When I had calculated the costs and gave him a quote he couldn’t believe his ears – I quoted half of what he was paying! Within three months, Kingfield Heath’s CEO saw what I was doing and said he’d never seen such a service improvement – and with that, I was awarded the whole contract and I’m still here 13 years later! Now my son and daughter have joined my wife and I with their fresh ideas and the business has grown to nearly £5 million ($7.7 million) employing about 70 people. How can you offer such a competitive price? Quite simply, everything is my risk. We’re a family business so I pay for my fleet and costs, I don’t have shareholders and because it’s my own money, I have far more control over pricing and

the return I expect. None of the big companies can compete with this flexibility. Where do you operate at the moment? Currently we work in the South of England, but we are planning to expand. By next year we will open more branches – one in Bristol, one in East Anglia and another in Leicestershire. So who are Multi Distribution’s main customers? We work exclusively for VOW as a wholesaler and we service lots of dealers across the south. Through word of mouth the business has grown to work with more and more dealers as people recommend our service. Now we want to tell more dealers out there that if you want deliveries done at a very competitive price, we can beat anybody in the field. That’s a bold statement! Nobody in the market can touch me! So what exactly makes your offering so good? We can save dealers money and time. We offer a personalised service with different types of delivery (see box top right), all for less money than dealers would spend by having their own vans running. We are offering, depending on volume, at the highest price £2 for a parcel of 25kg. The family, clockwise from left: Neegina, Zamir, Raheem, Shabnam, Zahir and Sukina

We also help Multi dealers from an Distribution’s environmental services point of view. We are becoming • Key drops • Bulk deliveries a truly green • Desktop deliveries company • Point-of-need ourselves deliveries – we’ve • Tail-lift deliveries streamlined • Collections our internal • Furniture delivery operations and installation to use fewer • Ad-hoc deliveries resources, • Pricing per we’re looking parcel, route or at bio-diesel consignment for vans and • Proof of delivery are currently in real time applying for the ISO 14001 certification for an environmental management system. For dealers, taking vans off the road helps their environmental obligations. One dealer had seven or eight vans running, but we managed to take all deliveries into our existing routes; this was beneficial for me as I got more work out of our vans, and also means much less fuel being used overall. So what’s next for Multi Distribution? Since my children joined, the company’s drive has been unbelievable. We have been taking on more business through recommendations and we’re really excited about expanding across the country. Next year, dealers will see a lot more from Multi Distribution!

To find out more about Multi Distribution, visit or contact Raja on w w | OPI Magazine


Your OPI

On the move

OP personnel changes from around the globe We would love to hear from you. Email or you can write to us at OPI, Diamond House, 36-38 Hatton Garden, London, EC1N 8EB, UK


Smead has appointed Casey Avent as its new VP Sales to succeed Tom Sullivan who has retired after 38 years with the manufacturer. Avent, previously National Account Manager for Smead’s S&W Manufacturing subsidiary in South Carolina, will report directly to SVP Sales and Marketing David Fasbender and lead the company’s sales operations. Experienced OP exec Patrick Spear has joined rep group Highlands. Based in Tennessee, Spear will lead the Highlands national account team which manages the corporate headquarters’ coverage of wholesalers and office superstore accounts for OP manufacturers. Spear has over 25 years’ experience in the consumer products industry as well as specific experience in the OP sector: he was a founding partner of Mammoth Office

Products and has also worked for Newell Rubbermaid and BIC. United Stationers’ SVP of E-Business Services and CIO Dave Bent left the wholesaler in August. United said that Bent – who had been with the firm for over ten years – was leaving “to pursue another career opportunity”. At the time of press, no details had been given about Bent’s successor. OfficeMax’s highly regarded CFO Bruce Besanko has left the global reseller to become CFO of retailer Supervalu. Chief Accounting Officer Deb O’Connor has been named as interim CFO in the build-up to the proposed merger with Office Depot. Besanko had a key role as co-leader of the merger integration


HSM has confirmed that Irene Dengler has left the company. The shredder manufacturer said that Dengler – who had been on the management board for the last six years – had left due to “differences in opinion regarding the strategic direction of the company”. The departure of her husband Dietmar Dengler was announced at the end of June, but no official reason was given at the time. HSM without the Denglers represents a big change for the company: Irene had been with the firm for over 30 years while Dietmar was there for 11 years. The HSM’s management board has now been reduced to two members. In addition to his responsibility for finance, CFO Matthias Wochner will now be responsible for the areas of sales and distribution as well as worldwide marketing. HSM’s founder Hermann Schwelling will keep responsibility for production, technology, materials management and HR.


OPI Magazine | September 2013


Todd Shelton has been appointed as the new CFO of United Stationers. Shelton’s appointment follows the departure of Fareed Khan who has accepted a position elsewhere after just over two years in the role. Shelton has been with United for 12 years and was most recently President of its Supply division. He joined the company back in 2001 as VP of Finance overseeing the financial integration of the Lagasse jan/ san business, and has occupied a number of increasingly senior roles since then. “Todd brings a unique blend of finance and operating skills and an in-depth knowledge of the business to the role,” said CEO Cody Phipps. “I am very confident in Todd’s ability to lead our talented finance organisation, work closely with our business leaders and represent the company effectively in the investment community.” Phipps said he would be assuming direct responsibility for the Supply division on an interim basis. He has a strong team at the division including Harry Dochelli, Diane Hund, Steve Schwarz and Janet Zelenka. planning process with Depot’s CFO Mike Newman. This job has now been allocated to ‘Max’s Chief HR Officer Steve Parsons and he will now work alongside Newman.


Lyreco’s former Managing Director in the UK Richard Ford has joined wholesaler Spicers as its new Sales Director. His appointment follows the departure of Sales and Marketing Director Tom Rodda at the end of July. Ford has joined Spicers from Newell Rubbermaid where he was EMEA Customer Development Director. He moved to the manufacturer in 2010 after almost ten years at Lyreco UK, including the last four of those as Managing Director. Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that Rodda has joined UK training and development firm P1 as an Associate Director. Brand new UK OP wholesaler Gem has announced a couple of new hires recently as it takes shape. Former Office Depot executive Andy Hirst has been named as Category

Manager, while James Taylor has taken on the role of Sales Manager, joining Gem from ECi. EU vendor Jalema and CEO Wim de Goei have parted company. Jalema said that the firm’s supervisory board and Joan Westendorff – Director of holding company Difylogica and sole shareholder of Jalema – had differing views to de Goei on the company’s strategy and cost savings. Despite a number of initiatives launched under de Goei in the last two years Jalema said that the desired revenue growth had not been achieved. Léon Lalieu, Director of sister company I-FourC, has been named as the successor to de Goei. Peter Sperl is new Managing Director of Avery in Central, Northern and Eastern Europe. The appointment is part of a number of changes by new Avery owner CCL. Former Managing Director of Central Europe Tony Grima also returns to his native Australia to pursue a new professional challenge while Avery’s management office in Switzerland has now been closed.

Your OPI

5 minutes with... Marc Nijhof, Managing Director, Alpha International

Describe what you do in less than 20 words. I am heading up and proudly part of a successful and leading printing consumables distributor covering the European market. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had? A soldier during military service. If you weren’t doing your present job, what would you like to be doing? A lawyer specialising in mergers and acquisitions. The best moment in your career? I have three: joining Despec shortly after the greenfield start in 1989, leaving it after 12 years, and going back to distribution in 2006 when I joined Alpha. The industry figure you most admire and why? Eric Bigeard; personality and leadership with French humour! What is your most embarrassing industry-related experience? Once I thought I was talking ‘impolitely’ about a customer on the phone to a colleague, but the call from the customer had already been forwarded to me – I will never forget the shame I felt at that moment! What would you like to be doing in five years’ time? Heading up a €1 billion+ company.

“I hate my reading glasses and refuse to use them as much as is responsible”

If you could invite two famous people for dinner, who would they be and why? Tiger Woods and our new Queen Maxima, although perhaps a dangerous combination. What is the most memorable travel experience you’ve had while in the OP industry? There was a fire in an engine during take-off on a flight to Oslo, and a lot of panic on board. What do you like best about the OP industry? It’s never dull and always challenging. What do you like least about the OP industry? Men-only parties, especially when men start to dance with each other. What was your first car? BMW 2002 (in strong Dutch orange colour) And the first record you bought? Love Games from Level 42. Do you have a tattoo? Details, please! For the last 30 years I have had a ‘best friend’ sign tattoo, so there is a guy with the same one in the same innocent location…

Your greatest strength? Finding and working closely with very talented and nice people. What is the most influential company in the OP industry? HP; any vendor representing more than half of our business has some influence. Size really does matter in this case. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? My eyes; I hate my reading glasses and refuse to use them as much as is responsible. What do you think will be the biggest issue affecting the OP industry over the next five years? Ignoring change.

What sports teams do you support? And why? AJAX – this team is not arrogant but just the best (in the Netherlands that is…) | OPI Magazine


Your OPI

Calendar Key dates in your industry If we are missing an event please let us know. Contact Do you have an event that you would like to promote in the OPI Calendar? Please contact Fergus Cox for further information about having an extended entry and pricing. Email: Web:

SEP 24-26 DMS Expo/IT & Business Landesmesse, Stuttgart, Germany SEP 24-26 ECi Connect Conference 2013 Dallas, Texas

SEP 06-11 IFA Consumer Electronics Trade Show Messe Berlin, Berlin, Germany

SEP 25 Kids in Need Foundation, Education Celebration Gala The Depot, Minneapolis (MN), USA

SEP 10-12 Skrepka Expo Crocus Expo, Moscow, Russia

SEP 25 Howard Wolf Golf Classic Contigny Golf Club, Wheaton (IL), USA

SEP 07-08 Office Club Annual Conference Orchard Hotel & East Midlands Conference Centre, Nottingham, UK SEP 15-17 Stationery Office and Convenience Days Brabanthallen & Congrescentrum 1931, Den Bosch, the Netherlands SEP 18-20 EPIC 2013 JW Marriott Hill Country, San Antonio (TX), USA SEP 22-24 Pinnacle Affiliate’s Annual Peer Exchange Meeting, COH Silent Auction and DealerVendor Executive Forum Chicago (IL), USA 68

SEP 25-27 Paperworld China 2013 Shanghai New International Expo Centre, Shanghai, China SEP 26 City of Hope Spirit of Life Gala Navy Pier, Chicago (IL), USA

OCT 10-11 EMGE Office Papers & Printing Conference NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

NOV 14 Integra National Conference The Chesford Grange Hotel, Kenilworth, UK

OCT 14-18 WB Mason Annual Sales Convention & Trade Show MGM Grand at Foxwoods Resort Casino, Ledyard (CT), USA

NOV 18-21 ISSA/INTERCLEAN North America Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas (NV), USA

OCT 15 Advantia Conference & Exhibition The Chesford Grange Hotel, Kenilworth, UK OCT 24 BOSS Industry Awards ICC, Birmingham, UK OCT 29-31 BSA Forum 2013 Hyatt Regency Coconut Point, Bonita Springs (FL), USA

NOV 03-05 Global Forum 2013

The Langham, Chicago (IL), USA Contact: Janet Bell Email: Tel: +44 20 7841 2941 Web: An invitation-only forum for CEOs and senior executives.

NOV 20-21 Big Buyer 2013 BolognaFiere, Bologna, Italy NOV 26-28 European Paper Week 2013 EU Thon Hotel, Brussels, Belgium NOV 28 COPA Stars Gala Bellagio, Vaughan (ON), Canada DEC 04-06 EdSpaces 2013 Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, San Antonio, (TX), USA

2014 JAN 08-10 PSI – Promotional Products Fair Messe Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany

OCT 04-05 XPD Annual Conference

JAN 25-28 Paperworld Frankfurt 2014 Messe Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Germany

Contact: Steve Robinson Email: Web: Drawing together dynamic independent dealers, big brands and supportive suppliers, this will be another XPD Conference with a difference – you’d be MAD to miss it!

FEB 25-27 Skrepka Expo powered by Paperworld Crocus Expo, Moscow, Russia

Orchard Hotel and East Midlands Conference Centre, Nottingham, UK

OCT 08-09 office* National Hall Olympia, London, UK

OPI Magazine | September 2013

NOV 11-14 Marketplace 2013 Hilton, Miami Airport, Miami (FL), USA

MAR 2-6 AOPD Annual Meeting Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables (FL), USA

Your OPI

MAR 04-06 Partnership 2014

Okura Hotel, Amsterdam, the Netherlands Contact: Steve Hilleard Email: steve.hilleard@ Assisting European vendor and reseller companies in building long-term strategic relationships.

MAR 08-11 Ed Expo and CAMEX Dallas Convention Center, Dallas (TX), USA


MAR 11-14 CeBIT 2014 Deutsche Messe, Hanover, Germany

APR 01-02 London Stationery Show 2014

Business Design Centre, London, UK Contact: Chris LeonardMorgan Email: clm@ Tel: +44 20 8462 0721; Web: www. The only UK exhibition dedicated to stationery products, writing instruments and accessories for the home, school and office. Organiser of National Stationery Week.

MAY 06-09 ISSA/INTERCLEAN Amsterdam RAI Convention Centre, Amsterdam, the Netherlands JUN 11-15 SP Richards’ Advantage Business Conference Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Centre, Nashville (TN), USA

The latest products by the leading vendors in the OP industry in one place

For information on how to advertise your product contact

w w | OPI Magazine


Your OPI

Final word Your industry, your opinions Liz Moseley, Senior VP, Sales & Marketing EMEA, ACCO Brands

Are we facing channel evolution or revolution? THE

internet is changing the way we work and play and the change is fast. Did you know that children born in 2015 will not know what a CD is, for example? Today manufacturers sell CDs to online retailers and reach virtually all users in a single click. Previously, the same CD had a mark-up of a wholesaler and distributor/retailer and a cost-to-serve model that included two sets of warehousing, a salesforce etc, all of which more than doubled the cost of getting the product to the end-user. The sustained economic downturn and this rapid technology innovation are also shifting the power in office supplies from the channel to the consumer. The dynamics continue to shift fast, even in the online environment, and they differ from the B2B to the B2C model. The fastest online growth sector is ‘click and collect’ – buy online and pick up in store when it’s convenient to you – just look at catalogue (on- and offline) operator Argos’s growth in this area. This dynamic is not necessarily the same for B2B where many users, with the exception of some small business owners, can buy online and have products delivered anytime to the office. Amazon and other online retailers are moving into the B2B office supplies environment and online price comparisons create an almost “perfect competition” environment. This again puts pressure on the price/ service value ratio of the small and medium-sized dealer. So is this the end then of the independent dealer? No! There are other long-term socio-demographic trends that actually support the need for the local retailer/ distributor such as ageing population, single households, urbanisation and home/mobile working. However, the independent dealers’ business model will need to change in order to survive the near perfect knowledge of the consumer via the web and mobile apps, and the continuing tough economic climate. They will need to focus on their core competence of in-depth product knowledge and personal service and outsource the parts of their model that create unnecessary cost, blending personal service with web/

mobile app efficiency, in order to provide added value versus the pure-play suppliers. The wholesaler can furthermore play a bigger part in supporting independent dealers and help take out duplication in their business model. This could be with regard to direct delivery options and stock-holding aspects for the dealers – ultimately and potentially helping them to morph to become stockless dealers. The wholesaler can, and in some cases already does, provide back-end web platforms for the dealers and their customers to order. So, if this were to happen, how do dealers remain truly independent? This is where the marketing and buying groups can become increasingly important, providing a method of business independence for dealers instead of the perception of becoming the wholesaler’s agent. They potentially will add value with the economies of scale they bring to marketing, web and mobile apps services, and purchasing power for dealers independent of the wholesaler. For the manufacturer, these dynamics create similarly rapid changes – it is critical that manufacturers have a fair and transparent pricing model across channel and geographies as the web reduces the relevance of these boundaries. They must also stay relevant through innovation. However, this isn’t a revolution we are talking about, but more an evolution that is happening at such a pace that only those who are willing and able to adapt and change quickly will realise the opportunities.

Did you know that children born in 2015 will not know what a CD is?


OPI Magazine | September 2013

Want the final word? Email or write to OPI, Diamond House, 36-38 Hatton Garden, London, EC1N 8EB, UK

IN THE NEXT ISSUE • OfficeTeam CEO Jeff Whiteway opens up in a must read Big Interview • OPI Editor Andy Braithwaite disects the first industryredefining EPIC event

3-5 Nov 2013 The Langham Chicago, USA

3 An invitation-only forum for CEOs and senior executives from the business supplies and associated sectors. The Global Forum offers a unique opportunity to hear from expert speakers, explore future trends, engage in frank discussion, share ideas and network with fellow industry leaders in a confidential environment. If you would like to be considered for an invitation please email or visit for more information.

Organised by Office Products International

OPI Issue 232 September 2013  
OPI Issue 232 September 2013  

OPI Issue 232 September 2013