Workplace360 Issue 3. April May 2023

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It was great to see UK winners at this year’s European Office Products Awards (EOPA), hosted by sister publication OPI. It reaffirmed what I think most of us already know about our industry in terms of innovation and creative thinking. Being passionate about the environment, I was especially pleased that the winner of the Reseller Sustainability Excellence award was one of our own. In addition, a UK company also made it on the Highly Commended list in the corresponding vendor category.

I’d like to extend a huge congratulations to everyone, especially James Day from Durable UK, who took home the Young Executive of the Year trophy (the list of EOPA winners can be found on page 48). Speaking of James, he was one of the hosts – along with Lyreco’s Elissa Macinnes – of the recent BOSS Leaders of the Future webinar, which took place on International Women’s Day.

I highly recommend watching it. The hourlong session featuring some of our top female executives was as illuminating and inspiring as it was insightful. Read Clear Leadership on page 50 for some of the key takeaways.

Staying on the theme of leadership, in the last issue of Workplace360, the In conversation with... interview was with Nectere’s Paul Musgrove. He mentioned hoping to get through a management buyout this year. It has now come to fruition, and you can read the announcement about this on page 6, along with a more in-depth article after a catch-up with the new shareholders and senior management following the MBO (on page 22).

This issue’s ‘big interview’ is with JGBM’s John and Mike George. They, too, have won numerous industry awards (see picture) and have a creative and innovative approach to running their business –especially the melding of marketing and technology. Read more about them in Reverse-engineering, starting on page 16.

Workplace360’s intrepid CEO Steve Hilleard made the long trip down to Devon – Plymouth, to be precise – for this issue’s In conversation with... JGBM owners John and Mike George

Finally, I’d like to take the opportunity to remind readers of the upcoming OPI European Forum. There’s a stellar lineup of speakers covering topics all highly pertinent to the current business challenges (read Knowledge is power on page 46).

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have been made
The hour-long session featuring some of our top female executives was as illuminating and inspiring as it was insightful

The viscom sector is benefitting from the convergence of the traditional and digital

It’s time to deal with the decline in core stationery, says Geoffrey Betts

The peripherals category offers plenty of opportunities for expansion into new and rapidly-growing product ranges as hybrid working takes hold

03 Editor’s note 06 News 12 Dealer spotlight With specialist trading websites and a keen focus on data analytics and proprietary software tools, Don Ruffles is gearing up for the future 26 Feature Keep It Local Week happens in May, and the noise around the campaign is about to get a lot louder 38 Marketing Focus7’s Vida Barr Jones explains how to reach your target audience in the cluttered digital world 40 Sales EVO’s Michelle Naphtali reveals why relationship selling is more important than ever 42 Research AWA’s latest research offers insights into the impact of flexible working 44 Well-being Dealing with the stress of working life 46 Events Preview of OPI’s upcoming European Forum 48 Events All the winners revealed from the 2023 European Office Products Awards 50 Heart of the industry Female leaders reveal their top tips for success 52 Backchat Beaverswood’s Stephanie Gentle on the benefits of flexibility 54 Exposed! Sarah Laker from Stationery Supplies CONTENTS
APRIL/MAY 2023 16
In conversation with... JGBM’s Mike George and John George
22 Workplace360 talks to Nectere’s new owners following the recent management buyout
28 4 WORKPLACE360 - APRIL/MAY 2023

Nectere confirms MBO; agrees Spicers deal

With Steve Harrop as Commercial Director, it is an experienced management team that is well set up to continue the Nectere success story. The Musgroves will also continue to support the business as consultants. “The MBO has been carefully structured to secure the future of the business and allows Serena and I to focus on our health,” said Musgrove. (For more information on the deal and its new owners, read New era at Nectere on page 22).

In other news, the group has entered into a commercial agreement with Spicers. OT Groupowned Spicers says the five-year “multimillion-pound agreement” is a “long-term relationship that will enable [it] to build on the range of products and business solutions available to Nectere and its partners”.

“This is a great opportunity for our partners to take advantage of an attractive commercial model and gain access to the 5 Star product brand,” commented O’Reilly. “We are looking forward to working with a privately owned organisation that, through ongoing investment, is showing its commitment to the future of the dealer community.”

Nectere has completed its management buyout (MBO). This change in the company’s ownership had been on the cards for some time as founders and owners

Serena and Paul Musgrove looked to retire from the business. That has now happened via a transaction led by Mike O’Reilly (Managing Director), Heema Naik (IT & Marketing Director) and Andrea Eli (Sales Director).

OT Group Sales Director Stuart Derbyshire added: “The Nectere agreement is a significant step towards the continued growth of our wholesale division. This, coupled with the recent investments we’ve made to develop our IT infrastructure through the implementation of a new ERP system, will bring significant benefits to Nectere and its partners in the medium and long term.”

It was with great sadness that Bisley announced the passing of its Chairman and owner Anthony ‘Tony’ Brown, aged 86, on 4 April. Tony began working at Bisley in 1960 and acquired the company from his father in 1970. At the time, the business had 45 staff members and yearly sales of £370,000. Today, it generates annual revenue of around £70 million and exports its products to more than 75 countries.

Hugely passionate about manufacturing, Tony was awarded an OBE in 1993 as well as a lifetime achievement award from the Furniture Makers’ Company in 2016 for his outstanding contribution to the British industry.

Tony was incredibly proud of Bisley’s international expansion, for which the company has received numerous accolades. These include two Queen’s Awards for Export Achievement, several Design Guild Mark awards for its products, and being a recipient of the Manufacturing Guild Mark from The Furniture Makers’ Company since 2015.

Outside of Bisley, Tony was also a staple of the local community, particularly in his support of the rugby team, the Dragons. He became a major shareholder

and today, the main function room at the club’s ground –located in the Bisley Stand –is named after him.

Last year, Tony’s care for those he employed was evident in the establishment of the Employee Ownership Trust, gifting 51% of Bisley to employees to ensure its long-term future.

“We are all hugely saddened by Tony’s passing,” said Bisley CEO Richard Costin. “Speaking personally, it has been an honour to work with Tony and be entrusted with Bisley’s legacy.

“We look forward to commemorating his wonderful life of public service and sharing his great many achievements and our fond memories in the coming weeks and months. We pass on our condolences to Tony’s friends and family. We will miss him greatly.”

Workplace360 joins Costin in offering its deepest sympathies to Tony’s family and friends.

Anthony ‘Tony’ Brown
Bisley founder passes away

Mondi expands online ordering options

Mondi has added a new online ordering feature for customers. The company has incorporated a web shop –operated by Europapier – into its site in the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Switzerland.

This enables customers in those markets to purchase Pergraphica and Color Copy products directly from Mondi’s distribution partners. In the UK, there are links to Premier Paper and Antalis.

The manufacturer has been providing ordering and service options to direct customers for more than five years via the portal. While this is reserved for larger quantities, the public website –which was previously limited to product information – will cater to clients that require smaller orders.

WH Smith launches new store brand

WH Smith is looking to cash in on the gap in the market left by the demise of Paperchase. The high street retailer is opening a number of high-end stationery stores under a new brand called

The first three outlets at former Paperchase locations have opened: two at Gatwick airport and another at London St Pancras railway station. As well as stationery, the shops will offer gifts and souvenirs that will appeal to the travel/tourist customer.


Apogee on the acquisition trail

Located in the Paris region, the new company will be headed by former MCA CEO Salem el Hammami. At the same time, MCA-Apogee has acquired the print management business of another France-based services provider, AM Trust Group. This has created what Apogee described as “a French leader in managed workplace services”.

“Apogee will use its experience and the expertise of AM Trust Group in financing solutions, data management and digital dematerialisation to complement MCA-Apogee’s portfolio of services, benefiting new and existing customers,” the UK firm stated. Apogee CEO Aurelio Maruggi said the investments represented a “significant step” towards establishing a pan-European presence.

The Isle of Man deal involves services provider Argon Business Systems, which dates its origins back to 1983. Apogee said Argon’s reputation would enhance its coverage and capabilities to support its customers with managed IT services.

HP Inc-owned Apogee has signalled its European ambitions with two transactions in France and has also made a bolt-on acquisition on the Isle of Man. The UK-based document and IT services firm has made an unspecified investment in French reseller MCA to form an entity known as MCA-Apogee.

Argon CEO Iain Fairbairn commented: “This deal will enable the ongoing growth and development of the Argon team, expanding our range of managed IT services into the Apogee customer base across the UK and Ireland. […] I believe Apogee’s investment recognises the strength of our economy, the many sectors represented, and the opportunities which exist on the [Isle of Man].”


European reseller RAJA has confirmed Catherine Cambier as Managing Director of its Packaging and Industrial Equipment division. Cambier joined the group at the end of last year, becoming a member of its executive committee at the same time. She succeeded Vincent Terradot, who retired after 33 years of service with RAJA.

In her role, Cambier will oversee the development of a number of RAJA’s subsidiaries: Udo Bär (warehouse and office equipment in Germany, Switzerland and Austria), Morplan (retail supplies in the UK) and Cenpac (packaging distribution in France). One of her tasks will be to work with the local management teams to strengthen synergies between the group’s activities.

Victor Stationery UK has announced Annie Conlan has joined the company, effective 1 March. Conlan has been named as National Account Manager, a role in which she will focus on further developing the RHINO brand with resellers and dealer groups across the country.

Conlan has moved to Victor from VOW Wholesale –where she was Account Director – and has more than 25 years of industry experience, including Account Director at Spicers and Business Development Manager at Integra Business Solutions.

Mitsubishi Pencil EU (MPEU) has named Neil Jardine as Managing Director of its UK office. Jardine joins Mitsubishi Pencil UK after 25 years in the food and beverages market, the majority of which was spent at pub retailer Greene King.

“Neil will lead the UK business as we plan for another year of record results driven by strong consumer demand across both our uni-ball and POSCA brands,” said Maxime Brasseur, CEO of MPEU. “The UK is a key market for our brands. Neil will lead a period of positive change as we consolidate our position, identify future growth opportunities and focus on the culture and values of our UK team.”

New RAJA MD will oversee UK subsidiary New MD at Mitsubishi Pencil Conlan joins Victor Stationery
Available exclusively 01553 696600

Paragon publishes FY2022 results

In the 2022 financial year, Paragon booked a gain on acquisition related to Office Depot of €6 million. This was in addition to a gain of €7.6 million reported in the 2021 accounts.

Paragon didn’t break out the EBITDA figure for OTG. However, the combined result for OTG, Paragon Graphic Services and its Growth Businesses was an underlying EBITDA loss of €4.4 million. This represents an improvement on the loss of €8 million reported 12 months earlier.

In his statement in the most recent accounts, Paragon Chairman Paddy Crean highlighted the significant investments made in OTG’s delivery platforms, which will allow it to enhance its online and e-commerce services.

Paragon, owner of UK & Ireland multichannel business products operator OfficeTeam Group (OTG), has published its results for the 12 months ended 30 June 2022.

The annual report shows that OTG’s sales for the year were €147 million (£130 million), up from €99 million in FY2021.

The main driver of the increase was the acquisition of Office Depot UK & Ireland’s contract unit

and other assets, which closed in two separate deals in 2021. The acquired business added revenue of €30 million and EBITDA of €108,000 during the 2022 financial year.

On an annualised basis, that represented estimated sales of €47.4 million and EBITDA of €171,000 – an EBITDA margin of 0.36%. The annual numbers were the same as those which Paragon reported in its FY2021 accounts.


In his commentary, OfficeTeam Group CEO Andrew Jones confirmed the £2 million investment in the SmartPad platform and the ambition to offer customers more than one million products in 2023 –before tripling the offer in 2024. This, he added, should help OTG grow revenue organically to around £170 million.

Later this year, the group’s strategy is to combine the Office Depot and OfficeTeam contract businesses into a single brand. Jones said it would provide a stronger positioning in this segment.

Office Friendly has appointed Stacey Atkinson to the role of New Business Development Manager. The group said her experience would be instrumental in its next phase of evolution.

Atkinson added: “I am excited to bring my dealer world knowledge to the Office Friendly team and support customers with other areas of their business.”

UK IT channel exec Alex Tatham has left services and consulting firm NSC Global. He announced the move on social media.

The former Westcoast Managing Director only left the distributor last July, after spending over 14 years with the firm. In September, he took on the role of Global Head of Clients and Marketing at NSC.

Former Büroring, Staples Solutions and Lyreco executive Ingo Dewitz is now in charge of sales at business products vendor Sigel.

Dewitz has been named Director of Sales at the Germany-based manufacturer, succeeding Gerhard Lecher –who retired after 11 years in the role.

Office Friendly appoints BDM New sales head at Sigel
Tatham on the move

ACS targets pharmacy vertical

ACS Group has developed a new online goods not for resale (GNFR) procurement portal dedicated to supporting high street pharmacy outlets. Called ACS Medical Supplies, the specialist website will provide clients with a single point of purchase for more than 25,000 products.

These range from dispensary items – including pharmacy packaging essentials, prescription handling equipment and PPE – to wider office supplies such as stationery, cleaning equipment and printer suppliers.

ACS Medical Supplies GNFR Consultant Fabyan Egan said: “The portal allows branches to order everything in one place and receive the goods in one consolidated shipment, creating significant timesaving, materials handling and delivery cost-to-serve benefits. All of this is underpinned by our team of expert advisors, who are available by phone, video call or email to provide support and advice.”

Integra reports diversification success

Scottish dealers merge

Two independent dealers in the north of Scotland have joined forces. Invernessbased James Dow Office Supplies and Elginheadquartered Moray Office Supplies have decided to pool their resources.

Integra Business Solutions has revealed double-digit growth in product categories outside of general office supplies (GOP). In 2022, the organisation welcomed new vendor partners such as Beaverswood, Beeswift and Rocada.

Earlier this year, the dealer group announced a new agreement with foodservice specialist Bidfood, while in April, a deal was signed with FP (Tools), a market leader in the procurement of indirect materials from tooling to consumables.

Integra said it witnessed growth of 40% in non-GOP segments last year, with the biggest uplifts coming from workwear/PPE (119%), education (55%) and facilities supplies (30%). These trends have continued into the first quarter of 2023, the group added.

To further support members in diversified categories, Integra has launched one-to-one supplier introductions, best practice workshops and sales training sessions. The first of these took place during Q1, with more planned throughout the year.

“The industry continues to evolve at a rapid pace, with immense pressure on an independent dealer to adapt,” said Managing Director Aidan McDonough. “Integra is here solely to support members – [and we provide them] with a robust platform for growth and a dynamic programme that reflects the market.”

The businesses will keep their own trading names and retain all 14 staff between them. James Dow Managing Director Andrew Still will be responsible for the day-to-day running of the companies, while Moray’s Alan Elder will handle the alignment of the dealerships, including purchasing and pricing. Benefits of the merger that have already been identified include the streamlining of deliveries.

ACS Medical Suppplies GNFR Consultant Fabyan Egan

RUFFLING feathers

It’s rare to interview someone who has been in a new position for a mere three months but has an intimate working knowledge of the business they are appointed to head. But this should be no surprise when the person in question is Mark Allan, new General Manager of Don Ruffles. Although he had worked with owners Michael and Tracey Knight for around 15 years through his previous role as Senior Business Development Manager at Nemo Office Club, he has been in our industry for three decades.


Owned by the Knights for more than 25 years, the company’s appointment of Allan comes as the pair look to step back gradually from the day-to-day running of the business. Since its inception, Don Ruffles’ core business has revolved around office machines. Seizing a gap in the online market, the first website – – was registered in 2000 and over the past 20 years, has sold over £40 million worth of shredders through the site. This equates to around 20% of all commercial shredders sold in the UK.


As an industry-leading e-commerce business supplies reseller, Don Ruffles is ramping up its data and software capabilities while ensuring it maintains a ‘local’ perspective
Photo credit: Fraser Allan

The reseller capitalised on the introduction of GDPR a few years ago with its comprehensive range of shredding equipment and vast expertise in identity theft, corporate fraud and industrial espionage. Allan maintains that the need to keep information and documents secure and compliant continues, although hybrid working has resulted in a slight shift towards smaller shredding machines for homeworkers.

Today, Don Ruffles has eight specialist trading websites –,, and,,, and “[Michael] has always been good at identifying opportunities. For, which currently lists e-scooters, there are plans to feature innovative solutions from the technology sector. This will take the business into new areas outside of traditional workplace supplies,” says Allan.


It is a knack for sniffing out potential avenues of business that stood the reseller in good stead during the pandemic. When COVID-19 first hit, the company leapt at the chance to sell infection control products along with signage, PPE, sanitiser and test kits, and did extremely well.

Foresight has led to the introduction of new product lines and the capacity to capitalise on current workplace trends. For instance, once the initial surge subsided for items such as masks, the decision to add ‘traditional PPE’, including workwear, to helped to offset the expected decline in COVID PPE sales.

Importantly, this rapid response has also boded well for Don Ruffles following the shift to hybrid working. Fewer people in the office have led to a dip in paper, shredding and other categories like breakroom – all of which have dropped out of the top ten purchases. “Thankfully, we have ridden this particular storm and are now turning our attention to other areas such as the furniture sector,” notes Allan.

Acknowledging the difficulties of purchasing furniture online without the ability to ‘try before you buy’, the company’s filter system enables users to select


different attributes for items which change the products on-screen with each choice.

Says Allan: “The newly re-developed website has been loaded with features to really help customer choice and ease their purchase journey. The incredible innovations developed by our website partner and SEO guru, Chris Avery from Chrave Technology, have quickly resulted in the highest conversion rates of all our websites, way above industry standards. We are now working with major furniture suppliers to enhance the listings.”

Despite its status as one of the industry-leading e-commerce resellers, it doesn’t go it alone. Don Ruffles has been a member of Nemo Office Club for 20-odd years and leans on the group for support on marketing, general advice and networking, and benefits from the purchasing power of BPGI.

However, buying direct is the dealer’s preferred option as it can determine which products are most suitable for its customers. But, notes Allan, close relationships with the wholesalers are still a must. “JGBM is fantastic for our office machines business, and we currently utilise VOW Wholesale via Office Power for traditional business supplies. We are also talking with other distributors to help expand our product ranges.”

With around 90% of sales transacted as a result of the specialist webstores, customers are wide and varied. This is the beauty of e-commerce, remarks Allan, and although many non-tendered orders come in from government entities, going for tenders is on his list of things to do. One of the unexpected


There are plans to feature innovative solutions from the technology sector

consequential benefits of applying for government contracts is that it has been an excellent learning curve. “This process has ensured we have ESG policies and standards to strive for and exceed.”


To bolster this, a standalone website encompassing sustainable products is in development. Allan believes passionately in sustainability and intends to provide a carefully curated and evaluated product selection –a critical aspect following a few greenwashing incidents. “It’s early days, and we are still investigating the foundations required, but sustainability is key to growing the business. We are increasingly being asked for our ESG policy and it is becoming more imperative for dealers to provide one.”

On the social responsibility side, Allan was part of the original team at Nemo Office Club that developed the Keep It Local campaign during COVID (read Close to home on page 26 for more on Keep It Local Week). It’s another project he is enthusiastic about.

Recognising the irony of being predominantly an e-commerce business while simultaneously promoting ‘buy local’, he firmly believes Don Ruffles can still be involved. “We’ve supported over 2,000 businesses in the Reigate area and are adapting our prospecting campaigns to drill down for information on local buyers,” comments Allan. With this level of detail, the team can target those purchasers and tailor marketing communications around the benefits of buying locally. “We will be involved in the Keep It Local Week. It’s important to us and aligns with our CSR guidelines on contributing to the local community.”

The dealer is keen not to be seen as just another ‘faceless’ online portal and aims to ensure every potential customer touchpoint is covered – both online and offline. Says Allan: “The sales team is phenomenal in terms of their knowledge – especially in office machines and shredders – so if someone wants to ring up and place an order, we’ll input it for them. I’ll even plug in a fax machine if necessary! It all boils down to whatever is easiest for the buyer.”


A few changes have been implemented to make the customer journey more intuitive, namely, a revamp of the original static ‘home’ website – This has included the addition of a ‘News’ section to support information and products from suppliers as well as the recent introduction of separate Facebook pages for several of its websites to build the brand on social media.

Aside from all this, the main focus is on harnessing the company’s existing data to its full effect. Allan believes most dealers don’t utilise their customer data properly. He also notes that although Don Ruffles has some listings on Amazon, the company prefers to maintain control of its proprietary data – and out of the clutches of the online giant.

To compete against Amazon and other major competitors, Don Ruffles has developed proprietary price scraping tools to collect competitive pricing data, enabling it to continually adjust prices and find the ‘sweet spot’ to sell at the ‘right price’.

With all this intelligence to hand and a database of 104,000 “happy customers”, the dealer equally faces the prospect of too much data. But, says Allan, with the right plan and software, it is a veritable goldmine of information. As such, the company is now benefitting from a marketing and prospecting strategy for retaining and growing existing accounts and chasing new business and will be migrating to an innovative platform powered by AI.

While Allan won’t state which platform, he reveals it will provide automation software for multichannel marketing campaigns using e-commerce data. He explains: “The behaviour-based software will learn buying patterns and trends, so the more data we input into the system, the more it will teach itself. In the current business climate, it pays to work smarter and the software will help us to become more proactive instead of reactive.”

The dealer’s ultimate aim is to reach 1 milion+ products across all websites – up from the existing 65,000 – aided by ongoing enhancements of its PIM system to fully manage and maintain all aspects of product data uploads. The plan is to revamp each site in collaboration with major suppliers, providing them direct access via PIM to ensure their products have the best chances of success. The team is looking to the next relaunch, the website, which will be rebranded as

Says Allan: “It’s about obtaining unique data for each and every item. Otherwise, we don’t get found online, or it’s at vast expense through Google Ads.”

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Innovative, entrepreneurial, creative, award-winning. All apt descriptions for specialist technology wholesaler JGBM. Workplace360 CEO Steve Hilleard made the long trek down to beautiful Devon in early April to meet brothers and owners John George (Managing Director) and Mike George (Marketing & IT Director), just as the company celebrated the best sales month in its 46-year history


Workplace360: Just in case anyone’s unfamiliar with JGBM, let’s start at the beginning.

John George: Based in Plymouth, we’re still a familyrun company which was founded by our dad, John George Snr, in 1977. He was the only UK distributor for Japanese typewriter firm Silver Reed, primarily covering the Southwest. I joined in 1981, followed by Mike a year later, and Dad retired in 1999.

The advent of buying groups in the 1980s enabled us to expand, both geographically and product-wise. The first few brands we diversified into have now gone, like Sanyo as well as Silver Reed.

I never really liked the original company name JG Business Machines, so it was renamed JGBM in 2013. We currently stock 40 brands, including ACCO Brands, Fellowes Brands, Brother, Dymo, etc. We have always been agile and have constantly adapted our business model. The digital marketing and e-commerce division, headed up by Mike, is a great example of this.

W360: Let’s talk about the products first. What defines the scope?

JG: Traditionally, it would have been anything with a plug if used in an office. Obviously, this description no longer fits due to ergonomics, consumables, etc, so now the most suitable product for us is one requiring a consultative sale.

Originally, we acted as a typical distributor – selling, trade marketing and delivering products. Nowadays, the strategy is to ‘reverse-engineer’ based on what we feel a dealer and vendor needs in today’s market. This is always being assessed and re-assessed.

At a dealer level, the dilemma is in the understanding of a technical product in order to be able to fulfil individual customers’ requirements as well as cope with the fast pace of the tech category. We provide a solution to that and help them market digitally. And, of course, we’re also the stockist and the drop-shipper.

W360: So you’ve gone considerably beyond box shifting then.

JG: People still buy from people and it’s human nature to migrate to a place which makes their life easier. It’s our job to keep up with technology, to know the answers and provide the questions for dealers to ensure that the product they’re selling is fit for purpose.

Compared to the traditional wholesalers, and JGBM being tech specialists, we aim to offer something

different, ie a smaller ‘stationery’ offering – probably 8-10% of theirs. But our tech portfolio is much larger, with around 50% more SKUs and essentially the whole range per brand.

W360: I’m trying to build up a picture of the business. What is the SKU count?

JG: It’s about 4,500.

W360: National footprint?

JG: Nationwide.

W360: Next day or…?

JG: All next-day delivery.

W360: How are sales trending now versus last year?

JG: We’re 9.3% up as we speak and slightly above that in terms of profitability.

W360: Happy with those figures?

JG: Definitely. The typical aim is for 10% growth, but with the raft of vendor price increases, we’re targeting 15% for the foreseeable future.

Mike George: Interestingly, people perceive us as being a much bigger company than we are. I think this is because of the strength of the marketing and innovation we’ve done in the past.

W360: You touched on the inflationary environment, and we’ve witnessed a few casualties, and also resellers like Complete almost going out of business. How has the economic situation affected an organisation like yours?

JG: We did a fair amount of trade with Complete, so obviously it has had an effect, although it hasn’t impacted growth.

There are always swings and roundabouts and our sales over the years have gradually increased. For instance, five years ago, one SKU in the assistive technology market worth £3 million a year is no

The strategy is to ‘reverseengineer’ based on what we feel a dealer and vendor needs in today’s market

longer there today due to changes in government funding. Assistive technology was almost a third of our business, but we’ve managed to replace it.

W360: How does the business look now compared to Q1 2020, just before we hit COVID? What’s been the change to your product portfolio due to the pandemic and now hybrid working?

JG: When COVID happened, our usual stock was in short supply. As a result, printers, shredders, labelling products, etc, were swapped for headsets, webcams and so on – all of which we sourced pretty early in the pandemic. We invested in as much pre-ordering as possible and the company got through it. It was a different portfolio, and apart from an initial dip, we actually grew during the pandemic, both in revenue and profit.

W360: What’s been the longer-term impact on your product mix?

JG: Naturally, it’s a lot more work-from-home and ergonomic products, along with some great brand innovation in that space.

MG: Supply on our core product range is almost back to normal, which has been complemented by new ranges to market.

W360: How do you stay relevant in a fairly consolidated industry?

MG: Innovation is a key strategy. We use technology to combine marketing and sales with whatever tools are available. For example, in the early days of the internet, when everyone was still using dial-up, we brought out a CD-ROM with all our product data on it and stuck it on the front cover of trade magazines. Back in 2013, we produced an augmented reality catalogue. If you positioned a phone over an item, it would come to life – you could purchase a product, visit the website and download a PDF. If you hovered over the category page, industry figures such as Brother UK’s Phil Jones would pop up on video.

W360: He pops up everywhere!

MG: [Laughs] If you hovered over the fax machine or printer category, Phil would pop up and give you an introduction on your phone. Companies like Samsung

Supply on our core product range is almost back to normal
From left: Mike and John George

UK contacted us after that to ask how we produced it and if they could know more.

W360: So you’ve always been at the forefront of technology. Where does that come from?

MG: I did an HND in electronics and have always been interested in computers. I started on the IT side originally, repairing typewriters, fax machines and calculators before moving into marketing and helping bring the two together.

I believe it also ties in with being entrepreneurial and innovative and constantly thinking of new things. These include the TechStuff! interactive e-catalogue, the Supercharged Partner Programme with Intelligent Street Pricing (ISP) or our 20/20 e-commerce platform.

W360: Let’s dive into some of those marketing elements you’ve just mentioned and what they mean practically for dealers and vendors.

JG: These assets are all about helping dealers sell in the fast-paced technology market by counteracting the barriers they face. Knowledge is one area; another is knowing what price to sell at. Dealers can often think they don’t know enough about technology or can’t compete with online, so they may shy away from it.

W360: Is it a margin/pound versus a margin percentage aspect? Are dealers expecting to achieve a 20% margin when, in fact, they need to learn to make a lot less in percentage terms?

JG: That sort of thing. Those margins can be made on specific products but not on others; dealers wouldn’t necessarily know which, but we do. Due to value-add, the dealer sell price can certainly be above the online price, but not stupidly above it. Mike’s team developed our ISP algorithm to remedy that issue. Dealers selling at the right price also helps the vendors.

The ISP algorithm looks at the product price and whether carriage is included or extra; is it for a £1,000 or £100 item; is it a printer, shredder, binding machine or consumables, etc. ISP takes into account those variables and more, and delivers a street price that’s competitive in the current market.

MG: ISP is currently hooked into Oasis, Prima and Heart back office systems, delivering the street price automatically on a daily basis. ECI ISP integration is also in progress. ISP is seen as adding value to their business products and to their dealers.

W360: How many dealers do you have on the Supercharged Programme?

JG: There are about 60 and it will rise to over 100 by the end of the year. We’ve been selective so far, as it’s quite a lot of work to put together. The Supercharged Programme contains three key elements. We’ve mentioned ISP, next is the online training – an overview of what dealers need to sell a category, for example, ‘what you need to know’ about headsets, rather than being based on individual products. This is backed up by the third element of Supercharged – an online product finder tool that

Mike’s development team created and built to complement the training. This final component provides six to eight key questions for dealers to ask their customers. The answers are input into the tool, and then hundreds of SKUs are narrowed down to just a handful.

W360: What if consumers still can’t make up their mind?

JG: Then the dealer can call us and speak to an expert or a brand specialist. JGBM, in many ways, acts as a call centre for vendors as our team is trained by them and we receive hundreds of dealer calls a day related to questions on technology.

W360: When I was last here, you were in the early days of the TechStuff! e-catalogue. How has that been trending over the past few years?

JG: TechStuff! has worked really well. Like most of the marketing tools we’ve developed for dealer use, it’s free of charge. This, of course, encourages dealer engagement, with over 600 now utilising it.

W360: Is it essentially just what’s hot in the channel?

JG: Yes, and crucially it’s monthly, so it fixes the fast market pace issue that dealers face. It features around 100 products – what’s new to market, what’s trending, what’s on offer in a particular month etc. Vendors invest millions in innovation in the business supplies market, but it becomes a question of how to get through wholesale to the dealer to the consumer.

TechStuff! uses space on dealer websites such as banners. It’s cloud-based, so products that have just launched no longer have to wait months to gain market penetration.


Importantly, we write the content to make it easy for end-users to instantly compare items and include PDF links. We also create one-minute product videos in-house with our own presenter as, quite often, new innovation isn’t easily seen by dealers’ customers.

As an example, Leitz currently has up to £150 cashback on laminators/shredders and Fellowes Brands is offering vouchers of up to £80 with Ergo purchases. Dealers can simply ping these pages to their customers, and straightaway, they’re more competitive.

W360: You launched the 20/20 e-commerce platform some years back, which, I believe, was award-winning. Can you explain the difference between the Lite and Pro versions?

MG: 20/20 Lite is effectively a dedicated business machines microsite for the dealer, solely featuring JGBM products, with real-time offers and promotions, pricing and stock. It’s zero maintenance, rich with data, and complements our Supercharged Programme as it includes the competitive ISP.

20/20 Pro is our flagship product. It’s a combined e-commerce platform/CMS content management system/auto-marketing platform. Unlike 20/20 Lite, the Pro version incorporates all wholesaler data, so dealers could use Pro as their main website and/or web shop, as it incorporates all the supplier data.

W360: Can your dealer customers run their entire e-commerce on 20/20?

JG: Yes, dealers can run everything on 20/20 Pro. MG: It can also be hooked into back-office platforms and accounting systems such as Xero. One of the key design briefs was to build simplicity into both versions of 20/20. For instance, when offers and promotions are uploaded to the system’s marketing module, they can be shared on social media with a single click. Similarly, an e-shot of selected promotions can be created in seconds, ready to be integrated with Mailchimp for distribution to a customer database.

W360: Let’s talk about the dealer channel. What’s your take on how it is evolving at the moment?

JG: We’ve been through three recessions and learned

from them. There’s consolidation, of course, and also diversification into different markets – facilities, jan/ san, etc. The best organisations survive and prosper. In terms of consultative selling of technology, dealers require a partner that knows what they’re selling, provides expert support and is painless to deal with. Treating your customers and suppliers with respect is right up there too.

W360: Turning to the vendors. Your relationship with them is critical to what you do. There have been allegations that in some product categories, they’ve taken the inflationary situation as an opportunity to grab some margin back. How have you negotiated those awkward conversations?

JG: What a thing to say!

W360: [Laughs]

JG: I think there is a difference between pushing back against your suppliers as opposed to working with them. And we’re very much working with them, sorting through problems on a mutual basis and providing a service.

W360: An area we haven’t touched on yet is ESG. What are you doing in this area?

JG: There are two parts to this. One is looking at our own business in terms of CSR, sustainability, carbon footprint, electric vehicles, recycled packaging, etc. The second is the relevance of sustainability in both B2B; it’s now a huge part of the purchasing decision which is only going to build in momentum.

MG: We’re working closely with vendors to build their sustainability attributes into our data and, in turn, make it available to our dealers.

JG: And we’re looking at ranking products by sustainability, while being extremely conscious that it must be meaningful, not greenwashing.

W360: What about in terms of take-back programmes and e-waste? Do you offer this type of service or partner with any of the brands to deal with old equipment?

MG: The WEEE Directive applies to the manufacturer, as they’re the root source, so where returns are

Dealers require a partner that knows what they’re selling, provides expert support and is painless to deal with

unrepairable or need scrapping, we deal with them through that mandate.

W360: A couple of big questions. What are your overall thoughts on our industry?

JG: I think it’s massively resilient – and relevant. Resilience goes back to what I said earlier – people buy from people, and value-add is key. What are they looking for? Help in sourcing the most appropriate products, great customer support, an effortless purchasing process, and nice people to do business with. You’re giving yourself the best chance if you get those things right.

W360: What are your priorities as individuals and for the business for the next year or two?

JG: Supercharged is at 108% growth, so that’s a core focus. Obviously, sustainability and the ranking system we’re in the throes of creating is another. We’re also in the middle of conducting an audit –calling every customer, listening to them and understanding their needs, asking how JGBM is doing, etc. It’s quite a task but is proving very fruitful.

W360: What’s the longer-term business vision?

MG: The strategy is to be agile and innovative, so the vision is more of the same!

JG: I echo that, it’s all about understanding the market, reacting and innovating. But our success to date is very much down to our staff, and the fact they share that same ethos and vision.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to have great people in the right positions and retain them, because they are the business. We’re extremely fortunate to have such a dedicated team working so hard for the common aim.

W360: You still seem to be enjoying it too.

MG: For me, it’s all about the creative side, trying to overcome challenges, engaging colleagues in trying to solve problems and then delivering solutions.

JG: I enjoy the niche nature of what we do in that it’s anything but box shifting. We’ve set the business up to be entrepreneurial, innovative and agile. To do a job for both dealers and vendors. Recognising constantly evolving issues they both have and then engineering solutions for them is very rewarding.


Dealer services organisation Nectere has entered a new phase in its history following the management buyout (MBO) that occurred in March (read Nectere confirms MBO; signs Spicers deal on page 6). The business founded by Paul Musgrove in 2007 is now owned by a triumvirate of executives that bring complementary experience and skill sets – in areas such as operations, IT, marketing and sales – to the table.

The two largest shareholders are Managing Director Mike O’Reilly and Heema Naik, IT & Marketing Director, who have been with Nectere for ten and eight years, respectively. Joining them –albeit with a smaller stake – is Andrea Eli, Sales Director, a familiar face in the UK workplace channel following a successful career that has included running her own dealership and holding senior sales positions at EVO, including Banner.

Steve Harrop, although not a shareholder, is another key member of the management team in his role as Head of Commercial. Decades of experience in the business products industry have not dampened his infectious enthusiasm nor his unwavering optimism in the future of independent dealers.

New era at Nectere

It’s all change at Nectere following a transfer of ownership and a new multi-year wholesaling agreement. Workplace360 catches up with the new shareholders and senior management to find out how they are adapting and what their plans are going forward


The MBO, however, is not something that happened out of the blue. Musgrove and his wife Serena, who each owned half of the business, had been planning for their retirement for some time. Musgrove had gently been taking steps back from the frontline for a few years, with Naik and O’Reilly enjoying progressively greater levels of responsibility.

Last August, O’Reilly – who had been Operations Director for the best part of nine years – was promoted to Managing Director, with the founder taking on the role of Chairman. The new main shareholders say these ongoing developments have meant the shift from employee to owner has therefore been something of an “organic process” and not a shock to the system.

While the Musgroves may have left the building, they have by no means departed the scene altogether. Both have been retained on a consultancy basis for 12 months (with an option to renew), meaning they will be there to support the new shareholders.

“We’re conscious that Paul has a very entrepreneurial flair and Serena has got massive systems experience,” states O’Reilly. “They’re a formidable force between them and being able to tap into their knowledge is proving extremely useful. Our partners also appreciate that they are there.”

O’Reilly says the strong existing relationship between all parties was one of the reasons why the MBO was navigated without any major obstacles. “For me, a key aspect was we put it through with support from our suppliers, the banks and our partners,” he notes.

Steve Harrop (l) with Andrea Eli and Paul Musgrove shortly before the MBO annoucement

“The transaction was very sensitively constructed with the stability of the company in mind. It was carefully crafted to ensure there was no financial impact on the business spread over several years.”


Shortly before the MBO was announced, Spicers confirmed it had entered into a new agreement with Nectere as its main office products wholesaler (for more details, see page 6). The timing and apparent suddenness of this raised a few eyebrows in the market but is not something the new management team wants to dwell on. However, they confirmed that Nectere still trades with VOW and has a good working relationship with the wholesaler.

As Harrop states: “It is not something we did lightly, but we were looking at the balance of things across the board and made a decision based on the best interests of our business model.” Regarding the reaction of Nectere’s partners to the switch, O’Reilly notes: “All of our dealers understand that we need to trade with a number of key suppliers to make sure they [the dealers] can get the best deal and service for their customers. This was how it was received.”


Harrop says it is important to look at the bigger picture in the marketplace and understand what is happening in terms of pricing, product, the supply chain and profit margins.

“There are many dealers – and I’m not talking about Nectere partners here – keen to see changes in the way the market is structured. They have moved their business, or chunks of it, away from their existing supply partner to other distributors because it offers a solution which works for them.”

While there was some noise about the move to Spicers, in reality, Nectere probably works with 25-30 various wholesalers so that it can offer competitive pricing on a broad assortment across 14 product categories.

Traditional OP now represents just 27% of partners’ sales as they diversify into areas such as workwear, industrial and medical supplies, and sustainable packaging.

“Our market is not closed, nor are we trying to get into new sectors in a piecemeal way,” explains Harrop. “It was built into the DNA of the model from day one, and Paul was very keen to have diversification at the core of what we’re doing. The challenge for us is to make sure we’re engaging with a range of suppliers and then delivering what they can offer to the partners.”

This ties in with what Harrop describes as a “sea change” in the attitudes of manufacturers –even larger ones – regarding direct solutions because they are unable to push their entire product offering through a traditional wholesaling source.

“Increasingly, vendors are taking an omnichannel view of distribution, whether that be through wholesale, a dealer, online, telesales, or direct; they will look at every single solution,” he affirms. “It has made things smoother for us in being able to build relationships with those suppliers that are keen to support a direct approach through third-party logistics.”

In terms of priorities under the new ownership, O’Reilly says they will essentially be continuing the strategy that was already in place. “It’s to provide the best service we can to our dealers, give them the ability to grow and prosper, continue diversifying into new markets and increasing the basket, and then to embellish our service offering,” he states.

Harrop concludes: “The cost-to-serve aspect is crucial. With the level of inflation, product cost increases and higher wages, dealers have to take some of that cost out. With our service bureau model, I believe we can justifiably claim to be able to do that and do it very well.”

The transaction was very sensitively constructed with the stability of the company in mind
Mike O’Reilly and Heema Naik
There are many dealers […] keen to see changes in the way the market is structured

The current state of our industry

With the decline of core stationery, it’s time to get together and face the challenges head-on

Over the past ten years, we have seen a fundamental decline in the use of core stationery products. Hopefully, it’s not quite the Kodak moment, but people no longer utilise cabinets and everything else related to the filing function due to iPads and the cloud for storage.

I remember talking to someone five years ago who told me they’d just taken all their punch pockets to a charity shop. This typifies where the industry has gone. Businesses have stopped using the traditional stationery items we’ve known and loved forever.

If punch pockets are no longer needed, the ring binder goes with it. The cupboard used to store the files then becomes surplus to requirement. People are buying less ink because

they don’t wield a pen anymore, or print as much, so less paper and fewer ink cartridges are needed. Put all this together, and you can quickly see why general stationery is in decline – and in serious decline from a user’s perspective.

Alongside this, there’s the usual market disruption shaking up the status quo or even sparking a revolution. Amazon is probably the most obvious disrupter. Some of us will remember the upset WH Smith caused when it bought all the contract stationers years ago. Viking also did it with direct mail, which unsettled the market then too.

Finally – inevitably – sociopolitical upheavals have had an effect. We only have to look to the single biggest global factor of the past three years, the pandemic, which created a new environment for working from home. This has further impeded the requirement for office stationery and is unlikely to be resolved in the near future.


It’s worth looking at this latter point in more detail. Rather than sit in the office using our employer’s stationery, many of us are now at home choosing what to buy. We’re more likely to order online for next-day delivery than go into town just for an item from WH Smith or Ryman.

Purchasing habits have also changed as online creates fewer impulse buys. In a retail outlet, you may spontaneously pick up other items, but this doesn’t tend to happen with e-commerce as it lacks the touchy-feely element. You don’t see other shiny things that catch your eye as the focus is on the one or two items you want.

Whichever way you look at it, we are using less stationery for work, which has inevitably impacted our industry. The large resellers with considerable overheads have lost, or are losing, a significant and the most profitable section of their business.

Whichever way you look at it, we are using less stationery for work

As a consequence, some key players have disappeared. The likes of Staples and its superstores are gone. The big wholesaler Spicers went bust three years ago – although it’s back in another form. Meanwhile, VOW Wholesale has recently bought reseller Complete so it didn’t go out of business. The small dealer is equally under pressure.

Geoffrey Betts is Managing Director of Stewart Superior

The market has further fragmented with even more non-specialists selling stationery. In addition, working practices have evolved – no one’s working on a Friday afternoon anymore! Both these factors impact the consumption of office supplies as well.

Still, there are niche retailers like Smiggle drawing in Gen Z with cute and functional products and Arts & Crafts is a massive industry which also stocks stationery. The B2B side, however, is altogether different, with the wholesalers fulfilling a key role in providing resellers with their business supplies.


The opportunities are still there. As an industry, we are offering more to the consumer than ever before. Food and drink, cleaning products, workwear ranges, etc, are all becoming part of the business supplies space, which is encouraging. But margins, volumes and usage are not what they were, and while new product areas are filling a gap, we’ll never get back to the magnificent growth days of the 1990s and early 2000s.

Our trade association BOSS is doing a great job –somehow managing to inform the industry, keeping it networked and running awards. It has also created the Leaders of the Future forum to encourage young people to meet regularly and make them feel part of a vibrant sector.


Fundamental change is being driven by several other global factors too. Container costs went sky-high during the pandemic because governments needed to ship their PPE and COVID tests around the world. Prices increased from $2,500 to $17,500 in about four months, with all our collective profit wrapped up in that gap. The same as most businesses, I suspect, we were unable to push through price rises quickly enough to compensate for this. Container fees are presently falling, but inflation is rising, presenting yet another issue.

Like many companies, we burned through a lot of cash during the coronavirus crisis just to be able to trade. Those who borrowed money have to pay it back, reducing the ability to invest. Corporation tax went up from 19% to 25% on 1 April, and the damage this will do to existing businesses still in recovery mode is potentially significant. Our whole industry is staring down the barrel of a gun over cash flow and many of us have eaten into our cash reserves since 2020. Fortunately, we are still here to tell the tale.

Online sales continue to grow outside of Amazon. Viking, for example, is doing extremely well online with its ‘drop shop’ direct delivery. The big contract stationers are recognising the challenges ahead, and if they do e-commerce properly, they will succeed. There is light at the end of the tunnel and online is where all the growth will be – unless something drastic happens!


While the stationery sector in 2023 operates as it has done for decades in a global marketplace, one business aspect to be considered now is cost versus value. The big takeaway is this: it can no longer just be about price –customers want a product that works and will pay more if they think it has value. If we remain fixated on price, we are all defeated.

In the face of all these issues – and more – I believe the time is ripe for a global industry forum to consider where we are and how to move forward together so we don’t just survive but continue to grow and thrive. My call is for a get-together for senior-level executives, along with new colleagues, to discuss the current state of play and the direction of travel, and whether we can influence, respond and maybe even get ahead.

Our whole industry is staring down the barrel of a gun over cash flow

Close to home

Workplace360 takes a look at the development of the Keep It Local campaign

Initially started by Nemo Office Club in 2019 as a marketing slogan, the Keep It Local cause has developed into a national initiative. The original Keep It Local campaign was prompted by dealer feedback relating to difficulties accessing government tenders and facing challenges dealing with councils and governing bodies.

Spurred on by an announcement for one-third of public spending on goods and services to be with SMEs by 2022 – directly or through the supply chain – the dealer group launched the website.


Nemo Office Club Managing Director Tim Beaumont wrote an open letter to then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson, reminding him of the government’s commitments to SMBs asking for assistance. The letter received over 2,000 views on LinkedIn.

With no response, a follow-up letter was sent to Michael Gove, who was Minister of the Cabinet Office at the time. It invited him to provide an update or take up the offer to facilitate Nemo Office Club members supplying government organisations on a local scale.

Simultaneously, dealers wrote to their MPs, with consumers encouraged to do the same by utilising a template letter from the website. More than 280 copies of the letter were downloaded, with many MPs providing support and advice to businesses – although most were reluctant to associate themselves directly with the movement.

Nemo Office Club supply partners have equally been supportive, participating in Keep It Local promotions, especially around Keep It Local Week. Many have also sported the logo at trade shows and exhibitions.

In the midst of the pandemic, the action shifted towards a ‘softer’ approach as the idea of helping local firms in trouble became a national goal. Dealers were provided with templates for magazine articles and marketing collateral to initiate conversations and set up their own mobilisation.


Peter Collins, owner of Mansfield-based Connect Office Supplies, notes that although the idea of buying locally had been gathering impetus in recent years, the coronavirus outbreak changed the landscape suddenly and dramatically.

“Many companies had to completely shut down, yet still adapted their ways to service the neighbourhood

with local drop-offs, safe pick-up points, newly built websites for purchasing, taking orders over social media, etc. Dealers and retailers adjusted to survive and, in doing so, became the lifeblood of the community.”

Post-pandemic, many dealers have wholeheartedly adopted the campaign and are finding innovative ways to build on the ‘feel good’ buy local sentiment. In Rochdale, for example, Office Supplies Now Managing Director John Fitton has put Keep It Local at the centre of a referral initiative by 16 organisations as part of their commitment to a Business Network International global scheme.


The inaugural Keep It Local Week launched last year in a bid to continue the momentum of buy local. Taking place this year from 15-21 May, workplace supplies resellers are encouraged to go all out to elevate the profile of the initiative and motivate those from other sectors to get involved and share in the benefit it brings to communities.

Nemo Office Club Marketing Manager Alan Calder believes the noise from the campaign is about to get a whole lot louder. He says: “Reports in the Financial Times earlier this year suggested the goal to take the share of the amount spent using SMEs for central government procurement to one in every three pounds by 2022 had ‘almost certainly been missed’.

“Following on from this, a dozen Nemo Office Club dealers are currently using the Freedom of Information Act to enquire about the spend of their local councils. Based on the feedback they receive, we will collectively be looking to lobby local councils and MPs again –making even more noise.”

Keep It Local is open to everyone – commercial and retail – with posters, letters, logos and suggestions available to download from the website. Nemo Office Club members have access to exclusive marketing material including the borrowing of branded gazebos, feathered flags and merchandise to use at events and distribute within the community. In addition, the group’s retailers can put up posters and offer discount vouchers in conjunction with participating high street shops.

The noise from the campaign is about to get a whole lot louder

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See the bigger picture

The viscom sector represents a golden opportunity for those already in this category, or dealers willing to take the plunge as favourable conditions converge.

As companies look to entice their employees back into the office, visual communication (viscom) products are being utilised to make the workspace more inviting. Yet, as hybrid working is set to stay, businesses additionally need to provide the audiovisual (AV) supplies that are vital for keeping in touch with their remote workers. It’s a winwin situation for this sector, resulting in increased sales and a buoyant outlook.

Konftel is a European manufacturer specialising in videoconferencing equipment. Regional Sales Director

Jeff May explains the company saw a huge uptake in its products during the pandemic. It has continued at quite a pace since, with companies and staff trying to identify the optimum way for them to meet and share information in a hybrid workplace.

He adds: “There are many industry reports from consultants such as Frost & Sullivan, Wainhouse, Gartner, etc, all of which are projecting large-scale investment in this area as we find the smartest and most efficient ways of collaborating with colleagues, partners and customers. Viscom apparatus is integral to the equation.

“Additionally, plug and play deployment is very much the standard in this market. This has opened up the opportunity for many more resellers to provide these services and solutions to their customers – when previously they may not have had the training, skill sets or resources to do so. The market’s end customers are now much more aware of the services available, as nearly all have used Teams and Zoom for meetings during lockdown.

“Consequently, demand is high, market entry costs are down, and resellers have a fantastic sector they can address. Excitingly, we also expect to witness the introduction of major new AI-based innovations over the next 2-5 years, offering enhanced quality, easier operation and increased flexibility.”


The workplace supplies industry has largely overlooked this sector for the past 20 years, according to Gurdy Sehota, AV specialist and Sales and Marketing Manager


at Midlands-based dealer PBS Office. However, he warns that the new ways of working are resulting in drastically reduced staff occupancy rates in business premises, with a correspondingly steep drop in demand for standard office supplies.

To counter this, he believes diversification to include viscom equipment is a viable and lucrative alternative and feels that those unwilling to embrace it are missing out on valuable opportunities: “Dealers can’t afford to ignore this category any longer. Most are perfectly placed as they enjoy long-established relationships with a loyal customer base and these same buyers need viscom solutions. At the moment, these clients are forced to go to third-party suppliers, but this needn’t be the case.

“There’s nevertheless a fear factor associated with the viscom and AV industry. It typically comes from questions around what products to focus on and how to acquire the right expertise to offer a full ‘solution’ –including design, installation and post-sales support. Partnering with an existing viscom specialist to help dealers get a foothold – without immediately having to provide in-house skills – could be the answer.”


It’s not solely AV and communications equipment that’s benefitting from increased sales within the category. As employees divide their working time between the office and domestic environments, they still need suitable solutions for both. “Our homeworking range continues to thrive,” reports Suzanne Tiernan, Head of Sales UK & Ireland at Neomounts. “Along with laptop stands and

mounts, there are new products in the mix, like tablet and smartphone holders, while ergonomics remains an important topic.

“More viscom software packages and associated hardware accessories are becoming available to support collaborative office working. Additionally, there’s a significant demand for floor-standing trolley solutions to deal with the requirement for increased mobility within the workplace. This category is being taken seriously within the channel now. It offers high margins within a burgeoning market, creating new opportunities for resellers to develop and evolve alongside the furniture and ergonomic arenas.”

Legamaster is the viscom division of edding. Managing Director Andy Gutteridge reports a rising trend towards integrating AV technology with platforms like Teams, Zoom and Cisco Webex, making it easier for staff to work together. Wireless solutions to help employees connect to AV equipment are also booming.

He adds: “Video walls – made of multiple displays – are becoming more common and used predominantly in conference rooms and lobbies. In particular, microLED displays are seeing dramatic growth as prices plummet and will dominate for the next five years. Interactive displays are forecast to grow by 20% year on year, as they are seen as a must-have in meeting rooms.”

imageHOLDERS specialises in digital kiosks –interactive display environments where users can access information or carry out a task. Founder Adrian Thompson points out that businesses make

Dealers can’t afford to ignore this category any longer

the mistake of thinking this is about technology: “It’s actually about people, what engages them and how they behave. If you let technology lead the way, you’ll fail. Many companies do nothing, thinking it’s overly complex and unable to see past tech terms such as artificial intelligence or the Internet of Things. The real focus should remain on how these elements can be applied to transform the user journeys for their workforce and customers.”


PBS Office’s Sehota distinguishes three areas trending. Bring your own device (BYOD) will require appropriate IT support, as workers want to use their personal equipment – smartphones, laptops, tablets – and interact with existing workplace technology. Bring your own meeting (BYOM) constitutes the next step. This refers to situations where employees drive the meeting room technology using their own devices, putting them at the centre and personalising the experience.

The third viscom sub-sector currently benefitting from the post-pandemic reality is digital signage. He continues: “Companies need to display content –corporate messages, KPIs, etc – to staff in a digital format, potentially across their entire global estate, with the ability to centrally manage and deploy that media.

“Digital signage became vital during COVID to deliver key messages, particularly within patient management and healthcare settings. It replaces the traditional method of using printed posters or leaflets to communicate to an audience, saving both cost and time. The technology to support this, combining display screens and the software platform to drive them, creates huge sales opportunities.”

These types of product are not only deployed within the workplace. According to Steve Carter, Managing Director at Advantia Business Solutions in the UK, potential suppliers need to think outside the box: “For example, I recently took a bus to the railway station

and saw a digital notice board just behind the driver. After spending the entire time reading the content of the board, by the time I reached my destination, I knew everything about the route – where the various stops were, the type of tickets available and a whole lot more.

“That little piece of visual communication kept me updated throughout the whole journey. I would probably have ignored it if it had been displayed on a piece of A4 situated in a frame.”


A laser-like focus on well-designed products that are adaptable to diverse settings has become the norm, says Ken Trenberth, Managing Director at Rocada UK: “The back-to-work trend has resulted in employers attempting to create better working environments for their staff, with businesses particularly investing in items to improve well-being.”

Additionally, he notes, open working environments require flexibility, so mobile items are key, along with products able to divide spaces into social, presentation, desking and breakout zones. “Modular units like our SKIN whiteboards offer a broad range of possibilities, as they can easily fit together should additional ones for expansion be required at a later date.

“Furthermore, those working at home demand smaller-sized versions of items traditionally designed for office space which are better suited to domestic environments. Evidence suggests consumers are trading up and willing to pay for higher quality.”

Konftel’s May echoes these comments, confirming a trend towards premium ranges: “Remote workers are investing in better web and video cameras as the panic buys of lockdown are being replaced with higher-spec and, often, lower-priced alternatives. We’ve all been in online meetings where some colleagues appear as darker, grainier and fuzzy images. No one needs to be a hazy presence any longer – we can all be pin sharp and be seen and heard equally.

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“Many companies also recognise that while viscom terminology focuses on video collaboration, audio quality is actually the most critical for ensuring a successful meeting. As such, more powerful microphones and speakers, using voice-activated technology, are becoming the standard across the business spectrum, from individual remote users through to the largest meeting spaces and auditoriums.”


Like many sectors across the business supplies industry, recent global events have presented considerable challenges for the viscom category. Supply chains have been disrupted, freight and shipping costs have spiralled and, at the same time, energy prices have exploded, causing huge inflationary pressures. However, reports suggest an improving picture, with many of these headwinds easing.

Neomount’s Tiernan says that although there have been inventory issues and increased costs, these have subsided. She adds: “In 2022, our new UK warehouse opened and currently has high stock levels for the whole of Europe. We expect a strong 2023 as markets recover and can easily service them with short lead times and direct delivery.”

At viscom specialist Showdown Displays Europe, VP of Global Supply Chain Jakub Hataš explains the company survived the volatility of the last few years by becoming lean, selling through inventory, and focusing on working capital. “Our suppliers from all over the world were put to the test – encountering massive stock shortages, lack of manpower, transport difficulties, fulfilment delays and lengthy backorders. However, while some distribution challenges will persist, they are now mainly driven by increased consumer demand catching up from the effects of last year’s bottlenecks.

“We’ve broadened our range of sources to minimise supply issues and increase choice. By developing multiple supplier relationships, it’s more straightforward to be flexible and adjust to a constantly changing market. Partnering with additional freight forwarders is also helping to manage and track shipments and ensure the most competitive price and/or the fastest route. Having backup solutions is the key.”


Kevin McCoy is CEO of Polyvision Corporation, a global organisation with a significant European presence. It prints large-format, high-resolution graphics, images and text on porcelain-enamelled steel, often used in public transport locations, such as airports or bus stations.

He acknowledges the war in Ukraine has affected the company’s ability to sell in certain parts of Europe, but

logistics issues have largely been resolved. However, he adds: “Over the past year, the cost of steel spiked, nearly doubling to $1,200-$1,500 per tonne. Even though it has since come down significantly, it hasn’t dropped to its original rate and probably never will.

“Inflation remains a global problem and we’ve had to raise our prices. Although there are still questions hovering, we’re forecasting strong growth for 2023.”

The cost of raw materials and their knock-on inflationary effects is also a concern for Danny Berendsen, European Sales Director at Bi-silque. “Steel prices have increased but the cost of enamel has rocketed even higher. As such, customers are choosing lacquered steel surfaces rather than enamel. As a manufacturer, it is critical to realise that upselling solutions is not always the right approach. Sometimes you need to downsell and address budget restrictions.

“Sales of boards and paper pads have dropped significantly, while prices have increased continuously. Although the cost of raw materials is decreasing, it will be later in the year before we’ll see the effects coming through, as the supply chain is still full of products made when prices were peaking in 2022. This correction is needed to boost demand and return the market to normality.

“A further issue concerns last mile delivery across Europe for our large-sized boards, which courier companies consider ‘ugly’ items. Increasingly, they’ll embargo these items during their peak delivery months and rather ship small parcels compliant with their automated distribution belts.

“In addition, more customers are switching to Euro pallet or EPAL-only warehousing. Our best-selling 120x90 cm boards don’t fit, so we expect the new standard size for these products will shrink to 105x75 cm.”


Despite continuing pressures, the viscom industry is doing well, with burgeoning sales and exciting prospects. Dealers already operating in this arena today are benefitting, but those willing to embrace the possibilities could also ride the wave. As Konftel’s May summarises: “This sector is booming but is open to all.”

Neomounts by Newstar countertop tablet holder
We expect a strong 2023 as markets recover

Growth accessories

The peripherals category constitutes an ever-widening product area and plenty of opportunities.

When it comes to the traditional arena of computer peripherals, they are typically placed in one of three categories – input devices, output devices and storage devices. Familiar items such as mice, keyboards, monitors and flash drives are now being joined by fast-growing gaming products, along with accessories like cases, screen protectors, cables and power management offerings to connect and protect tech items.

According to Future Market Insights, the UK is a standout player in the global peripherals market with projected sales of $90.2 billion and a CAGR of 9.8%, from 2022-2032. A primary driver of the current and forecast growth is the ability to work from anywhere.

This increased flexibility has also boosted employees’ sense of autonomy and improved the perception and

experience of work. A recent study by Edelman revealed 63% of respondents believe new workplace technology enables them to engage in more meaningful tasks. HP Inc’s 2022 Hybrid Global Survey found that 89% of UK office workers think flexible working provides an opportunity to enhance their work-life balance and well-being.


The recent sea change in how we work has supercharged the computer accessories sector, with major workplace supplies vendors enjoying a significant bounce. For example, ACCO Brands’ Kensington range of peripherals makes up around 18% of its current UK business – a figure expected to increase exponentially over the next three years.

Distributors such as Exertis Supplies are already reaping the benefit of the significant rise in sales in this category. “Peripherals is one of our larger categories, making up over a third of our technology division,” says Exertis Supplies Commercial Director – Print Supplies Ben Appleby, adding that projections for the next few years are for growth in excess of 30% year on year.

TD SYNNEX is also expanding its portfolio to satisfy demand. The distributor recently signed a deal with ZAGG for its mobile and tablet accessories range, including cases, keyboards, screen protection, power management and personal audio products.

The company’s Director of Endpoint Solutions for the UK and Ireland, James Reed, explains: “ZAGG is already a highly regarded name in the education and consumer sectors and has a rapidly increasing presence in the B2B market as well. It is an excellent complement to our end-to-end portfolio and offers a profitable add-on opportunity for partners to position a complete solution to the end customers.”


Value of the computer mice market by 2028 Source: Market Reports World 34 WORKPLACE360 - APRIL/MAY 2023


For the most part, the equipment employees presently use is what they were provided with in order to work from home at the start of the pandemic in early 2020. Now is a key time for businesses to upgrade those initial computer accessories post-COVID.

As Appleby notes: “Hybrid working has been positive for the peripherals category as people are enhancing their operating environment. They want better equipment and a more useful and appropriate set-up, particularly for their home office.”

This is a sentiment echoed by vendors. Epson EMEA Marketing Director Maria Eagling states: “While remote working was already on the cusp of becoming a reality for businesses and their employees, the pandemic really accelerated it. Lockdowns meant that systems and solutions were hastily bought, often with employees self-sourcing.

“This has resulted in many businesses now reevaluating the set-up to establish clearer guidelines around what is and isn’t funded and managed by them as well as the type of technology they specify for use as the hybrid working trend continues.”

The upgrade factor is certainly important to mouse and keyboard maker Cherry, pushing the manufacturer to innovate. Cherry Europe Channel Marketing Manager Robin Bithrey says: “Dealers have to embrace the point of ‘don’t just change IT, upgrade IT’ – in other words, don’t just sell customers an item to replace their existing kit, offer them a true upgrade and something which is built to last.

“By way of example, our tactile keyboards demonstrate what users can expect from Cherry – let them feel the difference in quality.”


In 2023, hybrid workers are demanding IT accessories that don’t merely offer the ability to ‘get the job done’ but provide increased efficiency and extra comfort. They are exploring advanced solutions, including docking stations and hubs which make connecting and disconnecting peripherals easier.

Issues associated with mobility are equally prompting manufacturers like ACCO Brands to offer fresh designs, with new smaller, portable and lightweight products for easy transportation between the office and home. “Peripherals should be hassle-free for individuals, wherever they may be using them,” explains ACCO Brands Marketing Director EMEA Elisabete Wells. “It also means having the latest connectivity technology such as USB-C, Thunderbolt and Bluetooth,” she adds.

As a consequence of the constant back and forth between different work venues, securing devices and related accessories has taken on added importance. Says Wells: “Security is of paramount concern for businesses, so all these solutions need to be secured and encrypted for peace of mind.

“For employees working on the go or remotely from public locations like cafés, privacy screen filters and portable safety locks are in high demand for protecting data, hardware and any sensitive information displayed on their devices.”

With upgrades, innovations and an ever-expanding product portfolio, there are clearly significant opportunities in the peripherals category. For dealers willing to commit and diversify within this area, adhoc sales of one-off items can be replaced by offering enhanced services and range expansions. Talking to specialist IT distributors is key.

Dealers have to embrace the point of ‘don’t just change IT, upgrade IT’
276 million Expected sales volume of keyboards by 2028
Source: Statista

$7.2 billion

Exertis Supplies, for example, sees its resellers transforming into one-stop-shops for their customers. But, warns Appleby: “If dealers do not move now, they are at risk of end users looking elsewhere for their technology requirements. This potentially could mean losing an entire basket of product simply because they are not offering what consumers require.”


The focus on sustainability and electronics is at an all-time high, with an estimated two million tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) discarded by UK households and businesses every year, according to the Health and Safety Executive. A recent study published by Uswitch reveals that while the UK is currently the second-highest producer of e-waste at 23.9 kg per capita, it is on course to become the world’s largest contributor next year.

Sustainability is an area that Eagling believes will set companies apart: “Ethical businesses providing sustainable solutions will be the ones to flourish.” However, developing genuinely sustainable and circular IT products is complex as they contain multiple materials, plastics and electrical parts moulded together.

Still, manufacturers are upping their game. ACCO Brands, for instance, is reviewing ways in which these peripherals may be easily dismantled at the end of their lifecycle and disposed of in the correct manner. In addition, the company is rethinking its packaging. “We are removing single-use plastic, using less cardboard, and shifting towards sustainably sourced packaging materials,” Wells explains. “We are also trying to include more recycled content in the products themselves.”

Appleby says Exertis Supplies harbours huge ambitions, fully acknowledging the need to create a


The rise of gaming technology is rapidly impacting working life, with high-end peripherals used to make homeworking, on-the-go or the workplace more advanced. HP Inc UK & Ireland Managing Director Dave Prezzano explains:

People’s choices when it comes to digital entertainment are altering physical workspaces, with high-end gaming peripherals more common in home office set-ups. This merging will only accelerate in 2023, creating new opportunities for workforce-focused solutions that offer genuine innovation as well as more immersive gaming experiences.

Collaboration technology has also improved since 2020, as organisations have sought to enhance hybrid productivity. R&D in this area is not slowing down, with a relentless focus on removing friction from communications. For example, smarter, increasingly seamless conference room audio and video enables anyone to start presenting immediately without a time-consuming set-up.


You might be surprised to learn the UK is forecast to become the country with the highest percentage of self-identified gamers, surpassing Japan. In 2022, 60% of UK adults considered themselves gamers, and this is expected to rise to 70% by 2027. With games now dominating the global entertainment industry, people are investing in improving their experience.

This translates to greater mainstream demand for more sophisticated peripherals, such as customisable keyboards, mice and external microphones, previously considered niche products geared towards hardcore gamers. The same is true for ergonomic professionalgrade controllers, or blue light filtering glasses designed to mitigate seep disruption.

Premium headsets with immersive multidirectional audio can provide both gamers and professionals with greater personalised, comfortable experiences. All of which are raising consumers’ expectations when it comes to device performance.

sustainable supply chain and is working hard to make this possible. “We offer sustainable items such as a new range of recycled material laptop bags. We utilise the electric vehicle fleets of our carriers and are also very conscious of how orders are packed, and the materials used to do so.”

Sustainability will be an increasingly crucial consideration in the peripherals category, whether in manufacturing, distribution, or selling. “It will remain a critical factor for any organisation, and success will hinge upon it,” says Eagling. She adds: “Reducing energy consumption – particularly in light of recent price increases – but more generally as part of society’s efforts to address the climate crisis, will continue to play a critical role in product selection. This will be paired with requirements to deliver waste reduction and circularity.”

If dealers do not move now, they are at risk of end users looking elsewhere for their technology requirements
Value of the gaming accessories market in Europe by 2030
Source: Straits Research
“ ” 36 WORKPLACE360 - APRIL/MAY 2023
Dave Prezzano

Everyone wants to buy but nobody wants to be sold to

To reach your target audience, you need to cut through the noise


Not only is there a multigenerational workforce, varied working styles, preferred tech platforms and tones for communication to contend with, but there is also a notable shift in procurement. Trying to attract the right buyers is now an even greater challenge because the individual carrying out the procurement/searching is often not the decision-maker or the person paying the invoice –but has the most influence.

Knowing how your market has changed and how it will transform helps to understand the emerging audience, how to engage it and for how long you will appeal to it. It allows an organisation to better visualise and develop a product/service offering, marketing and selling strategy to meet customer demands.

We know motivation and perception occupy a critical role in shaping purchasing decisions. People are influenced by social groups –professional and personal – and have values and beliefs shaped by cultural factors that affect their buying. Personal attributes such as age, income, occupation, company and lifestyle, coupled with the elements of a stable or unstable economy, impact every decision –consciously and unconsciously.

Post-Brexit and pandemic, buyers have become more astute and selective in their spending. Add in the need for brands to be seen as sustainable, equitable, diverse and inclusive, and messaging and marketing have never been more important or harder!

If you start and end with the premise of the above headline, every decision made on your brand journey to growth will define how to find and engage the right audience. Ultimately, it comes down to how you focus on being seen and heard in the noisy world of online digital creativity and multiple media platforms.

To put it into perspective, in January 2023, stats released by We Are Social in its Digital 2023 report showed the number of active social media users was circa 4.76 billion (59.4% of the global population) and growing at +0.5% or +23 million quarter on quarter. Of this, 46.3% are female users and 53.7% male, with 77.8% being 18+. It shows online audiences are continually growing.

Future buyers are rapidly moving to dynamic and creative digital searches and use an average of 7.2 different platforms a month. So, while Google remains the #1 search engine, social media is also influencing buying decisions.

Moving forward, companies need to take a step back and realise it is all in the planning and the activation, based on the customer journey and the user experience. Getting this strategy right to future-proof your business can be boiled down to three elements – 1. Message.

2.Market. 3. Media.


What do you wish to say? What is at the heart of your brand and its purpose? What experience would you like the customer to have? What delivers the experience? What is the ‘so what’ of the experience/call to action? What happens next?

All companies should have a strategic mission aligned with their purpose, brand equity and the values of their customers. Messaging must come from the heart of the business, producing a clear vision, language and common goals which can be shared with the whole leadership team, employees and purchasers.

Clients don’t just seek transactional product sales marketing anymore – you must engage with them and share your values and purpose. Present a reason to buy.

People desire consistency, continuity and transparency; to identify themselves in the

Vida Barr-Jones is CEO of brand-led growth agency Focus7

face of the brand and that it can solve their problems. Understanding a buyer’s attitude and beliefs becomes useful for marketers to design campaigns. This is where diversity, inclusivity and unconscious bias need to be embraced positively in marketing, messaging and visual brand representation.


Who are you talking to? Once the purpose is decided and what you want to say, define and align the audience. Check the purchasing data to identify customer behaviour, research to pinpoint the target market and narrow it down as much as possible.

Consider demographics such as age, gender and location, remembering that these and the buying needs of the decision-maker, business owner or procurement manager may differ from those of the intern doing the research.

Once there is a solid idea of the audience, it really pays to build a clear profile – what is important to them, what they love, what their interests are, where they hang out, what they read, and what their attitudes are. Ideally, develop this into a profile, building a persona or avatar with a name and photograph to represent them.

When the persona is ready, you can unify the sales and marketing strategy and messaging to the target audience. Build the customer journey around them and amplify the brand outreach and engagement to generate interest and result in inbound leads.


How are you going to reach the target audience?

Once the values and purpose are established, you know what to say, have defined the target market and developed detailed audience profiles, you are ready to build the customer journey and decide how to ignite your brand.

When we started talking about ‘touchpoints’ decades ago, a sales team likely required three to close a deal – a cold call, a face-to-face and a follow-up. According to True List’s Sales Statistics 2023, 98% of cold calls are rejected and 50% of prospects are not the right fit.

In addition, before buying, 82% of purchasers view five more content items from the winning vendor, while 60% of B2B tech buyers are millennials and 60% of clients state “No” four times before saying “Yes”.

Linking the sales and marketing strategy to the target audience and developing the customer experience helps identify the combination of multichannel campaigns that really hit the mark. When engaging with the market, you can build an understanding of exactly when and where to promote carefully crafted messages for the greatest impact.

Study the specific platforms used by clients and identify critical timings through A/B testing. Look at the type of device, as most searches are done on mobiles now, even in the B2B world. Examine browsing behaviour and analyse the user experience and interaction on your website and landing pages and ensure mobile compliance. Quantify the reach and engagement of every campaign to test and adjust the marketing strategy and fine-tune each one. Set clearly defined targets and goals against ROI but remember the value of each engagement and the buying decision process. Ensure those average five pieces of content are good enough to support this.


Customers’ needs and buying behaviours are becoming increasingly complex as they access more information and content. Step back, keep it simple and focus on message – market – media and you will be able to cut through to what is important to the customer.

When purchasing research is carried out, you need to rise above the noise. Defining what to say, who to talk to and how to reach them, enables you to determine exactly where to invest the marketing resources to ignite your brand and support sales. Follow that up with sound analysis to grow the bottom line in the complex purchasing world where everyone wants to buy but nobody wants to be sold to.

Customers’ needs and buying behaviours are becoming increasingly complex as they access more information and content

Emotions = sales

Don’t neglect soft skills when it comes to sales

With artificial intelligence and account-based marketing becoming the current selling norm, it’s no surprise there is a belief that “relationship sales” have died. However, a study by research firm Gartner found 56% of buyers who didn’t engage with a ‘person’ later regretted their buying decision.

So, the question is, how do we stay ahead and stop caving into price pressure and wasting time on low-level prospects? I believe relationship selling is more important than ever, especially in a world where buyers may sometimes be betterinformed than the ‘expert’.

As someone who has spent decades coaching and mentoring salespeople, I am frequently faced with the challenge from sales leaders to “make my team better”. Specifically, “I require better closers… I need additional appointments to build my pipeline”, with the focus being on the hard sales process expertise.

This often means soft skills get neglected. In sales, developing emotional intelligence (EI or more often called EQ) matters and impacts performance and numbers.

EQ is the ability to be aware of one’s emotions and the emotions of others and to manage them in a productive and empathic manner. And let’s be honest, how can that not be useful in sales?

Daniel Goldman introduced the idea of EQ to the world in his 1995 book Emotional Intelligence, using the following five categories:

1. Self-awareness

2. Self-regulation

3. Social skills

4. Empathy

5. Motivation

Their use in sales is beneficial in several ways, but here’s how I interpret and apply them:


If we can understand our emotions and their impact on others, then we could manage time and energy around our emotional selves. By way of example, hands up who’s told to do prospecting first thing in the morning? This may work for some, but others are more energetic in the afternoon.

Bouncing back from rejection is part of the job, but we are much less likely to pass on negative emotions on a subsequent call if we are mindful of those feelings. The conscious state is about controlling emotions to reach the end goals. For example, how many of us have stopped prospecting when we landed a key appointment and celebrated the success rather than keeping our reaction under control?


This is known as impulse control. In the field of commerce, this could be when talking to a customer after a difficult meeting, not allowing any negative responses to infiltrate the next one. A great self-regulated person will avoid letting fear, anxiety and gloom cross into a conversation

Relationship selling is more important than ever
Michelle Naphtali is Learning and Development Director at EVO

and is capable of keeping their enthusiasm for customers and sales over the long term to improve their job performance.


Whenever I am in training sessions, people often nod and refer to successful colleagues. Salespeople with great social skills will be successful at prospecting due to the ability to develop and maintain a good network of contacts. They are capable of reading a room and adapting their behaviour to the needs of the group. What’s important is they know when it is premature to start asking for the business.


The counterpoint to self-awareness. Good salespeople can judge feelings and steer the conversation in the most appropriate way. They see the customer experience through the buyer’s eyes and identify the pain points by way of good discovery. Empathy must represent a middle ground – too much and the salesperson stops asking searching, direct questions, but too little and discovery becomes lost in their eagerness to get to the presentation.


Motivated salespeople get more done in the day! Sounds obvious, right? But I’ve had sales leaders inform me that motivation doesn’t matter. Time is the biggest commodity in sales – if it is utilised effectively, success inevitably follows.

Motivated people respond better to rejection, seek out training and focus on their ultimate objectives. They have a higher propensity to follow up, keep tracking down a prospect and stay on course with achieving targets.

To all the wonderful salespeople, think about this honestly – have you considered EQ and how it could aid in the sales process? Ask yourself which of the five EQ categories are you naturally adept at and which can be worked on. Each aspect has a valuable part to play. We all know the saying ‘people buy from people’, so just sticking to one hour a day of prospecting and controlling your emotional response – good or bad – will see the pipeline increase.

It’s worthwhile engaging in some research into EQ and its application in the sales process, and there are countless books, podcasts and studies on the subject. Be the best you can be, and happy selling!


Record of attendance

The second Hybrid Working Index released by Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA) tracks the development of flexible working and office rate attendance globally. The research is based on a panel of 62 organisations with 220 offices in 33 countries, representing almost 250,000 employees.

Key findings from the research reveal that as hybrid working is becoming the norm, staff are currently in the office a mere 1.5 days per week versus nearly four pre-pandemic. In the UK, this figure is slightly lower at 1.4.

Overall, typical attendance is a paltry 29%, with Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday the preferred days to be in – almost 80% of employees work from home on a Friday. Even at its highest daily peak on Wednesdays, occupancy is still low at a meagre 35%.

Predictably, the UK market follows the global data, with Wednesday being the most common day for the highest in-person office participation (36%), and the least popular being Friday at just half this (18%). Over the course of a week, the average is 28%.

However, weekly average desk use worldwide has increased by 6% to 37% as firms reduce their capacity requirements. With an established space-sharing culture, the UK is one of the leanest countries in relation to the provision of desks at 63 per 100 people. On the bright side, this means weekly average desk use is 37%, with peak usage at 49%, higher compared to most other geographies, including the EU.


58% of all organisations surveyed have directly implemented a hybrid working policy, with just over a quarter (26%) varying the procedure at team level. For those companies that haven’t

instituted a policy, AWA suggests they will need to evolve their operational practices, processes, skills and office utilisation strategies and balance demand across weekdays. Those firms mandating staff are present at their place of work in-person 2-3 days per week do experience an uplift in attendance.

42% of companies surveyed by AWA in the UK said they had no such protocol in place, and less than a quarter (24%) asked employees to show up at the office three times a week. This figure falls to 19% for organisations requesting staff attend for two days.

In terms of office attendance by sector, there are huge disparities, ranging from an average of 64% for those in the property market, reaching 80% at its peak, to 19% for not-for-profit organisations, climbing to 30% at its height. The only other industry to top 50% peak attendance is professional services (53%), which weighs in with a mean of 42%.


AWA predicts the office property sector will be hit hard as unused space is put up for sale, coupled with reduced demand from companies looking to relocate.

The flip side to this is there will be increased demand for innovative locations that offer businesses a dedicated ‘core’ workplace area with the use of shared facilities such as cafés, meeting areas and auditoriums.

For further information and to read the full Hybrid Working Index by Advanced Workplace Associates, visit

With an established spacesharing culture, the UK is one of the leanest countries in relation to the provision of desks
Hybrid working is having a profound effect on in-office participation

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Managing stress in the workplace

Coping with stress at work

Stress is a natural response to a tricky situation and something we all experience at different times. While it isn’t an illness, it can exact a toll on physical and mental health. We may have difficulty sleeping, eating or controlling our emotions; we might think negatively, be indecisive and lose focus more easily. It may leave us feeling isolated, overwhelmed and struggling to cope.

The workplace can represent a source of anxiety –heavy workloads, looming deadlines, challenging relationships with colleagues, and other expectations and demands placing us under pressure. In such an environment, distress may present as a loss of confidence, commitment and motivation, leading to reduced productivity, increased absence, poor timekeeping and fractious relationships.


All employers have a legal duty to protect employees from pressures in the workplace. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advises carrying out a stress risk assessment, sharing the outcome with the relevant employee and undertaking appropriate action to reduce detected risks. HSE’s Management Standards are useful as they identify six key areas of work which can markedly affect stress, while the Stress Talking Toolkit is designed

to help managers have conversations with personnel as part of an inclusive proposal to prevent and handle workrelated worries.

Many companies have an Employee Assistance Programme, offering advice, counselling and referral services to aid employees with personal problems that might negatively impact their performance and well-being. Others help reduce stigma, which can be an obstacle to seeking support, by creating a corporate culture of understanding and openness.

This may include ‘Mental Well-being First Aiders’ (read Mental health at work on page 34 in the Jan/Feb issue of Workplace360 for more information on this topic) – employees who have received training in mental health to offer appropriate assistance when they detect possible signs of a decline. A Well-being First Aider can become a vital part of the approach, helping to prevent

can be challenging, but an employer’s readiness to assist is beneficial for all involved
All employers have a legal duty to protect employees from pressures in the workplace

Prima Voca trains people to have the confidence and competence to act as a first call for support for colleagues, family or friends struggling with stress or other mental health issues.

In line with Health and Safety Executive guidance, Prima Voca’s two-day course qualifies participants as Mental Well-being First Aiders. Training is delivered online or face-to-face. To find out more, contact Prima Voca: / / 07709 024981

the escalation of a mental health problem. Equally, individuals can take measures to manage their wellbeing and anxiety levels:

• A gentle pursuit such as leaving the workplace for a lunchtime stroll can clear your head. Ask a friend to join you; talking about your stress may lift some pressure. Physical activity may release tension for those who enjoy more strenuous exercise.

• Mindfulness/meditation are powerful tools for coping with stress – focusing on the present, restoring calm and developing more clarity of thought.

• Practise positive self-talk: concentrate on strengths and accomplishments to build confidence and resilience as well as to reframe negative thoughts and emotions.

• Connect with a support system – a friend, colleague (perhaps a Mental Well-being First Aider), HR manager or trade union representative, for example.

• Seek guidance from a counsellor to identify the causes of stress and navigate difficult work relationships or situations.

• Engage in an open, honest conversation with a line manager to set realistic targets together and discuss what you might require to reduce anxiety.

• Establish firm boundaries. This can be particularly tough for those working from home, but finishing the day by organising the workspace for the next day may help draw a line under the present one. Preserve clear time limits, eg avoid emails and texts beyond working hours. Instead, spend time on hobbies and skills unrelated to work – concentrating on more pleasurable, relaxing activities may ease tension.

It can be challenging for people to give attention to their needs when experiencing stress, but striving to create a work-life balance and pinpointing ways to maintain good physical and mental health are vital. Each person’s response to pressure is unique, and it’s about finding a way forward that feels right. Shifting to a proactive approach, whether by employer or employee, can support each staff member to better cope with difficulties healthily and effectively.


Knowledge is power

Navigating the current choppy waters takes business acumen and a lot of courage. It additionally requires access to the latest relevant information – which is where the OPI European Forum plays its part

Like many other sectors, the workplace supplies industry is undergoing constant transformation, dictated by macro- and microeconomics, cultural norms, new generations entering the workforce, technology... the list goes on. As we all know, the recent pandemic has resulted in the now entrenched hybrid working situation we currently face and accelerated other changes that might otherwise have taken years. Add to this the economic situation the UK presently faces and there’s plenty to keep you up at night.


The topics covered over the two-day gathering are wide and varied and all designed to address the issues affecting our industry right now. IDC VP of Imaging & Future of WorkSpace Practice Lead Mick Heys will examine the relevance of the office and its impact on sales as companies invest in redesigning the workplace.

Pricing and inflationary pressures are top of mind and three speakers will tackle this thorny issue.

Skuuudle founder Andrew Senior will delve into pricing intelligence, while James Brown and Juriaan Deumer from Simon-Kucher & Partners will explore managing price in today’s high-inflation market.

Customer engagement is consistently a topic of discussion, and the European Forum has this covered. Highlands Partner Gordon Christiansen will outline the levers available to brands across the digital landscape and deliver practical examples of how to build plans that carry consumers through the modern sales funnel.

The OPI European Forum is a unique event aimed at senior executives from the leading resellers, manufacturers and wholesalers of office products and “non-traditional” operators from the increasingly important FM and consumer electronics categories.


The pan-European event is an opportune time to meet peers spanning the industry and share ideas, with a topical agenda to discuss and analyse the problems impacting our sector. Taking place under Chatham House rules, the forum offers keynotes, panel discussions, roundtables and an abundance of networking opportunities.

There are familiar names in the line-up, including Gordon Christiansen from Highlands, Paddy Donnelly from ES Tech Group and business supplies veteran Robert Baldrey. They will be joined by experts from IDC, Simon-Kucher & Partners, Skuuudle and People and Transformational HR, among many others.

ES Tech Group Managing Director Paddy Donnelly will look at customer expectations in B2B e-commerce and how to achieve a best-in-class website experience.

Needless to say, having the right team in place to tackle all these matters is key. Perry Timms, founder & Chief Energy Officer at People and Transformational HR, will reveal how HR 3.0 can help solve your biggest challenges. In addition, independent industry expert Robert Baldrey will present helpful food for thought around the common pitfalls and problems that typically prevent profitable growth and value creation.

The OPI European Forum 2023 will be held from 22-24 May at the Pestana Amsterdam Riverside. Visit for the full agenda and to book

The topics covered over the two-day gathering are wide and varied and all designed to address the issues affecting our industry right now

Why not join us at this year’s BOSS Charity Day and help raise funds to support those in need?

The BOSS Business Supplies

Charity Golf & Spa Day

14 June 2023 at Belton Woods Hotel, Grantham NG23 2LN

The BOSS Charity Day offers you the choice of a friendly golf competition or a relaxing day at the spa - followed by a networking dinner for all.

If you are coming to the BOSS Manufacturers’ Forum the next day, why not join us just for the dinner?

To book your place, go to:

Golf Team ‘Early Bird’ price £400 extended to 15 May (£600 thereafter)

Golf Single: £100 per person

Spa day: £140 per person

Dinner only: £40 per person

For more information, contact: A massive thank you to all of our Patrons for 2023 Honorary Patron Tel: 01924 203383

Celebrating success

The UK contingent took home several trophies at the 2023 European Office Products Awards

The recipients of the 22nd European Office Products Awards (EOPA) were announced at a gala dinner on 13 March. The annual EOPA were once again presented during the OPI Partnership event held from 12-14 March at the Hotel Okura in the Dutch city of Amsterdam.

The EOPA winners were revealed during an evening of celebration that highlighted great products, initiatives, companies and individuals from the workplace supplies sector. Attended by leading industry figures, the toast was given by Viking Europe CEO Christa Furter.

It was also an opportunity to get together, meet existing business partners and forge new relationships while raising a toast to all that is innovative, progressive and resilient in our sector.


There were several UK winners and highly commended entries and campaigns on the list. Cheltenham-based Commercial took home the award for Sustainability Excellence in the reseller category. The EOPA judges acknowledged that Commercial is a business like no other in the European workplace supplies industry. Sustainability is genuinely in the company’s DNA, with efforts going far beyond best practice across all aspects of its operations.

James Day won the Young Executive of the Year award amid considerable competition from his contemporaries. In his role as Sales & Marketing

The EOPA winners were revealed during an evening of celebration that highlighted great products, initiatives, companies and individuals
Durable’s James Day

Director of Durable UK, he impressed the judges with his incredible work ethic and how he has built trust with his channel partners.

Day possesses a clear vision of how Durable can grow with its resellers and has already made a real impact at the vendor, both in terms of sales growth as well as internal team effort and collaboration.

Sylvamo Europe won the Initiative of the Year award for its highly effective 2022 Comics Rule! campaign. Sylvamo’s REY brand linked up with the National Literacy Trust to help improve reading, writing, speaking and listening skills in the UK’s most disadvantaged communities, where up to 40% of people have literacy problems. The EOPA judging panel was hugely impressed with this initiative and its strong links to an important charity.


In the Highly Commended list this year, three out of the four selected were UK companies and campaigns. These were Avery UK for its Think Safe, Work Safe marketing campaign, Lyreco for Lyreco Goodness Supplier Support Programme and sustainable toilet tissue manufacturer The Cheeky Panda.


• Business Product of the Year: ACCO Brands

EMEA – Leitz Ergo Range

• Wholesaler of the Year: PBS Holding

• Marketing Campaign of the Year: Pilot Corporation of Europe – So Easy

Highly commended: Avery UK – Think Safe, Work Safe

• Marketplace/Platform of the Year: Unite

Highly commended: Amazon

• Initiative of the Year: Sylvamo Europe – 2022 Comics Rule!

Highly commended: Lyreco – Lyreco

Goodness Supplier Support Programme

• Sustainability Excellence – Vendor:


Highly commended: The Cheeky Panda

• Sustainability Excellence – Reseller: Commercial

• Reseller of the Year: Böttcher

• Vendor of the Year: tesa

• Young Executive of the Year: James Day, Sales & Marketing Director, Durable UK

• Business Leader of the Year: Kenneth Borup, CEO, Lomax

• Industry Achievement: Dr Benedikt Erdmann, Group CEO, Soennecken

Sylvamo’s Wim Dootselaere Commercial’s Simone Hindmarch with Greenspeed’s Michel de Bruin
Viking Europe’s Christa Furter

Clear leadership

Inspiring, empowering and practical –all key features of a recent BOSS Leaders of the Future webinar

In honour of International Women’s Day on 8 March, BOSS Leaders of the Future (LOTF) held a webinar featuring female leaders from within our industry. The panellists, who all hailed from various disciplines and companies, shared highlights from their career journeys and imparted essential leadership skills to viewers.

The panellists were: Julie Hawley, Executive Director Finance, YPO; Andrea Kenna, Senior Director Merchandising Europe, Viking; Asmana Iftakhar, People and Culture Director, Lyreco; Nikola Simpson, Head of E-commerce, EVO Group and Sam Rylands, Head of Marketing, Durable UK.

The focus revolved around leading through change, and throughout the hour-long session, the discussion was open and frank. Kicking off the webinar, BOSS CEO Amy Hutchinson offered some statistics on what still needs to be done to achieve equality in the workplace. For example, it is expected the gender pay gap won’t close until 2044. She also reiterated the importance of allies for the social, economic, cultural and political advancement of women.

While supporting and motivating others represents a fundamental aspect of good leadership, focusing on your unique strengths, talent and abilities is something Iftakhar firmly believes in. She said: “Never seek validation from anybody and be true to yourself and your own value set.”


Creating a collaborative and positive company environment is vital to success, and it’s no secret women leaders can bring something different to the table and be hugely beneficial to an organisation. Although not an exclusively female trait, Rylands referred to emotional intelligence (EQ) as a significant skill, with the inherent sense of awareness often uncovering details which may otherwise go unnoticed.

Hawley agreed with this point of view. Elaborating further on the subject, she added that soft skills shouldn’t be ignored, especially as they become more important the further up the management chain a person rises. “You tend to shift from transactional work to more people management.”


Below are some of the key takeaways from the LOTF webinar:


Becoming a successful leader requires more than technical competence in a chosen discipline. Embracing change and adaptability came through loud and clear as two of the panellists’ top traits for great leadership. Describing her career advancement, Kenna said most of her opportunities derived from not only being adaptable to transformation in the business but also from understanding that people adjust at different paces. Simpson, meanwhile, suggested change is a gateway for learning and future leaders mustn’t be afraid to share their knowledge. “Be open with your time and experience but mostly be observant and listen. Often, the real gems in a team are the ones who don’t shout about their hunger to progress. Reach out to them and help build their confidence.”

A successful and creative team requires unique skills, backgrounds, experiences, ideas and cultures as Rylands pointed out: “With diversity comes an innovative culture and greater gender diversity on a senior executive team has been linked to a corresponding financial performance uplift.”

Adding to the topic, Iftakhar stated that representation is vital. “It’s critical for people to see themselves represented on the leadership team, whether on the board, senior management team or even a project. Coming from a different background with an alternative perspective, you approach problems differently. If everyone is open to discussion, you normally figure out the right solution. Diverse opinions around the table can create change.”


l 140 attendees watched the live webinar.

l 100% of survey respondents rated the subject matters discussed as very good or excellent.

l 100% rated the representation of senior women in the industry as excellent.

Coming from a different background with an alternative perspective, you approach problems differently
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Optimal conditions

Employers must learn to be flexible

Performance should be judged on output –not on the hours someone works. Perhaps an unpopular opinion, but I have always despaired of the comments that fly around a management meeting. The ones that praise the ‘hard workers’ slogging away at their desks from dusk till dawn.

Or the “good afternoon” remarks made to the poor person who’s just battled the school run and rush hour traffic only to make it into the office a bit later than expected.

Reflecting on my first full-time contract, it started at 35 hours a week – a typical 9-5 job, with 60 minutes for lunch. It changed to 37.5 hours and then increased to 40. Some businesses currently contract 42 hours for fulltime employment. It begs the question: what is the tipping point before an individual stops adding value?

Employers should really ask themselves whether even though someone is physically present, how much of their time in the business is truly effective. I’ve often contemplated how we have become so bound by and fixated on the number of hours a person is expected to do.

Even now, in a post-pandemic world, the rigours of the traditional work scenario are clearly coming back into play. That sense of “I must be seen, or I’ll be forgotten or even worse… I’ll be judged”.


I wonder when the nation will stop asking for more time from an employee – more time away from their home, family and friends. It’s time to realise that, in order to get ‘more’, you have to give something back.

I don’t think this has to mean a more generous financial package. Flexibility is the best reward you can provide an employee – the freedom to be trusted to manage their own work time and projects.

Prescribed hours at a specific location don’t necessarily make allowances for an individual’s optimal conditions – the time of day they work best; the style they like to work in; the environment and surroundings they thrive within. Nor do they consider circumstances such as young children or a big commute.

Offering flexible arrangements enable an employee to work during the hours they are most productive. This means a company gets more out of them – higher output, higher revenue and lower staff turnover. Organisations demonstrating such adaptability also reduce their cost to hire because they represent an attractive place of employment.

What is the tipping point before an individual stops adding value?

Being a flexible company also opens up access to a wider talent pool – those exceptional candidates who are otherwise out of reach because they are unable to commit to specific demands such as hours and place of work.


Ex-Amazon recruiter and best-selling author of 7 Critical Resume Mistakes to Avoid Lindsay Mustain said: “Employees have been statistically proven to be more efficient when provided the opportunity to independently work when, how and as much as they like. Flexible options increase both productivity and the time an employee spends working.”

Some day, we might just take a leap of faith –one that gives people the freedom to work their own hours in their chosen environment, which ultimately pays us back with the results they deliver…

Stephanie Gentle is Managing Director of Beaverswood


European Forum


EUROPEAN Forum 2023


The only senior executive forum for the business supplies industry addressing our unique challenges alongside matchless networking opportunities


Cezary Mońko, President, ACCO Brands EMEA

Simone Hindmarch, Managing Director, Commercial Group

Paddy Donnelly, Managing Director, ES Tech Group

Charles Nusse, Managing Director, Exacompta

Gordon Christiansen, Partner, Highlands

Mick Heys, VP, Imaging & Future of WorkSpace

Practice Lead, IDC

Perry Timms, Founder & Chief Energy Officer –People and Transformational HR

Alain Josse, Managing Director, Office Supplies Europe, Raja Group

Jonathan Weiss, Commercial Director B2B Europe, Australia & New Zealand, Reckitt

Christian Horn, Chief Product and Supply Chain Officer, RS Group

Christian Langvad, VP Operations, Schäfer Shop Group

Lee Mellor, VP Europe, SC Johnson Professional

James Brown, Senior Partner, Managing Director UK, Simon-Kucher & Partners

Andrew Senior, Founder, Skuuudle

Bob Boekema, Managing Director, TFE Agency

Robert Baldrey, independent industry expert


The relevance of the office and its implications for growth in the workplace channel

How the right team can solve your biggest challenges

Managing price in an inflationary market

Attracting new talent to your workplace

State of the industry panel

Equipping workers and workspaces in the future office

B2B marketplaces – what can we expect and how can we be prepared?

How ‘Everywhere Commerce’ can drive sales and loyalty Hygiene as the foundation for healthier business

The consumerisation of B2B e-commerce and what that means for your business

The secret to competitor pricing intelligence

Successful turnaround and restructuring

For more information and to book, visit

“The OPI
is designed to help
better understand and analyse the changes to our sector in the post-pandemic era. Practical takeaways will enable you to make informed strategic decisions to ensure your business continues to succeed”

What’s something you’ve done that no one would believe if you didn’t have proof?

During the pandemic, I raised over £7,000 for a local charity when my husband shaved all my hair off live on Facebook. I still can’t believe I did it. I couldn’t look in a mirror for weeks.

Most embarrassing industry moment?

Oh my goodness, there have been a few. I cringe whenever I think about it, but it has to be singing American Pie during an ice-breaking exercise at a Maped Helix training day. I really can’t hold a tune but I was determined my team would win!

Sarah Laker, owner, Stationery Supplies

Do you collect anything?

Not intentionally, but due to my love of giraffes, I’m frequently given giraffe-themed gifts. The head of my giraffe ‘tower’ is Gloria –a 4 ft Christmas present. I still don’t know how my husband sneaked her home, wrapped and put her under the tree on Christmas Eve without me noticing!

Best concert you’ve ever been to?

Definitely seeing Elton John in Las Vegas. It was a surprise 25th wedding anniversary gift from my lovely husband and it was a phenomenal show.

Name three items on your bucket list. To go on a safari, attend a concert at the Royal Albert Hall and visit the Shetland Islands.

Proudest accomplishment?

It’s a tie. I changed my profession at 35, leaving behind a career as a nurse to become the proud owner of Stationery Supplies. I had absolutely zero knowledge of how to run a business but here I am, 17 years later, with two shops and loving every minute. In 2022, I won the BOSS Independent Retailer award for the second year running, although I guess these two things go hand in hand.

Then there was dropping my BOSS Award and breaking it about 30 minutes after proudly receiving it on stage. The less said about that, the better…

What’s your karaoke song?

See above – no one needs to hear me singing! But anything by Elton John will get me singing along in the car when I’m commuting.

What’s something new happening in your life?

I was totally amazed to be asked to head up National Stationery Week this year. What an honour. Coordinating the campaign has been a real challenge. However, I’ve had such fantastic support from big stationery brands and retailers that the week is going to be very exciting and full of competitions and activities.

Strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?

I love a weird food combo: Wotsits dipped in salad cream or a plain chocolate digestive with a slice of cheddar on top are two of my absolute favourites.

What’s your favourite place to visit?

I love to visit Chester Zoo to see the giraffes. My Marple shop sponsors one every year.

Who is your hero?

Retail expert Mary Portas. I love her nononsense attitude, what she’s done for the High Street and her understanding of how difficult it can be at times as a businesswoman.

Last book you read?

Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch – part of the Rivers of London series. I’m an avid reader and average 30 books a year. I keep a notebook to write them down.

Gloria the giraffe
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