OPI acquires Independent Dealer e-zine

OPI has acquired the US-based Independent Dealer e-zine (ID) from De Groot Resources.

ID was first published in January 2007 by its founder and editor Simon De Groot, building on a 30-year career writing about the office products industry for the National Office Products Association (NOPA) and the now demised OfficeDEALER publication.

Having successfully championed the cause of the US independent dealer channel for more than a decade, and after 40 years of meeting almost daily publishing deadlines, De Groot has decided to transition slowly into a more balanced lifestyle that allows him to spend more time with his family.

As part of the handover agreement, De Groot will remain at ID as a consultant for a period of two years, assisting new editor and publisher Rowan McIntyre who will head ID’s already established team of experienced writers.
McIntyre is an experienced B2B journalist who is very familiar with the US business supplies industry, having written for OPI in a freelance capacity as well as writing and publishing for several years the official publication for the annual EPIC trade show on behalf of co-organisers Independent Stationers and TriMega Purchasing Association.

Commenting on the announcement, former independent dealer and now OPI’s CEO Steve Hilleard said: “I am delighted that Simon De Groot has entrusted us to continue the excellent work he has done with the ID e-zine and we look forward to building on that success.

“The publication’s mission will remain the same: to celebrate success in the independent dealer channel and to point the way to new opportunities for dealers to grow stronger and more profitably.”

De Groot added: “The good thing from my point of view – and for ID’s readers – is that the new owners, OPI, are well known to just about everyone in the industry and come to our publication with an outstanding track record of publishing excellence and journalistic integrity. Steve Hilleard and I have been competitors and friends for many years and I know he and his team are going to do a great job for the dealer community.”

A list of FAQs can be accessed here.

Source: OPI

A message from the chairman of shop-sa

Another turbulent, interesting and sometimes depressing year is almost over.

Just as we thought “Little else can happen, apart from waiting for the all important outcome of the ANC conference” Steinhoff hit us!

All these factors impact on business confidence. However, our industry and SA as a whole have once again shown great resilience, which bodes well for the future.

It is in times like this when being part of an association like shop-sa is critical and as important as ever.

To communicate effectively, the former My Office magazine, successfully moved from print to digital, opening up new possibilities and keeping our members informed about trends as well as issues relating to our industry.

The popular series of Executive Breakfast sessions, with excellent and relevant speakers, will continue in 2018.

Our hope and wish is that industry players recognise the value of a strong association and renew their support – we all know that “strength is in numbers”!

On this note, we wish all members and readers of the My Office newsletter a peaceful festive season – and a much better 2018! 

Hans Servas


shop-sa holds AGM

shop-sa held its Annual General Meeting on Thursday 26 October at the Bryanston Country Club in Johannesburg.

Chairman Hans Servas opened the meeting with a summary of the OPI report for 2016/2017, “A View From The
Top”, updating global events and trends in the office products and stationery industry.

The quorum was reached and there were a number of apologies. In his report, the chairman elaborated on the following:

  • Six board meetings were held during the year;
  • The main event in 2017 was the digitisation of the My Office magazine, and the launch of the official My Office News newsletter;
  • A breakfast session about the impact and role of digitisation, with Matt Brown of Digital Kung Fu was well attended; and
  • Finances are sound, although the association reported a small loss for the year.

Amendments to the Constitution were approved by the AGM .

Rob Matthews, owner of IT Online, gave a presentation on the growth and future of the digital publications. He delineated what My Office News does, which is connecting buyers and sellers through content. My Office intends to focus on janitorial (including facilities management).

The decision to go digital hinged off the declining print market and well as lower support from advertisers. The advantages of digital include: a reduction in cost; flexibility to change artwork; broader coverage; a faster speed to publish; and better metrics due to improved accuracy of delivery and statistics.

My Office offers weekly newsletters, crime alerts, press offices, a product source guide, Facebook and Twitter, and focuses on brand awareness. New products in the pipeline include a tech news letter, a hobby newsletter, Facebook management and digital communication.

A new board for 2017/18 was elected. The new board members are:
1. Hans Servas (Chairman)
2. Bill Bayley
3. Clive Heydenrych
4. Allan Thompson

Trotec celebrates 20 years

In a span of only 20 years, Trotec Laser has grown from a start-up to a world market leader in laser machines for cutting, marking and engraving: from humble beginnings in the former “Development and Research Container” to the very impressive Green Building Headquarters in Upper Austria.

As part of the Trodat Trotec Group, Trotec develops, manufactures and markets laser machines for marking, cutting and engraving, as well as engraving materials. As a leader in innovation, Trotec sets new standards in the laser segment; with an installed base of over 30,000 systems, Trotec now serves customers in more than 90 countries and employs more than 550 people worldwide.

Trotec was formed in 1997 from a research branch of Trodat – the world’s biggest manufacturer of stamps – and has since then become a world leader in the field of laser technology. In 2015, the sales volume of the Upper Austrian laser manufacturer exceeded € 100 million for the first time. Years before, as an almost visionary goal, the passing of this mark was defined as a goal for 2015, and it was reached precisely: exactly € 100.8 million in sales were ultimately achieved. In 2016, the latest completed financial year, Trotec increased sales by 9.1 %, to almost € 110 million.

Sales volume goal by 2020: € 200 million

The high growth rate continues in 2017, too. With a predicted sales increase of 20%, Trotec sets a major milestone for the sales volume goal in 2020. Dr. Andreas Penz, spokesman of Trotec’s management, commented on this: “This increase in sales seems incredibly high at first sight, but the laser business is an extremely dynamic one, and laser applications are now found in all major areas of life. For example in medical engineering. We manufacture stents with our laser machines. Or in the field of research, where laser applications are simply indispensable, for example in the development of the Mars Rover. Trotec laser technology plays an important role in industry and trade as well. The pivotal question is: Why do we make lasers? Answer: We make our customers successful, and this sustainable strategy allows us to grow overproportionately”, explains Penz.
The explicit goal for the future of Trotec Laser is to become the world’s number one in the laser segment and the market leader in the defined core markets.

20th anniversary celebrations
On the occasion of the 20th anniversary celebrations, Andreas Penz reviewed the past 20 years with milestones of development, supplemented with some personal insights and experiences. He proudly thanked the Trotec team for the tireless dedication and the distinctive team spirit at Trotec, which forms the basis of this success story: In record time from start-up to today’s world market leader in laser machines.

Global set-up
Trotec is present in over 90 countries with:
17 sales subsidiaries and more than 50 demo rooms
Distributor network with 113 partner companies

Trotec South Africa has a dedicated staff of 11 people, including Sales, Marketing and Technical support. We have a dedicated showroom in Sandton.
Under the umbrella of Trodat Trotec Holding GmbH, with the Trodat brand the group operates globally in the area of stamp production, and with the Trotec brand in the laser field: Trodat is the world’s largest stamp producer and Trotec the world market leader in laser engraving, cutting, and marking.

The Trodat Trotec Group currently (basis for figures: most recent completed financial year, 2016) generates a total sales volume of more than € 227.5 million and has approximately 1400 employees in some 40 subsidiaries. The Group is present in about 150 countries. The total export share amounts to more than 98 %.

Trodat Trotec South Africa has their headquarters conveniently located in Kramerville, Sandton just 50m from the M1 highway. Our dedicated showroom is set up so we are able to show you our machines and consumables at very short notice.

Trodat Trotec Holding is headquartered in Wels, Upper Austria, where also the most important production site for stamp production, including research and development, is located. Trotec’s production and distribution site is Marchtrenk, about 2 km (1¼ miles) from Wels.

A great deal more than an incentive

Networking. Team talks. Incentive programmes. We know it works. Everyone does it. But at Office Active, a proudly Inovocom company, we do it differently – as evidenced by our 9th annual conference in Jo’burg on 28 & 29 July 2017.

We also have lessons to impart; specifically: What is a ‘hard’ incentive campaign? How does a competition portal work? How best can suppliers be included on an ongoing basis? These and other questions were convincingly answered for Office Active, and we’d like to share our insights with you.

But first: the event itself

Uniting our Office Active membership and supporting suppliers into a group of 171 individuals at Emperors’ Palace, we hosted ‘speed meetings’: 12-minute sessions for dealers to briefly chat with suppliers at expo-style stations.

We also held a closed member session, with presentations by Craig Noyle, a director and co-founder of Inovocom, and Martin Stevens from Hewlett-Packard (HP), who addressed our members on business technology.

Then, the highlight: the Rev-Up Rewards Campaign, and the announcement of the winner of this five-month-long programme: Mason Complete Office Solutions. On a Pilot Pen SA ticket, Mason Complete Office Solutions won a R250,000 Toyota Avanza delivery vehicle, which is fully branded with its own corporate identity, as well as those of the five sponsor companies.

How did we pull it off?

With the goals of boosting sales, creating excitement, motivating our dealers, and offering our suppliers real ROI, plus getting all of our conference attendees to stay to the end, we required a truly exceptional initiative. At the same time, we needed to be able to present measurable results.

Members had to ‘rev up’ their purchasing, so we named the programme the ‘Rev-Up Rewards Campaign’ – inspired by the objective of supercharged sales for the period and by the prize of a high-performance delivery vehicle.

To begin with, we reached out to our supplier base to sponsor, and five companies leapt at the opportunity within the first two hours. The five – Rexel Office Products, Tarsus Technologies, Parrot Products, Pilot Pen SA, and Paperlink – contributed equally to a gleaming new Toyota Avanza.

What’s our secret weapon?

Inovocom developed a proprietary software system, to enable us to run the rewards programme from 1 March to 29 July 2017. Here’s how it works:

• Each supplier is allocated a fixed number of tickets to assign to dealers who ‘qualify’ based on sales.
• Suppliers could release their monthly or other deals to members via email and the supplier portal, as well as via national and regional branches.
• To award a ticket to a dealer, the supplier logs into the portal, and the dealer and the supplier both receive SMS confirmation of the process.
• The more tickets a dealer accrues on the system, the greater his/her chance of winning the prize.

Our suppliers were so impressed by the quality and efficiency of this campaign software, that Inovocom was approached to discuss a white-labelled version (enquiries welcome). There is also the potential to extend the Rev-Up initiative to end-user customers via the dealer and, with this, to close the loop.

And what’s next for us?

For next year, which will be Office Active’s 10th birthday, we’re considering 2nd and 3rd prizes, spot prizes, and a great deal more. We’ll be in touch.

For more information, please contact Inovocom on (011) 704 3680 or info@inovocom.co.za

By Heike Dieckmann for OPI.net

Simplification and decentralisation are the name of the game at South African reseller Waltons according to Trevor Girnun, the new man at the helm.

It’s all change again at South African reseller Waltons, part of the Office and Print division of the country’s Bidvest conglomerate. And the man tasked with the job is Trevor Girnun, Managing Director of Waltons since the middle of last year.

Having had very long-serving management members for many years – John Farrell epitomised Waltons for several decades – the past few years have seen a much higher staff turnaround at the top, all eager to eradicate legacy systems, keep up with the fast pace of today’s business supplies sector, and maintain and improve profitability.

How to achieve all of the above is clearly very much in the eye of the beholder, as OPI’s Heike Dieckmann found out when she recently caught up with Girnun.

OPI: Let’s start with a bit of background as most of our readers won’t be familiar with you and you’ve been at Waltons for less than a year.

Trevor Girnun: Sure. I’ve actually been at Bidvest my whole working career. I started in 1991 at a Bidvest company called Buffalo Tapes which is part of its industrial division. I started in a warehouse picking goods and managed to work my way up that organisation to eventually become Managing Director. I left Buffalo Tapes in 2010 and moved to stationery manufacturer/wholesaler Silveray as Managing Director.
My role at Silveray was to try and reinvigorate the whole business: look at the processes, systems, disciplines and challenge everything. It was an oldish business and there was a lot of legacy stuff that no longer worked. There was a lot to do, but we managed to pretty much give it a complete overhaul.
I believe the business today is in really good shape, with sounds systems, processes and disciplines in place and a young, exciting management team that is pushing boundaries.

OPI: Is that success the reason you were drafted in to lead Waltons?

TG: Well, I guess if I had done a shocking job they wouldn’t have asked me.
But before we talk about Waltons, I want to stress that what we achieved at Silveray wasn’t down to me, but a whole team of individuals, so the credit should definitely not come to me.

OPI: OK. So what’s your remit at Waltons? You’ve been in the job for just under a year now.

TG: It’s more of the same I think, but at Waltons it’s a bit more complicated, because there are a lot of working parts to it, more locations, a lot of outdated processes, etc.
My first task was to develop a plan and identify what fundamentally needs to change in the organisation, so in the first few months I spent a lot of time learning, understanding and developing that plan in conjunction with my superior at Bidvest Office and Print.
One thing that is hugely important in my opinion is to have the right human capital on board, so we can execute the plan. We’ve worked hard on that and I’m happy that we’re starting to develop a very good team and implement certain parts of our strategy.

OPI: It seems you’re going through another full-scale Waltons overhaul. When we spoke to Dave Jenkins – your predecessor before Dave Crichton took over on an interim basis – in 2014, he was in the middle of a three-year restructuring plan. Is this still the same plan?

TG: There’s a fundamental difference in how we see the business now. It’s probably going to take us a similar amount of time to implement and be successful in the changes we’ve identified, but that’s where the similarities stop.

OPI: Why the complete change of tack?

TG: Just as an example, we don’t want to be in a business with too many layers.
We prefer flat, very simplistic structures and people who are connected to their businesses and are masters of their own jungle.

OPI: What is the overriding strategy that you’re pursuing now?

TG: One of the core fundamentals is to uncomplicate what should become quite a simple business.
Take a look at our business model: in several instances we’ve got distribution centres (DC) in relatively close proximity to little depots and our so-called combo stores. Why should we service a commercial customer by delivering product from our DC to the local depot and then to the customer? Why not do it directly? It’s a duplication of both cost and effort and needs to be reviewed.
Essentially, we want to empower the regions. We envisage a very limited head office here in Johannesburg, with only the bare essentials of what we need. Instead, we want our people in the regions to run the business as if it were their own and be rewarded on that basis as well. Decentralisation and simplicity are totally core to our strategy.

OPI: OK. Let’s have some facts and figures. Do you still have five warehouses?

TG: Yes, our main DCs are in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Bloemfontein. In terms of the regions I just alluded to, we have the Inland region, the Cape (Eastern and Western Cape) and KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).

OPI: What about staff? How many people work for Bidvest Waltons?

TG: We currently employ about 2,000 people.
OPI: That’s fewer than in the past I believe, isn’t it?

TG: It is. Unfortunately, in any turnaround and clean-up of an organisation it’s an area you need to look at. And in legacy businesses in particular, you often find that there’s an abundance of staff in certain areas where positions are duplicated.
We are addressing that while also bearing in mind that people are very important and that we live in a country where jobs are desperately needed. But we also want to run a business on world-class fundamentals; talented people are important and we want a culture of excellence in our business, not one of mediocrity. Bringing the right calibre of people in will take us to the next level.

OPI: What about Waltons’ coverage outside South Africa – has that changed?

TG: It has. Bidvest Waltons has a substantial presence in Namibia. But a few years ago, Bidvest took all the South African affiliates in Namibia and listed them separately on the Namibian stock exchange. So while I retain a role on the board, it’s not in an executive capacity, the Namibian business doesn’t report to me and doesn’t form part of our revenues, so it’s pretty standalone in that sense.
We also have a relatively new operation in Botswana.

OPI: Zimbabwe and Zambia were also mentioned a few years ago. I’m guessing those plans have been abandoned?

TG: That’s correct, we don’t have a presence in either country.

OPI: What’s your business model in terms of commercial versus retail?

TG: We’re predominantly a commercial stationer, that is our focus, so at the moment we’re 80:20 commercial/retail. We still have a retail footprint with 34 stores, but we’re assessing that footprint in terms of which stores are profitable.
Overall, we are trying to better understand the retailing space. We believe it’s an area that we could improve on, particularly given the strong competition. Our strategy in the past has been a bit of a hotchpotch in terms of store locations, store size, etc. If we’re going to play in the retail space, we need to become hardcore retailers.
It’s a learning curve and we’re still at the beginning of where we need to be.

OPI: What about your combo stores you referred to earlier; what’s happening with them?

TG: It is our intention to review our entire supply chain as part of our overall strategy of simplification and aggressive expense management.
In line with this, combo stores that do not make sense in terms of proximity to major DCs will be reviewed. That said, combo stores in strategic lcoations will be retained.

OPI: Do you foresee a time when you don’t have a retail presence at all?

TG: I’m not sure. I don’t see our overall retail strategy changing fundamentally in the short to medium term, but who knows?

OPI: Dave Jenkins mentioned franchising stores and his plans for that three years ago. I assume that’s off the cards now?

TG: It is. We don’t believe in franchising and there is no plan.

OPI: How has your product mix evolved both on the commercial side and in retail? One-stop shop, services and solutions seem to be on everybody’s radar these days…

TG: Again, the first phase is to simplify what we have. We are in all the major key categories any office products company needs to be in and we are dabbling to a minor extent in the jan/san and breakroom sector.
But these adjacent areas are not really a major focus for us, and right now we want to do what we do extremely well rather than adding to the pile.
That said, I attended a Staples CEO alliance conference a couple of months ago and they spoke quite extensively about ‘beyond office supplies’ and I like the idea of where they’re going. But we’re not there yet – simplicity is our focus right now, as is decentralisation and all the fundamentals working well. Only when we’ve accomplished that we will decide whether we do or don’t play majorly in those other areas.

OPI: Talking about Staples – has your relationship changed as a result of Staples pulling out of pretty much all of its international markets?

TG: No, it hasn’t changed at all, because we have never dealt with the US side, but always had a relationship with Staples’ European arm, so we continue to operate with the new European owner Cerberus Capital Management.
It’s a good relationship, we converse a fair amount and from our perspective we would like to learn and that’s exactly what we’re doing from a company like Staples. We want to be a learning organisation and I don’t think there’s been enough of this attitude at Waltons in the past.

OPI: Is that broadly the extent of your relationship – learning and best practice sharing?

TG: Staples is a world leader – they’ve been doing things, moved in certain directions, seen stuff happening in their markets that are bound to happen in ours sooner or later, so I believe we’re really benefiting from the relationship.
As for servicing their customers – that’s already happening and we continue to look for further opportunities in this area.

OPI: Financials in the past few years have been far from outstanding. In Bidvest’s most recent half-year results it said that the Office and Print division had solid performances, and margins and expenses were generally well controlled. Is that true for Waltons specifically as well?

TG: I think Bidvest is very forthright in acknowledging what’s happening at Waltons within the Office and Print division. We are a work in progress and currently in a turnaround process, so I don’t think those comments speak directly to Waltons’ performance.

OPI: OK, let me phrase it this way: is Waltons a growing company?

TG: I can’t comment on specifics. What I would say is that Waltons is profitable; it’s not a loss-making company. That said, it’s by no means profitable enough because of the ineffeciencies we still have and are now addressing.

OPI: Let’s talk about your customers. Where’s the main focus?

TG: It’s a real mix – big and small corporates, SMEs and then we have the whole schooling segment which is very sizeable for us.

OPI: Does the school business fall under the commercial or the retail umbrella?

TG: It’s both and it’s quite a varied part of our business. From the commercial point of view, it’s signing up specific schools or supplying stationery suppliers in bulk with school products. Or there are back-to-school (BTS) boxes based on an individual learner basis whereby parents get a school list and tick off exactly what they want for their kids and we then pack that box and deliver it to the school.
But there’s also the retail side when parents walk into our retail stores to purchase products.
We see a significant uptick in revenues during the BTS season and it’s an important time for us. As with most areas, I believe we can do bigger and better things in this segment.

OPI: How does the school business work in South Africa? Are there regional, multiple school contracts that you bid for?

TG: No, it’s school by school. We compete with everybody else and it’s a very competitive space to be in. We offer schools what we believe is a good value proposition, but of course you win some and you lose some. The academic year in South Africa finishes in December, so from a commercial point of view we start getting very busy from October with the schools directly and with the box supplies I mentioned. The busiest time from a retail perspective is the first two or three weeks of January.

OPI: What about higher education – are you playing in that area?

TG: Not really, but maybe that’s something we need to look at more closely going forward.

OPI: What are the core challenges in the South African market overall?

TG: We are facing what the rest of the OP world is facing – a declining industry – so it’s about trying to reinvent yourself in that space, look to new areas, etc. Specifically from a South African perspective, we have the challenge of a very difficult economic climate that currently prevails. The South African economy is showing GDP growth of about 1%, so it’s a tough space to be in right now.
There’s also a lot of political uncertainty which doesn’t help. But we don’t want to get too sidetracked by the macro situation. We believe we have a plan that can be successful irrespective of what’s happening on the political or economic stage.

OPI: It must be hard to disassociate yourself from that though. With the value of the rand down significantly, it must have a substantial impact on imported goods, for example?

TG: It’s something that has to be managed at all times – these are the challenges for anybody in the South African business environment and we’ve learned to deal with them as best we can over many years.

OPI: No matter what market we’re talking about, there’s always the topic of e-commerce. What’s its relevance at Waltons?

TG: It’s important. We know the trends and where they’re going, and quite simply we have to play in that space. We are doing it already, but we could be doing it in a bigger and more efficient way. That’s on the B2B side. As regards B2C, we have a presence there too, but it’s basic and that’s perhaps where we see opportunities in the future.
We don’t have Amazon in South Africa, of course, but we have other substantial online platforms.

OPI: Overall, what does the competitive landscape look like for Waltons?

TG: It’s definitely changed from a couple of years ago. A lot of local companies are now dabbling in e-commerce, so that is putting pressure on us to up our game as well. And of course we compete with all the major retailers.They are all big in the stationery space, particularly in the BTS season when they compete very aggressively.
We also compete with the buying groups and independents within or outside those groups.
To be totally frank with you, while we respect all of our competitors, our success is going to be determined by whether we are or aren’t implementing our strategy well, not by what the competition is doing.

OPI: Let’s wrap up with that strategy. What’s the timescale on it?

TG: There’s no specific timescale, but I would say a maximum of three years. We’re working hard on our plan, getting the right people in the right places and putting great systems and disciplines in place. We’re on track, we’re happy with what we’ve done so far and where we’re going.

Image credit: OPI.net



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