By David Lyons for Daily Item

Office Depot’s parent company has rejected a $2.1 billion buyout offer Tuesday from the investor group that controls rival Staples.

But the Boca Raton company, which has been cutting costs and reshaping its strategy to appeal more to businesses, said it would entertain other possibilities that would avert tough regulatory scrutiny.

On Jan. 11, a group led by Sycamore Partners offered to buy ODP Corp. for $2.1 billion, or $40 a share. Staples warned that if Office Depot did not cooperate, it would start to buy out the shares of other stockholders starting in March.

The negative response was a setback to ODP shareholders, who had seen their stock rise to $47.64 since the offer was made more than a week ago. The shares were off by nearly 2% to $44.98 in midday trading on Tuesday.

A previous $6.3 billion bid by Staples in 2016 was rejected by federal authorities on antitrust grounds.

One year later, Staples was taken private by Sycamore Partners, which set up a subsidiary called USR Parent to control the longtime competitor of Office Depot.

According to a letter sent Tuesday from ODP to Sycamore, it would be better if Office Depot’s e-commerce and retail operations are sold to Staples to avoid the possibility of a protracted review by the Federal Trade Commission.

Another option would be a joint venture, said the letter, which was released Tuesday morning by ODP.

“Though both of these options require regulatory approval, we believe the regulatory risk of pursuing a retail-only transaction to be significantly lower than your proposed transaction,” ODP told the Staples owners.

ODP also challenged Sycamore to specifically lay out how it would deal with the antitrust hurdles that it believes would be inevitably raised again by federal officials who rejected a deal on similar grounds five years ago.

“If Sycamore remains determined to propose a potential acquisition of the entire company, we call on you to expressly address the regulatory uncertainty by committing to bear the risk of potential antitrust obstacles or required remedies through a customary ‘hell or high water’ provision,” the letter said.

In the meantime, ODP said, the company’s “foremost goal remains maximising value for our shareholders.”


A tribute to Brian Taylor

Brian Taylor, who turned 80 in December 2020, has been in the stationery industry since 1963. These 57 years and counting must surely be a record in our sector!

For the past 16 years, Brian has been general manager of FMIA (Forms Media Independent Africa). Apart from an amazing career, Brian has always been active in shop-sa as Past President and Honorary Life Member.

I personally met Brian in 1979 after I joined the industry via Faber Castell; a relationship that has continued until today.

Here are the highlights of Brian’s path in the stationery and office products industry:

  • 1963 – Brian joined Maurice Francis, a family stationery business in Vereeniging
  • 1966 – Enslin & Francis merged and Brian became manager in Vanderbijlpark
  • 1969 – Became manager of their new branch in Sasolburg
  • 1976 – Brian purchased the branch and formed Office Plan
  • 1979 – acquired a controlling interest in E & F, taking over Vereeniging and Vanderbijl branches
  • 1982 – sold the business to Waltons and became a director of what was then Waltons Transvaal
  • 1982 to 2002 – Brian filled many roles in Waltons: managing the Computer Media division; setting up the Office Furniture Division; and opening 15 superstores for Waltons within 15 months
  • In 1994 Brian was appointed to the main board of Waltons
  • In 1998 he was appointed MD of Walton’s Northern region
  • 2002 – 2004 – having left Waltons, Brian started another venture called Office Base
  • 2005 – After selling his interest in Office Base, Brian joined FMIA as general manager – a position which he still holds today.

In addition to his achievement in the industry, Brian also broke a world record in premier league cricket. In a game held at the Vereeniging Brick and Tile Recreation Ground (the club house was used to sign the peace treaty for the Anglo Boer War), Brian took 10 wickets for 21 runs. The team captain scored 93 off 40 balls.

The board of shop-sa and all who know Brian congratulate him on having reached the “young” age of 80.

We salute him for his invaluable contribution to our industry!

Hans Servas


Chairman’s message: January 2021

We hope that you had a peaceful and healthy festive season, despite all the restrictions. Being barred from visiting the beaches and purchasing alcohol during the main holiday season was a first in our country’s history.

The return to Level 3 means more hardship for many sectors of the economy, which has a knock-on effect on everyone.

shop-sa will try to assess how our industry is affected – especially by the delayed back-to-school season.

However, judging by global feedback, the stationery and office products industry is showing resilience – and in some markets even growth.
The second wave arrived with a vengeance and as expected the lockdown was extended.

shop-sa will keep you informed of developments in our weekly and monthly newsletters.

Please let us know if you are not on the mailing list. Contact Wendy on to be added.

Now, more than ever, it is important to stay safe and maintain all protocols in the workplace and at home.

Finally, in this issue we pay tribute to a doyen in our industry, Brian Taylor, who turned 80 in December and is still general manager at Forms Media Independent Africa in Johannesburg.

Hans Servas

New year, new gear 

Start 2021 off on the right foot with all the back-to-office essentials.


One of the best ways to reduce stress in the new year is to know where everything is. Use these handy tools to ensure your desk is always neat and orderly. 

Desk organisers
Desktop organisers are key for keeping a variety of smaller items in order and within easy reach. Circular or square in shape, desk organisers are made from steel, plastic or eco-friendly, recycled materials and bamboo. They are offered in a range of styles and colours, and have separate compartments of varying sizes that are designed to hold rulers, pens, pencils and erasers, and organise smaller stationery items such as paper clips and rubber bands. More sophisticated desk organisers can even include tape dispensers and built-in clocks. 

Paper clip holders 
Paper clips have a bad habit of getting into every nook and cranny of the office. Paper clip holders are small boxes that are either magnetised or non-magnetic. Magnetised paper clip holders are more useful as paper clips are made of metal and stick together. Many offer non-slip rubberised or felt bottoms so they stay in one spot.   

These handy items help to keep documents grouped together and provide a flat, hard surface on which to write while on the move. Clipboards are made from a variety of material, including PVC, chipboard and wood. The clipboard contains a clip mechanism along the top which opens to receive paper and closes to hold it in place. Clipboards are ideal in warehouse-type environments or for people on the go, such as couriers. 

Letter trays
Before the advent of e-mail, letter trays were the original inbox and outbox. They are important items that help organise the documents on your desk into two simple categories: to be done and finished. They generally come as separate units which are stackable to make up multiple tiers for people who  have more than two categories in mind. Letter trays can be open-sided or be closed with sliding drawers. They are made from a range of materials, including plastic, wood, wire mesh and pressed metal.  

Business cards and holders
Business cards are a must for most employees as it is an easy and convenient way to give out necessary information about a business, while displaying the company’s identity. Traditional business cards measure 89mm x 50mm and are made from card that is usually 300gsm. When having a business card designed, remember that it should ideally be able to fit into a wallet without falling into the fold. If your business card is bigger than a bank card, it is unlikely to fit into a wallet.
Business card holders are useful for staff members who hand out business cards on a regular basis, such as those who work in reception. There are a number of different types of holders. At its most basic, a business card hold is a plastic box or stand that supports a number of cards at once. These are easily accessible for both staff and members of the public. More sophisticated holders are created in album form, with individual plastic pockets for each card. This is more suited to people who have collected cards for the purpose of lead generation or the creation of a contact list, and want to store them in a way that will protect them from dirt, light and moisture.

Paper cubes
Paper cubes are handy boxes of paper that have been cut to a uniform size (usually 7,5cm x 7,5cm). They are ideal for having next to the telephone so you can jot down messages, phone numbers and other information to pass on to someone else. Paper cubes and their refills come in a range of colours, including plain white, pastel or neon colours, or in mixed colours. The paper cube itself has a cut-away on the front so that the paper is easy to access even when the paper is nearing the box of the box. A paper cube refill usually comes in 600 sheets. 

Post-it notes
Post-it notes (or sticky notes) are small pieces of paper with a re-adherable strip of glue at the back. This pressure-sensitive adhesive allows the notes to be easily attached, removed and re-posted a few times without leaving residue. They are made for temporarily attaching notes to documents and other surfaces, and are available in a wide range of colours, shapes and sizes.  Post-it note dispensers are ideal for the office environment as they provide an easily-accessible box to house the notes, preventing clutter.

It is a good idea for any office to carry a range of envelopes for use on a daily basis. Envelopes can be padded with additional material, such as bubble wrap, for fragile items. These are used most often for posting multiple items. Normal envelopes are unpadded. Some of them have a clear window through which the address is displayed. The envelope flap may be on the top or along the side of the envelope.
Envelopes come in a vast array of sizes. A letter-sized envelope is usually 110mm × 220mm. These take a sheet of A4 paper folded into three, and are ideal for posting letters. Other useful sizes to have are A5 (162mm x 229mm) and A4 (229mm × 324mm). 
Envelopes are usually white or brown, but can be found in every colour of the rainbow. Some envelopes have an adhesive gum on the back that requires a liquid (such as saliva) to make it sticky. Others are self-adhesive, and come with a strip which you peel off to expose the sticky area.


Mouse pads 
A mouse pad is a useful and convenient tool for those who use a mouse every day. It works by providing the mouse with a better surface to move over, preventing jitters. Modern mouse pads are typically made of lesser-density rubber composites with fabric bonded to the upper surface. However, many other types of material have been used, including fabric, plastics, recycled rubber tyres, silicone rubber, leather, glass, cork, wood, aluminium, stone and stainless steel. 
Some mouse pads include a padded wrist rest to.

3G modems 
These are extremely useful tools for workers who are on the move. Available from most computer shops, 3G modems require SIM cards to work because they connect to a cellular network rather ADSL Internet. Many businesses take out contracts with cellular providers in order to get preferential rates.
Modems have an internal antenna with which to acquire signal, but they can be purchased with additional external antennae for use in areas with poorer signal. 

A stylus is a hard, pointed tool used as a method of input on touchscreen-enabled devices, such as tablet PCs, to accurately navigate menus. It is useful in dirty environments as it helps to prevent the device’s screen from getting dirty. Styluses are also used by courier companies so their customers can sign electronic delivery forms. 
Many smartphones have a built-in stylus which tucks in behind the back cover. Some styluses may extend and contract into small, pen-like cylinders. 
Styluses can be passive (or capacitive) which means that they act just like a finger when touching a screen. There is no electronic communication between a passive stylus and a device. 
An active stylus includes electronic components that communicate with the touchscreen controller on a device. Active pens are typically used for note taking, on-screen drawing/painting and electronic document annotation.  
These styluses can be found in many different styles.

Wrist rests
Wrist supports are essential for employees who spend most of their day using a mouse or typing at a keyboard. The additional supports provided by a wrist rest can minimise pain and mitigate the onset of carpel tunnel syndrome. Wrist rests can be small and square to fit in front of a mouse, or long and rectangular to fit in front  of a keyboard. They are usually made of durable, comfortable materials such as high-quality foam or silicon.

Copy holders 
Also known as typing stands, these useful 1items attach to a desk or computer and are used by administrative staff that need to read from and type out documents while working on a computer. Some copy holders are standalone items. In general, a copy holder offers vertical or horizontal rotation, line guides for easy place-holding and clips to hold documents in place.  

Computer stands 
Computer stands are essential for the correct positioning of the head and neck for anyone who uses a computer all day. They ensure ergonomic positioning of the body, which helps to decrease aches and pains while boosting productivity. 
A simple computer stand is available in the form of a laptop tilt. These are ergonomically angled pieces of moulded plastic which allow ventilation of the device. 
A more complicated computer stand holds a computer screen, allowing it to be lifted via an adjustable arm. The screen is then angled in an ergonomic fashion, or rotated vertically or horizontally. iPad covers also provide an upright stand adjustment, allowing the device to stand vertically on the desk for easy reading. This  relieves both neck and back strain.

Cable organisers 
Cables tend to clutter up a workspace, and many of the devices used in the office environment have at least one cable for charging. These days, one worker can have a PC, a laptop, a smartphone and a tablet. To prevent getting tangled in all these wires, make use of a cable organiser. They come in the form of wire clips, clamps or plastic sleeving which is run behind the desk to the plug point. They are used for bundling desktop cables together, protecting them and keeping them neat. Not only do cable organisers keep your desk tidy, but they also form part of occupational health and safety regulations.

These handy devices allow for the charging of multiple devices at once. Especially useful for mobile work environments, they offer high-speed charging for multiple devices at once. They can be device agnostic and work in a range of environments, such as vehicles. They keep the modern worker connected at all times.

Docking stations
A docking station (or port replicator) provides a simplified way of “plugging-in” an electronic device to common peripherals. Docks are not standardised because of the wide range of dockable devices, which all have different connectors, power signalling and uses. Bear in mind the types of devices you have when choosing a docking station. 
Docking stations are mainly used for charging devices, offering media output (such as playing audio) and enhancing connectivity by providing additional ports. 


By lvan lsraelstam, chief executive of Labour Law Management Consulting

In the case of AUSA obo Melville vs SA Airways Technical (Pty) Ltd (2002,6 BALR 573) the arbitrator quoted the following finding of Brassey: “By entrenching the right to fair labour practice, which can confidently be taken to embrace the right to a fair hearing in dismissal proceedings, the Bill of Rights has reversed the position. Now the right to be heard is the primary entitlement from which derogation is possible only if it can be justified under the limitation clause. Sensitive to this, no doubt, the drafters of the Labour Relations Act of 1995 expressly provided for a right to be heard in the statute: section 188 states that a dismissal is unfair if the employer fails to prove that it was effected in accordance with a fair procedure. The Code Of Good Practice: Dismissal in Schedule 8, which must be considered when decisions on dismissal are taken under the Act, makes it clear that, while the process can be informal, the employee should nevertheless be told what case he has to meet and be given a proper opportunity to prepare and present his response.”

Important elements of this quote include:

• The employee’s right to be heard emanates directly from the Constitution of South Africa and is the employee’s primary right
• The employee must be told what case he has to meet
• The employee must be given a proper opportunity to prepare and present his case
• The Code Of Good Practice: Dismissal in the LRA does not require the process at which the employee is heard to be a formal one.

Many tens of thousands of employers lose cases at the CCMA and bargaining councils because they take too seriously the provision that the disciplinary process does “not need to be a formal one”. That is, in practice it is all but impossible to comply with the other provisions of the law of dismissal without making the disciplinary hearing process a formal one.

That is, according to Brassey’s quote above, the employer is forced, in order to avoid an unfair dismissal decision, to prove that the employee’s procedural rights were complied with. Let us look at these procedural rights born out of the LRA and case law and examine just how, in practice, the employer would need to go about proving that these rights have been complied with:

• The right to be informed as to what the charges are – Proof would be a written charge sheet, receipt for which has been signed by the accused employee

• The right to a proper opportunity to prepare – Proof would be a written notice of hearing, given to the employee well in advance of the hearing, receipt for which has been signed by the accused employee well in advance of the hearing date

• The employee’s right to be heard and to present a defence – proof would be minutes of the hearing showing that the employee had a chance to state his case, use an interpreter and representative, bring witnesses and cross-examine evidence brought against him/her

• The right to be fairly judged – proof would be minutes of the hearing showing that the person was even-handed and treated the accused without bias.

I admit that, in certain cases, proof of the above mentioned compliance could be provided by means other than signed notices and minutes of proceedings. Such other proof could include, for example, oral evidence from witnesses. However, between the disciplinary process and the arbitration hearing at CCMA a great many months may elapse. As a result the memories of witnesses fade and witnesses themselves disappear. Therefore, there is no effective replacement for written records. Consequently, once one introduces the use of records such as minutes, hearing notices and charge sheets one is converting the disciplinary process into a formal one. This conversion is reinforced by the need to separate the complainant role from the presiding officer role in order to eliminate bias.

In summary, the employer’s onus to prove that all the employee’s rights have been complied with makes a formal and expertly controlled hearing essential.

The officials who carry out the corrective procedure need to be highly skilled in legal procedure in order to make sure that each and every legal right of the employee is strictly adhered to.
Therefore, managers must either be thoroughly trained in disciplinary process or the employer must hire a reputable labour law expert to chair its hearings.


By Dror Poleg for The New York Times

Coronavirus will not kill the office. If anything, it figures to be more dynamic than ever. The ability to work remotely will not drive most people away from cities and offices, but it will enable many to live and work in new ways and places — while causing its fair share of disruption.

Even before the pandemic, there were signs of trouble with the office market in the handful of cities where the “creative class” had been flocking. In 2018, net migration to New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco was negative, while the U.S. economy grew at a healthy 2.9 percent. Creative magnets like London and Paris were experiencing similar declines.

The explanation for the declines — mostly high housing costs because of severe limits on new construction — obscures other forces that were destabilizing the traditional office market. In the middle of the 2010s, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple and others started splitting their headquarters into multiple locations. Stripe, one of the world’s most valuable start-ups, went a step further. In 2019, it “opened” a remote hub, hoping to “tap the 99.74 percent of talented engineers living outside the metro areas of our first four hubs” in San Francisco, Seattle, Dublin and Singapore.

For the fastest-growing companies, being able to tap into talent anywhere became more important than having all their teams in one place. Smaller cities were good enough. In retrospect, this shouldn’t have been a surprise, despite all the talk about the importance of giant, dense labor markets to fuel innovation. After all, Silicon Valley itself is not a city but a cluster of sprawling towns scattered along a highway.

The defining characteristic of this new version of the creative class may not be where it lives, but its ability to live anywhere it wants. Put differently, people move to certain cities in search of better-paying jobs, but it’s now possible to earn high (if not the highest) salaries from almost anywhere. That has been true in certain smaller cities in recent years (Austin and Denver in the United States, for example, and Manchester and Leeds in Britain). To a lesser extent, it has also been true for people who chose not to live in cities at all.

There were more specific signs that the office market was headed for a crisis. While employers were fighting over talent, many employees found traditional offices lacking. In 2019, Leesman, a firm that measures employee experiences, analyzed how the workplace affects employee productivity, pride and enjoyment. Drawing on 719,000 respondents in 4,771 workplaces worldwide, Leesman found that nearly 40 percent of employees felt their workplace did not enable them to work productively.

Then the pandemic forced many employees to reassess their preferences. Multiple surveys have found that many are happy to continue to work remotely and would move, if given the chance. Still, this data tells us little about the post-Covid world. Those who thrived initially might burn out if they stayed home for a more extended period. Those who struggled might do much better once they’ve mastered new tools, once they have access to alternative spaces near home, or once children, housemates and partners are back in school or at work. At the same time, the technologies that allow us to work, learn and socialize remotely will only get better.

Covid-era market data also offers mixed signals. Landlords and brokers are quick to point out that companies like Google and Facebook signed new leases during the pandemic. But these companies hire thousands of new employees every quarter and plan their expansion many quarters or years in advance. Even companies that aren’t in growth mode have yet to make up their mind about the new normal. Instead, many are renewing their existing leases for a shorter period until market conditions become clearer. Data from JLL, a real estate consultancy, shows that renewals as a share of leasing activity have jumped to 51 percent from 29 percent pre-Covid, and that leases are becoming shorter.

It seems safe to say that total demand for offices will diminish to a moderate degree. The bigger changes will be in how total demand is reshuffled and what office providers will have to do to remain competitive. Most office activity will not move to homes or to the cloud. Instead, it is likely to be redistributed within and between cities, with a variety of new employment areas popping up and saving many people the trouble of simultaneous commuting to a central business district.

At the end of the 19th century, most American urbanites walked to work; as late as 1930, Manhattan’s residential population was larger than it is today, meaning the city was more mixed in terms of land use, not dominated by office towers. It’s not hard to imagine that many will once again prefer to work within walking or biking distance of home.

As a result, buildings in many traditional employment districts will have to compete more fiercely, and a small but significant percentage of office space will most likely have to be repurposed into housing, e-commerce fulfillment centers, delivery-only kitchens, health care centers, meeting spaces, event spaces and other uses.

Residential areas, street retail shops and hotels may have to accommodate more daytime workers. Signs of this shift are already visible. The nation’s largest multifamily operators, Avalon Bay Communities and Equity Residential, have been adding work and meeting spaces to their buildings for a few years now.

Common, the largest co-living operator, is partnering with local governments to develop new types of live/work communities. Hospitality brands like Starbucks, CitizenM and Mandarin Oriental have been experimenting with converting local coffee shops and hotel floors into work spaces that can be booked by the hour or day. And city governments are working to redistribute jobs and services across residential neighborhoods.

Post-Covid for example, a Brooklyn or Queens resident who previously commuted to Manhattan may opt to work several days a week in a shared space within a 10-minute walk from home. Some large employers are already experimenting with satellite offices in the suburbs of cities in which they already have a downtown headquarters. The main office will remain important for most companies, but fewer employees will be expected to be there all day, every day.

The office will become more of a consumer product. And just like every consumer product, the office will have to continually fight for its customers and meet their needs — not only when it’s time to renew the lease. Offices will need spaces for specific tasks like focused work, team brainstorming, client presentations and employee training. And they will need to be more focused on individuals, even if these people work for a large company.

These changes will be gradual, but they will have a significant impact on urban office buildings, which used to be perceived as almost as safe as government bonds. Consider, in comparison, that the “retail apocalypse” that led to multiple bankruptcies and the closing of tens of thousands of stores was a result of less than 12 percent of all activity moving online, over a period of two decades, while total sales were still growing.

Over the next decade, the transformation of the office market figures to be less comprehensive, but it will probably happen faster and to an industry that is far less prepared. And just as in retail, it will create some new winners, as well as a multitude of losers — those unwilling or unable to adjust to an era of worker choice.

All eyes turn to Christmas retail

Results from a recent survey by ovatoyou, entitled What’s next, South Africa?, conducted amongst 2 000 online South Africans showed that 71% of respondents predicted that they are going to be spending between 25-50% less this Christmas.

As ever, the question remains, is your business suitably positioned to take the best advantage of a reduced consumer spend this festive season? And does your customer experience and marketing strategy reflect the shift in consumer buying behaviour due to the Covid-19 crisis?

The second major annual study, The 2020 South African Digital Customer Experience (CX) Report, provides some key insights into the South African consumers’ behaviour and expectations online which is important as a context for this festive season.

The question posed was: “How are businesses doing in delivering a seamless online experience?”

And the survey results speak for themselves.

Four ways to have a better Christmas

1. Wise up about wasting: your existing customers are where the real value lies

A recent study commissioned by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in the UK found that only half of programmatic advertising spend reaches its intended audience. In a South African context, this suggests brands are wasting over R1bn on failed acquisition, which translates into a very expensive lesson in customer advocacy. It is easy to argue that this money could be better spent perhaps on building a better understanding of existing customers and on providing experiences that foster their loyalty.

The 2020 South African digital CX research has shown that when consumers have a positive encounter with a brand, they become advocates. At least 75% of the sample said they’d gladly share news of their experience with friends and family and 58% would post about it online on social media.

2. Give consumers a genuine shopping choice: make it an omnichannel Christmas

South African consumers have made it extremely clear, they are seeking convenience and want the option of shopping across different channels. A Mobicred report, published in June 2020, reported an increase of over 40% in monthly online transactions.

But a poor experience online erodes that channels primary benefit – that of convenience. And the data supports this. Of those surveyed, 67% had abandoned an online purchase. While 60% had switched to a rival retailer’s website because it made it easier for them to buy the product they wanted, even if it was more expensive than their first-choice e-tailer.

Michael Walker, head of marketing at Gumtree, echoes this sentiment. “Our data shows that the most successful sellers rarely have the best-priced product – what they do have though is an ability to fulfil buyers’ needs and to deliver a superior sales experience,” he says.

3. It’s the season of giving: give the gift of a site that does what is promised

Perhaps most tellingly, respondents cited several factors that held their online purchasing experience back. Almost half chose to abandon their carts due to lack of online help, while 44% walked away because the site was too slow. At the same time, 33% switched to a rival site because there was not enough product information.

These numbers reflect a lack of a customer-centric business model that empowers self-service, which is, after all, why most people go online in the first place. What the study clearly showed was that many of the issues that stood in the way of a great experience related to the way the offering had been designed in the first place.

4. Smart sell not hard sell: what if your products could sell themselves?

At least 63% of respondents still prefer to gather information online, but follow through with their transaction in a physical bricks and mortar environment. But whether they convert online or purchase in store, self-sold customers do their homework before they purchase.

Product research, comparisons and social proof influence purchase. Sales success comes down to a combination of user experience and content. Easy-to-navigate, quick websites are only half of the equation. Product descriptions, features, benefits, comparisons and reviews will get your products through checkout.

Covid-19 and the extended lockdown have accelerated a trend to switch to online or multi-channel behaviours of which shopping is only one. What this means for businesses and CMOs within those businesses is that, you need to test both how these consumer behaviour shifts will translate in your category as well as how best to position and communicate your offering in this new context.

Understanding and managing how your brand supports its digital (and real world) offering through the customers’ varied touchpoints is more essential than ever in these changing times and most importantly will allow businesses to capture more share of consumer spend over the festive season.


What a year 2020 has been!

The effects of Covid-19 have wreaked havoc on a personal level – and, of course, on the economies globally.

Our industry was (and is) hard hit, but seems to be surviving – although at huge cost. Not to mention the effect on staff, be it pay cuts and/or retrenchments.

Luckily, we have not heard of any business closures.

Unfortunately, the pandemic is not over and a second wave is expected.

To avoid further restrictions and to keep the economy going, it is imperative that the country heeds the President’s call to stay vigilant and follow the basic rules, both in businesses and on the home front.

shop-sa will continue to keep you informed via the weekly My Office News and the monthly Trade Newsletter.

Again we appeal to you to support our efforts by utilising the advertising opportunities and paying the small membership fees, for which invoices have been mailed.

Thank you to those who have continued their support. Without you, our funds would have shrunk even faster.

The board wishes you a peaceful and healthy festive season, and what is hopefully a much better 2021!

Hans Servas


How to create a stationery cake

Source: Daily Mail

Stationery cakes are fast becoming the popular gifts for teachers and parents this holiday season.

The very handy bundles usually include pencil case staples like felt markers, coloured pencils and pens.

They can also have exciting additions depending on the who it is for, including glitter, chalk, scissors and glue.

One mum who was initially stuck for ideas for her children’s teacher’s Christmas presents ended up making them stationery cakes. She said the teachers were thrilled with the gift.

“They noted it as one of the most creative and thoughtful gifts they had ever received,” mother said.

Teachers can use the packs for classes the following year, saving them time and money as they don’t have to buy supplies themselves.

And teachers appear to love it as well.

“So clever. As an educator myself you can never get enough resources,” one said.

“This is the best gift ever, supplies go so fast,” another said.

How to make a stationery cake

You will need:

  • A variety of stationery such as coloured markers, glitter, pencils, chalk, scissors and glue
  • A firm, round cardboard base such as used for a cake, or a round plate or tray
  • Round plastic containers, either empty or containing stationery, to form the tiers
  • Ribbon or tinsel for decorating

Place your round container on the tray and secure with tape, glue or prestick.
Place a rubber band around the container, then add pencils, pens or markers until the entire bucket is hidden.
Add another rubber band around the pencils and bucket and make a layer of glue bottles around the bottom of the cake.
Use a second, smaller bucket or container to create the second team. Add crayon boxes around the sides and with a rubber band. Fill in the sides of this layer with erasers, scissors, and other items.
Use tinsel or ribbon to tie around the rubber bands on each layer of the cake.

Image credit: The Craft Patch 


BIC outlines strategic plan

BIC has unveiled its new “Horizon” strategy, a comprehensive plan aimed at driving growth and ensuring sustainable returns to shareholders. This strategy, which is an extension of the ongoing “BIC 2022 – Invent the Future” transformation plan, is focused on a set of initiatives that build on BIC’s strengths, with an intensified focus on consumer needs and sustainability.

The strategy is grounded in BIC’s new vision of “We bring joy and simplicity to everyday life,” and Raison d’Être of “creating high quality, safe, affordable, essential products trusted by everyone.”

“The goal of our Horizon plan is not only to amplify the core capabilities that have propelled our company for the last 75 years, but to go beyond them into adjacent segments to ensure our long-term sustainable growth and profitability. My vision is to transform BIC from a manufacturing and distribution-led company into one which is more consumer-centric and fit for purpose, consistently seeking greater efficiency and reduced complexity in everything we do. This strategy will accelerate growth and prioritise sustained Cash Flow generation to ensure sustainable returns to shareholders, and value creation for all stakeholders, for many years to come.” said Gonzalve Bich, chief executive officer of BIC.

Reframing three core categories

The Horizon strategy seeks to deliver a mid-single-digit annual Net Sales Growth trajectory. Boosted by advanced commercial capabilities and Revenue Growth Management, the growth trajectory will be achieved by:

Significantly expanding total addressable markets in fast-growing adjacent segments and evolving BIC’s business model to capture an increasing value share of our markets, with a strong focus on execution and return on investments,
leveraging innovation capabilities and manufacturing excellence to generate incremental revenues through new routes-to-market,
capitalising on the BIC brand in our core markets and building on new lifestyles to grow a comprehensive portfolio of consumer-led brands.

In Stationery, we are evolving our focus to “Human Expression,” which goes beyond writing instruments and into creative expression and digital writing. Human Expression is a mid to high single-digit growth segment, with a total addressable market expected to reach 80 billion euros by 2025. Current examples of our move towards this new frame include an extensive skin creative product pipeline for Bodymark, our temporary tattoo marker. The recent announcement of the agreement to acquire Rocketbook, the leading smart and reusable notebook brand in the US, is the first demonstrative step in creating our digital writing platform.

Lighters are expanding to “Flame for Life,” focusing on all consumer lighting occasions in and out of home and on a more value-driven model to drive incremental growth and maintain profitability. This will be powered by trade-up and personalisation, innovation, and a push toward sustainability to enhance our competitive advantage. An example is the recent acquisition of Djeep and the launch of BIC’s new EZ Reach multi-purpose lighter during the summer.

In Shavers, we will reinforce and grow our one-piece core business with consumer-driven and sustainable products, such as our new Sustainable Development (SD) Hybrid range. We are capitalising on our advanced Research & Development and Manufacturing capabilities and leveraging our “Blade Excellence” to best utilise these assets by building a selective new business as a high precision blade manufacturer to power other brands.

Improved efficiency

BIC’s “Invent the Future” transformation plan is on track to achieve operational targets:

  • Effectiveness – We will achieve 50 million euros annual savings by 2022, with 80% of the target completed in 2020 and 2021.
  • Innovation – We will increase the number of new patent submissions by 20% per year.
  • Consumer-Centric Brands –We will engage directly with consumers by allocating above 2/3rd of total brand support in Digital Media by 2022 in our top markets
  • Omnichannel Distribution – E-commerce will represent at least 10% of Net Sales by the end of 2022.

Focused on consumers, our operating model supports our Horizon plan. To deliver sustainable and consumer‐driven innovation, we are fostering an open, agile, and fast ecosystem.

We have redesigned our Global Supply Chain with an end‐to‐end organisation focused on simplifying processes and reducing product complexity. These shifts will lead to cost reduction, and in turn, cash optimisation. In 2020, our focus on working capital management will generate at least 15 million euros in inventory reduction. Among the recent initiatives to improve our manufacturing footprint, we closed our Ecuador factory in May, and we will shut down one of India’s facilities.

We are raising the bar on value‐driven commercial excellence, building capabilities to scale our operations to drive profitable growth. This includes implementing a market portfolio management approach to allocate resources better, accelerate e-commerce, and our new Revenue Growth Management capability, which will improve Net Sales and profitability in slow or declining markets.

We will maintain strong Cash Flow Conversion and deliver at least 200 million euros of annual Free Cash Flow generation through 2022. This will be driven by disciplined management of operational investments, with a 1 to 1.2 CAPEX to Depreciation & Amortization ratio target, and strict control of our Working Capital levers (Inventories, Receivables, and Payables).

Sustainable development

In line with our “Writing the Future, Together” 2025 Sustainable Development program, we will significantly improve our products’ environmental footprint and reduce our carbon emissions by transforming our approach to plastics. Our bold new commitments encompass both our packaging and our products:

  • by 2025, 100% of BIC packaging will be reusable, recyclable, or compostable
  • by 2030, BIC will use 50% non-virgin petroleum plastic in our products, with an intermediate target of 20% by 2025

Funding organic growth and acquisitions

Consistent with our ambitions for accelerated Net Sales growth and Free Cash Flow generation, BIC’s capital allocation policy is designed to enhance profitable growth and deliver long-term sustainable value through:

  • Funding profitable growth
  • Investment into Operations to sustain and enhance organic growth with approximately €100 million euros annual CAPEX investments
  • Targeted Acquisitions to strengthen existing activities and develop in adjacent categories, with an average of €100 million euros invested annually
  • Return to Shareholders
  • Objective of Ordinary Dividend pay-out ratio in the range of 40% to 50% of Normalized EPS
  • Regular Share buybacks
  • The Board of Directors may consider adjusting Return to Shareholders in the context of exceptional market and business conditions.

Unveiling our new Vision and our Mission (Raison d’Être)

The “Horizon” plan led us to reflect on our “purpose.” BIC’s Vision and renewed Mission (Raison d’Être) are a lens through which we evaluate business decisions and choices for our current businesses and those to come. They were designed through a collaborative process including BIC’s Board of Directors, the Executive Committee, and BIC team members.

Our Vision

We Bring Simplicity and Joy to Everyday Life.

Our ambition is to create a sense of ease and delight in the millions of moments that make up the human experience. It is this passion for bringing simplicity and joy to people all over the world that drives our team members each day. We reimagine everyday essentials, designing products that are a part of every heart and home.
We believe we positively impact the world by offering sustainable solutions that respect the planet through smart design and the creation of products that last.

Our Mission (Raison d’Être)

We create high quality, safe, affordable, essential products trusted by everyone.


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My Office News Ⓒ 2017 - Designed by A Collective