Doing well in good times is not so difficult. Meeting and exceeding expectations under very challenging circumstances is something else altogether. It’s exactly what online reseller Böttcher has been doing during what was already a stagnating German market, well before COVID-19 hit the world in early 2020.
Since 2017, the company has been averaging €70-80 million revenue increases and this year should be no exception, with 2020 still earmarked for breaking the €500 million ($586 million) sales barrier, up from around €430 million in 2019.
Managing Director Udo Böttcher and his team of about 500 certainly planned something different for this year, including celebrating the company’s 30th anniversary in some style. That will have to wait for the time being until COVID restrictions ease further. But Böttcher has been busy serving its six million customers in the current crisis.
With online shopping in general having seen phenomenal growth in the past few months as retail sales ground to a complete halt in March, Böttcher had an exceptional period, with sales in April alone up 40% compared to the same month last year. According to a survey on online visibility of office products resellers in Germany, the company came second, behind only Amazon. Out of all e-commerce operators in the country, Böttcher has entered the top 20, with steady further ranking growth envisaged.
All the demand has put a severe strain on the reseller’s operations, especially at a time when many members of staff had to resort to homeworking due to child care issues, for example. Logistically, Böttcher has been running on full capacity for the past few months, owing to unprecedented demand, particularly in product categories such as jan/san, PPE and safety.
Shortages from some of the better known manufacturers have meant the quick onboarding of new vendor partners which, says Böttcher, bodes well for the future prospects of these players, as end users may remain loyal to these new entities.
The company’s expansion work of both its distribution as well as office facilities, which began last year, is on track. The warehouse is expected to come on stream next year and then be fully operational by mid-2022.
2019: Germany-based online reseller Böttcher is one of the anomalies in our industry in that it keeps bucking the negative trends and exceeds its own expectations. 2018 is a good example when sales increased by €85 million to €365 million ($409 million). 2019 plans are ambitious again, with Managing Director Udo Böttcher predicting revenues of €430 million, an impressive18% increase.
Böttcher’s statistics all round are staggering: it has over four million customers in total, half of them in the B2B sector, and offers more than 150,000 products in an ever-growing range of categories.
The reseller’s core strength lies in its online and logistics expertise. The way the business is run is so cost-efficient, says Böttcher, that it benefits both its suppliers and customers in terms of their revenues and margins. Automation and optimisation in all its processes are key to offering a seamless and fast client experience.
On the logistics side, the company began the building work on its new warehouse and offices in 2019. The new facility will ultimately increase capacity for both the distribution and administrative side of the business.
Despite being an employer that offers a wide range of benefits, not to mention above-average wages, Böttcher refers to the recruitment of skilled personnel as one of the main challenges of the business.
2018: Germany-based online reseller Böttcher – it dropped the ‘Büromarkt’ from its name last year – continues to excel in a competitive market, with phenomenal growth of 31% in the first half of 2018.
H1 sales came in at €172 million ($199 million), due in part to the company’s ever expanding product range and its user-friendly, e-commerce-focused purchasing experience.
Such exceptional growth requires considerable investment in both its facilities and manpower, says Managing Director Udo Böttcher, and this is exactly what the company is doing.
A brand new 80,000 sq m (800,000 sq ft) building is planned nearby its Jena HQ where ultimately between 1,500 and 2,000 staff will occupy the new facility and a total logistics space of 150,000 sq m. The overall investment over the next four years is estimated at €50 million.
Böttcher has always stressed that its biggest competition is Amazon, so it must have been hugely satisfying for him and his team that a recent study – eVisibility Büromaterial 2018 – which investigated the visibility of Germany-based OP resellers online, put Böttcher at the top of the list, ahead of amazon.de in second place.
2017: Having worked on the concept for several years, Germany-based reseller Büromarkt Böttcher in 2017 finally launched its new mobile-friendly online shop, fully optimised for smartphone users.
The company has long recognised the importance of e-commerce and has often been first to market with its technologies and initiatives, certainly among the ‘traditional’ competition. Indeed, as Managing Director Udo Böttcher has pointed out in the past, the biggest competition – and definitely the one to watch in the future – is Amazon.
The company is certainly holding its own against the mighty e-commerce giant. Earlier this year, Böttcher scooped the Reseller of the Year award in the over €100 million ($118 million) category at the European Office Products Awards.
It’s easy to see why. In 2016 alone, the reseller saw a sales increase of 54% compared to the previous 12 months to €216 million. Achieving that in a declining market is impressive and means taking considerable market share from the competition.
To accommodate this growth, 2017 has been all about investment for Böttcher. At the beginning of the year, the company began expanding its logistics facilities. The aim is to increase capacity to be able to ship 40,000 packages a day, from 18,000 parcels before expansion began.
2016: 2015 was the 25th anniversary year of Büromarkt Böttcher and it seems there’s no stopping this phenomenal reseller that became one of the first OP companies in Germany to wholeheartedly embrace the internet as a selling platform – from tiny roots in the late 1990s it developed to become a pure online player.
Last year’s financial results were impressive with sales of €140 million ($159 million) in a tough marketplace. But what’s even more impressive is that revenues were up 40% compared to the previous year, hitting even its own expectations of 25% growth completely out of the ball park.
Founder and Managing Director Udo Böttcher – who first learned about stamina, perseverance and tenacity in his years as a junior and then professional gymnast – attributes Büromarkt Böttcher’s success to its longstanding experience in the internet business, an unrivalled speed to market compared to its competitors and outstanding customer service.
2015: Starting out with a photocopier in the kitchen of Managing Director Udo Böttcher in 1990, the history of Büromarkt Böttcher is not impressively long – but it’s definitely impressive.
Büromarkt Böttcher today is one of the largest resellers of office supplies in Germany, with 260 staff, 2014 revenues of over €100 million ($112 million) and a pure online – and mostly B2B – focus.
Most importantly perhaps in today’s challenging business environment, it’s a company that is growing rather than flat-lining, with predictions of a “substantial” revenue increase for the whole of 2015, due – in large part – to excellent customer attrition and retention.