2021: Even prior to COVID-19, the South African economy was facing stiff challenges, such as high unemployment and a weakening currency, and these have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Inovocom Directors Craig Noyle and Garry McCluskey reacted swiftly to the situation in 2020, implementing a 50% reduction in the marketing group’s membership fees, upping email marketing efforts and helping to source PPE and work-from-home products.
While Inovocom has seen some of its smaller dealers – in its Office Club sub-group – close their doors, larger resellers in its Office Active group have shown their resilience, and numbers have stayed stable at just over 50. Overall, current trading, as of September 2021, is at around 75% of 2019 levels.
Noyle says many members have responded to the difficult circumstances by getting their houses in order, focusing on profitability, improving processes and developing more robust e-commerce solutions.
Indeed, the shift to online is a strategic priority for Inovocom. A key ongoing project for the group over the next few months is the roll-out of a new e-commerce platform for its dealers. Other focus areas include increasing revenue from school and educational products and services, a segment that has great potential in South Africa thanks to strong demand for traditional paper-based products.
Click here to listen to an OPI Talk podcast with Inovocom’s Craig Noyle.
2019: Inovocom – under the watchful eye of co-founders and Directors Craig Noyle and Garry Mc Cluskey – has grown significantly since it launched in 2008 with ten founding members.
The marketing group now comprises four individual dealer groups totalling around 130 dealers: Office Active (the country’s biggest independent dealer group of stationers), Office Club, Alliance Furniture and Supertec.
The South African financial system continues to present a challenge for the OP sector with an erratic foreign exchange market, high unemployment and a sluggish economy. Despite these obstacles, Inovocom keeps on moving forward and recently published the 12th edition of its office products catalogue for Office Active, as well as its back-to-school publication.
The group remains committed to its alliance with four other international dealer groups – Office Choice, TriMega Purchasing Association (editor’s note: now merged with Independent Suppliers Group and Pinnacle Affiliates),Novexco and Office Friendly – as part of the International Office Products Alliance (iOPA). Through the alliance, Inovocom has launched its member/supplier competition platform through Office Friendly in the UK.
2018: Craig Noyle and Garry Mc Cluskey, co-founders and Directors of South Africa-based independent marketing group Inovocom, are well-known in the country’s stationery and office products industry. They first met at another South African dealer group, and in 2008 decided to launch Office Active – now Inovocom – with ten founding members.
Since then, Inovocom has diversified its operations, currently representing three individual dealer groups that total approximately 130 dealers: Office Active (Southern Africa’s largest independent dealer group of stationers), Office Club and Alliance Furniture. According to Noyle and Mc Cluskey, the different dealer group brands enable all individual dealers to retain their trading identity which is important and has been well received in the market.
On top of the issues facing all operators across the industry, such as the decline in the traditional OP segment and growth in adjacent categories, the local South African market is stagnant and also faces its own unique set of challenges. The volatility associated with foreign exchange and emerging market economies, for example, has forced Inovocom to create and adapt its own relevant solutions. A good example of this is the group’s own in-house e-commerce solution which was developed due to the high cost of international platforms.
Inovocom is also looking to grow its range of services in the Southern African Development Community region, as well as further afield into East and West Africa and other global markets.
The group recently published its eleventh annual office products catalogue for Office Active, as well as a comprehensive back-to-school (BTS) publication, which is linked to a unique online BTS ordering solution that has experienced huge growth year on year. Office Active has also achieved Gold status for HP Inc.
Launched at the beginning of this year, Inovocom has joined four other international dealer groups – Office Choice (Australia), TriMega Purchasing Association (US), Novexco (Canada) and Office Friendly (UK) – as part of the inaugural International Office Products Alliance (iOPA).
iOPA was created to share knowledge, experience and intellect of globally-recognised companies within the office products market – it’s not an international buying group arrangement – and Noyle and Mc Cluskey are looking at the possibility of hosting the iOPA delegation during 2019 in South Africa.