Dr Benedikt Erdmann

Dr Benedikt Erdmann
Soennecken
Chairman

2018: The fact that it lost its two biggest dealers over the past couple of years – Kaut-Bullinger in 2016 and Plate at the beginning of 2018 – hasn’t impacted revenues of dealer group Soennecken, with total sales up 2.2% in 2017 to €596 million ($680 million).

In fact, Chairman Dr Benedikt Erdmann and his team have had a particularly successful dealer recruitment year. From January to September 2018 alone, the group added 19 new dealers, nearly double what was achieved in the comparable year-ago period. This, says Erdmann, is due to ever increasing service offerings across all disciplines of the group, a consistent and solid logistics performance as well as flexibility as regards specific dealer member needs.

In terms of logistics specifically – where the group is doing particularly well – Soennecken enlarged its distribution centre at its headquarters in Overath by 4,000 sq m (40,000 sq ft), allowing for a bigger product breadth and depth and further growth potential. Product expansion is particularly focused on the breakroom, jan/san and technology segments. More solutions-related, office installation and IT services are high on the agenda.

In addition to its wholesale presence at HQ, Soennecken, in collaboration with dealer member Hugo Hamann, is in the process of building another logistics facility in the north of the country (near the city of Kiel). The plan is for this facility – to be run by Soennecken, not Hamann – to become operational in the summer of 2019.

2017: German dealer group Soennecken has had a good year so far, despite the fact that another of its biggest dealers – long-standing member Plate from northern Germany – announced that it will join rival group Büroring in January 2018. That said, Soennecken acquired ten new members in 2017 so far and that should go some way towards compensating for Plate’s loss next year.

Under the expert guidance of Chairman Dr Benedikt Erdmann, Soennecken has had its fingers in many pies this year and continues to offer more and more services to its members, including training, help with recruitment, the Soennecken community chatroom as well as better access to a host of products, including technology, EOS and storage media. Financially, it stands on solid ground, with total revenues up 2.4% in 2016 to €575 million ($678 million) and dividend pay-outs to its members of approximately €11 million.

The group is also managing the difficult balancing act of providing products, services and logistics (the latter so much so that another significant expansion of its distribution centre is currently underway) to its members while at the same time growing its direct business und running the Ortloff dealership in Cologne which it acquired two years ago.

It might not be to every member’s liking – Kaut Bullinger and Plate are both proof of that, although there’s arguably more to it than meets the eye – but Soennecken is a dealer group that’s changing with the times, along with other channels in our industry.

2016: Plenty has happened at Soennecken over the past year or so. But what many industry peers in the German business supplies space will remember the most is the somewhat acrimonious departure of the dealer group’s largest – and very long-standing – member Kaut-Bullinger this year.

Soennecken Chairman Dr Benedikt Erdmann doesn’t let that cloud the group’s overall performance, however, reassuring members that the loss of revenue – about 0.8% less than originally planned for the year – would not impact the level of dividends paid – currently standing at €11 million ($11.7 million). He also points to gaining 14 new members over the course of the year.

All in all, it’s been a good year for Soennecken so far, with 18% growth in its office equipment business, good progress with its direct selling retail outlet Ortloff, a newly automated logistics system, product expansion, as well as a host of new training programmes that members can benefit from.

2015: Having announced its direct selling intentions last year which was followed by the change of its bylaws at the end of 2014, German dealer group Soennecken this spring took its first direct steps and bought retailer Ortloff, a deal that was finalised in June.

But while this direct concept may not sit well with all of its members – most are pragmatic about it and also realise the benefits that Chairman Dr Benedikt Erdmann says it can bring to the dealer community as a whole – Soennecken as an entity remains hugely committed to its members. Its range of services is ever growing, particularly in the area of digitisation and indeed the combination and integration of on- and offline sales and marketing.