Paul Yardley - NEW ENTRY

Paul Yardley - NEW ENTRY
GNS Wholesale Stationers

Paul Yardley has been at the helm of Australian distributor GNS Wholesale Stationers since 2016.

Background information

2022: Paul Yardley makes a welcome return to the OPI TOP 100 in 2022. The wholesaler has weathered the COVID storm, achieving resilient sales of just under A$70 million (US$48 million) in its 2020/2021 financial year.

More than 50% of its revenue now comes from the B2B channel as it continues to foster close ties with Australia’s two main office products dealer groups, Office Brands and Office Choice, and sign distribution agreements with leading brands (Bi-silque, for example, was added in early 2022). The company is also diversifying into other categories such as gifting, toys and homewares.

GNS is now headquartered in a business park on the outskirts of Sydney, where it has a 4,000 sq m (40,000 sq ft) warehouse, and has also moved its Brisbane operations to new premises.

In August 2021, the company acquired the business and assets of Bounce Rubber Bands Australia and NZ (Bounce), which Yardley described as a “fairly tactical bolt-on” as GNS looks to broaden its direct import product portfolio.

2019: There’s been plenty going on at GNS Wholesale Stationers in Australia over the past year. The wholesaler launched its entry-level own brand Stat which, says CEO Paul Yardley, represents a value offer across a wide range of core categories. The brand has already seen strong uptake by independents, newsagents and dealer group Office Choice.

On that Office Choice note, OPIx 2019 – the inaugural industry expo held jointly between the two organisations in August – was well attended, with great feedback from vendors and customers alike. OPIx 2020 is already in the planning stages.

In a separate development, GNS was appointed the distributor of a substantial proportion of the Initiative range, which is the private label brand of fellow dealer group Office Brands. This arrangement will start in early 2020.

Overall, according to Yardley, the wholesaler’s bottom line position substantially improved year on year (official results for the year ended June 2019 will be released in late October). It continued to grow its share in the independent dealer channel, with strong double-digit sales growth and increasing uptake of its stockless drop-ship offering.

GNS also pushed further into adjacent categories, a particular standout being the launch of a leading range of hygiene products.

2018: Under the leadership of CEO Paul Yardley who, this October, approaches the end of his second year at the helm, 2018 has been marked by a number of partnerships for Australia’s GNS Wholesale Stationers, both with the country’s dealer group Office Choice.

Effective 1 July 2018, the first agreement relates to GNS-affiliated Officesmart dealers whereby these dealers will be able to access the full range of Office Choice membership packages, including marketing tool kits and business development tools, and a customised e-commerce web platform. This relates directly to Yardley’s previously stated strategic goal of boosting the company’s marketing and merchandising capabilities.

A few months later, in early October, GNS and Office Choice announced a joint event to take place next year – the Office Product Reseller Supplier Expo, to be held in Sydney in August 2019. The show will consist of a full supplier day for both newsagent and dealer group participants and will be held alongside the 2019 Office Choice Conference and Gala Awards.

Office Choice and GNS first collaborated over five years ago when Office Choice put into place a national preferred wholesaler programme.

2017: Paul Yardley joined GNS Wholesale Stationers as CEO in October of last year to head up a strengthened management team brought in following a tough 2016.

A Brit, Yardley’s background is originally in investment banking, but since relocating to Australia in 2009 he has focused on the turnaround and restructuring of consumer businesses in industries undergoing major change.

GNS began life almost 40 years ago as a buying cooperative for newsagents, but has since evolved to being the largest – and only national – wholesaler in the Australian marketplace.

It has been a busy 12 months after a very challenging 2016 where the business had to refinance and refocus on its core operations due to a prolonged period of poor execution.

Since joining, Yardley has been implementing a renewed strategy based around two big themes: delivering a lowest-cost operating model, and driving market consolidation. As he puts it, he wants GNS to be the “last man standing” in terms of profitability.

In the past year, the group also acquired two smaller regional office products wholesalers, Perth-based WA Stationery and V Wholesale in Sydney. In February, it was made the Australian distributor for Double A paper, significantly enlarging its customer base. It was also appointed to the Office Brands wholesaler panel earlier this year, adding to its preferred wholesaler status with the Office Choice and ASA dealer groups.

Yardley says that boosting the group’s marketing and merchandising capabilities is a critical part of delivering the commercial part of a wholesaling model. To this end, the group has recruited a well-known OP industry marketing manager, having head-hunted Office Brands’ General Manager of Merchandise and Marketing Margaret De Francesco.

The Australia and New Zealand office products market is in a period of significant flux right now, with several of the large operators undergoing consolidation and smaller independent dealers able to take advantage of this disruption.

The arrival of Amazon is also expected to bring new opportunities for GNS and the wider market, as it threatens traditional big-box retail.