Victor Technology is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Widely regarded as a leading supplier of calculator products across North America, the company sells a variety of other office products through the OP channel. OPI speaks to Victor’s President John Ringlein and CEO Jordan Feiger about the company’s history, strategy and future plans.
OPI: Many of our readers will be familiar with the Victor brand, but may not know a great deal of detail. Could you chart your early history please?
Jordan Feiger: The Victor Adding Machine Company was founded in Chicago in 1918. At that time the very first adding machines had been invented, but they were large, expensive devices that only wealthy businesses could afford. Victor’s vision was to make them more durable, portable and affordable for small businesses – helping to free them from the time-consuming and error-prone accounting methods using handwritten maths.
Over time, Victor expanded the functionality of its devices beyond simple addition and subtraction. By 1947 it had become the world’s largest manufacturer of adding machines. In the second half of the 20th century it would play a leading role in the development of electronic displays and handheld calculators.
OPI: What have been Victor’s major milestones in recent times?
JF: In 2006, the company was acquired by John Ringlein and myself. Victor then began to expand its calculator business with innovative products such as the Victor 1310 Big Print and the PL8000 Printing Calculator. It was also the first US company to launch calculators made with recycled plastic and antimicrobial protection.
In 2015, we took over the US and Latin American distribution of the Sharp brand of calculators, thereby becoming the largest business calculator company in North America.
Over the past few years, the company has entered other OP categories with the acquisition of KORR plastic desktop accessories and the introduction of our Midnight Black Collection of premium wood desktop accessories and the patented EZ-Read Ruler. In 2014, Victor expanded into the standing desk category and continues to lead the way in innovative products in that segment, with the launch this year of models such as the DC450 Electric Dual-Monitor Standing Desk and the DCX760 Height-Adjustable Standing Desk.
OPI: What makes Victor an iconic American brand that people care about?
John Ringlein: The Victor brand is the embodiment of American ingenuity, durability, quality and style. Between 1920 and the early 1980s there were no personal computers available to crunch numbers, and companies used adding machines and printing calculators to manage their financial transactions.
Victor was the most popular brand for decades. We’ve heard dozens of people tell stories of their grandparents’ love for Victor adding machines. And still thousands of vintage machines can be found in offices, garages, closets and museums all over the country. Victor was a big part of the growth of America – our products were workhorses for companies big and small.
OPI: Why do you think resellers and independent dealers in particular are keen to work with you?
JR: Victor is the only calculator company that sells directly to independent dealers. Our relationships with buying groups such as DPCG, Office Partners, TriMega and Independent Stationers go back to their founding days. Our minimum for prepaid freight is only $300 and dealers can order in any quantity they like. We also drop-ship our standing desk products for dealers.
We have an exceptional customer service team located at our offices in Bolingbrook, Illinois. Dealers really appreciate our flexibility and support, and our marketing staff works with them directly to create custom flyers, email blasts and web banners.
OPI: Who do you see as your main end-user target audience and how has that changed over the past 100 years?
JR: While our products are designed and marketed to the demanding business consumer, Victor’s main target audience is quite broad. People often assume that printing calculators are targeted at accountants, but this isn’t true. Clerks, bookkeepers, cashiers, managers, purchasing agents and many other office workers all continue to use printing calculators.
We also provide scientific calculators, pocket calculators and desktop calculators – almost every person has owned one of these at some time in their life. Our desk accessories and standing desks are targeted at anyone with an office, including businesses, schools, government departments, manufacturing, healthcare, etc.
JF: While many things have changed over the past 100 years, Victor’s commitment to high standards of quality, customer support and the introduction of innovative features has been its consistent ethos.
OPI: How would you best describe your current go-to-market strategy?
JR: Victor’s primary method of selling product is through resellers. This includes our core of independent dealers as well as large contract companies – wholesalers Essendant and SP Richards do a great job of giving our products exposure through thousands of companies. In the past decade, our business has shifted to larger resellers due to consolidation, with Amazon in particular having grown quickly for us over the past five years.
OPI: Which have been the most efficient sales and marketing tools for you? And how much of a role does social media play compared to more traditional methods?
JR: The most efficient approach for marketing calculators and desktop accessories is to make sure resellers offer our full line, together with the excellent additional content, images and videos that we provide. For standing desk items, we’ve had success with YouTube videos that showcase our products and compare their features with those of our competitors.
JF: Delivering our brand message directly to end users is becoming an increasingly important and necessary element of our marketing strategy. Consequently, social media and online advertising have become an integral part of this.
OPI: What are the main trends you see across the product ranges the company sells?
JF: The calculator industry is strong and stable. Business calculators continue to be in high demand as there are few alternatives which can efficiently and accurately add multiple numbers quickly, and we continue to launch new products each year.
Our other business segments are experiencing rapid industry and category growth, especially our standing desk line – we’ve launched another three innovative products this year and they have all been very well received by our resellers as well as the end-user community.
OPI: As you celebrate your 100th anniversary, what’s your present focus and where are you headed in the future?
JF: The immediate focus is on developing new
product categories which will provide great value and delight our business customers. Currently, that means expanding our standing desk line to better establish ourselves in this rapidly growing product category. Looking towards the future, we are always open to new product ideas.
JR: Over the next 100 years Victor will continue to be a calculator company. This is our foundation, this is what we do and as the category slowly consolidates Victor will be the last one standing.
However, at the same time we will continue to expand into other categories through organic growth, partnerships and acquisitions. As a company we pride ourselves on having the flexibility and mindset to take advantage of any opportunities that come our way.