EOPA review: All right on the night

A look at the winners of the European Office Products Awards (EOPA) 2012.

It’s fair to say that comments following the European Office Products Awards (EOPA) 2012 dinner have been unanimously positive. Before the evening, there was a concern that the current economic uncertainty shadowing Europe might put a dampener on the ceremony, as the performance of many companies, large and small, is under pressure. But these worries couldn’t have been further from the atmosphere on the night. There really was a mood of celebration surrounding each table, and dinner guests were quick to applaud each winner.

The evening’s host, British comedian and actor Hugh Dennis, helped to put the audience in the frame of mind to be entertained from the outset. After an excellent dinner, Dennis amused listeners with his love for the name Newell Rubbermaid, and revealed a number of reasons why the British really are quite embarrassing – at least, compared to fellow Europeans. 

The industry toast by Millán Álvarez-Miranda, CEO of pan-European wholesaler Unipapel, (pictured above) really came from the heart. As head of the company that recently acquired Spicers’ European operations, Álvarez-Miranda is no stranger to encouraging people to work together. He spoke of the tough times many are currently having, but highlighted opportunities too with a toast to the future. 

When announcing awards, several presenters spoke about the strength of the industry, and how we should work together to keep it moving forward. This year’s EOPA winners are all examples of companies and people doing just that. The Industry Achievement Award winner, Andersen J Owens, is particularly responsible for bringing positive change to the whole industry. Read on for a bit more about why he was recognised with such a prestigious award, as well as more on the other 2012 winners. 

Online Initiative

Winner: Pilot Corporation of Europe

As an ever-evolving subject, the judges found Online Initiative a hard but exciting category to discuss. There are many aspects that can make an initiative successful, and that can create a turning point for a brand. Several of the shortlisted initiatives stood out as taking an innovative approach to maximising the power of the internet. All managed to grow brand awareness very effectively, some in more mature and less interesting product categories.

The winner, however, really stood out to the judges as original. The Pilot FriXion Ball initiative in France last summer appealed to 11-24 year olds with its innovative use of social media. The young target audience really identified with the ‘Facebook profile hacking’ jokes, and the results demonstrate the success of the initiative – almost 300,000 visitors were influenced by the campaign.

Wholesaler/Distributor of the Year

Winner: Corwell

For this category, the judges were not necessarily looking at financial performance, but for noteworthy achievements and innovative solutions. Each of the shortlisted companies is notable for different initiatives, and provides services in unique and successful ways. 

This year’s winner Corwell managed to maintain its
 top line despite the deep economic crisis in Hungary and was able to implement a number of new initiatives. Notably, the wholesaler added to its warehouse size last year and introduced a new warehouse management system which has increased picking capacity by 25% while delivering accuracy rates of 99.5%. The company also assisted one of its dealer customers to win an important government contract, the first time this has been possible for ten years.

Regional Reseller of the Year

Winner: Dacris Impex 

To be included on this shortlist, a reseller has to continue to innovate by offering something new each year. The winner of this award, Dacris Impex, has done a tremendous job in its home country of Romania, continuing to take share in a difficult market that has declined by an estimated 40% since 2008.

By increasing marketing spend by 75% last year, and focusing on brand and service and not low prices, Dacris Impex consolidated its position as the second largest reseller in Romania with sales of €12 million ($15.9 million).

Dealer Group of the Year

Winner: Quantore

Dealer groups continue to play an integral role for dealers across Europe, and must continuously update their offering to keep up with market trends. Quantore operates one of the most impressive distribution centres in the European OP industry and has become something of a model for fellow BPGI members to learn from.

In its home country of the Netherlands, Quantore is a dominant player and is a critical partner to most Dutch independent dealers. The group aims to help its members take market share from its big box rivals in 2012. Read the Big Interview with Arnold Theuws in the February issue of OPI

New Product Innovation

Winner: Esselte Leitz, Leitz iLam Laminators

This was an extremely tough and lengthy debate for the judges, as the OP market has seen some extremely innovative products this past year. However, while some impressive technology products made the shortlist, the judges were extremely impressed with a more traditional product.

The Leitz iLam Laminator range has a number of unique features all designed to make laminating as easy as possible. Quite simply, it has an on/off switch and the machine does the thinking for you. As we say in the UK, it’s idiot proof – which is why the OPI office has two of them.

There was also a Highly Commended product that came a close second in this category. The HP TopShot LaserJet is an innovative device that scans 3D objects. The judges believe it shows huge potential for future growth following its release in February.

Best Products of the Year

Facilities Management

Winner: Dyson, Dyson Airblade Hand Dryer

Facilities management is a growing category for the whole OP industry, and the judges were looking for products that are helping to drive this. The winner may be new to the EOPA scene but Dyson is certainly well known for its innovative product solutions in the home and office. In the words of the judges, the Dyson Airblade Hand Dryer is “damn good compared to anything else on the market,” and now has an extremely wide reach and impressive market share throughout most of Europe and 45 countries worldwide. This was certainly one entry that was more than just hot air. 

While there can only be one winner, the judges acknowledged the Tork Premium Liquid Soap System from SCA. They recognised this system as Highly Commended due to its broad reach, strong growth and the excellent sales opportunities to sell refills.

Technology Product

Winner: Plantronics, Savi W740 Multi Device Wireless Headset System

As always, this was a hotly contested category, as more and more vendors bring out innovative technology products that are changing the office products landscape. Last year’s winner, the Apple iPad, caused quite a stir, and this year saw some excellent innovations.

According to the judges who have it in their catalogues, this year’s winner – the Plantronics Multi Device Wireless Headset System – is “selling like hell”. The system enables the user to roam around the office wearing just one headset and receive calls and switch between their landline, their mobile or their computer with a service such as Skype. It offers dealers a chance to really sell a premium productivity tool to consumers.

Environmental Product

Winner: helit innovative Büroprodukte, Greenlogic PET Letter Tray

As has been a growing trend during recent years, many innovative environmentally-friendly products entered the market in 2011. All those on this shortlist, however, have proven credentials that really are making a difference to our world. 

The judges unanimously appreciated the winner of this category for a number of reasons. Firstly, the Greenlogic Letter Tray is made from 97% recycled PET drink bottles. While not the first OP manufacturer to use recycled bottles, helit is the first in this product category. 

The trays are unbreakable due to the shatterproof properties of PET and they are selling very well, having been priced without the ‘green’ surcharge that often applies to environmental products.

Core Office Product

Winner: Hamelin, Oxford Range

While the type and nature of office products is rapidly evolving, the core category still retains its important place in the offerings of office products resellers, as demonstrated by the winner of this award. Many products on the shortlist were also praised for maintaining sales levels year on year.

All the reseller judges voiced their opinion that Hamelin’s Oxford
 range demonstrates a consistent appeal to end-users, which has
 built up strength during the past two or three years. It is positioned
 well in the market and the range stands out for its marketing and sense of differentiation.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Winner: Lyreco

This area is increasing in importance for all businesses, and the judges were looking for a company that demonstrates commitment to all areas of social, ethical and environmental responsibility.

They found this award very tricky to judge, as there were so many excellent entries that all approach corporate social responsibility (CSR) in a different way. Lyreco, however, was deemed to have a uniquely holistic approach. The company has adopted a continuous improvement model – living, working and breathing CSR in everything that it does.

Global Expansion

Winner: HSM

Expanding a business globally is more difficult now than ever, and any business that achieves it should be applauded. The shortlist comprised some excellent companies that have succeeded when faced with difficulty.

However, HSM stood out for managing to increase its sales by 75% in the last ten years, expanding its reach into over 100 markets and growing its US business by over 1,000%. The company has exploited its ‘Made in Germany’ credential and is widely applauded for its innovation and commitment to quality in the fiercely competitive shredding category.

Professional of the Year

Winner: Denis Bonnet, European Account Manager, BIC

This important award seeks to recognise a rising star who has the drive and potential to make a real difference to the office products community. This year the winner, in the words of the judges, is the crème de la crème of the industry. The award was presented by last year’s winner Nigel Gunn, SVP Sales Europe and International at Esselte. 

Denis Bonnet was recognised for going the whole way in business, and turning the world upside down to help colleagues and associates. His proven track record stands out among account management, and the judges admire his energy as well as his convincing and entertaining manner. He professionally engages with competitors using the strength of his own offer rather than their weaknesses. 

When collecting the award Bonnet thanked BIC as a family company for its philosophy of ‘method, precision, discipline’. He thanked the people in BIC’s factory for producing an affordable product in France, his competitors for pushing BIC to reinvent itself everyday, distributors for their fair collaboration, and consumers for their trust of the brand. 

Marketing Initiative

Winner: Brother 

The judges were looking for a campaign that was not only creative, but achieved tangible financial results. This was the first pan-European campaign for Brother and it reaped significant rewards. Within 18 months of entering the A3 multi-function printer category, Brother had gained a market leadership position and the 141% campaign helped drive sales up by 60% across Europe. In case you were wondering, 141% is the ratio by which you expand A4 to reach A3 on a copier or printer.

But, once again, this was a closely contested category and the judges were also very impressed with another entry. Fellowes ‘Professor Ergo Campaign’ managed, in the judges’ opinion, to turn an uninteresting category into one with spectacular growth and is worthy of being registered as Highly Commended.

Reseller of the Year

Winner: Kaut-Bullinger

There are some superb resellers in Europe that are making headway in the toughest environment we have experienced for some time. 

While last year’s winner Amazon was one of the new kids on the block – it was only formed in 1994 – Kaut-Bullinger was started exactly 200 years earlier. This German reseller is steeped in history and hugely family-orientated, but there’s nothing staid or old-fashioned about this successful multi-channel operator which continues to enjoy enviable growth rates from a host of initiatives.

The judges called the business “world class” and applauded its 21st century model carried out with traditional values and ethics. This is the second time in four years that Kaut-Bullinger has won this award. Who will challenge them next year?

However, last year’s winner Amazon is still shaking up the office products industry. It is the fastest route to market for many vendors and is, in the opinion of the judges, worthy of being Highly Commended.

Vendor of the Year

Winner: SCA

The judges were looking for progressive, modern companies that are trying to be relevant for today’s audience. Those on the shortlist are building their business to create long-term demand for our industry, and pushing it into the future. 

In 2011 the winner of this category made significant internal changes and has dedicated itself aggressively to the OP industry. SCA has built up a range of channel-specific items and marketing material, and has become the number one in Europe for categories such as hand towels. It is, in the judges’ words, “a majorly important vendor for the future”

Industry Achievement

Winner: Andersen J Owens, Category Analysis Manager Consumer and Office Business EMEA, 3M

The pinnacle of the EOPA, this award recognises a person who has made an outstanding contribution to the industry. Presenter Ronny Van Rossem, VP Merchandising Europe at Staples, said that it was fitting that the award goes to someone who has worked at a detail level and managed to change the way the entire industry does business.

Andersen J Owens, known as AJ, spends most of his time training and educating industry people, and has had a tremendous impact since he joined the industry at 3M in the 1970s. In the early 1990s he brought his knowledge and experience to Europe as 3M’s Transatlantic Account Manager. The judges selected him because he helped the industry move forward as a fantastic sales trainer and category manager and helped 3M to become the first in the industry to properly handle category management. 

When collecting the award Owens thanked everyone for the 20 years he has been in Europe, and voiced his hope to continue sharing his expertise for a long time.