Category analysis: Jan/san

As dealers continue to map out their route to growth through the jan/san category, OPI assesses the lie of the land.


US dealer group TriMega launched a jan/san and breakroom programme in June this year, designed to help its dealer members make the most of the host of opportunities presented by the category. The Orange Project, as it is known, is further proof of the office products industry’s drive to boost top-line growth and attract new customers through selling hygiene and facilities items.

Phase one of the scheme has been rolled out, making available a full line of cleaning, sanitary and breakroom products, as well as various training and marketing programmes. But why should dealers be interested?

Joe Drenik, Marketing Communications and Services Senior Director at GOJO, describes the project as “a very positive development in filling a current gap in the marketplace”

“Small businesses and sole proprietors are underserved because it’s typically not a profitable market segment for large jan/san dealers,” he says. 

“It’s a smart move for the independent office supplies dealers who’ve already established relationships with smaller business customers to be able to expand their product offerings, generate add-on sales and further delight those customers.”

At a time when many independents are being squeezed – along with the big boxes, for that matter – any measure to help revenue streams should be welcomed. Marketing Director at Tulip Innovation Doug Skeggs calls the programme “superb”, particularly as both United Stationers and SP Richards are supporting it. But he also argues that the scheme is perhaps less revolutionary than some suggest.

“Large B2B firms have been selling jan/san products for over a decade as part of their single source supply contracts and in their catalogues and on websites,” he says. “The products have been available but many of the independents globally have stayed exclusively in what used to be called the OP channel. It’s more of a very welcome ‘catch up’ opportunity for the TriMega independents to get into this $30 billion business area.”

Regardless of the debate about how long jan/san has played a part in OP, Butch Ellis, VP Cleaning and Breakroom Supplies, Healthcare and Technology at The Highlands Group, believes the TriMega programme will support dealers with more promotional opportunities, product training, direct buying opportunities and linkage to wholesaler initiatives.  

“The programme creates more category awareness within the channel, and the suppliers who are involved have an opportunity to gain traction and product positioning,” he states.

Sanitary as a service?

OP is becoming very service led, providing various printing, delivery and recycling tools for businesses in an attempt to keep hold of customers or win new clients. Tech firms and wholesalers operating in the industry pride themselves on offering software as a service too, but are we now witnessing a different kind of SaaS: sanitary as a service?

Manufacturers are increasingly backing up their product ranges by creating good practice guidelines and other interactive tools on the importance of hygiene at work. Much of it is clever marketing material, used to heighten brand awareness, but many of the initiatives add real value and have led to rewarding vendor-reseller partnerships, and a better-informed end-user. One such scheme is The Healthy Workplace Project from Kimberly-Clark Professional (KCP), which aims to actively involve office employees in reducing the spread of germs. KCP says it helps businesses boost productivity and reduce absenteeism. 

Dan DeCriscio, North American Platform Leader, Healthy Workplace Project, KCP, says: “By encouraging proper hand-washing techniques and utilising hands-free sanitisers and surface sanitising wipes, businesses can significantly reduce the frequency with which germs are spread throughout the office – particularly in germ hot-spots. This helps to curtail sick days and can cut the expenses that result from employee absences. 

“This helps resellers and distributors because it encourages customers to adopt and purchase product solutions and place them in areas where these products have generally not been seen in the past, such as workspaces, breakrooms and common areas.”  

The campaign is backed up with regular messages published across social media channels, which further support the manufacturer’s position as a voice for hygiene. Some recent updates from its Twitter page that reinforce key messages include: “You can have your cake and eat it. Just wash your hands first” and “Stopping for elevenses? Please wash your hands first.”

UK vendor Durable has an alternative approach to raising awareness of the importance of office hygiene. For seven years it has been running Computer Cleaning Week, which in 2011 became Computer Cleaning Month (CCM). CCM 2012 kicked off on 1 September, and Durable’s trade partners can access an array of marketing material to showcase the health benefits of maintaining the cleanliness of office tech equipment.

Durable says reseller partners benefit from increased product demand at consumer level, while Durable itself has seen sales growth as a result of such a prominent marketing campaign. Brand awareness has reportedly heightened across all of its product ranges.

Feedback has been positive, with Tulip’s Skeggs praising Durable for creating a “very educational” campaign he claims competitors have “copied”. He also acknowledges that following the bird flu, swine flu and Asian flu pandemics of recent years “fear factor messaging” has taken over, and is evidently here to stay for some time yet.

Kasia Holland, Marketing & Customer Service Manager at Systemcare Products, which recently made significant investments in its UK production facilities and counts Durable as a customer, argues that effective data sharing is one of the key ingredients to the growing success of the jan/san category.

“We believe that all types of initiative launched to share information benefit the whole of the industry, from manufacturers to resellers, as they help users understand our products and the importance and benefits of hygienic workplaces.”

Altogether now

There are often calls for more collaboration between businesses in the OP world in order for the industry to grow as a whole. This is shown, for example, through the success of dealer groups, which provide independents with the tools to take on the big boxes. 

There have also been plenty of cases in recent years of big boxes working closely with jan/san manufacturers. OPI understands that Georgia Pacific’s (GP) Lotus Professional brand in Europe has teamed up with Staples to create a hygiene product in time for next year, while SCA – which has recently acquired GP’s European tissue operations – is enjoying successful relationships with Office Depot in Spain and France. And there’s more to come.

Tue Pederson, Director European Key Accounts at SCA Professional Hygiene Europe, explains: “In Sweden we have taken part in an exhibition with Office Depot. And this autumn there will be a joint sales activity focusing on the Tork Compact Auto Shift toilet tissue system, Interfold Hand Towels and foam soaps.” 

Environmental cleaning products vendor Ecover agrees that there must be a partnership between the manufacturer and reseller, and suggests it has experience in initiating and developing plans with its customers that help maximise jan/san sales. This includes product training for resellers and making available technical support.

Lies Marijnissen, Ecover’s B2B Marketing Coordinator, notes: “To show our total commitment to sustainability and ‘cradle to cradle’ philosophy, we organise VIP-days to our ecological factory. The feedback we receive from visits is remarkable and always positive. It gives our visitors a unique dimension to and an understanding of our proposition.”

The future

It should be noted that despite the huge potential in the jan/san category for OP dealers, the cleaning and hygiene industry has not been immune to problems caused by a weak economy – especially in Europe. Cleaning industry association ISSA reports that growth in the sector over recent years has slowed; it therefore shouldn’t be taken for granted as a route to success for OP.

Schemes such as The Orange Project can only boost the industry’s knowledge of the subject, though, and it will be interesting to watch how the OP jan/san market grows as a result of such initiatives. Stephan Kopietzki, Marketing Director EMEA at Rubbermaid Commercial Products, suggests that cleaning equipment will become increasingly tailored to the office channel. He also argues that as these categories become a more prominent part of several brands’ and distributors’ agendas, market competition will grow, which should drive innovation. 

Kevin Toale, VP National Distribution at GP, asserts that “significant channel migration” has occurred as distributors offering a bundle of products have gained share in the cleaning market at the expense of traditional jan/san firms.

“This migration has been occurring for several years and has resulted in some non-traditional distributors now becoming a significant force in the market,” he argues.

Perhaps the last word can be left to Mike Miller, United’s VP Marketing and Channel Development, Jan/San and Breakroom, who neatly summarises the current landscape.

“Growth of jan/san within the OP industry has outpaced the overall industry growth rate,” he says. “In order to continue this trend, the OP reseller will need to provide the end-user with the service, the variety of products, the programmes, and the capabilities that differentiate them from other jan/san product resellers.” 

Hygiene’s clean sweep at NAOPA

As if any further evidence was needed of the rise in prominence of jan/san products in OP, the winner of the North American Office Products Awards (NAOPA) 2012 Overall Product of the Year was Rubbermaid Commercial Products’ (RCP) HYGEN Clean Water System Filter Bucket.

Stephan Kopietzki, Marketing Director EMEA at RCP, says that sister company Newell Rubbermaid’s brands – Papermate, Dymo, Sharpie – have “without a doubt” supported Rubbermaid Commercial’s success in the OP industry.

“These established brands and relationships have allowed RCP to gain access to the office products industry and to be seen as a credible and trusted jan/san partner within it,” he adds.

Also shortlisted for the Best Cleaning/Breakroom Product was Kimberly-Clark Professional’s (KCP) Kleenex Cool Touch facial tissue.

Dawson Bond, Customer Channel Manager, OP and Redistribution at KCP, comments: “Simply put, using Kleenex Cool Touch Facial Tissues is another way to help prevent the spread of germs within offices, which can help keep workers healthier, reducing absenteeism and increasing productivity.”    

Other shortlisted items in the NAOPA cleaning products category were GOJO’s LTX and ADX Dispensers and soap formulations, and the Hoover Insight. 

Jan/san stats

•  TriMega says the US jan/san and breakroom market is worth $25 billion

•  United Stationers’ janitorial and breakroom sales for the first half of this financial year jumped 8.6% compared to one year before

•  Staples, Office Depot and OfficeMax have all seen jan/san sales grow in 2012.