Analysis: Büroring set for growth

Growth' was the main talking point at Büroring's AGM which was held in Berlin, Germany, at the end of May.

For the first time ever, all cooperatives under the Büroring group umbrella – Büroring, Büro Forum and Prisma – came together for the so-called PBS Forum which comprised the group’s AGM, a specific Prisma assembly meeting and a joint supplier exhibition. 

The event kicked off with a keynote address by motivational trainer Jörg Löhr and was followed the next day with a well-attended exhibition that saw about 80 of the combined groups’ vendor partners come together.

In addition to the tradeshow and a well-organised fringe networking and entertainment programme over the course of the event, it was the AGM on the third day that provided an in-depth look back at the past year of the dealer group as well as a comprehensive glimpse of what’s to come.

Büroring’s 40th year – it celebrated its anniversary last year – was a tale of two halves. As reported by OPI in January, the group posted record revenues for the whole of 2016 and the good performance continued for the first quarter of 2017 when the warehouse operation grew by 3.9% and the central billing business with the group’s suppliers by an impressive 19.5%. And while the month of April came in well below expectations due to the number of public holidays in Germany which, as admitted Büroring Managing Director Ingo Dewitz, completely negated the successes of the previous three months, overall the forecast for the warehouse business alone for the whole of 2017 is set at “at least” €36 million ($40 million) – up from €33 million in 2016.

Much of the future growth of Büroring is expected to come from two corners: the warehouse operation and its expansion into new product categories, and a better e-commerce experience for members’ customers. 

While the group’s warehouse business did well in 2016, it reached an impasse towards the end of the year when demand and order volume far outstripped capacity. Büroring is in the middle of a major €4 million logistics overhaul which began last summer and will not only add the much-needed extra capacity, but also pave the way for considerable category expansion.

As Dewitz explained, currently about 12,000 SKUs are available through its facilities, plus an extra 13,000 through its virtual warehouse. He pointed to a sizeable increase of its own brand portfolio, plus extended – and in some instances completely new – forays into the areas of school supplies, jan/san, packaging, PPE and breakroom products.

Büroring’s logistics project is expected to be finalised this autumn. At the same time, the group’s new e-procurement system for its dealer members will also be ready, hopefully giving dealers a more competitive, user-friendly offering while also opening the door for further future enhancements in the area of in-shop solutions and add-on marketplaces.

There’s no doubt that many challenges remain for Büroring and its members. Succession has long been an issue in the German OP market which is also reflected in the slowly decreasing number of members (although the group managed to win nine new members in lieu of 11 lost ones). But with the global OP players – with one notable exception according to Dewitz (Lyreco) – not doing very well in Germany and its members making strong inroads into the local project and tender business, there’s plenty to be positive about.