Comment July/August 2017

The good and the bad.


This issue of OPI aptly illustrates the two main scenarios we are seeing in the business supplies sector today – trends with the opportunities they bring on one end of the spectrum, and Amazon and the challenges it throws up on the other.

Let’s start with the positives – trends. There are many, but wellness is right up there at the moment. It permeates the whole industry, but from a specific product perspective perhaps most notably the furniture, facilities and breakroom categories.

From our Hot Topic on the healthy workplace and a furniture Category Update  to our reviews of the recent OPI European Forum in Berlin as well as NeoCon in Chicago, one thing is clear: the workplace is changing and the opportunities for manufacturers and resellers in our sector are endless. 

Now for the challenges or, dare I say, threats. You will see the word Amazon coming up in many of the following pages. This is partly because this OPI is our Technology Solutions Special, the issue where we ask players from across the industry – the software vendors, resellers and wholesalers – about their views on technology and how in particular independent dealers are faring in their battle to match Amazon’s digital prowess.

The answers are worrying and encouraging in equal measure. Many channel participants are on board with the notion that they simply have to up their game in terms of all things digital. But it’s not easy, as one of our Big Interviewees this month says: “If something keeps me up at night, it’s our ability to stay ahead of technology on the e-commerce side… It’s often playing catch-up and reacting rather than being a leader in technology… Amazon has a model that really works.” 

But the Amazon threat is no longer confined to digital commerce. The online giant has made its intentions clear with the near-$14 billion acquisition of food chain Whole Foods. What possible repercussions this could have on the retail sector and OP in particular is pure guesswork. Suffice to say, doing nothing and hoping it will all just go away would be a death sentence. 

On that somewhat depressing note, have a fabulous summer.