Event Review: European Office Products Awards 2023

OPI Partnership and the European Office Products Awards once again proved a winning combination in Amsterdam.


Christa Furter’s infectiously enthusiastic industry toast at the 22nd European Office Products Awards celebrations summed up not only the mood of the evening, but also that of the OPI Partnership event which enveloped the gala dinner. The Viking Europe Managing Director referred to plenty of challenges in our sector, but even more opportunities.

Furter had three words for what she loves about our industry: people, products and challenges. They perfectly encapsulate what the EOPA are all about: highlighting the achievements of the European business supplies space, be that through innovative products and initiatives, companies which overcome obstacles and find new avenues for growth or inspirational individuals who always seek solutions – for their business partners, customers and employees. 

After the first full day of OPI Partnership – held from 12-14 March, once again at the outstanding Hotel Okura in Amsterdam – the EOPA dinner presented a wonderful opportunity to get together in a more relaxed style and raise a glass to all that is innovative, progressive and resilient in our sector.

As the winners of this year’s EOPA were announced, there were many occasions of tears and laughter, rapturous applause and standing ovations.

Impressive achievements

OPI CEO Steve Hilleard, who compèred the evening and is also Chairman of the EOPA judging panel, said: “For the 22nd time, leaders from the European business supplies sector came together to reward the very best of what our industry has to offer. We have witnessed unprecedented challenges over the past three years. To not only overcome them, but thrive at the same time, with exciting new products, inspiring campaigns and initiatives, and outstanding leadership is truly a remarkable achievement. 

“Whether it’s responding to the renewed focus on sustainability, the reality of hybrid working or the non-negotiable need to embrace e-commerce, the EOPA judging panel was hugely impressed with the calibre of nominations in a total of 12 categories and the excellence of the winners in every single one of them.”

European Office Products Awards 2023 winners

Business Product of the Year – WINNER: ACCO Brands

Business Product of the Year was the first award of the EOPA night and it was once again the category that had attracted the most entries pre-judging.

A hotly-contested shortlist resulted in ACCO Brands finally pipping everyone to the post with its Leitz Ergo range. The EOPA judges thought the product expertly shows the evolution of a brand – which began with a laptop stand. Now comprising a selection of stylish and ergonomic items that combine home style comfort with premium quality and functionality, Leitz Ergo has transformed the perception of a category and the items it should contain. 

Designed to improve user well-being, the range also caters for a hybrid workforce that’s clearly here to stay.

Wholesaler of the Year – WINNER: PBS Holding

The next award recognised a dynamic wholesaler which has been addressing the fast-changing demands of a difficult marketplace. 

Austria’s PBS Holding scooped the Wholesaler of the Year award and was commended by the EOPA judges for doing an outstanding job in a channel that has been hugely challenged and remains in a constant state of flux. In a year of spiralling costs and intense supply chain pressures, this operator has maintained its clear focus. 

PBS Holding’s unwavering efforts in the area of sustainability and services, plus its acquisition strategy in recent years, has helped it become the leading business supplies wholesaler in Central and Eastern Europe.

Marketing Campaign of the Year – WINNER: Pilot Corporation of Europe – So Easy

Marketing Campaign of the Year is always a category which attracts plenty of entries and this year was no exception. Clearly showing the objectives of a campaign, being original and creative are all part of the criteria that need to be met; as is, of course, demonstrating an excellent return on investment. 

Pilot Corporation of Europe really stood out for the EOPA judges – quite simply best in class, they said. The vendor’s So Easy campaign was regarded as a highly integrated and engaging initiative that was well composed. Importantly also, it delivered great ROI and a clear message in a product range – FriXion – which is now very mature. Back-to-school is a key market for the writing instruments sector and this campaign expertly drove sales during this critical time.

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Avery UK – Think Safe, Work Safe

Young Executive of the Year – WINNER: James Day

We need more young talent in our industry to ensure its survival and continued success. Judging by the quantity – and quality – of entries, there’s certainly enough talent coming in; the challenge lies in retaining it.

It was James Day, Sales & Marketing Director at Durable UK, who won the first of the three individual awards – Young Executive of the Year – amid considerable competition from his contemporaries. According to EOPA Chair Steve Hilleard, it was one of the most difficult categories to be judged in EOPA history. 

Introduced by EVO Buying Director Simon McLoughlin, Day impressed the judges with his outstanding work ethic and how he has built trust with channel partners. He has a clear vision of how Durable can grow with its resellers and has already made a real impact at the vendor, both in terms of sales growth as well as with his internal team efforts.

Marketplace/Platform of the Year – WINNER: Unite

Marketplace/Platform of the Year is a new category that has been introduced to acknowledge the growing importance of this online selling/buying method in the business supplies space. The judges were looking for an exceptional operation which offers a superior customer experience as well as a commitment to maximising opportunities for selling partners.

It was Unite – formerly Mercateo – that emerged as the winner. This operator is challenging traditional models and is enjoying considerable success with its B2B marketplace. The EOPA judges highlighted the positive impact Unite has had on our sector so far, particularly given some formidable competition.


Initiative of the Year – WINNER: Sylvamo Europe

Initiative of the Year was another award which attracted a diverse array of entries, illustrating that innovative thinking is alive and well in our space.

Following a lengthy debate, Sylvamo Europe was declared the winner for its highly effective 2022 Comics Rule! campaign. The initiative saw Sylvamo’s REY brand link up with the National Literacy Trust to help improve reading, writing, speaking and listening skills in the UK’s most disadvantaged communities where up to 40% of people have literacy problems. The EOPA judges were hugely impressed with this campaign and its strong links
to an important charity. 

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Lyreco UK & Ireland – Lyreco Goodness Supplier Support Programme

Sustainability Excellence (Vendor) – WINNER: Exacompta

Real sustainability excellence remains a tough ask and not many operators in our industry have got to this level just yet. 

In the vendor-specific category, the EOPA judges commended France-based Exacompta for its outstanding environmental journey, highlighting considerable investments along the way while at the same maintaining an unwavering focus on quality. A deeply traditional, family-owned organisation, Exacompta has made sustainability a core focus of its operations, resulting in a transformation that is nothing short of extraordinary.


Sustainability Excellence (Reseller) – WINNER: Commercial

Commercial ticked all the boxes in the reseller category of Sustainability Excellence. It undoubtedly is a business like no other in the European workplace supplies industry. 

Sustainability is truly in Commercial’s DNA and the UK operator’s efforts consistently go well beyond best practice across all aspects of the company. At the same time, implementation of its programmes – and the communication associated with it – is outstanding, benefitting not only the business itself, but also its customers and the wider community. This is a company that lives and breathes sustainability.

Business Leader of the Year – WINNER: Kenneth Borup

The second ‘people’ award of the EOPA night went to an individual with comprehensive business knowledge, plenty of leadership skills and incredible humility. 

The winner was introduced by Christian Langvad, VP of Operations at Schäfer Shop. He referred to Kenneth Borup – CEO of Denmark-based Lomax – as pioneering, transformational and highly participatory. It is no surprise that the company itself is a previous EOPA winner in the Reseller of the Year category. 

Under Borup’s leadership, revenues at this online operator – where an engaged and positive company culture is a top priority – have grown over 100%, while at the same time maintaining solid profitability.

Vendor of the Year – WINNER: tesa

The penultimate EOPA rewards a vendor that pays attention to and succeeds in many areas: sales performance and market share gains; high-quality products and service-driven solutions; diversification; supply chain performance; and brand strength.

Perhaps at no time in recent history have customers needed as much support and agility as during and post-COVID-19. Germany’s tesa, said the EOPA judges,  has gone above and beyond its original focus and expertly reshaped the organisation to meet market changes – always with its reseller partners in mind. 

The panel was impressed with tesa’s significant investments in innovation, sustainability, adhesive technologies and new business fields. All of these efforts combined create a solid foundation for successful, strong and reliable partnerships in the future.

Reseller of the Year – WINNER: Böttcher

Germany’s Böttcher won the Reseller of the Year award because it, quite simply, fulfilled all category criteria – and more. Not only is the company’s sales growth outstanding, but it’s unmatched in a very difficult market. 

This is an organisation that excels in all its operational functions but also pays close attention to staff well-being – it looks after its people in a consistently impressive way. 

Böttcher has paid COVID bonuses, inflationary increases and invested in high-end new facilities which incorporate both a top-class logistics upgrade as well as a wide range of staff amenities. A phenomenal company and a deserved winner in this category, the EOPA judges said.

Industry Achievement – WINNER: Dr Benedikt Erdmann

Arguably the most prestigious award of the night went to a very well-known personality in the German business supplies sector. Introduced by another former winner, PBS Holding’s Richard Scharmann paid tribute to an individual who has made a remarkable contribution to his company and the sector as a whole in his specific market. 

It was Soennecken’s Group CEO Dr Benedikt Erdmann who took home the trophy. Under his 26-year watch, the dealer cooperative has been transformed from a deeply traditional and loss-making purchasing group into a modern, market-leading, financially sound operator.

The EOPA judges commended Dr Erdmann’s operational excellence and strategic vision, while at the same time always keeping a keen eye on a positive and happy company environment. 

Indeed, the winner, in accepting the accolade, referred to his team as the driving force behind the group’s success.