By a quirk of timing in our schedule, this latest issue of OPI was started when Office Depot announced that it was to drop out of the reckoning for the US Communities contract and ended as is.group was announced as the winner of the contract.
There’s enough written about Office Depot (in this issue, opi.net, blogs, Yahoo! chatrooms, restroom doors) for me to actually skip the ‘whys’ and ‘what fors’ regarding that company. Suffice to say it did seem to many like it had walked out of the tender like a child that was intent on taking the ball home with it, until it realised that it belonged to someone else.
Instead, I want to focus on one of the good guys in the industry, Mike Gentile. Over the years, he has been a great friend and resource to OPI. Always available for sharp comment and opinion, Mike is one of the go-to guys if you really want to get your head around a subject or story. He really is a repository of information and I can think of few others, out of the many we talk to, that share his same breadth and understanding of the industry. He is also one of the most fiercely independent.
As I write, there are still details to be hammered out in the deal, so we will have to wait for Mike to talk openly about how the deal will work for the group and how its constituent parts will fit onto the contract.
But, for now it’s enough to sit back and enjoy the fact that here is a rare opportunity for the independent dealer community in the US to prove that when it says it can compete with a power channel, it means it. The next trick will be proving it.
There are the tight confines of the contract, increasing scrutiny (if there isn’t even tighter regulation of these contracts in the coming years, I’ll eat my Sharpie purchased from the core items pricing plan) and narrow margins to navigate, but only a fool would bet against the Mike Gentile-led is.group showing that the independent dealer community can take on the big boys.
Another of the industry’s good guys, Graeme Chapman, the Chairman of UK dealer group Office Friendly, announced his retirement this month. Those that know Graeme, will probably have the same thought as me. It was about time – it’s been at least five years since he last had a retirement! Graeme is one of the industry’s most dedicated charity fundraisers and, like Mike Gentile, is also one of our great enthusiasts – I’m really not sure how he will be able to completely peel himself away from office products.
Great personalities seemed to thrive in this industry as it grew up. But in its maturity and as it fights to maintain its own identity, we will need all the Mike Gentiles and Graeme Chapmans we can get.