Global News

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Montreal, Canada
Mega Brands sued by Dixon over pencil design
Canadian toy and stationery manufacturer Mega Brands has been sued by US firm Dixon Ticonderoga for allegedly infringing on a trademarked pencil design.
A complaint filed in a federal court in Florida accuses Mega Brands of copying the design of Dixon Ticonderoga’s best-selling number 2 pencil which has green metal bands around the top and green lettering on the shaft. According to the complaint, Dixon Ticonderoga is seeking unspecified damages.
This is the latest blow to Mega Brands after its toy division was hit recently by recall orders on Chinese-made products and the firm reported its first annual loss in a decade. Mega Brands is said to be looking to sell off its stationery division to reduce its debt burden. Possible suitors include Newell Rubbermaid.
Washington, USA
NOPA lobbies for contract reform
Dozens of US independent office product dealers converged on Washington at the beginning of April to lobby politicians on legislative issues affecting the industry.
NOPA members engaged in dialogues with senior congressional and executive branch officials on issues affecting small businesses.
Top of the list was a call for the end of small business ‘fronts’ which NOPA claims enable power channel players to "gain improper access to government contracts set aside for small business".
Meanwhile, later in the month, NOPA president Chris Bates testified before the US Congress to promote a proposed new bill for small business contract reform and to push for specific legislation the stamp out fronts.
Michigan, USA
Steelcase warns of job losses
Office furniture manufacturer Steelcase is to close three production sites and cut jobs as the company starts to feel the effects of the slowdown in the US economy.
The company is planning to close two furniture plants and one PolyVison dry-erase whiteboard facility in California with production to be shifted to other locations in North America.
Meanwhile, the company announced that it will also cut around 250 white-collar jobs in North America over the next 18 months in an effort to improve margins after failing to meet Q4 earnings estimates.
Paris, France
Bic to close factory/reports income slump
Bic has announced that it is to stop production at its Stypen factory in Joigny in France at the end of July. The company says that the facility is no longer competitive, but will still make the plant’s eight million annual units in France by switching production to another Bic site on the outskirts of Paris.
The company’s stationery unit has reported a Q1 sales decrease of 2.3 percent at constant currencies. The division’s consumer business net sales increased slightly. Growth in Europe and Latin America was offset by a mid-single digit decrease in North-America, where sales were affected by customer inventory reductions.
The graphics business suffered a high-single digit decrease, with revenues falling in both the North American and European markets.
Income from operations slumped by over 26 percent to €16.2 million ($25.9 million).
Tokyo, Japan
Printer giants launch joint collection scheme
In what is being hailed as a world first, six major printer manufacturers have launched a joint scheme in Japan to encourage the return of empty printer cartridges. Dell, Brother, Canon, Epson, HP and Lexmark are all working together in an attempt to increase the number of returned cartridges in Japan after individual efforts met with only limited success.
The scheme will see collection boxes set up in over 3,600 main post offices across Japan. The collected cartridges are then sorted and returned to the original manufacturer.
The firms say that if the Japanese trial proves successful, they may extend it to other countries.
According to estimates by a variety of manufacturers, only approximately 10 percent of Japan’s 200 million annual consumption of printer cartridges is returned for recycling.
Manchester, UK
Staples opens first UK ‘Express’ store
Staples has imported its ‘Express’ city centre format into the UK for the first time with the opening of a store in Manchester.
Staples has more than 130 out-of-town superstores in the country, but the new Manchester store is the first on a UK High Street.
The store, at just over 3,000 sq ft, is about a fifth of the size of a traditional superstore, but will still offer a range of services such as DHL delivery and a print and copy centre, as well as providing everyday office products and consumables. If the new format proves successful, it could pave the way for the opening of further Express stores in other key UK cities.
Berlin, Germany
Herlitz reverses 10-year sales decline
German office products manufacturer Herlitz has announced an increase in annual sales for the first time in a decade.
The company has reported 2007 sales of €310.5 million ($481 million), a modest increase of 0.6 percent compared to 2006.
"The investments made in the development of our company are paying off," claimed CEO Jan von Schuckmann.
"Herlitz has improved its strategic position as a result of the current restructuring programme. We have now reached a new stage in the development of our company through the significant strengthening of the Herlitz brand, the expansion of international activities and the launch of new, attractive products, " he added.
The improved sales performance can be attributed to the company’s overseas markets with international sales surging by over 10 percent during the year to represent 40 percent of total sales. The biggest growing markets are Eastern Europe and the UK, says the company.
However, despite the top-line growth, the company was hit by a tax rule change in Germany and by rising raw material costs, and posted a loss for the year of €3.6 million compared to a profit of €0.6 million in 2006.
Herlitz says that a return to profitability will be a top priority in 2008 and admits that there is much room for improvement in its restructuring programme which yielded savings of just €0.4 million in 2007.
Istanbul, Turkey
Papermate rebranding for EMEA
As part of Newell Rubbermaid’s worldwide brands consolidation programme, the first examples of Rotring’s best-selling Tikky writing instruments bearing the Papermate name were on display at the Ofis 2008 exhibition held in April in Istanbul, Turkey.
Newell Office Products’ head of emerging markets for the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region, Mike Kempell, was at the show for the launch. He explained to OPI that the move to develop the Papermate brand would allow the company, among other things, to consolidate marketing and promotional activities around a single, strong brand.
He also said that the roll-out of the new products will be taking place in other EMEA countries over the coming months.

 

Briefs
Fiducial joins EOSA: The European Office Supplies Alliance has received a major boost with the announcement that leading French contract stationer Fiducial Office Solutions has become a member. Lyon (FRA)
Cartridge World expands in India: Cartridge refill franchise chain Cartridge World has continued its expansion into the Indian market with two store openings in Chennai. The new outlets mark the company’s first move into the Chennai market in southern India and bring the total number of stores in India to 24 in 13 cities. A further 16 stores are due to open by the end of May. Madras (IND)
"Below par" half year for Warehouse: New Zealand office supplies retail chain Warehouse Stationery has admitted that its half-yearly results are "below par". The company revealed that sales for the six months ending 27 January 2008 were down 4.8 percent on the previous year to NZ$96.6 million ($76 million). Auckland (NZ)
ZCOM rescues Setton and Durward: Stationery manufacturer Setten and Durward, which had recently gone into administration, has been bought as a going concern by ZCOM Ltd, a company led by industry veteran Alan Morris. ZCOM will continue to trade the company as Setten IXL (UK)
Okamura planning $119 million expansion: Japanese office furniture maker Okamura has said that it plans to invest ¥12 billion ($119 million) on a new production facility at its Tsukuba plant near Tokyo. The new facility will increase its annual production capacity for desks and storage furniture by 50 percent. Tokyo (JPN)