News Analysis: Quantore gets connected

Interaction brand appeals to Quantore, while EOSA announces new vendor contracts


Global independent dealer purchasing organisation BPGI was dealt a blow in September when it was announced that longstanding member, Netherlands-based wholesaler and dealer group Quantore, was leaving after it had opted to join the Interaction purchasing alliance.

Quantore is a H140 million ($190 million) business and was BPGI’s second-largest member – behind French member Majuscule – in terms of the value of its BPGI contracts. There are several reasons behind the decision to move, although Quantore Managing Director Arnold Theuws stressed that there was no dissatisfaction with BPGI and he would have been happy to be a member of both groups.

"As Interaction doesn’t allow multiple group membership, we had to make a choice,” he said. “Within Interaction, we expect to find more similarities between the other members and ourselves, such as a focus on multichannel distribution and warehouse operations.”

Quantore’s business model has certainly evolved over the past few years as it has transformed from basically a dealer group into a multichannel distribution player along the lines of ADVEO in Europe, Novexco in Canada and, latterly, the main wholesalers in the UK – Vasanta and Spicers – with their recent merger activity.

Another attraction of Interaction for Quantore is the 2,500-SKU Q-Connect private label brand. Not only is the Q-Connect name a branding match made in heaven for the Benelux operator, it also serves a growing need in the contract channel for a private label brand that can compete with those of the ‘big three’ in Europe – Lyreco, Office Depot and Staples.

Quantore does have its own private label, but this is only available to its members and Quantore can’t use it for its own direct business – Q-Connect solves that problem very nicely indeed.

BPGI CEO Barrie Hayes was realistic about Quantore’s departure when approached for a comment by OPI. "Quite clearly, it is very disappointing as Quantore had been with BPGI and before that Euro Buro [which merged with BPGI in 2004] for many years,” he said. “At the end of the day, things change and Quantore’s strategy is continuing to develop."

It looks like being an important few weeks for Hayes. BPGI membership commitment was due at the end of September (after this issue of OPI went to press) and the annual meeting in Hong Kong at the end of October will largely determine the way forward for the next few years.

The BPGI CEO declined to comment on either the membership or strategy, but you only have to look at the evolving multichannel models of members such as Novexco and Majuscule to see that they could potentially have the same needs – outside BPGI – as Quantore.

EOSA on the up

One former BPGI member that has reinvented itself is European reseller alliance EOSA. The organisation recently announced the finalisation of the first phase of a new set of vendor agreements after handing in its BPGI notice in October 2013. 

Unhappy with the direction that BPGI appeared to be taking, EOSA decided to go it alone and has now established its own vendor contracts in 19 product categories, with six or seven more in the pipeline for the start of 2015.

Category captains

EOSA has negotiated contracts according to a net price structure – which it says it prefers over a rebate system – and the award of a contract gives the vendor ‘category captain’ status (except in the writing instrument category where there are a number of ‘preferred’ suppliers). It is compulsory for EOSA members to adhere to the agreements and this has already led to some changes – for example, the label category in the stores of Swiss member Office World is now fulfilled by Herma.

EOSA General Secretary Heinz Kneubuehl told OPI that non-EOSA vendors would now only be given the "minimal" listing required in each particular market, while the category captains would see marketing and promotional support either Europe-wide or on an individual basis. In return, vendors get sales data from EOSA’s resellers.

"This is all part of what we call our ‘dialogue’ with vendors," noted Kneubuehl. "We are now in control of our own negotiations and we are very happy with the direction we have taken under the leadership of Philip Becker."