12 March 2007 — Amsterdam (NL): Buhrmann’s 2006 net sales have increased by 7.1 percent to €6.3 billion ($8.3 billion) from €5.9 billion last year. The North American division’s net sales for the year rose by 4.4 percent to €3.2 billion, compared to €3.05 billion in 2005. European net sales were €1.09 billion, up 15.7 percent from €947.6 million a year earlier. Australian net sales were €743 million, up 6.1 percent on €700.7 million last year.
CEO Frans Koffrie said: "In 2006 our business delivered profitable sales growth, primarily driven by our success in selling an increasingly wide selection of products to our customer base, while achieving benefits from our merchandising and global sourcing initiatives."
He continued: "Operating expenses remained well-controlled but were unfavourably impacted by one-off costs mainly related to the streamlining of the organisation in North America."
During the year, Corporate Express North America was realigned to focus more on certain customer segments and to expand its product line in order to increase sales growth and reduce expenses.
Koffrie said that although the company underestimated the impact that such a temporal internal focus had on new business generations in Q4, it is convinced that "the resulting cost efficiencies and increased customer-focused structure should help drive earnings in the years ahead".
The region’s most significant acquisition during 2006 was that of Southern Stationers, which is said to give the company a stronger platform to expand its mid-market penetration in Canada.
The year also proved successful for Buhrmann’s European business, with the acquisition of ATG adding €300 million in annual sales to the group. The deal is also said to enable the company to improve its offering to international customers, its private brand sales, as well as merchandising, transport and warehousing, while at the same time providing a strong base for further expansion into the Nordic region and Baltic States.
The most significant event for Corporate Express Australia last year was Project OneSource — a programme designed to "maximise internal efficiency by facilitating growth" without a proportional increase in costs.
According to the company, the project involved "switching from a decentralised, state-based matrix structure to a centralised structure with consolidated purchasing and procurement" as well as central contract implementation and innovative ‘cross docking’ logistics.
The Australian region also focussed more on small and medium-sized firms during 2006 and has realigned its sales team accordingly. Two important new lines of business, head-to-toe protection equipment and educational products, are at the centre of the division’s growth strategy.
Over the year, the division acquired five office supply, educational product and personal protection equipment companies.