OPI: Talking of uncertainty, there’s been plenty of that during the long period that preceded the failed Staples/Office Depot merger. Has that been an opportunity for your dealer members?
AM: It has in terms of dealers recruiting sales people. The Office Depot guys, for instance, are very professionally trained, so they’re good assets to have within the independent dealer community.
It’s not a simple process, of course, to go from huge multinational down to small independent dealer, but quite a few dealers have been successful in recruiting from that pool.
OPI: Could you foresee Staples’ and Depot’s European operations eventually emerging from that whole period as stronger entities or even coming together still, except in Sweden, of course, where the European Commission has already put a stop to such a potential scenario?
AM: Possibly. But they’re massive organisations, even just on a European basis, and if you put them together that would be a huge challenge in terms of back office systems, instability with personnel, etc.
It wouldn’t happen in six to twelve months and while all of this is going on, it’s good for the independent dealer channel. More disruption in the sector wouldn’t do any harm at all.
OPI: Another sector that’s seen a fair amount of news in the last year or so – and you know that from bitter experience yourself – is the dealer group sector. The demise of XPD, Office Club being thrown into uncertainty through the very sad and untimely death of Mark Austen, Steve Harrop and Chris Collinson leaving their jobs very recently… What’s your view on the health of dealer groups in the UK?
AM: My view hasn’t really changed over the past few years. There should be more consolidation. Every other part of the industry has consolidated: paper merchants, wholesalers, contract stationers… Dealer groups haven’t and they should.
We’re forging closer relationships with many of them, including German IT buying group Synaxon. We’ve got four dealer groups in the UK under the auspices of BPGI, working closer together and that has to continue.
OPI: What other UK groups have a similar structure to Integra in terms of the cooperative nature?
AM: Office Friendly and NEMO would be closest to us I guess.
OPI: Would you encounter any resistance from your members about having a conversation with those groups?
AM: No, it’s a highly relevant requirement to talk to them. The ultimate and guiding principle has to be that it’s beneficial to the dealer, however, such as an improvement of the service and support we provide.