Comment June 2018

The cat among the pigeons.

Wow! No sooner had the ink dried on Thomas Schinkel’s opinion piece on the potential merger of SP Richards (SPR) and Essendant (page 30), that the cat was set right among the pigeons with Staples — via its owner Sycamore Partners — announcing it was interested in buying Essendant. 

Who saw that one coming? And what are the motives behind the move — delay and disruption for an Essendant/SPR get-together or a genuine desire to get into wholesaling as well as push further into the mid-market? If this deal goes through, the repercussions for the entire US business supplies industry — but mostly its manufacturers and independents (and their groups) — would be phenomenal.

You can’t help but feel that this is the beginning of another prolonged saga which will command many column inches in these pages. And whatever the outcome of the Essendant/SPR/Sycamore negotiations, instability and disruption will inevitably be part of the process. 

One man who knows only too well about both is Neil Maslen, CEO of Office Depot Europe. The problems that Depot had in Europe began long before the ultimately doomed Staples/Depot merger, but that protracted period of uncertainty didn’t help its performance in the region. See our Big Interview to find out what Maslen is doing to put things right.

Uncertainty is quite an apt description for several news stories and features in this issue. What will the Australian market look like when all the dust has settled and the current frenzy of acquisition and consolidation comes to a halt (also look out for our Big Interview with Complete Office Supplies’ Dominique Lyone in the next issue of OPI)? How — and when — is ADVEO ever going to recover and emerge on a positive growth path again? Are vendors increasingly going to take a direct sales route to market given all the disruption in the channels? 

So many questions. Some of the answers to the more strategic issues that affect our entire industry will be provided at this month’s OPI European Forum in London. I look forward to seeing many of you there.

Have a good June.

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