Event Review: European Office Products Awards

Alright on the night...

The 16th European Office Products Awards (EOPA) culminated in an evening of fine food and wine, great entertainment and a chance to celebrate some outstanding companies and individuals from the business supplies sector. 

Held for the fourth time as part of the OPI Partnership event in Amsterdam in early March, it turned out to be an unmissable evening. The first treat of the night came with the Industry Achievement award which went to Lyreco icon and current Chairman Georges Gaspard. 

Later on in the evening and after the gala dinner which included a hilarious entertainment programme, Thomas Glatzel, SVP Direct at Office Depot Europe, gave a positive and interactive industry toast to the audience before the remaining awards were announced.

As the following pages show, the worthy winners of this year’s EOPA not only showed product innovation and expansion, but also foresight and an ability to adapt to the new and changing world of business supplies.

And, of course, there were more individual awards that, on this occasion, put the spotlight on a highly-influential woman in our sector as well as on the  power and importance of millennials – they are the future of our industry.

Industry Achievement of the Year

This year’s Industry Achievement award went to a man who prefers to stay out of the limelight and instead put forward his team to take the credit. But it’s simply impossible to overstate this person’s achievement in his own company and the impact he’s had not only on his home market, but on the global OP reseller landscape.

Hamelin CEO Stéphane Hamelin introduced the first EOPA winner of the night, hailing Lyreco Chairman Georges Gaspard as the man who established the office supplies industry standard in Europe.

Working his way up the company ladder, Gaspard started as a salesman in his family business 40 years ago to become Managing Director ten years later. At the time Lyreco was a €10 million company. 

From what was initially a small, France-based wholesaler, Gaspard started focusing on the office supplies segment, investing heavily in logistic and IT systems – far ahead of anyone else in the sector, as Hamelin pointed out.

Soon, he started to expand in Europe, with a first partnership in Spain. Many more countries followed, ultimately making Lyreco a leading OP reseller across Europe, Asia and Australia. 

Aside from real vision as to where he wanted his company to go, Gaspard over the years developed a real talent for recruiting great managers, which somewhat explains his own preference to stay in the background.

Indeed, in accepting the award, Gaspard first and foremost reiterated the core human values within Lyreco. He also announced that his daughter Nathalie Gaspard will ultimately succeed him at the helm in a step-by-step, gradual handover. 

A true industry icon that stands very tall among all previous EOPA Industry Achievement winners.

Product Development of the Year: tesa – tesa Glue Stamp ecologo

This new award recognises the best development on an existing product that meets the changing needs of the consumer. In their deliberations, judges considered a number of criteria: creativity and innovation; how a product’s development responds to changing consumer needs; and evidence of consumer reaction such as increased sales or market share gains.

tesa’s Glue Stamp ecoLogo ticked all the boxes with a product that offers something significantly different and innovative. Importantly, it also enjoyed great exposure in a wide range of channels, contributing to an all-round winning combination. 

In a category with a broad selection of nominations and a very strong shortlist, tesa nevertheless came out the undisputed winner. A very clever change to an existing product; easy to use and a simple but effective solution in a very mature category  –  that was the unanimous verdict by the judging panel.

Business Product of the Year: Pilot Corporation of Europe – FriXion range

In this award category, the judging panel was looking for a product – or entire range – in the business supplies sector that is clearly outperforming the competition as well as generating excellent revenues.       

Although tightly contested by a number of other shortlisted products in various categories – the award is open to products in core OP or any of the emerging adjacent segments – Pilot’s FriXion range ultimately pipped everybody else to the post. 

Having been around for over ten years now, Pilot continues to innovate within its FriXion range and have a real impact on the business supplies sector. Importantly, it also continues to deliver excellent growth as well as revenues, partially enhanced by ongoing success specifically in the overall writing instruments sector which is driven by a number of trends, such as the adult colouring craze. 

Reseller of the year – under €100 million: iba 

This award seeks to recognise resellers with a strong presence in their respective markets. During the judging process the panel discussed, among other things, delivery solutions and developments in new product categories, services and customer channels.

The winner of this award which is split into two sub-categories – one under and one over €100 million in revenues – delivered on all the criteria and more. Switzerland-based iba, which is part of the mighty Migros stable, has seen solid progress over the past five years, increasing revenues from CHF55 million to CHF85 million ($55-$85 million) in that time, all under the expert leadership of Christa Furter who has been in charge since 2011.

Furter is not someone who shouts about her achievements, instead quietly guiding her team to make iba a solutions instead of an office products company, expanding in categories such as facilities supplies and MPS, and putting iba’s digital capabilities at the top of the agenda.  

Product Innovation of the Year: Brother International Europe – Brother QL-800 label printer series 

This award recognises outstanding product innovation and potential in the market. There were plenty of entries in this category, with the judges having a tough time reducing them to a shortlist, let alone selecting a winner. 

As ever, the question was whether a product is really innovative. Also importantly, does it address a need and have a real impact on the entire channel? 

Brother’s QL-800 series of label printers answered all of those questions. As the only two-colour label printer on the market, it certainly filled a gap and the judges felt it was a real enhancement to what’s already available in the market. Positive feedback from the wholesale community also shows that this is a product that really sells.

Dealer Group of the Year: Calipage

In the current climate, dealer groups need to work especially hard to maintain relevance and deliver value. For this award the judges were looking for a dynamic and engaged dealer group that provides a comprehensive package to give its members a competitive edge in a challenging market.  

Calipage, a network of dealers associated with pan-European wholesaler ADVEO, pipped all other groups to the post after lengthy discussions among the judges. The Calipage network in France stood out in particular, due to the group’s high and positive engagement with vendors. 

With over 550 members across Europe now, including France, Iberia and Germany, Calipage has big plans to expand the network geographically, as well as putting greater focus on e-commerce and a new concept called Calipage Pro. 

Reseller of the Year – Revenues over €100 million: Büromarkt Böttcher

This is the second of the reseller awards, this time finding the company that has done exceptionally well in the ‘over €100 million revenue category’. 

All shortlisted companies met several of the criteria, including strong e-commerce and m-commerce capabilities; developments in new product categories; and strong sales performance and market share gains. 

But it was Germany’s Büromarkt Böttcher that took the award with its phenomenal performance – in 2016 alone, it saw a sales increase of 54% compared to the previous 12 months to €216 million ($233 million). Achieving that in a declining market is highly impressive and means taking considerable market share from the competition. 

But Böttcher is about much more than sales performance and comprehensively meeting and exceeding the aforementioned criteria. It also excels at the all-important outstanding customer service. 

The judges felt this was a very worthy winner in a tough and challenging environment.

Product Design of the Year: Fellowes – AeraMax Professional AMII Air Purifier

In this new category, judges were looking for unique, design-led products that meet the needs of the modern purchaser and show that functionality shouldn’t come at the cost of attractive design. That said, price must also still be a factor, because if resellers don’t sell it, the design becomes irrelevant too. 

Fellowes’ air purifier for comparatively small public spaces such as washrooms, hotel rooms and healthcare consultation rooms, met all the criteria and fulfills a real need in the end-user community.  

The judges were impressed with good revenues and feedback from the US and unanimously saw huge potential for this new product in the European market. Well done Fellowes – one of a number of winning categories for the manufacturer on the night.

Product Video of the Year: Newell Brands Discover Sharpie

As multimedia content for brands becomes increasingly vital, companies that produce creative and informative videos to showcase their products and engage the consumer are reaping the rewards. 

The judging panel looked at how a video captures the viewers’ attention, brings a product to life while at the same time conveying a message. Revenues generated as a result of the video, as well as customer engagement and brand enhancement are further criteria the judges assessed.  

The winner of this award was a unanimous choice: Newell Brands’ Discover Sharpie video is short and simple and tells viewers all they need to know about the product and its use.

Young Executive of the Year

Focusing on new entrants to the industry, with a particular emphasis on millennials, this new award seeks to reward a young executive who is making a real impact in the business he/she works in and has the potential to shape the future of our industry.

Phil Jones MBE, Managing Director of Brother UK – a keen proponent of fostering new talent – introduced Aaron Hopkinson, a young individual  who joined Brother’s apprenticeship programme in 2014 as a digital marketing apprentice. As Jones pointed out, he excelled at this, but clearly also showed a real talent around the company’s products. 

As Hopkinson moved across the various parts of the business to experience all of its facets, it became obvious that his future direction should be orientated towards the company’s actual technology, rather than directed at marketing it. In July 2015, he moved to product management where he now works as Assistant Product Manager, taking portfolio responsibility for Brother’s scanner business. 

Presenting eloquently to Brother’s own sales teams as well as customers, Hopkinson is an excellent example of how a company can teach a young individual how to make an impact in the business supplies sector. 

Importantly, however, as Jones enthused, employees like Hopkinson can also teach existing staff – mostly much older – the use of new tools, applications and insights on how to reach younger audiences effectively.

Marketing Initiative of the Year: Fellowes – Keep it Confidential with The World’s Toughest Shredders

This category is open to any organisation that can clearly show the success of a specific marketing campaign. In the judging process, the panel considered – among other things – the objectives of the campaign, originality and creativity, and ROI generated.

Fellowes’ Keep it Confidential with The World’s Toughest Shredders campaign ran simultaneously across Europe and by far exceeded campaign objectives. The company achieved 29 million end-user contacts and drove 105,000 targeted visitors to its dedicated landing page. More than 400,000 watched the company’s full campaign video. 

In terms of ROI, during the campaign period Fellowes saw an increase of 30% in sales value, which resulted in an immediate full return of the company’s €440,000 campaign investment. 

Wholesaler of the Year: Exertis Supplies

This award recognises a dynamic wholesaler which is responding to meet the needs of an ever-changing market. 

The UK market is clearly changing with the two main wholesalers in the country adopting an increasingly hybrid model as part of their overall set-up. And Dublin-based sales, marketing, distribution and support services group DCC, through its UK subsidiary Exertis Supplies, has stepped up to the plate as a viable alternative, filling an important gap in the market. 

The judges highlighted the company’s great logistics, excellent back-office system and impressive sales and profit growth. 

Exertis Supplies, they said, which is particularly strong in the ink and toner category having been formed from DCC’s 2011 acquisition of EOS distributor Advent Data, is a well-founded and ambitious wholesaler that does things a little differently, with a focus on low cost and ultra efficiency.

Vendor of the Year: Fellowes

It there was one all-round winner of the night, it was most definitely Fellowes, winning an EOPA in three different categories. One of them was for Vendor of the Year, an award it has now taken home for the third consecutive year. It was a fitting tribute to a company that this year is celebrating its 100th anniversary, proving time and again that it has the ability to continuously reinvent itself to stay relevant in a changing market. 

The judges were united in their praise of Fellowes, saying that the company is hugely proactive and very successful in building customer relationships while at the same time offering much-needed and valued support to its reseller partners.

Brand strength, supply chain excellence and a real ability to successfully enhance an existing or diversy into a new product category completed the picture.

Highly commended: Safescan

Professional of the Year: Beth Wright, Chief Commercial Officer, Bi-Silque

The Professional of the Year award recognises the exceptional talent of an individual whose efforts and dedication directly influence the success of their company. Professionalism, enthusiasm for the sector and leadership ability were all qualities that the judges were looking for. This year’s winner had all of those in spades.

In his introduction of this individual, OPI CEO Steve Hilleard briefly charted the career of this rare beast in the European business supplies sector – a female executive with a long and varied background in OP already and plenty more potential to come. Step up Beth Wright – the undisputed winner of the 2017 Professional of the Year award.

Wright’s natural home is not Europe, of course, but Florida in the US. But she certainly adopted Portugal as her second home, working currently as Chief Commercial Officer of visual communications leader Bi-silque. 

Her career began with consumables wholesaler Daisytek. Following a brief period outside office products, she then jumped across the fence into the manufacturing sector where she has continued to make an impact to this day. One of Wright’s most notable successes was launching the Portugal-based Bi-silque brand in the mature and very challenging US market. Her energy, talent and sheer determination in that endeavour was noted by Bi-silque’s top management and resulted in her promotion to a broader, more international role. The company’s current story of growth through innovation is in no small part due to Wright who, the judges felt, will go a long way in this industry.

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