Executive Briefing: Office Club

Despite trading conditions becoming increasingly difficult in 2008, especially in the second half of the year, Office Club’s members had a good year, according to the UK dealer group’s CEO Mark Austen.

However, similar to most of his peers, Austen thinks 2009 will be a tough year for the industry, but he is still positive about the year ahead for the dealer group’s members.

"Office Club is proactively engaged with and investing for their members to encourage them to take advantage of the opportunities that will be offered to better-placed resellers. Our members have each got less than 0.1 percent of the market, and are thus well-placed and well-supported to attack the 99.9 percent they haven’t got," says Austen.

According to Austen, in almost every instance the group member purchases from accredited suppliers outstripped both each vendor’s sales pattern and the market in 2008. Austen claims that out of all the UK dealer groups, Office Club’s members are placing a higher share of spend directly with manufacturers.

In terms of the wholesale channel Austen comments: "Purchases from wholesale also outstripped the market and the wholesalers’ trading with both Spicers and VOW. Office Club is now Spicers’ fastest growing dealer group."

Members of the dealer group turned over an estimated £200 million, over half of which comprised office products, including EOS. Austen said that it was complicated to accurately measure the composition of members’ total turnover; as the group has no reporting over that part of its members spend on items such as print, greetings cards and other non-office supplies lines.

The group revised estimates of members’ turnover downwards to exclude more non-office and stationery-related turnover. The group’s membership also increased to 242, after falling to 240 in 2007 due to acquisitions and people withdrawing from the industry.

A milestone for the dealer group in 2008 was that Office Club became a carbon neutral company. This policy was been followed into 2009 with the publishing of a fully recyclable, biodegradable carbon neutral catalogue. The group’s conferences last year were carbon neutral, as they will be this year, and in March the group is re-launching its own brand 80gsm copier paper as a carbon neutral product. Austen says that this is the first mainstream copier/printer paper globally to achieve that status. The re-launch will be backed with a national campaign in order to drive B2B and B2C business to the group’s members.

Austen says Office Club’s members are increasingly participating in the group’s e-marketing programmes, which went from "strength-to-strength" in 2008.

"Office Club suffered some setbacks on web store development in 2008," says Austen. "But anticipate a highly functional web store being available to members from June, having been thoroughly tested with a small group of members first."