3 July 2007 — Hemel Hempstead (UK): The UK’s new super wholesaler group is at the centre of a growing storm after an OPI inquiry has revealed the existence of a previously little-known cut-price online retailer that offers heavily discounted office products direct to the consumer.
Caboodle Office Supplies, trading as caboodle.co.uk, is headed by two company directors, who also sit on the board of ISA Retail, part of the direct-selling division of the newly-formed Kingfield Heath-ISA wholesaler.
The existence of Caboodle, alongside Supplies Team, will deepen suspicions of a conflict of interest by many independent dealers and existing customers of the two wholesalers.
Caboodle was discovered tucked away in the labyrinth of ISA subsidiaries and is attached to ISA Retail, through the two directors Michael Murphy and David Morris, who are listed as board members of both companies.
Its previous company name is recorded in the official registry as "Project Autumn 3" and prior to that, in 2005, as "ISA (Ireland)".
OPI‘s discovery, in response to several dealers’ concerns, will heighten fears that the group’s retail division will have an unfair competitive advantage over dealers, who are also resellers of the wholesale group.
Last month, at OPI‘s eurOPe 2007 conference, OyezStraker chairman Hugh Sear warned he would be "very upset" if his group lost "a single customer" to the direct-selling division of Kingfield Heath-ISA, Supplies Team.
Sear, a leading customer of UK wholesaler Kingfield Heath, added: "It is an unusual situation and I can’t quite work it out."
"We are watching the situation very closely and we would be very upset if we were to lose a single account to Supplies Team."
He said he was unsure if the senior management would look to spin-out the direct sales division or organise a management buy-out but said it would be "advisable" for the wholesaling operation to be kept separate from Supplies Team and avoid a potential conflict of interest.
But now news of Caboodle’s existence will add to the scrutiny. It confidently claims it can offer "a fresh new approach to ordering stationery and office supplies" in the UK.
According to its website, the company describes its workforce as a "team of office supplies and stationery specialists", adding: "Ever heard of the phrase ‘the whole kit and caboodle?’… well that’s what we supply."
A spokesman for ISA was unavailable for comment this afternoon. More details from OPI to follow this week.