Never one to miss a trend, Lyreco announced this week that it has entered into a strategic alliance with Waltons Stationery Company, the number one national distributor of office supplies in South Africa, in order to better serve its global customers with subsidiaries on the African continent.
Lyreco CEO Eric Bigeard told OPI+: "Waltons is going to be very important to Lyreco. We have a number of customers that want to be serviced globally and South Africa keeps appearing on the radar screen. It is the most dynamic country in Africa and there are a lot of international companies based there. Waltons is the number one in South Africa and the only one that could manage the distribution to these companies."
For Waltons, meanwhile, the alliance is a first. And John Farrell, the company’s managing director, is celebrating the news. "We are very pleased to enter into this alliance with Lyreco and to start working in a close relationship with a player of its size and credibility," he told OPI+. "Our expectations are of course that with our joint efforts we will be able to help each other to provide the best service to our customers."
The distributor, which is part of South Africa-based international holding company Bidvest Group, posts annual revenue of ZAR1.5 billion ($226 million) and operates through seven distribution centres. With a salesforce of 300 people along with Waltons Retail, which has 80 local retail outlets, the company provides accessibility to its clients across South Africa as well as Namibia and Mozambique.
In addition to supplying large corporate customers with subsidiaries in southern Africa or those looking to set up there, the alliance will also serve Walton’s large South Africa-based customers, such as mining companies looking to set up in the US or Europe. "We have a couple of South African companies also listed in London and they form the basis of the alliance," said Farrell.
Despite Lyreco’s enhanced focus on Africa (the company also forged an alliance with Egypt-based Speed Send last November), Bigeard claims that he plans no direct acquisitions in Africa over the short term. "Speed Send and Waltons have a strong presence in the two biggest and most dynamic economies in Africa, so there is no point in going direct at this stage," he said. "We would rather have an excellent partnership with these suppliers."
As well as its partners in South Africa and Egypt, Lyreco also has sales partners in the US (in Staples) and in the Moscow region of Russia (in Pragmatic Express).
We watch and wait for more.