One to One with…Harry Dochelli and Mike Rowsey, OfficeMax


Jimmy Finn’s 20-year career in the Irish OP industry has seen him set up Midland Office Supplies (now known as The-Office-Centre), and found the Amstat Group, later known as Officeteam Ireland, the country’s first dealer buying group.  He is now turning his hand to Bizmart, an OP retail chain "with a difference".

OPI+: Bizmart has just opened its first OP hypermarket store in Dublin, at the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC), with the second due to open on 16 September. How has business gone in the first week of trading?
Finn: Business has been excellent. We have had a lot of customer interest and activity in the first week – every bit as much as we expected.


OPI+: What makes Bizmart different from other OP retail stores?      
Finn:  OP superstores up to now have generally been warehouse-style with products stacked at a high level. Bizmart is a high-quality hypermarket with products aimed at the middle market. Our stores are fashion-driven, style-based units with high-calibre layout and fittings. At the IFSC, we have two stores of 1,600 sq ft each for example, and we spent over  €300,000 ($374,000) on each unit. 


OPI+: In what sense do you believe you have found a credible market niche in Ireland?
Finn: More than 80 per cent of products in the Irish OP market are delivered by van from a warehouse to the customer, so there is a huge opportunity in retail – more so than in the UK where retail is more developed and big OP superstores already have a strong presence.


OPI+: What are your plans for Bizmart over the next five years?
Finn: We are aiming for 30 stores nationwide – including Northern Ireland – in four to five years. By the end of 2006, we are aiming for a turnover of €8 million and €20 million the following year.


We would also like to expand overseas to markets that are not yet seriously developed by the likes of Staples and Office Depot. This depends on where the interest comes from and where we can get the right partnership. Some countries in eastern Europe are a possibility such as the Czech Republic. We are also experiencing a lot of interest in some parts of the UK and the US, and plan to start developing overseas by the end of next year. 


Finn+: Will your product range include private label and general office supplies as well as electronics?
Finn: Our private label range will be no more than 5 per cent at the beginning and will eventually grow to a maximum of 15 per cent. The ratio between general office supplies and electronics will be 50-50, with the electronics side set for greater growth.


OPI+: In what way does your franchise structure differ from that of Office 1, for example?
Finn: We are not a concession store that looks for small stationers which pay an annual licence and enable them to use the trading name. We are a fully-fledged franchise like McDonalds, working alongside our retailer partner, where everything from the staff uniform to the products we sell is set out and evenly structured. With us, local retailers that buy into our franchise have a one-off cost and pay a small percentage of turnover for complete support in their daily business. It is a lot more expensive to buy into our franchise, but we are investing a lot more money into it.  


OPI+: Who do you consider to be your main competitors in the Irish OP retail space?
Finn: My old friends at The-Office-Centre, which now has 16 stores in Ireland, is a fine business. The Officeteam members are strong dealers that also have a strong retail presence. Easons is also an excellent company with a very well-established name.


OPI+: What do you consider to be your biggest challenges in expanding Bizmart over the next few years?
Finn: There is no major challenge. I have done this before, just in a slightly different way. We are friendly rivals in the Irish OP market, much like we are in sport. I know this industry and it will be fun.