Executive Vice President Arno Alberty explains why 2009 is an incredibly important year for Pelikan in 2009
OPI: We’ll start with the question that everyone is asking at the moment, how is the economic downturn affecting Pelikan? Are there differences between the company’s different divisions and markets?
Arno Alberty: We have yet to experience effects on our business due to the worldwide economic downturn but we are keeping an eye on the evolution in the markets in order to adapt our strategy accordingly. There are always changes or modifications to be made in such volatile markets.
We are watching the first half of 2009 very closely. We are prepared to act in terms of cost savings or any other necessary activities. In this business, you have to get used to change.
OPI: Where do you think the opportunities lie for Pelikan?
AA: We have gone through some challenging times during the last 18 months with our merger. We have had to find a new approach to our sales strategies in Europe and Latin America while ensuring that we can take other opportunities in Asia and the rest of the world. However, through this process Pelikan joined the premier league of major European players.
Our customers are becoming truly global companies and are therefore asking for the equivalent in their business partners (at the expense of those can only act locally). Additionally they want to concentrate their buying power with a reduced portfolio of suppliers.
The supplies market, which is a very colourful and fast moving market, has a lot of small suppliers that enter the market and disappear as quickly as they appear.
Most of our important customers have turned into global players, making competition harder for everyone. Only big global aftermarket suppliers can cope with these circumstances.
Pelikan as an international company with worldwide presence can meet such a challenge.
Today it is not enough to only sell a cartridge or a refilled toner module, our customers expect dedicated service support and individual solutions.
Being able to offer a broad and differentiated product with a global presence is one of our main assets and key to our success. In the last year it has enabled Pelikan to win a lot of new global customers. We are sure that the current changes in the markets will sustain this development in 2009.
OPI: When we last spoke, Pelikan had brought together its various divisions under one umbrella. Going into year two of that process are you starting to see the rewards?
AA: Pelikan went through a lot of changes, starting in January 2008 with the merging of Pelikan Hardcopy and Pelikan Stationery to create one strong company again. Although we may have achieved the feat of bringing both Pelikan activities under one umbrella brand, we are still fine-tuning the organisation on a worldwide level. Having said that, the first positive results and expected synergies have been realised. Consequently we are able to turn our sales operations to a channel-oriented approach.
OPI: If 2008 was the "year of innovation" for Pelikan, what can we expect in 2009?
AA: That turned out to be an accurate description as 2008 really was our year of innovation. We launched our griffix range [which was recently recognised at the European Office Products Awards by winning the New Product Innovation award] – the world’s first comprehensive learn-to-write system, which became a huge success. We will continue on this path of innovation by introducing new intelligent products.
On top of this we have never launched as many Hardcopy products as we did last year. Another special highlight was the introduction of the Canon Cartridge with chip for the Pixma series – we were the first company to present it to the market.
We believe innovation and attractive products as well as concepts are the secret of our success.
As I said before it is essential for a global office supplies specialist like Pelikan to have a huge and differentiated product range for their global partners. They expect their products from one source and ask for individual and business tailored solutions to raise their sales.
In 2009 Pelikan is set to continue its launch of a lot of new innovative products, promotions and business support activities.
OPI: 2008 also marked your 170th anniversary – how did you folks celebrate?
AA: We did a lot of promotions to celebrate this 170th birthday. One major promotion throughout Pelikan worldwide was our talent search contest where we scouted for the 17 brightest talents in writing, drawing and printing.
In Hannover, Germany where our European headquarters is based, we had a huge exhibition in the local history museum showing a variety of items from Pelikan’s history. More than 40,000 visitors came to see this unique exhibition.
To underline the fact that Pelikan has "written history" for the past 170 years, we took this opportunity as reason to reveal the Majesty fountain pen in its starring role as Majesty Anniversary Pen (pictured below left). This edition is limited worldwide to only 170 pieces.
OPI: What’s the latest on the Inkjet Technology Centre? Can we expect some more exciting from there?
AA: The investment in the Inkjet Technology Centre in Wetzikon, Switzerland, is bearing fruits: a lot of new compatible ink cartridges as well as the PowerPads’ new think tank.
The Wetzikon facility is designed for the sole purpose of developing innovative inkjet products for global markets. All our experts with chemical, technical and microelectronics know-how in the inkjet field are concentrated onsite. Ultimately this ensures speedy, effective and innovative working. And for this year, a lot more new products are about to be presented.
Further investments in the Technology Centre will also see us extending the building in 2009.
OPI: In terms of regions and product categories, where are the areas of growth for your company?
AA: Our biggest challenge is to realise a unique marketing strategy focused on Europe, in line with an international assortment, in order to underline Pelikan’s position as a global player.
It is not only in Europe where we are concentrating our approach to become stronger as a global supplier.
The same applies for other fast growing markets like Turkey, where we set up new subsidiary. We have identified a number of overseas markets that will be crucial to our strategy to be present in the world’s major markets. Concerning our product strategy, we are aiming for a globally strong position with our school and office Hardcopy assortment.
OPI: Your company has been linked with several acquisitions in the past year – was there any truth in the rumours?
AA: There was a lot of speculation last year about our acquisition activities. Some companies that were mentioned in the press as potential acquisitions really made us smile. But of course we are always considering acquisitions that can strengthen our position.
OPI: Counterfeit is such a massive problem that affects many of your products, do you think this a fight that can be won? And what steps does Pelikan take in combating counterfeit?
AA: Indeed, counterfeit products are a problem and their number is growing. There were a lot of false Pelikan products showing up on the market last year.
They really ‘looked’ like original Pelikan products too but a deeper analysis reveals the deficiencies in application and reliability which have nothing to do with our own high quality standards.
If you consider the production plants of such fake products somewhere in a backyard in the Far East, you can understand that a quality product cannot get out of such a set-up. Nevertheless we continue to investigate, and there is a lot of effort in preventing counterfeit products from being marketed. We are committed to ensuring that companies are identified and applying legal measures against them.