Event Review: Big Buyer 2016

Big Buyer continues to buck the trend of national office products trade shows and successfully held its 21st edition at the end of November.

As Beatrice Bernabei, Sales Manager Italy for Aery, told OPI: “It’s still an important show for us to present our new products, and in two or three days we can meet all our customers and get immediate feedback on our new catalogue.”

It’s a point echoed by Francesco Villa, General Manager of leading Italian franchising retailer Buffetti, who sees Big Buyer as the best platform in the Italian market to meet all suppliers over a short space of time and to pitch the Buffetti brand to the thousands of trade visitors at the show.

A first-time exhibitor at Big Buyer was UK-based vendor Rapesco, which was attending the show as part of its European expansion. Group Trading Director Ken Trenberth explained that the company is now employing an Italian national and working with local distributor Tecnoteam, all part of its ‘go local’ strategy. He believes that Rapesco will bring something “a bit different” to the Italian stationery scene in terms of design, colour and eco-friendly products.

Continued relevance

Another factor contributing to the continued relevance of Big Buyer is the presence of a large number of key reseller groups and distributors with their own stands. That includes wholesalers such as Office Distribution and Esprinet – which is expanding its presence in the traditional office products space – and buying groups like In Ufficio and Pool Over as well as tens of distributors. One absentee this year was ADVEO which is focusing its marketing efforts on its ADVEO World Italy event taking place in February.

There was a handful of jan/san vendors exhibiting at Big Buyer this year, reflecting the product diversification of B2B resellers. And while the product line-up at the event remains heavily weighted towards the traditional stationery, office supplies, gifts and back-to-school categories, the diversification strategies of traditional vendors were clearly in evidence. Durable, for example, is moving into the breakroom category with a new product line and has also developed an attractive range of tablet stands while Avery is targeting the name-badge category.

Ten of the country’s largest B2B operators – representing end-user sales of about €800 million ($900 million) – make up the trade association AIFU and the annual AIFU conference is one of the highlights of Big Buyer. This year was noteworthy in that the association recently partnered with research firm GfK to look at the purchasing habits of Italian companies. GfK’s Elena Cappelletti unveiled results of how Italian firms purchase their office supplies in front of a packed audience of industry executives.

The research – investigating 250 businesses that were divided into four groups, depending on their size – threw up some interesting trends. These included:

  • More than 60% of office supplies purchasing decision-makers are women.
  • The average amount spent on office supplies per worker per year is €140.
  • Almost 40% of Italian firms have used the same reseller as their main source of office supplies for the past ten years or more.
  • Purchasers expressed a preference for buying from an OP specialist [online or not] over Amazon.

These findings, Cappelletti emphasised, should not lead to complacency about the longevity of ‘traditional’ purchasing habits in Italy, however. E-commerce is growing and Amazon is getting stronger – the effects may be somewhat delayed, but the need to transform is just as great in Italy as it is elsewhere.