OPI European Forum 2014 | Review

OPI's fourth European Forum reaffirmed the urgency for transformation in the OP industry.

Around 80 leading executives from the European OP industry gathered in the seaside town of Noordwijk, near Amsterdam, for OPI’s 2014 European Forum.

After a relaxed welcome reception and dinner on the first evening, it was straight down to business the next morning with delegates attending the first series of presentations and roundtables moderated by journalist and author Roy Sheppard.

Chatham House rules preclude OPI from reporting on specifics from the Forum, but the overriding theme was one of transformation, how to achieve it and a look at what the future of the industry might look like.

A look at the future

Applied futurist Tom Cheesewright gave attendees an insight into some of the trends that are impacting – and will continue to do so – the way people work and collaborate and what opportunities these could present for the business products industry. BridgeWorks’ Kim Lear, meanwhile, provided an entertaining and thought-provoking look into the mindset of the millennial generation.

In fact, the entry of this tech-savvy, non-office compliance bunch of youngsters streaming into the workforce was the source of much debate and discussion, with many executives also pondering how to deal with four generations working simultaneously – all with different work ethics and productivity styles.

The mood was generally upbeat over the slowly recovering European economy, with many senior OP executives stating that business was indeed picking up again, although a few expressed mild concerns over the potential economic impact the Ukraine/Russia conflict may have in the future.

Recent consolidation activities in the UK – referring to the Spicers/OfficeTeam and Vasanta/o2o deals – formed the basis of many conversations over dinner and coffee breaks for UK delegates, with several executives saying they wouldn’t be surprised if there were more mergers and acquisitions in the not-too-distant future.

Two panel discussions threw up lively debates, both between the panelists themselves and the panelists and the audience. The first discussion tackled the theme of developing a multichannel strategy, and while there were differing opinions on how to achieve this, the clear message was that dealers must engage or face being left behind.

The second panel debate, featuring Vasanta’s Robert Baldrey, XPD’s David Langdown and PBS Holding’s Dr Richard Scharmann, covered the importance of dealer groups and the part they play within the supply chain; and the implementation of new reseller programmes in order to move dealers forward.

Industry transformation 

A series of roundtables provided delegates with the opportunity for in-depth discussions with several speakers and also specially-invited hosts about the key challenges and opportunities facing vendors and resellers. Topics included mobile marketing, category growth and development in facilities management, building innovation and the convergence of B2C and B2B.

In another entertaining and revealing session, former Staples VP of Merchandising Ronny Van Rossem sat down with OPI’s Steve Hilleard for a Big Interview about the metamorphosis of the OP industry.

Delegates walked away with a raft of new ideas and innovative practices on how to deal with the current transformation and entice the next generation into the business supplies industry. 

Incidentally, throughout the Forum, the term ‘business supplies’ was the preferred terminology used to reflect the rapidly diversifying nature of the OP industry. 

Delegates walked away with a raft of new ideas and innovative practices on how to deal with the current transformation and entice the next generation into the business supplies industry.

OPI’s Global Forum takes place in Chicago from 17-19 May 2015. For more details, please visit www.opi.net/GF2015