Hopax European Sales and Marketing Director Stuart Seymour talks to OPI about what makes his company tick and sets it apart from the competition.
OPI: Stuart, could you start by providing some background information about Hopax?
Stuart Seymour: Hopax was founded in 1975 as a chemicals manufacturing company, so this year we are celebrating our 40th anniversary. The development of technology to produce repositionable adhesive resulted in the manufacture of self-adhesive notes since the early 1990s.
During the past 25 years, Hopax has grown to become number two in the world for the manufacture of repositionable products, with sales in over 90 countries worldwide. Our experience in developing and supplying products to some of the major players in the office products industry has helped to establish our reputation as a company with the ability to deliver excellent service.
OPI: What makes Hopax a strong, reputable and reliable business partner?
SS: There are three main reasons; probably the same reasons why we have so many long-term relationships:
- Size: The Stick’n repositionable products division is only one part of a much larger organisation. Taiwan Hopax Chemicals Manufacturing Company is a publicly-listed company on the Taiwanese Stock Exchange, so it has access to significant funds to enable us to develop our business for the benefit of our customers.
- Service: We still believe that the customer has a choice in ‘who’ they wish to buy from; ie people still buy from people. Thus, our philosophy is to be as friendly, understanding, helpful and supportive as possible.
- Policy: The strategy that we have developed for many years is to work closely with selected partners. In other words, we don’t try to sell to every company that approaches us. I believe our partners appreciate the protection and support that this policy gives them. Then they have the confidence to invest in promotional activities, knowing that their competitors are unlikely to benefit from their efforts.
OPI: What solutions do you provide for both branded and private label products?
SS: We understand the importance of offering both options; some customers require a strong and supportive brand, whereas other companies prefer private label packaging to enhance their corporate identity and visibility. Some customers are pleased to buy our Stick’n brand and also their private brand from Hopax so that they can enjoy the benefits of both options.
Stick’n distributors can rely on Hopax to create new opportunities for more business because we develop innovative new products every year, enabling our partners to stay at least one step ahead of our competitors.
Our products that are packaged for numerous markets and our marketing activities are designed to increase brand and product awareness. These have helped Hopax to achieve growth in Europe averaging 15% per year during the past five years – not a bad performance considering the economic climate.
OPI: How does Stick’n work as part of a balanced branded and private label offer?
SS: One of the best things about the repositionable products category is the nice mix of popular items as well as many added-value opportunities. During the past ten years, we have worked with an increasing number of customers requiring both options.
The Stick’n brand gives them a better range and improved margins, while private label creates differentiation from their competitors and an alternative option for different market channels.
We understand that many private label brands have a strong position in various markets, so we are pleased to work with our selected private label customers. We offer a variety of packaging options so that their range can be developed to differentiate their business from their competitors. This flexible and supportive policy has resulted in over 80% of our business being made with private label packaging.
OPI: How does Hopax differentiate itself from its competitors?
SS: I’d say there are two main ways. Firstly, service: Hopax is the only Asian manufacturer of sticky notes to invest in a European office, supported by stock in warehouses located in the UK and continental Europe.
And secondly, innovation: Hopax is the leader in new product development in this category of products. We are always exploring opportunities to develop more business with new products, but also in different markets.
OPI: Can you expand on new product innovation?
SS: Innovation is a major differentiator that has helped Stick’n to become a recognised brand and it enables our customers to offer products that are not available from their competitors – and so increases customer loyalty.
A cross-functional team evaluates new product proposals at a monthly meeting, so we always have something new to offer. Every year we reinvest 6% of the company turnover back into R&D and there are 60 technicians working in the lab, so we have a proven ability to improve existing items, develop new products and turn our customers’ ideas into reality.
OPI: What support does Hopax offer to help drive growth?
SS: In recent years, our marketing department has developed a number of initiatives that have helped our customers to grow their businesses. These include: promotional activities, sampling campaigns and merchandising leaflets; display stands – counter top and floor standing displays – and other point-of-sale materials; product-in-use-photos in both catalogues and online in web shops to explain the features and benefits of our products; sales training, including a presenter with information and samples to assist our customers’ sales staff; and a regular newsletter to keep our customers informed of developments.
OPI: What is your new Stick’n Concept? What potential does it offer resellers and why have you introduced it now?
SS: We launched Stick’n Concept at the Paperworld Fair in Frankfurt in January and are pleased with the reaction. Observing market trends that ‘design-led’ products are becoming increasingly popular, Hopax has recently made significant investments in a new printing machine and automatic packaging system. These investments increase our flexibility to reduce minimum order quantities whilst enhancing our ability to manufacture larger quantities more economically.
Consumers are willing to pay more for products that are nicely designed or personalised. Evidence of this can be seen in retail shops, trade fairs, social media and other manufacturers’ websites. Handwriting a message on a nicely-designed sticky note becomes a more personal statement, similar to writing a ‘Thank You’ card.
We believe that the demand for personalised products, corporate gifts and promotional items may add more than 10% to our sales growth in future. Quite simply, Stick’n Concept is intended to create well-designed, nice-looking and high-quality printed products, offering better margins and opening up new revenue streams, whilst continuing to differentiate ourselves from our competitors.