We chose this year’s cover image because it feels as though what we at OPI are currently observing is a fairly even game. We were talking a few years ago about the growth of the big boxes and the demise of independent dealers; now we are reporting worrying financial results for the big boxes, and the growth of some mega independents. It’s hard to say who’s in the lead anymore.
Take this issue’s Big Interviewee, for example. Ted Walter is head of Complete Office’s California arm, a business only established in 2007 that is beating Staples to very large contracts. Walter believes it is Complete’s ability to offer an agile and personal service that has brought it success.
Meanwhile, the name ‘WB Mason’ is making dealers and big boxes alike quake in their boots as the dealership continues its march across the East Coast. Will anything stop CEO Leo Meehan now he’s surpassed his $1 billion target?
This isn’t to say the game is over for the big boxes. Perhaps we should stop referring to them as ‘big boxes’, though, as Staples, Office Depot and OfficeMax all look at stores sizes – Thomas Schinkel gives an enlightening opinion on their dilemmas. Also, Staples is still the largest e-tailer in the US after Amazon.
Speaking of Amazon, we should add a third team to our football game: the competitors external to the OP industry. Amazon is slowly becoming a huge threat – and customer for the wholesalers – while Grainger certainly shouldn’t be ignored with its increasing list of SKUs.
The ball is in everyone’s court as market share is passed around the field. However, I’ve heard many people say that the player that best learns to run with a strong online presence and brand will take the lead.