"The Australian experience is quite black and white. The quality of products has deteriorated in the past 15 years as a result of products being sourced from the Far East.
"Officeworks, for example, has created copycat products and is selling these at just under brand price. Quality is poor, but these products are seen as high-margin lines. What they fail to see is that consumers don’t like the quality. To counter the price of these home brands, the brand leaders have dropped their quality, in reaction to the big dealers’ demands for more margin. Industries and businesses prosper when they focus on selling, not on cost cutting. The OP industry is now a bunch of order takers rather than business developers, who sell on service and maximise relationships and therefore profit.
"Ask the B2B consumers and they will complain about the quality of copysafe pockets, the paper in Spirax Notebooks, and the life of Bic Pens. What everyone has forgotten is that customers will pay a premium for a quality product. The office products industry has lost its way. It has certainly lost its standard and is now more production-price driven than ever before. The customer, on the other hand, is looking for quality. It’s time someone did some research."
James Tsolakis, director, Business Innovators
"We cannot ignore the influence that the arrival of new operators from the Far East can have on the international OP industry. We have already had some experience of this in Spain with the entrance of Eric Krausse. Its strategy of slashing prices ended in falling revenue and the closing of the company. Quality and service are key to settling down in any market and naturally adapting to the habits of each country is crucial. We should be attentive to any movement in the market and respond quickly."
Juan Deu, managing director, Mitsubishi Pencil España
"In today’s climate of eco-overdrive, manufacturers and resellers need to consider their corporate responsibilities towards improving the quality of the environment. One way is to look at the carbon footprint of products in our industry. Consumers are beginning to look at the carbon footprint of the products they buy. I have to wonder if the old benefits of sourcing products in the Far East and shipping them around the world will make good business sense in the future? So will we move from cost-benefit to eco-benefit? Ultimately it’s all down to satisfying customer needs."
David Nelsey, European sales manager, PostSafe
"Far East sourcing has helped the OP industry as retailers have enjoyed the benefits of direct sourcing at low costs. The challenge has been for local manufacturers in the US and Europe to maintain a high enough level of innovation and value to offset this. But the quality and health-related issues associated with the Far East need addressing. We must be diligent in our efforts to curb these issues."
Jim Hawley, VP of international business development, Fiskars Brands
"The Far East is an integral part of the OP industry. The range of products in America and Europe from the Far East markets is growing. But it’s important to remember the products will also flow in the other direction as the expectations of millions of Chinese and Indian customers rise. They’re looking for design and quality. So while there are threats from Far East sourcing, there are opportunities too."
Dr Grzegorz Slupski, managing director, ARGO SA
"Sourcing from China doesn’t jeopardize integrity. We act within a globalised environment. We need to consider all facets of purchasing and sales at a global level. It is very important that we don’t become dependent on Chinese suppliers, instead we must remain independent and differentiated."
Irene Dengler, managing director of corporate companies, HSM
"Far East sourcing is a cost choice, and for many companies a necessity to remain competitive. I don’t think it jeopardizes the integrity of the OP industry – it is a part of evolution. Companies that embrace this evolution and build partnerships for the future will experience the long-term benefits. Together with innovation and entrepreneurial spirit this will guarantee success."
Katrin Andersson, regional business manager, Really Useful Products
"I think not. Today’s global market inevitably means that products will be globally sourced – not just from the Far East. I doubt this will change in the short to medium term.The key to sourcing, without jeopardizing integrity, is to know your suppliers in terms of their capabilities and limitations and mutually agree performance criteria and controls. There really is no difference in sourcing from the Far East than from anywhere else in the world."
Ron Jakeman, managing director, AF International
"Sourcing from the Far East should not be seen as a danger or even a problem. If you are in the US or Europe, it makes no sense to insist on trying to produce something that can be provided less expensively from Asia. The solution to the new world is specialisation by country or region. China is becoming the centre of standardised commodity fabrication, while India is the centre for mass-produced services. Europe should concentrate on the upper market, producing differentiated, complex, and high-priced goods and services."
Paulo Simões, purchasing manager, Papelaria Fernandes SA
"Today’s industry faces an uphill challenge of sourcing for cost-effective solutions for business growth. And the fusion of Western OP designs and ideas incorporated with Far East cost-effective production brings about perfect solutions. Hence, the question of whether outsourcing from the Far East is a good thing is one of survival and progress, whereas questioning the integrity of the industry is a matter of appropriate partner selections."
Albert Koh, business development manager, Boon Lay Stationery
"Pressure from the Far East has a positive influence because it makes us think about new niche markets and innovations, enhanced quality, and more efficient logistics management. But the cheapest product is not always the best. We should all consider the importance of creating products that are better quality and more durable than the cheaper products from the Far East."
Bernd Zimmermann, founder, CCM
"There’s no need to discuss whether the Far East jeopardizes the industry. Until we no longer have demand for cheap Chinese products, we can’t avoid their presence in the industry. But their presence is good motivation for all players to improve efficiency."
Olga Dormidoshko, head of marketing, Bureaucrat
"PaperPro values the integrity, loyalty and social accountability exhibited by our Far East partners. I believe that our suppliers’ commendable behaviour is a direct reflection of the core values we exhibit. The true compromise of integrity is largely caused by the greed and arrogance exhibited by a few unscrupulous manufacturers and resellers trampling over the intellectual property belonging to real innovators."
Rob Moses, COO, PaperPro
"If a manufacturer has stringent quality standards and follows strict procedures in terms of sourcing new products and setting realistic pricing expectations, then integrity shouldn’t be an issue. The problem is when manufacturers/traders continue to reduce price and product quality as this drives cash value out of our industry, reducing vital investment."
Michel van Beek, VP sales and export, Fellowes Europe
"Sourcing from the Far East does not jeopardize integrity providing products are ethically sourced with a strict audit trail so that corporate social responsibility is guaranteed. Consumers have the right to exercise choice, particularly when seeking value-for-money products."
Phil Harris, managing director, JG Fenn
"As a Chinese producer, the answer is NO! All we’ve seen over the last 20 years is the migration of production from Western markets burdened by high labour, social and land costs. They have become more service and distribution orientated. Because of reseller price-pressure and the end-user appetite to get more value for money, manufacturing has had to migrate to the cheaper Far East."
David Zheng, marketing and sales director, Aihao Pen
Next month’s burning issue: Do big manufacturers do enough to support independent dealers? Email your opinion to:email@example.com