This month’s question: What does the future hold for dealer groups?


"It’s a future of change and challenge, but a prosperous future for those offering value to the manufacturer, dealer and ultimately the consumer. Dealer groups have to represent a good return on investment for a manufacturer, and to do this, they need to deliver compliance from the members to the agreements, and support manufacturer brands above all others. They must deliver the dealers and sales to the manufacturers. Those that do not, won’t survive. There will be dealer group casualties if they don’t offer value to the chain. However, in parallel, we will see new dealer groups appear across Europe, many in less mature and more fragmented markets."
Nigel Gunn, senior VP sales, Esselte Europe

"I think co-operatives and wholesalers will become more important to both the German and international markets in future. Without strong partnerships, only a few retailers will be able to survive in the long run. Therefore, existing companies will benefit from the support of co-operatives, as they are fundamental to remaining competitive. I also think that strong teamwork between international and local retailers will gain in prominence."
Carsten Marckmann, managing director, Büroring


"With recent examples of groups folding or merging and new smaller groups being formed it’s clear that dealers are still seeking the perfect combination of services that a group can provide. They are being driven or led by the most influential members or dealer group leaders and in an industry where being different from the competition is paramount, this is likely to be a trend that continues."
Colin Campbell, managing director, Langstane Press


"Without dealer associations, such as Integra and our worldwide sourcing arrangements through BPGI, independent dealers would be less price-competitive and less able to compete with the multinationals. Groups that provide a total business solution, excelling with their marketing programmes, providing IT and training support, differentiating their members through investment in own brands, and taking cost out of their operations, will undoubtedly be around for a long time to come."
Rick Needle, CEO, Integra


"In order for dealer groups to survive they have to provide value to their dealers. There really needs to be some intelligent discussion about dealer groups merging. They should merge with the central goal of increasing direct buy volume. I believe the future of BPGI is in question. It has to define its purpose; it can’t be a group that wants to appeal to all dealer groups. If it wants to leverage and get the lower cost of goods and better programme value, then it has to increase direct buy. We have to start talking about consolidation among the dealer groups. We have to find ways where multiple models can co-exist to meet the dealers’ unique demands.
Mike Gentile, president and CEO,


"Dealer groups face the same challenges as their members and will continue to do so. Groups have evolved in each market to meet local conditions but they share many characteristics. One thing is certain, there will always be strong independent alternatives to the big boxes and so there will always be dealer groups to meet the support needs of those resellers. The groups, like their dealers, will evolve and adapt. Some may not change fast enough and will disappear, but if the groups continue to provide the appropriate level of support, then their future, like that of their members, is assured."
Mark Austen, managing director, Office Club


"From a customer point of view, buying office supplies should be simple and secure. From a delivery perspective, service is crucial.This requires large investments that are not economically viable with a purchasing power of less than €150 million ($200 million). The future of independent dealers and buying groups in this sector depends on their ability to grow big enough to make those large investments. But generating purchasing power is not enough. Customer service, flexible marketing-supported distribution and the ability to bundle logistics all have a big part to play. It’s not just about getting bigger – how you grow is just as important."
Anton Stahrlinger, CEO, PBS Holding


"I cannot give my opinion for the whole of Europe or North America. What we see now is that the competition with the global players is different from how it was a few years ago. In Europe we do not see a fast decline of independent dealers, the huge competition is in the bigger contract area with eAuctions, etc. and most of the dealers stay away from that. They have their ‘natural’, often regional, customer base – customers who prefer the personal touch and a longer lasting relationship. Price does not always have the competitive edge, other issues often play a more important role: direct contact, completeness of assortments, other services the dealer can deliver such as IT, furniture and so on. Last but in no way least, I truly believe in the force of independent entrepreneurs."
Ben Wensing, president, Quantore Europe


Next month’s burning issue: How can a co-ordinated eMarketing strategy benefit the dealer? Email your opinions to: