With the balance of today’s OP market dipped favourably towards the big boxes, the independent dealers must do all they can to combine their strength. This fact is nothing new, but what is, is that TriMega and NOPA have forged an alliance anticipated to be the first in a series of industry initiatives to fortify their commercial success.
By enhancing services to OP dealers and their independent distribution channel partners, the TriMega-NOPA membership alliance aims to boost the success of the dealer in government policy, advocacy and communications. As of 1 January 2006, all TriMega dealers became NOPA members and gained access to all NOPA membership benefits.
Chris Bates, who has been CEO of NOPA since last July, describes the alliance as a major vote of confidence from TriMega. He told OPI: "TriMega acknowledges the role NOPA plays and can play in bringing the independent dealer community together. By order of magnitude, NOPA will be more successful with more active participants, and this was made possible thanks to the strong and effective leadership at TriMega."
TriMega president Charlie Cleary told OPI: "The strengthened membership size enhances the independent dealers’ ability – through NOPA – to advocate successfully for parity and equal opportunities for independent dealers."
Through the alliance, NOPA will provide dealers with various programmes and benefits that were not available via TriMega alone. These include industry benchmarking reports, relevant channel communications and advocacy, and representation for independent dealers in government procurement. And of special interest to dealers, says Cleary, is NOPA’s commitment to healthcare legislative reform to address the rising cost of healthcare insurance.
Another major prong in the alliance is the standardisation project, which is designed to enable better supply chain coordination and more cost-effective marketing by creating industry-consistent product numbers, units of measure and product descriptions. The project sings a similar tune to the OPDEX system, a web-based repository currently being rolled out for OP dealers in the UK by the BOSS Federation.
OPDEX is the industry’s first initiative worldwide to share standardised product data and information between supply chain trading partners. To date, the project has been an astounding success, with 118 companies registering within the first six months.
"A standardisation project can only be done at industry level," says Bates. "TriMega and is.group have had to spend time and energy matching up their information with that of the wholesalers, for purposes of their own catalogue and marketing. It is a question of pulling together the relevant partners so the product information can be handled in an ecommerce environment… OPDEX is obviously the longer-term vision," he adds.
Bates says that dealer reaction to the project to date has been very positive. But at this point, NOPA would not comment on any costs associated with the system.
NOPA plans to forge an alliance with is.group at some point in the near future, too. "We already have a partnership with is.group and NOPA has representatives on the board from both TriMega and is.group. NOPA needs to be the one to bring other players together and we definitely hope to step up to the next level and form an alliance with is.group, but this may or may not take the same form."
In the meantime, though, does the alliance offer TriMega dealers an advantage over is.group dealers? On the record of course, this is not the way Cleary sees it. "TriMega is interested in the survival and prosperity of all independent office product dealers, and our recent alliance with NOPA only strengthens the position of all independents nationwide," he says.
Bates admits it is hard to predict where the alliance will go, although he told OPI that he is keen to implement a greater number of industry-wide initiatives to assist dealers as the alliance gains strength.
Cleary adds: "TriMega and NOPA are committed to listening to our members, staying abreast of the competitive landscape and working closely together now and going forward to ensure that this alliance grows stronger, and continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of the independent office products dealer.
"Members can expect more advocacy on behalf of independent business owners, ensuring that their voice is heard in Washington DC, as well as valuable research initiatives to benefit independent dealers that have not been embarked on them before," he adds. "The future is indeed very bright for NOPA and TriMega through this alliance."