Steve Harrop, Managing Director at Office Friendly
If 2015 was a breathless year when the industry experienced the impact of tremendous constant change, then 2016 needs to be year that resellers work progressively to develop positive and proactive business development. Breathless change is here to stay, by the way.
It’s too easy to sit back and think that we can’t respond to change and that around us, the OP industry is in severe decline. The truth is that there are many players in our industry and market who have real optimism, which comes from positively introducing innovation and taking some risk.
Amazon apart, many of the larger multinationals are in a state of flux. In the UK, the traditional channels are feeling the pressures of margin reduction and focus on cost reduction. The wholesalers are now defined by the need to please their VC shareholders and to respond to new influences that they can’t dominate.
Over the last four years both UK wholesalers have moved to a wider hybrid model as a means to add shareholder value. It’s not been for their traditional customer benefit and indeed few real innovative ideas have originated from the inner sanctums of their respective creative thinking departments (if indeed they exist).
I genuinely believe if the wholesalers are to remain as leading players they need to grasp that their customers need a massive increase in customer care and hence satisfaction. It’s no longer acceptable to say we offer great service when in fact it’s not and it’s driven by focus on cost reduction (disagree?). I write as someone with long-standing wholesale ties and who understands the constraints and where the focus is.
The groups - using whatever prefix they find appropriate (marketing, buying, purchasing) - are trying hard to appeal to to their existing and potentially new members with many of the same old tired tools and activities. We all need to work extremely hard on providing that spark, that piece of inspiration that ignites our teams and our members.
The dealers or resellers are, as always, a paradoxical collective - different-minded companies who do actually share many of the same issues, problems and opportunities. The manufacturers are under intense pressure to deliver in all areas at reduced cost, with increased attributes and significant investment to fund the marketing cycles of the industry.
The manufacturers and the resellers are the real flexible, nimble and innovative movers and shakers now in our industry - agree? - and they are the ones who find stuff for customers, who are responsible for genuine customer experience and delivery of that experience.
The time has come for progression and inspiration into our industry. We need to build confidence, focus our minds on the customer experience and ensure we are the ones our customers turn to for advice, problem solving and ultimately profitable business.
In my mind we really need to think customer-centric not just talk about it and if we do this then 2016 will be progressive indeed and will lead to a more fulfilling and positive performance, and that applies to every sector in our industry.
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