United we stand

PCR talks to Integra Office Solutions MD Aidan McDonough
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PCR talks to Integra Office Solutions MD Aidan McDonough

Having formed in 1997 from a merger between the National Dealer Association and Instat, Integra Office Solutions currently has 300 members and claims to be the UK and Ireland’s largest dealer group in the office and IT supplies industry.

The chief benefit of dealer and buying groups is the conglomerate buying power that members together can command – which in Integra’s case represents £450 million. The firm signed up swathes of members in 2009, and is looking to boost its ranks further through 2010.

“We are actively recruiting currently and have had a very positive start to the year,” says managing director Aidan McDonough.

“We recruited in excess of 50 dealers in 2009, which we felt was indicative of companies looking for a financially robust organisation to support and strengthen their offering to help them survive the testing economic climate.”

Of course in times like this businesses, especially smaller ones, will need to see tangible benefits to becoming members of trade organisations and dealer groups. Integra cites some of the advantages of joining as preferential purchasing agreements with wholesalers, distributors and vendors, access to a strong independent brand with end user sales in excess of £19 million, an all-encompassing marketing support programme incorporating traditional direct mail and catalogues together with e-marketing and web solutions, and comprehensive IT support.

The firm says it is pouring money into support schemes for its members this year in order to give them more advantages in a hostile marketplace.

“By the end of 2010 we will have invested over £1million into price support for members purchasing the initiative brand, helping them to remain competitive against a backdrop of industry price increases,” McDonough comments.

“We are continuously improving and updating our web solutions to ensure they meet with customer expectations and have recently launched Inprint 2 – our updated print solution with HTML functionality and email marketing campaign management tools.

“The IT hardware channel is a major focus for Integra this year as the stationery market is now converging into the resellers selling hardware due to the high margins that stationery offers.”

The sheer number of trade organisations with overlapping interests operating in the UK can make it seem like there is more competition than there actually is in this area. While this can make the landscape seem confusing, Integra highlights its strong relationships with other trade bodies as one of its key benefits.

“We are members of BPGI, Business Products Group International, a multibillion pound global purchasing consortium providing members with additional buying power. We are members of the TCA and the BOSS Federation (British Office Supplies and Services Federation), together with BPIF (British Printing Industries Federation).”