2017 is set to be an exciting one for the UK and Ireland’s leading office and IT supplies dealer group. PrintIT Reseller caught up with Aidan McDonough, Integra Business Solutions’ CEO, to talk about the group’s past, present and future
Integra was founded in 1997 as a result of a merger between NDA and Instat, the first dealer group of its kind, so technically speaking, whilst this year marks the group’s 20th anniversary, its heritage actually spans closer to three decades.
Today, the group, which has continued to maintain its strong position within the industry, despite many challenges over the years, boasts a membership of around 250 independent dealers. “Our membership has remained stable over the past couple of years, the majority of members have been with us since the beginning and many former Instat members chose to stay with us post-merger,” McDonough explained.
“As an industry we’ve faced some tough challenges during the last two decades. The number of independent dealerships continues to shrink, largely down to the increasing trend for mergers and acquisitions, but also in part due to business failures. We have seen margins eroded in areas including EOS and new opportunities come on the back of new categories such as managed print, 3D printers, FM and furniture for example. However despite the ever-changing climate, we have continued to grow and strengthen the business for our members,” he added.
Integra dealers have access to exceptional buying power. This is further boosted by the fact that Integra is a member of Business Products Groups International (BPGI), of which McDonough is Chairman. “Integra membership is very much about supporting dealers to run their business, ensuring they have the right tools and information to make conducting business easier,” McDonough said.
He added: “We pride ourselves on what we firmly believe is a unique offer in terms of differentiated marketing programmes, creative services, flexible IT solutions, and other added value and managed support services.”
Integra sees its ‘Initiative’ brand as a key differentiator for members who have exclusive access to over 800 products supported by a comprehensive marketing programme, consumer website and ongoing promotions.
With price increases a major concern for the channel post-Brexit, the group announced a price freeze on all Initiative products up until December 2016. “We felt it was key to offer stable pricing that our members could reply on and the price freeze was designed to allow them to maintain their margins,” McDonough said.
Integra’s 2017 Marketing Programme, Open for Business, features a wide range of marketing material in both printed and digital formats, enabling dealers to adopt a multi-faceted approach to promoting their products and services.
It now incorporates new marketing solution ‘Infuse’. This all-encompassing offering gives members access to a range of flexible, managed services to generate awareness and help support the marketing function within their businesses.
In October 2015, Integra purchased 100% of the group’s share capital from independent investor, Hemel Holdings Ltd.
“The board took the decision to conduct the buyback as we believed that the interests of our members were not best served by a private investor,” McDonough said. “What we have done now is to revert to a co-operative model, creating a business that is owned and run by the dealers and we have recently issued shares to all our members. This not only allows us to protect our members’ best interests, but also to continue our focused approach to growth and the further development of services and solutions to benefit the independent dealer and our industry partners.”
Integra will be holding elections to appoint three new non-executive directors to the board early this year.
The repurchase was swiftly followed by the group unveiling its new company name, Integra Business Solutions and new corporate identity, a move designed to further emphasise its commitment to remaining ahead of the game in a dynamically changing industry.
“The new company name and identity was designed to better reflect the dealer group we have evolved into and to underpin our core values and vision for a bright future with dynamic, progressive dealers,” McDonough explained.
Integra’s ‘Celebrating 20 Years’ National Conference will take place at the Crowne Plaza, Stratford-Upon-Avon on September 28. Members and key partners will be invited to celebrate in style and to enjoy an exciting line-up of guest speakers and entertainment at a ‘Glitz & Glamour’ Gala Dinner.
To celebrate its milestone anniversary and to thank members for their continued support, Integra will also be announcing some exciting initiatives throughout 2017 in the form of special supplier promotions, additional pricing support, rebates and prize draws, with some overseas trips to be won.
“Integra’s 20th Anniversary marks an important milestone and is a reflection of the ongoing support and commitment shown by our members and key partners. As a group we are all looking forward to continued success in 2017,” McDonough said in conclusion.