Steve Blowers

Steve Blowers Retires

Bye Bye Blowers!


After more than 30 years’ service in the industry, VOW Dealer Group Director, Steve Blowers is retiring on the 31st of March.

Having joined the industry as a dealer salesman, Steve found his home in wholesaling, initially with Neville & Gladstone, which through a series of mergers with John Heath, Kingfield and ISA transformed into what is now VOW. Along the way he has held multiple roles including managing sites in London and the Midlands, joining the Senior Management Team and the Board.

As Dealer Group Director Steve has been responsible for more than £150m of sales. He has made a significant contribution to the direction of the business and has been involved in the planning and implementation of the strategy that has driven massive expansion.

Adrian Butler, Managing Director of VOW is sorry to see Blowers leave. “I have worked with Steve for more than 20 years and his professionalism, enthusiasm and tenacity have never once wavered. Nor has his integrity or authenticity in dealing with people, internally or externally, whatever the circumstances. His contribution to VOW has been immense and more than a colleague, Steve has been a great friend.”

Julie Hawley, MD of the Office Friendly Dealer Association added, “People always come first with Steve whatever the challenge, and this is apparent in the high regard in which he is held not only within the whole Office Friendly Team but also in the wider industry. On a final note and as we have said to Steve many times, you cannot retire from being great!”

Aidan McDonough, Integra’s CEO, comments “This is a sad day for the UK OP industry. Steve Blowers has been pivotal to the strength of Integra’s partnership with VOW. He is highly respected within the industry for his true professionalism and integrity. On a personal note I would like to say how much I have valued his friendship and his no-nonsense approach to business – it has been an absolute pleasure to work with Steve over the last 20 years. However, I have never known him to say yes to anything! I wish him well for the future and just sorry, due to the present challenges, that we aren’t able to join him to celebrate his retirement. On a final note, a big thank you to Steve on behalf of Integra and its members for the support he has given us over the years.”

Tim Beaumont, Managing Director of Nemo said “Mr B as he is affectionally known, really will be missed. Over the many years that he has worked with Nemo / Office Club he has always shown great integrity. He plays the game with a straight bat, is genuine, and has had the ability to find solutions to some difficult issues. We wish you the very best for a well-deserved retirement, oh and good luck with the list of jobs from Mrs B!”

A volunteer called on by the Trustees of the BOSS Business Supplies Charity, Steve was awarded an Unsung Hero award at the 2019 BOSS Industry Awards.

Butler concludes, “We will miss Steve greatly, and we all wish him the very best for a long and healthy retirement.”


VOW take awards very seriously…

Helen Wade, Marketing Director says, “We believe that there are huge benefits to entering awards. Simply going through the process of putting submissions together can really bring home to people the amazing work that they have done and the advances that they have made. It’s great motivation and builds self-esteem and can go a long way in earning the appreciation of colleagues. To be shortlisted gives a great buzz and to win is just fantastic recognition. There’s loads of good PR to be had on social media, locally and throughout the industry and of course, when talking to customers, suppliers and prospects it’s great to point to the acknowledgement of excellence that has been given to you.”

VOW has had an outstanding year on the awards front with recognition for the company and various individuals at EOPA, The BOSS Industry Awards, ECMOD, The CRN Channel Awards, The Sheffield Business Awards, The Northern E-Commerce Awards and the Stationers Company Awards.


But now, with the season of goodwill upon us, it is the turn of the UK’s leading business supplies wholesaler to give rather than receive. At its forthcoming Green Light at the Chateau Impney, Bromsgrove on December 5th, VOW will be announcing the winners of its own awards, which are presented to dealers, suppliers and account managers.


In anticipation of this, the shortlists for the categories have been announced and they are:


Dealer awards for outstanding sales performance, commitment and engagement


Diamond Venture Reseller of the Year

Clares Office Supplies


ACS Business Supplies


Gold Venture Reseller of the Year

The Office Works

Peter Handley Stationery

Compleat Office Solutions


Red Venture Reseller of the Year


Cosmos Office Supplies

Cleartask Ltd


Newcomer Award

Imagine Office Supplies

Aston and James





Supplier awards for outstanding service, innovation and support


Supplier of the Year

Pukka Pads




Account Manager of the Year

Zoe Brooks – Café Direct

Steve Robinson – Safescan

Paul Granby – Henkel


Product of the Year

Jabra – Panacast

Colop – e-Mark

Nestle – Starbucks Dolce Gusto Pods


Helen Wade concludes, “Our awards are to show our genuine appreciation for the fantastic support we get from suppliers and customers. This year’s shortlist features some outstanding businesses and we are grateful to them all. I’m delighted on behalf of us all at VOW to congratulate those who have made these shortlists and wish good luck to everyone for the final judging.”

World Mental Health Day

VOW Wholesale Supports World Mental Health Day

VOW Wholesale recognises the importance of supporting initiatives to improve people lives and in support of World Mental Health Day (10th October) VOW interviews one of their own inspiring volunteers:

How volunteering with the Samaritans changes lives.

VOW’s Head of Commercial, Becky Shelton’s job is not without challenges, but being keen to learn new skills and to make a difference in her community led her to a new challenge that has been truly life changing.

Becky explains, “I had a couple of significant conversations, one with a homeless guy and one with a friend who had lost someone to suicide. I realised that just by being there to listen and not trying to offer solutions, I was helping people. A little while later a random newspaper article pointed me in the direction of the Samaritans, and I was hooked!


VOW’s Head of Commercial, Becky Shelton
VOW’s Head of Commercial, Becky Shelton

Becky now spends 3-4 hours a week as a Listening Volunteer in her local branch, taking phone calls and answering emails or texts from people in emotional crisis or despair. They come from people from all types of backgrounds and all walks of life, rich and poor, young and old, employed and unemployed, all united by their need to talk to someone about their problems.

Some are suicidal, others have long term mental health problems, are in crisis over debt, relationships, school or work pressures.  Whatever their situation, all are treated with kindness and consideration, in a non-judgmental way.

Callers to the Samaritans are often confused or distressed, isolated and in desperate need of someone to talk to. Becky explains, “We respect that someone might want to end their life, and if that is the case, we help them to fully understand their reasoning and thoughts. We never offer advice, but through gentle, open questions, we help the caller to order their thoughts and hopefully to see a way forward. Our aim is that, through talking about their deepest feelings they may feel they can carry on with life.  And, of course everything we hear is confidential to Samaritans so we can’t talk about it outside of the branch.”

Helping people who have found themselves in despair is tremendously rewarding, knowing that you could have made the difference to someone who was considering taking their own life is very emotional. Just to be trusted by people who will reveal their deepest and darkest thoughts is an amazing privilege.”

As well as being a Listening Volunteer, Becky is part of her branch fundraising and outreach team, which involves applying for grant funding, supporting community projects and even standing in Asda on a Saturday morning handing out information. She says that the organisation is desperate for support volunteers to help with fundraising, outreach, school liaison, training, recruitment, administration, IT and even odd jobs, as well as for listening positions.

Full training is provided to Listening Volunteers who go through a selection process, intensive induction training and 6-8 months of pairing with a mentor, with ongoing training afterwards.

If you think you could help, please have a look at the Samaritans website.

If you are struggling, Becky suggests that the best thing you can do is to talk to someone. If your workplace has Mental Health First Aiders then try them, or a trusted family member or friend. If you feel that you don’t want to burden someone you know, so please call Samaritans on 116123 or email

If you are worried about someone you know, then the Samaritans website has lots of information to help you approach them in a supportive way. Knowing that someone cares enough to listen can make an enormous difference to people who are struggling.

Becky concludes, “It feels a bit strange still to say that I love being a Samaritan, but it’s one of the biggest achievements in my life, and I’m very proud to say that I am really making a difference for some people. I would definitely encourage others to volunteer too.



VOW Marketing Director, Helen Wade says that the wholesaler’s dealer first strategy is paying dividends with the approach being recognised in a series of award announcements. The company and its staff have been shortlisted in five categories at the upcoming BOSS Industry Awards and a further two at the prestigious Sheffield Business Awards.


VOW’s strategy is to improve the experience that dealers have of VOW, to create opportunities for dealers to sell more, and to deliver the innovation that dealers need to operate successfully. Evidence of these ambitions can be found in the breadth of categories covered by the nominations.

For the BOSS Awards, the Initiative of the Year submission was based upon VOW’s new Transport Management System, the result of a £750k investment designed to boost their commitment to environmental sustainability whilst creating new levels of ease and efficiency in its deliveries across the UK and Ireland network.

In the e-Business category, the Post Office Shop, developed and operated by VOW’s retail division has had a very successful year, driving year-on-year sales growth, gaining new customers, improving the retention of existing customers and delivering platform developments to aid customer navigation, digital search footprint and user experience across the desktop/mobile interfaces. These advancements during 2019 saw the Post Office Shop appear in the IRUK list of the Top 150 UK online retailers for the first time.

VOW’s catalogue is the prime selling tool for many of its resellers, and at a time when the use of paper catalogues is frequently questioned, this year it was snapped up in unprecedented numbers. Over 350,000 copies were distributed, underlining its importance to them, and with almost 1,000 pages and the addition of more than 3,000 new products, it’s bigger and better than ever. The catalogue has been shortlisted as Publication of the Year.

Whilst VOW is keen to point out that its success this year has been down to an outstanding team effort across the business, there has also been personal recognition from the BOSS Federation judging panels for a couple of individuals who have driven the success.

Marketing Director, Helen Wade and Product Marketing Manager, Scott Castle have both made the final short list for the Professional and Emerging Professional of the Year for their outstanding contributions to the success of VOW’s marketing initiatives during 2019.

At the Sheffield. Business Awards, Vow are finalists in the category of Large Business of the Year, an award which they won last year.

In addition, the VOW team were particularly delighted to have been shortlisted in the category of Excellence in Corporate, Social and Environmental Responsibility. Their entry was based upon the EVOlution program that has seen the Company invest in reducing emissions, packaging and energy usage, while focusing on raising standards in the supply chain, improving wellbeing and the environment for its staff and the wider community.

Helen Wade says: “We are delighted to be short listed in these seven categories and we’re massively encouraged that the initiatives that we have been driving are being recognised and valued. We’ll continue to be looking at ways to evolve and improve our portfolio and our service offering. If our efforts as individuals and a team are recognised, then that’s the icing on the cake.

GreenLightEvent - 2019


Registration for the eagerly anticipated VOW Wholesale Green Light 2019 Industry Expo is now open, and dealers wishing to attend may reserve their places via a new dedicated website,

After a decade during which Green Light has consistently grown in scale and popularity, Chateau Impney Hotel and Exhibition Centre in Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire will host this year’s event. With the organisers determined to ensure that Green Light remains relevant, there is a shift in emphasis to direct the content towards salespeople, with a dedicated ‘speaker zone’ for key sales speakers who will be announced shortly.


As usual delegates will also have the opportunity to meet with an estimated 70 key suppliers, to get a first look at the 2020 new products, to learn the best way to present them, to hear about their promotional programmes and how they can work together with suppliers and resellers to grow sales.


The shift in emphasis has been received very positively by VOW Wholesale customers and it is anticipated that attendance this year could be as much as 30% higher than in previous years.


Marketing Director Helen Wade says, “We had phenomenal feedback from the 2018 Green Light and we are incredibly excited for this year’s event. The increased focus on the sales teams and giving them hints and tips that can be implemented in their roles literally the next day, has been really well received by everyone. We’re looking forward to a record attendance and another outstanding event, and we recommend that people register via the website as early as possible to guarantee their places.”

Vow Wholesale


VOW Wholesale has announced plans for its eagerly-awaited Mid-Year Dealer Event – a chance for its partners to review the year so far and look ahead to the company’s next wave of marketing initiatives to support the reseller channel.

VOW’s Diamond and Gold Venture customers – those signed up to its partner accreditation programme – will converge on Whittlebury Hall Hotel & Spa in Northamptonshire on July 4.


“There’s always a great atmosphere at the mid-year event, it’ll be great to take advantage of the golf and spa facilities and catch up with industry insights, opinions and gossip over dinner,” explained VOW Wholesale Marketing Director Helen Wade. “We’re also looking forward to unveiling full details of our 2020 Marketing Guide, which has been honed and updated to help our dealer network develop their sales and reach new customers.


“I don’t want to give too much away yet, but it’s fair to say that the overhaul of the guide has been designed to reflect the changing needs of dealers in this fast-moving market. There’ll be some exciting additions to our range of mailers and a refreshed emphasis on social media and digital activity through our MyMarketing portal and VOWDigicat online ordering tool.”


A cornerstone of the 2020 marketing guide will be the VOW Wholesale main catalogue, which continues to go from strength to strength. The 2019 version was a record-breaker – launching 3,000 new products and getting snapped up dealers through an unprecedented 350,000 initial orders.

EVO Group Joins The CBI

EVO Group has become a member of The CBI, the UK’s most effective and influential business organization that helps provide companies with a voice to key policymakers.


The EVO Group of Companies has become a member of The CBI, the UK’s most effective and influential business organization that helps provide companies with a voice to key policymakers.

Originally starting their membership in February, the EVO Group of Companies have been working with The CBI in order to improve their network outside of the industry along with creating more opportunities for collaboration with other businesses. As a CBI member, the EVO Group of Companies are hoping to become a leading voice in the industry, whilst also opening new avenues to feedback to the government and other important institutions. This new partnership also provides increased benefits to their corporate responsibilities with a greater chance to engage with local communities.

The EVO Group of Companies Collaboration with The CBI

Since joining with The CBI, the EVO Group of Companies has seen several benefits in helping to improve their internal business processes and industry insights. Greater access to economic data and the opportunity to both host and discuss industry topics via forums and discussions has helped the company further assess customer ‘pain points’ and how these can be best addressed. In particular, departments at the company including IT and HR have been able to engage in specialized ‘round table’ discussions in order to share their expertise and gain a better understanding of tackling growing issues in their fields.

Industry Updates and Hosted Discussions

The EVO Group of Companies have also sponsored The CBI’s annual Yorkshire Dinner and recently hosted an economics and politics event at their offices in Sheffield. The event saw CBI Chief Economist, Rain Newton-Smith attend as a guest speaker, where priorities surrounding tax and regulation and outlooks on the global economy in light of political change were actively discussed by Newton-Smith and other attendees. Membership as part of The CBI has also meant that representatives from the EVO Group of Companies have able to provide feedback and engage in discussions relating to pressing industry topics such as the Apprenticeship Levy and Industrial Strategy.

To learn more about The CBI, please visit