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 Wholesale

VOW WHOLESALE DELIVERS POSITIVE BUSINESS UPDATE

VOW WHOLESALE DELIVERS POSITIVE BUSINESS UPDATE

 

VOW’S business update roadshow delivered last week at 3 locations around the country saw the wholesaler deliver a series of positive messages regarding the state of their business.

Managing Director, Adrian Butler reflected on the progress made during 2019.

It had been, he said, a year dominated by overcapacity, continued consolidation and the uncertainty around BREXIT. However, great advances had been made within the company, which had been fully restructured and rebranded as VOW Wholesale. Alongside a number of company initiatives such as the implementation of the transport management system, the introduction of the self-service customer portal, which is now being used for over 80% of post-sale queries, and the rollout of the EVOlution CSR program, Adrian was particularly proud of the individual success of a number of VOW employees at the BOSS, EOPA, CRN and ECMOD Awards.

With a declining core market, VOW had powered on in Facilities Supplies, Tech and Exclusive Brands and was achieving organic growth from existing customers. This is alongside new business of more than £10.5m from new customers and more than £7m of contracts in the last 3 months.

There was no question, Butler said, that VOW had come into 2020 with momentum, and he was confident that the additional Q1 growth bonus announced the previous week, would further drive progress. VOW is deadly serious about growth, about working aggressively with suppliers to support fresh marketing initiatives and about being creative and innovative in utilising the supply chain to best effect.

Adrian confirmed that VOW is in discussions with a number of supplier partners about becoming their fulfilment operation, as well as becoming the warehouse and wheels for some reseller partners. “We need to do things differently and better to make sure our dealers retain an edge in the market. We know this will be another challenging year with price and margin pressure, but we will maintain our service levels, continue expanding into new product areas and develop our environmental product and marketing offering. We want to ensure that we demonstrate support to our supporters and become the chosen route to market for our suppliers.”


Vanessa Warne

VOW CAN-DO APPROACH BOOSTS DEALERS’ INTERIORS SALES

VOW CAN-DO APPROACH BOOSTS DEALERS’ INTERIORS SALES

VOW’s specialist interiors team was restructured during 2019, with an expansion from 8 to 11 dedicated team members under the leadership of Furniture Category Director, Vanessa Warne. Now all under one roof and fully aligned, the change has seen a remarkable upturn in sales and dealer engagement, which Vanessa puts down to the team’s CAN-DO approach.

Vanessa explains, “We recognise that our role in the supply of furniture is very much about service, and we measure our success not just in sales growth, but in delivering dealer orders complete, accurately, not damaged and on time.– this measure is an agreed KPI with our logistics partner, and that’s where the acronym CAN-DO comes from. But it also represents the willingness and determination of our interiors team to go the extra mile to support dealers and to build a phenomenal interiors proposition. It’s great to see that our customers are clearly appreciating our efforts.”

The proof is not purely anecdotal, the evidence is there to see in the division’s performance with 14% sales revenue growth in the core First Range, 500 dealers now opted in to receive VOW Interiors marketing, an increase in mailer demand of 40%, less than 1% damage and a next day service level of over 97%.

The success is driving innovation and expansion for VOW Interiors with the addition of 22 dedicated furniture delivery vehicles planned for March. These will be a mix of one and two-man vehicles, crewed by highly trained delivery and installation staff, operating from the dedicated furniture warehouse in Coleshill in the West Midlands.

The furniture showroom, which can be used by dealers to support their sales efforts, remains at the Arrow Distribution Centre in Lutterworth. Along with a team of specialist furniture business development managers to support our dealers, VOW Interiors offers a design, delivery and installation service and an average turnaround time for quotations of less than 45 minutes, Vanessa believes that there is no stronger support for resellers.

Vanessa continues, “Pricing of the First Range for 2020 is the most competitive ever. The range is supported by our MegaDeals mailer which is available free of charge to dealers on MyMarketing. In addition, dealers may still order copies of the VOW Interiors catalogue, which launches in Q2, until the end of the first week of February.”

“The range has been expanded to 6,500 skus, with increased stockholdings of the 2,500 catalogue lines stocked for next day delivery and a further 4,000 specials lines deliverable in 3-5 days. Our extended range allows us to support dealers to win those larger project orders, backed up with our exceptional in-house delivery and installation service.”

She says that the expansion has not only been driven by demand created by the project-led requirement for products, but also the commitment to offer more ergonomic and environmental solutions. “All of the wood we use comes from FSC accredited sustainable forests. We have removed all polystyrene packaging materials from our desking ranges and replaced them with honeycombed card, and all plastic corner protectors are now recyclable. All of these initiatives support the dealers in their conversations with customers and our EVOlution CSR program objectives, so they’re win wins.”

For dealers wishing to know more about the exciting developments within VOW Interiors or to familiarise themselves with the new offering, VOW will be holding interiors events in the North, South and Midlands. Confirmed dates and locations will be announced very soon.

For more information please email sales@vowinteriors.co.uk or call 0114 256 6000


Vow Wholesale

VOW ANNOUNCES EXTRA GROWTH BONUS

VOW WHOLESALE ANNOUNCES EXTRA GROWTH BONUS

 

There is good news for VOW Wholesale customers as the UK’s leading business supplies wholesaler announces an additional growth bonus for Q1 sales.The bonuses will be calculated at the end of March on the basis of each dealer’s total spend in all product categories.

This will be compared with the equivalent period in 2019 and bonuses will be paid out on all incremental spend excluding EOS.

There are two levels of bonus. For dealers achieving 20% growth, a bonus of 5% will be paid, and for 35%, this will increase to 7.5% of the incremental sales.Managing Director, Adrian Butler says, “Following our investment in new product expansion, stock profile and operational effectiveness, we are delighted with the efficiency of our network.

We want to encourage dealers to think about what they could be buying from us that they currently source elsewhere and encourage them to put more business through VOW Wholesale.” Butler continues, “This bonus is very straightforward; every penny spent counts towards growth and the bonus is paid on all growth other than EOS.

There is no smoke and mirrors and with 7.5% bonus available, we think dealers will see this as a great opportunity to significantly improve their bottom line.”

To discuss further details re the scheme, dealers are advised to contact their VOW Wholesale Wholesale account manager.


VOW ANNOUNCES ITS MAGNIFICENT 7

VOW ANNOUNCES ITS MAGNIFICENT 7

VOW ANNOUNCES ITS MAGNIFICENT 7

One of VOW’s key strategic objectives at the start of 2019 was to work more closely with both suppliers and dealers in order to drive collaboration, innovation and efficiency through the supply chain. After a challenging but positive year, the wholesaler chose its recent Green Light event to take the opportunity to recognise outstanding performance by giving out its annual awards.

 

The award to a Red Venture dealer went to Cosmos, an Office Friendly member who have been quick to adapt to the changing market and have grown consistently through working closely with VOW and their group.

 

In the Gold Venture category, The Office Works impressed through their long-term values-based strategy and their vibrant and energetic approach. They have embraced portfolio expansion and been particularly successful in selling added-value FS solutions.

 

The Diamond Venture category was won by Clares Office Supplies who through close collaboration with VOW have established themselves as experts in transformational procurement and supply chain excellence.

 

The Newcomer Award went to Aston and James who having already diversified their 25-year old business into furniture and workwear have now made great strides into the environmental and health & wellbeing categories, bringing together their own approach and VOW’s EVOlution CSR policy.

 

On the supplier side, Fellowes continued its recent run of success winning the Supplier of the Year for their consistently high level of engagement and collaboration at all levels of the VOW business. Their support of marketing initiatives, innovation into new product areas and consistently excellent service set them apart.

 

Proving that business supplies is now a highly diverse channel, the Product of the Year went to Nestle for their Starbucks Dolce Gusto Coffee Pods, which provide consumers with excellent tasting coffee, and resellers with an ongoing sales opportunity to support a popular office coffee machine.

 

The final award for Account Manager of the Year went to Paul Granby of Henkel. Paul was recognised for demonstrating a clear understanding of the changing needs of the business and for his consistent enthusiasm working with the marketing and merchandising teams to find new opportunities.

 

Marketing Director, Helen Wade says, “Historic trading patterns went out of the window this year because of all the uncertainty caused by Brexit. It’s been hard to know what to expect from week to week, let alone from month to month and in circumstances like those, many businesses have understandably chosen to batten down the hatches. But, some of our suppliers and customer partners have been absolutely incredible in pushing forward, and it was great to be able to recognise their performance with an Award.”

 

“We are really happy for all of the winners and offer them our heart-felt congratulations on their achievements. It’s fantastic to work with such enthusiastic and forward-thinking partners and we are moving into 2020 with great optimism.”


Six of the Best at the BOSS Awards

Six of the Best at the BOSS Awards

VOW CELEBRATES SIX OF THE BEST

The BOSS Industry Awards Dinner, held at the Tower Hotel alongside Tower Bridge, London, was a glittering occasion attended by around 400 professionals from every part of the office products industry.

 

Hosted by TV, Radio and stand-up comic, Lucy Porter, the event is one of the highlights of the industry calendar, with excellent networking, entertainment and a fine meal, but everything leads to the climax of the evening, a series of awards presented to wholesalers, dealers, manufacturers and brand owners.

 

The awards recognise excellence in all areas and are the highest accolades presented in the UK.

 

VOW was delighted to be shortlisted as finalists in the Initiative of the Year for their Transport Management System, which is improving visibility and efficiency whilst at the same time, reducing emissions and fuel usage. A second place on the finalist list came in the Publication of the Year for its mainline catalogue.

 

However, it was in the individual awards that VOW shone with six team members winning.

 

The award for Professional of the Year went to VOW Marketing Director, Helen Wade who was recognised for a year of outstanding success. Helen has overseen the strategic rebranding of the company as a specialist wholesaler and has repositioned the industry-leading Green Light event, making it a must-attend conference for reseller sales teams. In addition, she had driven the highly successful Whiteout and Heatwave incentive schemes and driven a complete overhaul of the MyMarketing Platform.

 

It’s also been quite a year for VOW Product Marketing Manager, Scott Castle. After winning the Young Professional of the Year at the EOPA Awards back in March, Scott has now added the BOSS Emerging Professional of the Year Award. Scott was commended by the judges for his work in developing the VOW AdVenture incentive campaign which delivered outstanding results for VOW and participating suppliers. Scott was also recognised for his role in supporting the establishment of the BOSS Leaders of the Future group, of which he will shortly be taking over the Chair from Emily Jones.

 

Steve Blowers has spent 30 years in Wholesaling, with Neville and Gladstone, John Heath, Kingfield Heath and ultimately VOW. From sales roles to branch management, to Senior Management Team and Board, Steve, who now is Director of Dealer Groups has been a constant in the evolution of VOW into its current position as the clear number one wholesaler in the channel. Steve was recognised by the BOSS Federation with an Unsung Hero Award.

 

Also receiving Unsung Hero Awards were three other VOW team members.

 

Matthew Allen was singled out for his great contribution to the VOW Commercial Team where his development of the analytical tools has allowed VOW to manage its sales, margins and cost to serve more effectively. The judges agreed that through his attitude, aptitude and excellent achievements, Matthew was deserving of the wider recognition of the industry.

 

Rebecca Brook, VOW Head of Inventory was recognised for the excellent work that she has done in managing a team of 17 people, with responsibility for controlling the ordering and intake of goods from suppliers and sustaining a high level of customer fill rate and availability. The judges identified that Rebecca has an excellent attitude and leads by example to encourage, develop and guide her team.

 

Finally, Sarah Whale, VOW Service Improvement Manager was awarded her Unsung Hero Award for her work in the implementation of VOWs Customer Self-Service Portal and her obsession with putting her customers first. The judges recognised her dogged determination and tenacity along with her ability to change mindsets, attitudes and outlooks in order to drive continuous improvements.

 

Helen Wade, Marketing Director said, “It was an incredible night and amazing to see so many of the VOW team being recognised. For me personally it was a great thrill to win and I felt proud and humbled to go up and collect my award. It may sound like a cliché, but it is true, that there are lots of people whose support contributes to this, and I want to thank all of them. I also want to offer massive congratulations to Scott, Steve, Matthew, Rebecca and Sarah for their awards. We’ve put a huge focus on our supply chain relationships and these awards clearly show that our approach is delivering results.”


VOW AWARDS – THE SEASON FOR GIVING

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

Commercial

ACS Business Supplies

 

Gold Venture Reseller of the Year

The Office Works

Peter Handley Stationery

Compleat Office Solutions

 

Red Venture Reseller of the Year

Red-Inc

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

Fellowes

Verbatim

 

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 jo@samaritans.org.

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.


Sheffield-Business-Awards

VOW AWARDS SHORTLIST GETTING LONGER!

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 OPENS FOR VOW WHOLESALE’S 2019 GREEN LIGHT EXPO

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, www.greenlightevent.com.

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.”