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Integra encourages members to innovate for growth

Integra Business Solutions’ 2018 National Conference was held at the East Midlands Conference Centre in Nottingham on September 20

112 delegates and VIP guests, as well as representatives from 60 key partner companies, attended the buying group’s annual conference. This year’s theme – Innovate for Growth – was reflected across the feature-rich agenda which opened with a keynote address from Integra CEO Aidan McDonough.

McDonough shared his views on the current state of play in an ever-changing and increasingly competitive market place which continues to see further consolidation. He spoke about the key challenges the independent dealer channel is facing – in particular inflation and exchange rate fluctuations and the resultant impact on margins, as well as the opportunities for growth within categories such as wellbeing, furniture and facilities management.

Aidan McDonough
Aidan McDonough

Speaking about the group’s core business units: initiative, Integra Creative Services, bpgi and Catalyst, McDonough reminded the audience that within this diverse portfolio, everything centres around its members. “Integra the dealer group, is at the heart of all we do,” he said. He showcased how through a number of new programmes, the group is helping members to innovate by diversifying into new product categories citing the Furniture Support Programme, Education Support Programme, IT Support Programme, Medical and Valueadd Services offering as key examples.

With initiative celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, McDonough reaffirmed Integra’s plans for continual investment in the brand and hinted that several new products will be launched in 2019. He also announced a prize freeze until December and outlined several promotional activities such as a 10 per cent rebate, along with the chance to win trips to Portugal and Finland, designed to reward members and celebrate this milestone.

Wrapping up, he said that the future will include further consolidation, diversification is imperative for future growth and that strong websites are key. He urged members to focus on the 80/20, counselled that having a disaster recovery plan in place is critical, and invited members to get in touch for help and support.

The view from the top

Martin Wilde from MWA Research, hosted the second session, sharing some of the headline results from interviews conducted with senior industry executives, tabled in The State of the OP Industry Report 2017-18.

Wilde said that estimates place the market value at £5.1 billion. “There is a consistent view that the market is in decline,” he said, attributing this to multiple factors including digitisation, inflation and the effect of MPS on EOS sales, however, he added: “The majority of respondents are expecting to realise sales growth in 2018.” Of note was the fact that managed print is firmly back on the agenda for the majority of the businesses polled.

Ian Whitcombe from Antalis provided food for thought, demonstrating how members can create additional revenue with innovative packaging solutions. He argued that packaging presents a huge opportunity for members to increase revenue. As a case in point, he cited some compelling statistics on the size of the market. Parcel volumes are expected to grow in excess of 2.1 billion by 2019, and the estimated realistic available market for packaging consumables is around £1.2 billion.

From innovation to growth

Innovators grow twice as fast as non innovators – was the compelling opening statement from Professor Stephen Roper, Director, Enterprise Research Centre. Citing statistics gleaned from research conducted at the Enterprise Research Centre, he clearly demonstrated the business value-add of innovating in terms of generating value for customers and financial return.

Professor Roper spoke about why firms innovate and what types of innovation make the biggest contribution to growth and profitability. He counselled that the number one reason why businesses innovate is to improve the quality of goods and services – a point that resonated with the audience, and provided a few simple metrics that members can use to benchmark their position in terms of the innovation value chain.

In the afternoon, Simon Wallis of InControl marketing hosted an informative workshop focusing on digital marketing and the importance of email communications as part of the marketing mix.

Supplier exhibition

Delegates welcomed the opportunity to enjoy the three-and-a-half-hour long supplier exhibition which featured 61 companies including Integra, network with their peers and share ideas and experiences.

Marking the 20th anniversary of initiative, Integra was offering members a 20 per cent discount off its FS and Educations Essentials publications as well as initiative mailers and campaigns. The team also showcased its education, workwear and eco-packaging offering, alongside live demos of the Intouch email marketing solution. Integra Creative were also out in force, talking to delegates about the range of creative solutions on offer and the preferential rates available to Integra members.

Elsewhere, members enjoyed the opportunity to meet with many of their key suppliers under one roof and benefit from some of the many exclusive promotions on offer.

Celebrity guest: Jeff Stelling

Legendary sports journalist and television presenter, Jeff Stelling, took centre stage at the end of the day, regaling the audience with tales from his time hosting Gillette Soccer Saturday for Sky Sports alongside pundits including Matt Le Tissier, Rodney Marsh, Paul Merson, Chris Kamara and the late George Best.

During his highly entertaining talk, Stelling shared many anecdotes of instances involving some of football’s greatest names. Highlights included the fact that they always had a substitute on standby when George Best was booked to appear – just in case! He also spoke about the time Chris Kamara missed Anthony Vanden Borre’s sending off during Portsmouth’s draw with Blackburn in 2010 – just one of several moments which earned him the title of ‘the world’s worst football reporter’.

Gala dinner

227 guests attended the legendary Black Tie Gala Dinner and prestigious initiative Awards. During a drinks reception, guests were treated to a surprise operatic rendition delivered by The Voice 2018 finalists, Bella Voci.

After dinner entertainment was provided by comedian Steve Shanyaski, a long established and popular performer at major comedy venues including the Comedy Store, CSE, Glee Club and Jongleurs. And Bella Voci returned to the stage to perform O Fortuna, Time to say goodbye and Skyfall – songs they performed to great applause on The Voice.

Over dinner, Integra invited guests to dig deep for two very deserving causes – Cancer Research and the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund. A collection raised a very princely £1,500.

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