Manchester-based Lex Business Equipment has just marked its 40th year in business. Thanks to its online presence, the company enjoyed a significant increase in sales during the coronavirus pandemic and has recorded a strong start to its new fiscal year
Lex Business Equipment was established by ex-Olivetti technical manager Wayne Elphick. In 2008, his youngest son Sam took a gap year and joined the firm’s service department to gain some work experience. He quickly developed a passion for all things print related and decided to cancel his plans to go to university, choosing instead to remain with the family firm and learn the business from the ground up. Today, he’s a print industry convert, and having worked his way through the ranks, now heads up the sales operation as Sales Director.
The company is a Develop dealership and four years ago expanded its offer, partnering with Lexmark. “We were impressed with the flexibility that the Lexmark line-up offered, the devices are robust and reliable and the cloud capabilities in particular, are proving very popular with our customers,” Elphick said.
Lex predominately serves customers within a 30 mile radius of its Radcliffe-based head office, but it does also have a number of clients with offices all over the UK. “Many of our clients are headquartered in the North West but they also have operations nationwide and we are able to support them across the board. We have forged close relationships with a number of Lexmark BSD dealers who carry out onsite service on our behalf,” Elphick explained. “The ability to tap into this resource and provide the same levels of technical support across all locations, without having to send our engineers across the country, is a real plus for us,” he added.
Supporting home working
Lex began 2020 with a full order book and lots of new installations, which Elphick said they managed to complete in the first quarter, then in common with other vendors in the print sector, the UK’s lockdown in March presented a new set of pressing challenges for the firm. “We very quickly had to pivot to support our customers to keep business moving. Our overriding goal was to ensure that we provided the right technology to support home working and also to ensure we delivered the very best solutions in terms of cost-efficiency,” he said.
Lex provided everything needed for the home office – from laptops to office furniture to stationery as well as Lexmark Go Line printers. The company also extended existing MPS contracts to include these additional printing devices. “We did need to make some minor adjustments to the CPP plans, but by wrapping all of the additional kit into legacy MPS agreements, what we did was provide continuity of service for all clients,” he explained.
“The biggest value-add was enabling customers to maintain control over their entire print estate which very rapidly moved from a centralised model to a distributed one. There was a very real risk that they could have quickly got into a position were costs were totally unmanaged and out of control, so we’re very proud that we reacted quickly to prevent that. Additionally, clients are reaping the benefits of automatic consumables replenishment – direct to people’s houses, technical support and service, as they did when all staff were office-based,” he added.
Bucking the trend
Around five years ago Lex invested in a new e-commerce website. At the time the move was designed to increase the company’s online presence and drive sales across its other two divisions – office supplies and furniture. The e-commerce platform also provided an opportunity to drive an incremental revenue stream in terms of transactional sales across printers, small MFPs and IT hardware.
During the coronavirus pandemic it was this capability that proved to be a game-changer. By ramping up its online presence and investing to ensure rankings were high, Lex picked up lots of new customers who rushed to purchase online. “Demand for laptops and printers was exceptionally high and we worked hard to fulfil all of those orders. We ran into a few stock issues further down the line which was challenging and we also diversified into new areas such as providing social distancing signage, janitorial and cleaning products etc.,” Elphick said.
The upside of that is many of these purchases came from large companies and the focus now is firmly on building those relationships for the long-term. “Our new fiscal year began in September 2020 and in the first quarter, sales were up 38 per cent year-on-year. We have made a strong start and our focus now is firmly on building on that as we enter our 41st year of trading,” he concluded.