Article: Horst Bubenzer reflects on 25 years at Durable
| 24 July, 2015
“Over the next five years the market will be very different from today. The future will also be a little easier for companies such as Durable that rely on several niche products instead of one or two mass products.”
How did you come to join Durable?
I have worked at Durable for 25 years, but my career started out with Polaroid as a product manager. I moved into the metal industry in the late 1980s to become a marketing director. However, I was not particularly happy working in this sector so when the opportunity came to join Durable to head up the marketing, it was an easy decision to take. The sales channels were very similar to Polaroid at that time in Germany. There was no marketing team in place at Durable when I started, so one of the enjoyable challenges of my career has been creating one to help Durable’s expansion into new markets.
What have been the big changes for Durable during your career?
Firstly, Durable only had a handful of offices overseas back in 1990, but since then we have become far more international through the opening of subsidiaries across Europe and countries such as the USA, France and Russia. In many respects this has been the most interesting change. Part of my job has been to establish marketing teams to support and develop these new markets, each of which has its own characteristics and traditions.
Second, in terms of products, Durable has enlarged the range with important launches such as Duraframe and integrating new lines following the acquisitions of Atlanta and Idealplast. Unfortunately for me, I will not be involved in biological lighting, which was launched this year. It is arguably the most exciting product development in the history of Durable. The third major change has been how the internet has changed the business.
How has this changed the way you market products over the years?
The fundamentals of marketing still ring as true today as they did 20 years ago, but the internet has changed marketing activities dramatically, with online now accounting for a major portion of the budget. The rapidity of online data has also allowed Durable to benefit more from synergies between European countries. This can help us replicate success in one country to other markets; an approach that has been very successful.
Are European markets now more homogenous?
They still remain very distinct in terms of detail. Over the years, I have learnt that preferences in colour in particular vary from one country to the next and are often engrained in consumer buying habits.
What trends have you seen at Paperworld in terms of visitor profile?
Paperworld is definitely becoming more international following the increase in overseas visitors. On the other hand, there continues to be a decline in the number of representatives from the globals. Instead of attending with a large team of buyers as they did several years ago, they now send a much reduced number. Another important change is the decline in German dealers visiting Paperworld. Germany now has many regional fairs organised by the regions, wholesalers and the dealers themselves, so they have the opportunity to meet the brands and see new products elsewhere. Even though Paperworld no longer plays the role it once did, it has managed to remain relevant by establishing new concepts such as Paperworld Plaza.
Has Paperworld Plaza been a success?
It is definitely a step in the right direction. Around 10-15 years ago there were question marks about the future of the show, following decisions by some of the global brands such as Acco and Esselte to stop exhibiting. Nevertheless, many strong brands have continued to support the event. A few years ago, some of these brands, including Durable, started talking to Messe Frankfurt about how Paperworld could adapt to changing times. In a way, Insights X in Nuremberg has additionally pushed Paperworld to implement new changes, such as Paperworld Plaza.
Do you hold the view that Paperworld needs to open up to new and expanding product categories such as facilities management?
This is definitely an area that needs to be improved over the next few years. Also, the visitor profile should continue to expand to bring more end users such as major corporate customers. This is being done to an extent through Procurement Day and Secretaries Day, but it is a process that needs to develop further to increase both the scope and number of end user visitors. This is a direction that the brands would welcome.
Do you think that many of the Paperworld Plaza brands will participate in 2016?
Under the new concept, it is possible to exhibit at a limited cost with a smaller stand, so I think most of the 40 companies that were in 3.1 in 2015 will be present. Durable and Pagna will certainly be there.
What are your current plans as President of Office Gold Club for major German brands?
We have 18 shareholders and an additional ten partners. Over the next year, we will continue our programme of participating at Procurement day during Paperworld and will organise two brand days in March. This is combined with online activities throughout the year to promote the brands to major purchasers of office products.
Do you consider that you are leaving the office products industry in a robust position or are there still many challenges ahead that will be difficult to overcome?
There are some major challenges that Durable and other companies involved in traditional office supplies have to face. A lot of what we talked about many years ago concerning the impact of computers in the office environment, now seems to be coming true. The most important issue here is paper. Less paper means fewer folders, lever arch files and even fewer pens. Therefore, the companies that develop different areas and find new target groups will be the ones to prosper. This applies to all the leading brands, from Durable and Esselte to the pen manufacturers.
What will these target groups be?
The office sector alone is not sufficient anymore, so other areas such as facility management are becoming increasingly important. Durable has enlarged the range of organisational products for the office to encompass needs in the back office, shops and warehouses. Companies that take a similar route will be better placed to compete in the future. We are not talking about overnight changes, but I believe over the next five years the market will be very different from today. The future will also be a little easier for companies such as Durable that rely on several niche products instead of one or two mass products.