Since its formation in 1975, R. Weatherdon & Co. has evolved from a small biscuit distribution business to one of Australia's leading specialist hospitality and office products suppliers.
Managing director Robert Weatherdon, at one time a financial journalist with the Fairfax group, has over the past decade steered the family company through some choppy seas – jettisoning products lines such as desk and computer accessories and transforming the company to concentrate on hospitality and kitchenware.
Weatherdon has also renewed and strengthened relationships with major office supplies companies, including Staples, Lyreco, OfficeMax and Complete Office Supplies, as well as industrial supplier Blackwoods.
While its hospitality business has expanded, Weatherdon said there are still ample opportunities for independent office products suppliers to grow sales of Weatherdon products, particularly the company's range of own-branded electrical appliances.
STATIONERY NEWS: What proportion of the company's sales are directed to the office products sector and how has the mix of clients changed in recent years?
ROBERT WEATHERDON: About 30 per cent of our sales are to the office products sector. Over the past 15 years or so we have seen a total transformation of our business from an office supply company with a few add-on hospitality areas into a broad-based hospitality products supplier. Our product mix has also changed dramatically so that we no longer supply ‘traditional’ stationery.
STN: What are the trends in category/product growth with major companies such as Staples, OfficeMax, Complete Office Supplies and Lyreco?
RW: We sell a range of kitchen and janitorial products but the biggest growth area is definitely in the small appliances under our own Nero brand. We have broadened over the years from kettles, toasters and sandwich presses to microwaves and bar fridges. Our Nero brand is the leading appliance brand sold in the office products industry.
STN: How can the independent reseller channel make the most of Weatherdon's new and expanded range of 'non-traditional' office products, such as electrical appliances?
RW: The challenge for us is to make the independents realise they are a core product offering rather than an add-on. There are good opportunities with the larger higher-value appliances such as microwaves and bar fridges. We can offer direct delivery to their customers which adds to the competitiveness of the dealer.
STN: What is the background and customer reaction to the company's development of its own brands - Nero, Compass, Impress and Connoisseur?
RW: We have always sold under our own brands. In fact, the Compass brand was originally associated with desk accessories 30 years ago. We have transformed that brand into our bins and related products offering. Nero is our range of small electrical, Impress is food storage and Connoisseur is tableware – cutlery, crockery and glassware. I would like to think the customers see us as a reliable supplier of quality and value-for-money products.
STN: What level of e-commerce has Weatherdon introduced in recent years and where do you see the online business heading in the near future?
RW: We have a very detailed and up-to-date website but that is more of a catalogue than a shop. Being a supplier to the office products industry we are in the hands of our customers. Being one step back from the consumer, there is not a lot of website ordering.
STN: Weatherdon was recently presented with a supplier award (for logistics) by Lyreco. What better opportunity for you to to outline the reasons why the company was singled out for recognition by a major customer?
RW: The award was a pleasant surprise and thanks to Lyreco for recognising smaller suppliers with this category. I’d like to think that being a specialised supplier all our staff – including the warehouse - know our products really well. We are not just box movers. We have staff with a lot of accumulated years of experience in supplying the office products industry and I think this is reflected in an award of this nature.