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Office Supply Dealers Embrace Web Capabilities

The Internet concept may not be working with dozens of virtual retailers this summer, but independent office supply dealers adopt the concept wholeheartedly.

Many small office supply dealers have already set up or are planning a Web site for their business to compete with larger national office supply dealers, improve inventory efficiencies or simply improve customer service.

The San Diego Business Journal’s List of the Largest Office Supply Companies was ranked by the number of San Diego County full-time employees in August 2000.

John Tiffany, general manager of Grove Office Supply, No. 5 on The List, said many office supply dealers form alliances with larger companies to formulate an Internet strategy.

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“One advantage to using the Internet is it helps reduce our costs,” Tiffany said. “It allows our customers to use the Internet rather than phone in or fax their orders.”

Grove Office Supply uses services from Vienna, Va.-based eCommerce Industries, Inc. (ECI2) to develop its Internet solutions.

– Web Site Offers

Top-Notch Features

Tiffany said ECI2 set up a fully integrated computer system earlier this year, which included customized service features and graphic enhancements.

“Our E-commerce solution was previously disjointed and very simplistic,” Tiffany said. “With the improvements, the key is on how to get customers to the Web site.”

Del Mar Office Products, No. 6 on The List, plans to relaunch its Web site this month with more features in customization and services.

“It’ll be more than just a pretty E-commerce site,” said Deena Chiswell, operations manager for Del Mar Office Products. “The site is designed with our customers in the local market in mind.”

Del Mar Office Products’ relaunched Web site will feature order processing on the Internet, a copy center service and promotional sales.

– Site Set Up For

Corporate Buyers

She said customers can compare prices and gain multi-level authorization access to information on the products and services provided by the company.

“The new Web site is designed more for the corporate customer than a typical consumer,” Chiswell said.

Currently, she estimated the sales through the Web site is around 10 percent of the company sales. She expects the figure would jump significantly after the relaunching of the company’s Web site.

“We want to focus on our local customers and provide them the best customer service,” she said. “Since we’re local, we can get back to a customer right away, unlike playing E-mail tag games with other Internet companies.”

Chiswell said adopting an E-commerce solution allows independent office dealers to compete in the market.

“All the office supply dealers must have an Internet presence,” she said. “It’ll give your customers the perception that their supplier is at least in the ballpark.”

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