Mid Ocean Brands looks back on an over 50-year tradition on the market for haptic advertising. With nine subsidiaries in Europe and Asia, a turnover of more than 100 mil. Euros and an ultramodern printing and logistics centre, today the company is one of the European industry’s largest promotional products suppliers.
Mid Ocean Brands – MOB – started off as the Dutch company, KCF, which was founded in the year 1965. After Procurement and Quality Control Departments had been set up in Asia in 1992, the Mid Ocean Group was founded in 1998. Shortly afterwards the group acquired ITD, a Spanish company under the direction of Francesc Angelet (July 2000) and the promotional products supplier, Impex, in March 2002 that was founded in 1980 and which was under the direction of Dr. Michael Fuchs (today Deputy Chairman of the CDU/CSU Party in the German Parliament). “Then, in October 2007 we built our printing and logistics centre in Poland, which we have continually further optimised. Next year, we will move into a new centre in Poland and will then be able to control cutting-edge printing and customising technologies at the highest level on 32,000 m² of floor space,” confirmed Stephen Gibson, Managing Director of Mid Ocean Brands and together with Rutger de Planque the main shareholders of the company today.
After the integration of the acquired companies and thus the related synergies, MOB experienced strong growth. Gibson: “We had an overall turnover of around 120 mil. Euros in the year 2007. Then, as a result of the financial crisis and the recession, which was particularly dramatic in Southern Europe, namely on the Iberian market that is immensely important for us, we were faced with difficult times. But in the meantime we have mastered the situation with flying colours by relying on offering a wide range of printing options and full-service and by investing highly in IT and web technologies. Our company has been using SAP for years and installed a state of the art e-commerce platform and distributor web shop in December 2015 which went down very well with our customers.”
In the meantime, MOB came under financial pressure due to the economic crisis – one had to make up for turnover losses of between 30% and 35%. This brought consequences with it. After de Planque and Gibson restructured the company in 2013, MOB experienced an extraordinary recovery, ultimately leading to the buyout of the remaining shareholders by de Planque and Gibson in July 2016. Since then the majority of MOB’s shares belongs to today’s management of the company. In addition to the company headquarters in Barneveld, the Netherlands – the internationallyoperating company is managed centrally from this location – and the printing and logistics centre in Poland, MOB also maintains sales offices or subsidiaries in Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Hungary, Sweden, Russia and Hong Kong. Gibson: “For our approx. 10,000 customers worldwide – who are exclusively promotional products distributors, not end users – we are an extremely attractive partner. We offer a very full and broad range of functional items in all relevant promotional product categories, especially in the lower and middle price segment that fully comply of course with all relevant norms and certifications. We have around 31 mil. items constantly in stock. Furthermore, we offer promotional textiles and a variety of programs in which items are produced according to the specific requirements of customers in small quantities. Our customising service is unbeatable in terms of its professionalism, speed and technical options.“
MOB claims to operate one of Europe’s largest printing and logistics centre on the haptic advertising market. The European Marketing Manager, Janneke Wolff-Bulten, reported: “We complete close to ten million customisations a month in the scope of our 15 different customising techniques. This is already carried out by more than 700 highly-motivated and skilled workers today – from next year onwards we expect to expand again significantly in scale.” “Investments and optimisation have to be carried out continually, also in improved IT and web shop solutions,” explained Gibson. “Here we are always on the pulse of the times.” A 24-hour service for customised products has already been on offer since August 2013, delivery of branded items within 48 hours after print approval is standard and indeed at no additional cost. “Today the consumer is used to buying on the Internet and receiving what he has ordered online the next day,” confirmed Gibson. “Our customers also expect the same from us. So we have to accommodate these expectations and align our logistics and the workflow accordingly.” Speed is especially important for small order volumes, which have become the norm more and more today. Gibson: “The average order value is dropping and the speed of printing is increasing. Hence it is more effective and cheaper to print 1,000 pieces in 24 hours than to administer, store, unpack and repack in six days which still remains the market standard today. In the future, I expect the market not to accept any more the current ineffectiveness in our supply chain. Final customers will start to question why an item procured for example in Asia for one Euro is sold to them for two to three Euros, while the only physical change to the product is the print. Distributors and suppliers need to work together to mitigate non value adding activities and costs in the supply chain.”
MOB would like to be recognised as an innovative, service-oriented company with dedicated employees and flat hierarchies. “It is very important to us that our employees can identify themselves with the company,” stated Gibson. “Not like in a family business, where the family clan has the last word, our structures allow own initiative and transparency.” The company also makes its CSR activities transparent: All relevant documents and certificates or affiliations and memberships to do with product compliance management and social compliance can be viewed online in the company’s web shop. “Last year, we made a turnover of 89 mil. Euros,” summed up Gibson, “we expect to exceed the 100 million Euro mark before this year’s high season. We feel that this confirms our positioning on the market, we set the right priorities and are back among the ranks of the global players.”
// Michael Scherer
photos: Michael Scherer, © WA Media (1); Mid Ocean Brands (5)