“We take care” is the maxim of Giving Europe. A solid funding, a well-aligned service and a sustainable business philosophy have made the importer one of the major generalists in the market.
“Originally, we had planned to launch Giving Europe in January 2002,” recalled the managing partner, Stef van der Velde, who in his capacity as CEO of Antalis was already familiar with the complex tasks of a promotional products import company on the European market. “But the market was crying out so hard for a new supplier that we already founded the company in September 2001.” Initially, around a dozen competent employees were on board, it was a very motivated team. “Everyone did everything, everyone had market know-how, competence and the ability to credibly communicate our philosophy,” recalled van der Velde. First of all, we concentrated on several selected trading partners with whom we had a trusting business relationship. Even from the start it wasn’t about doing a fast deal, but instead about substantial cooperations with serious partners to build up solid, sustainable relationships. “Back then, just like today, delivering one’s articles fast and punctually was of elementary significance for an internationally-operating promotional products supplier. To this end, one needs large warehouse capacities, intelligent logistics, modern customising techniques, competent qualified personnel and of course a sustainable business philosophy, which takes good quality, safety and certification of products and processes just as much for granted as the permanent improvement and observance and optimisation of CSR maxims,” explained van der Velde. “Also self-evident is a well-aligned service, which takes care of a lot of things for the distributors so that they can completely dedicate themselves to their actual task of advising their customers and selling haptic advertising. Here, the personal contact is still very important in our business. One has to know the people one works with and for. That is the fundamental basis for a trustful cooperation. And it is also the criterion according to which we select our Asian upstream suppliers.”
With this general alignment – van der Velde: “For us it is clear: Profit isn’t the top priority.“ – Giving Europe has succeeded in advancing into one of the leading importers of haptic advertising within a very short space of time. Whereas at the beginning the head office in Tiel, the Netherlands, only had a modest amount of office space and six small warehouses – a huge logistical challenge – in August 2014 building work commenced on a 20,000 m² high-bay warehouse at the headquarters in Tiel, which allows the immense capacity of 20,000 palette storage places. The company also maintains subsidiaries in Spain, Germany, France and Italy as well as diverse official agents and offices in Europe and other continents. Furthermore, in 2008 the label Fast East – a service which allows the customer to order directly in China via the Internet – was introduced. Also part of Giving Europe’s history: together with the management of Mid Ocean Brands, they purchased shares in the latter company in 2013 and in doing so prevented the fall of MOB and with it saved the entire market from great damage. In 2016, the shareholders of Giving Europe sold their shares in Mid Ocean Brands back to its management.
“We also started customising in Poland in 2015 and we have been building a large customising centre in Poland since 2016 where we will embellish our articles,” explained Marketing Manager, Ellen van Wessel. “We will however continue to customise items here on-site and keep all of the customising techniques available for use at our headquarters. In this way, we remain flexible.” The logistics centre in Tiel with its high-bay warehouse, administration, office space, inhouse printing and showroom also ensures flexibility. Money was not only invested in the building, but also in an intelligent CRM/logistics system, which was partly developed in-house. All processes are registered electronically and optimised, the system is informed about all actions in real-time and registers the accurate procedure of each individual order and picking and packing process. “For each individual process – we have always delivered items from one piece upwards – the packer gives feedback via a pick-up voice programme to the computer – what’s more the whole process is paperless. As is the case with the office work necessary for the order processing etc., we do without paper as far as possible,” reported van der Velde. “We have precisely 1,086 different items and 4,800 SKUs. Incidentally, we had to create our own water basin on-site for our sprinkler system, it has a capacity of 650,000 litres.“ The items are customised under the company’s own roof in Tiel as well as in Boleslawiec, Poland – which means short routes. Modern techniques such as automatic lasers, automatic screen and pad-printing as well as digital printing and semi-automatic techniques are implemented. Doming, embroidery, sublimation and transfer techniques are also applied. The in-house graphic department ensures the optimal preparation of the data and where necessary also for film productions. As a rule, the customised products can be delivered within seven days.
Van der Velde: “Today, we employ around 300 people in Europe and make a turnover of around 50 mil. Euros. We are a company that isn’t dependent on banks and external investors, which constantly invests in its employees, customers and supplier partners. This also includes us having all the products certified – that was a lot of work and took three years – and being a participant of BSCI. Moreover, we signed a declaration that states that the entire company including all of its foreign subsidiaries complies with the requirements of the ISO 26000:2010, a guideline for the social responsibility of organisations. Our maxim is: ‘We take care’. This applies for all of our activities.”
// Michael Scherer
photos: Till Barth, © WA Media (2); Giving Europe (4)