“Selling together” is the motto of Clipper. With a balanced product mix, strong logistics, a cuttingedge digital infrastructure and a dedicated sales team, the traditional company is a reliable partner of the European promotional products trade.
It stood out immediately: At the beginning of 2016, Clipper presented itself with a new image at industry trade fairs. The new corporate colour pink signalised a change in strategy towards more market proximity and partnership. “We have completely redefined our position and are placing the emphasis on the communications with the customer,” explained the CCO, Ron Boer. “At the same time, we want to achieve more recognition on the market.” Whereby Clipper looks back on a company history that makes many other market players appear almost like start-ups: In 1945 Martien Jonkers founded his company Jonkers Handelsonderneming in Helmond near Eindhoven, which was renamed Clipper in the 1970s. In order to be able to supply directly to end users, Jonkers founded IGO in the 1960s. Both the supplier and the distributor initially operated as pure mail order companies, which was an innovative strategy at the time. After years of growth and the expansion beyond the national borders, the company changed its strategy in 2008: Sales teams as well as field staff have been in close contact with the customer ever since. “In the past we didn’t communicate with the customers enough, today this is what we focus on,” reported the Sales Manager, Wilco Vaessen. Like Igo, Clipper belongs to the Plato Group. At the beginning of 2017, the group purchased the majority shares in the Dutch promotional products agency, Compacon, which has nevertheless continued operating independently to a large extent under the Plato umbrella. The same applies for the other subsidiaries, which focus on different market segments strictly autonomously from each. Ron Boer: “Compacon is a full-service service provider for large multinationals with strategic brand management and a need for tailor-made concepts, Igo predominantly targets small and medium-sized companies and Clipper is the strong supplier partner for the promotional products trade – and it exclusively supplies the latter.”
This partnership approach is the basis of the entire Clipper philosophy. Vaessen explained: “Our company motto is ‘Selling together’, our offer to the distributors is: Do what you are good at, we will help you with what we are good at.” And that list is long starting with the line-up: Clipper sees itself as a full-range stockist with a balanced product mix. No extravagant items, instead solid, contemporary and functional products that are easily customised and are suitable for a wide target group, while at the same time offering good value for money. The current product range comprises of around 1.100 items, enhanced by strategic partnerships with the manufacturers Contigo, Parker, Waterman and Stilolinea. A transparent supply chain and the observance of all compliance guidelines are obligatory, as Boer explained: “All of our products are tested by independent testing authorities, the corresponding documents can be called up.”
Online and offline services
The headquarters in Helmond spans 24,000 m² of warehousing space plus a customising park with around 80 machines, where all common customising techniques can be implemented fast and with high quality results. Approx. 160 employees in the customising and logistics departments ensure that the processes run smoothly. “We can supply small and large volumes fast and very accurately, on request delivered inside a box with the logo of our trade partner directly to his customers,” stated Vaessen. “A lot of people are talking about 24-hour services today and one should be in a position to offer this, however there is a much higher demand for just-in-time deliveries.” One of the most important projects at the moment is the company’s own web shop – an information portal for the promotional products trade, which provides all the relevant information at a glance and in real-time, including scaled prices, discounts and printing costs. “The target group orientation is very important – a reseller has a completely different angle on things than a user,” said Vaessen. “That is why the Clipper shop system is not just a copy of the Igo web shop, but was tailor-made to suit the needs of the trade.” Clipper makes its IT competence available to its trading partners also for their own online presence – using classic white label shop solutions and the meticulous maintenance of own product data for the smooth and seamless integration into the shop systems of the customers.
In spite of all the digitalisation, the personal contact is not neglected either – even at international level. 80% of Clipper’s turnover is achieved with exports, the highest revenue regions – these include Germany, France and Belgium – each have their own local sales teams. “Our advantage is the fact that we are not too big so we can maintain that personal touch,” commented Vaessen. “The focus lies on the communications with the customer and the best possible consultation. Here we orientate ourselves on the different needs of the international markets. We support the trade with all its marketing activities and go a great deal further than this too. The customer only has to sell the products, we take care of the rest.” Obviously Clipper is on the right track with this strategy. Boer underlined: “In the past we were one of many, today a lot of our trading partners list us as their favourite supplier. And since we began implementing our corporate strategy we have achieved two-digit growth every year.”
// Till Barth
photos: Till Barth,© WA Media (1); Clipper (3)