As the world’s largest manufacturer of office products, Esselte produces thousands of top-quality filing systems and organizers that enhance the productivity of millions of people in 120 countries. Gloria P. Cahill checks the dossier of Esselte Corporation, the global company’s North American division.
Computers were supposed to create a paperless society, but that hasn’t quite happened. If anything, there is more paper around than ever. A lot of it is paperwork that supports increasingly complex record-keeping requirements for companies and households. Another part, however, is paper that bears the watermarks of creativity and distinction in business presentations, education projects and personal communications.
The challenge is to be able to put your hand on the right document when you need it and use it effectively. In other words, to have a filing and presentation system that works for you. And that is precisely what Esselte products are all about.
Pick up Esselte’s full-line catalog just to thumb through, and half an hour later you’ll still be poring over the pages and adding to your list of “must-haves” for your company, home office, classroom, household or personal projects. Here are the quality names you know and trust: Pendaflex® hanging files and systems; Oxford® file folders, index cards, presentation folders, organizers, ring binders and desktop accessories; Boorum & Pease® memo books, accounting pads and record-keeping bound books; EarthWise® recycled paper products, and DYMO® identification and labeling products.
But then what would you expect from the company that invented and patented the world’s first hanging file folders – universally referred to as Pendaflex? Candie Harris, vice president of marketing, says, “It’s our top brand because we invented the hanging folder, and with it developed a whole new method of paper filing and organization. And, we didn’t stop there. We have continued to innovate Pendaflex by adding color, making it 10 times stronger, and adding pockets for storing small items such as electronic media storage devices.”
With a more than 40 percent share of the $800 million North American market for suspension files, file folders, index cards, report covers and portfolios, Esselte Corporation is a market leader in its product categories. The company traces its roots to 1882, when Charles S. Jonas & Brother Company was founded in New York as a business that put ruled lines on file cards. You recognize those products today as Oxford index cards.
Over the years the company changed its name as it expanded the product line, eventually becoming the Oxford Pendaflex Corporation. In 1976 the business was purchased by Esselte, a diverse European corporation.
The U.S. company’s innovations during the next 25 years included engineering the first interior file folders, pioneering color hanging folders to color-code filing systems, patenting the first laminate-reinforced hanging folders, creating the InfoPocket® file-in-file for small objects held in paper files and launching a complete line of environmentally friendly filing products. In 2000 and 2001 product innovations included significant use of extra-durable poly material, introduction of mobile filing products that make it easy to transport documents and sets of files, and development of filing products that feature a cross-bonded, rip-proof gusset design for extra durability. In fact, all Pendaflex branded products offer consumers a lifetime guarantee.
The product line also was expanded by acquisitions. Esselte purchases have included DYMO Industries Inc., maker of identification and labeling products, and the Boorum & Pease Company, manufacturer of accounting supplies, bound books, office and school accessories, binders and presentation supplies.
In July 2002, J.W. Childs Equity Partners III, a Boston, Mass.-based private equity investment firm, became the new corporate owner of Esselte’s worldwide $1.4 billion business, and the U.S. operation became one of six global divisions. Esselte Corporation, the North American division, has its headquarters in Melville, N.Y. Operations cover the United States, Canada, Mexico and South America.
The North American organization employs 2,500 people and has five manufacturing plants. Harris explains Esselte Corporation’s marketing strategy. “We are focused on our brands, and building those brands through a thorough understanding of the needs and desires of our consumers. We take that knowledge and through innovation continue to provide products that meet their changing needs.”
Esselte’s filing products, presentations and portable files, are not just plain manila and institutional green. There are vivid colors, classic pastels, glossy finishes, eye-catching graphic designs and translucent casings. There are folders with die cuts for business cards, poly and fabric construction with panache of dossiers, and expandable portable files with removable folders.
The extensive Esselte line reflects the company’s customer-driven approach to product development. Says Harris, “I would say that change in the way people work is changing the way they choose products. People are more mobile now. They travel more, they work from home – all of which is very different from being desk bound. The Pendaflex mobile file is one product we’ve developed to address the needs of this market.”
A review of recent product introductions by Esselte confirms the marketing executive’s assessment of this need. Products introduced this fall include:
• Document Organizers: Pendaflex QuickFile™, Oxford CitySmart™ and Oxford PortFile™ offer simple, quick organizing systems.
• See-Through Filing Tools: Pendaflex EasyView™ hanging folder, Oxford EasyView™ file folder, Oxford ViewFront™ envelope and twin pocket portfolio keep contents visible for quick retrieval.
• Workspace Files: Oxford Get-A-Grip™ portable expanding files are designed with a patent pending flap that grips almost any smooth surface while the file hangs down the side, eliminating desktop clutter.
• Card Filing System: Oxford Durable Poly Card Guides and Spiral Index Cards with poly covers and dividers give convenient access to individual cards.
• Portable Files: Pendaflex Mobile File and 4-Pocket Vertical file provide complete systems for carrying files and making presentations.
Keying in on another consumer consideration, Harris says, “Consumers are also very concerned with the price-value relationship. They are looking for value, especially when they are paying more for new products. And we provide that value.
One example is products that are made with polypropylene – a category that has exploded with growth over the past three years. First, it’s more durable. Second, it’s more colorful, so the products are really more fashionable. And third, it’s easy to find things in them because you can see right through.”
As to aesthetics, Harris says, “Another line that is growing rapidly is our presentation products. With the growth of computers and special software, people are doing fancier presentations, and they want something that looks just as great to organize that presentation.”
At the start of its new relationship with J. W. Childs, Esselte has launched the “Way Forward Plan” that focuses on six action components: better service than competitors, fast creative decisions, lowest cost position, more and better products faster through innovation, focus on product categories, aggressive growth and good profit.
In the North American operation, the plan emphasizes maintaining the market leadership position and supply chain excellence, partnering with key customers through the sales organization, and expanding through strategic acquisitions and new business initiatives.
Speaking about those objectives, Harris says, “To double in size is our goal. Through renewed focus on marketing our brands, new product development and selective acquisitions of companies, we will reach that goal.”