Soennecken eG, a retail cooperative, is partner to Insights-X 2022. Soennecken as a brand stands for innovation and the skilful solution of problems just as it did when Friedrich Soennecken after his invention of the ring binder and hole punch in 1886 revolutionised office routines. For this very reason, Margit Becker, Head of Retail and Managing Director of long-established Cologne-based specialist retailer Ortloff, always tries to see things also from the customers’ perspective. With more than 30 years of experience in the stationery industry, she provides insights into Soennecken's activities.
Soennecken eG is a cooperative. How does this impact your corporate culture?
Margit Becker: The groundwork for Soennecken eG as we know it today was created by the inventor and businessman, Friedrich Soennecken (1848-1919). We maintain his innovative spirit with our roughly 800 associated commercial enterprises.
Nowadays, our members need a cooperative that is familiar with the business. Only recently a member told us that he always felt rather reserved about the cooperative and was merely in it for the money. “But since Soennecken has Ortloff, Soennecken understands the business. Now I also see you as my cooperative.” What a compliment!
What advantages do you offer members that you are particularly proud of?
M.B.: We consider it our job to actively support our members with the transformation process our industry is experiencing. We aim to develop new business opportunities and make traditional business more future-proof and profitable with digitalisation. We see major growth opportunities especially within sustainability, Big Data, AI and Workplace as a Service. New providers are entering the market and we do not want to leave it to them to get the job done.
Soennecken eG lives sustainability as a fundamental tenet. Which viable projects within the organisation are you already implementing or are in the planning stages?
M.B.: We have been delivering almost all parcels within the Cologne city zone by cargo bike since August 2021. We analyse the experience gathered in this manner and then decide whether customers in other areas will receive zero-emission and almost silent deliveries from us going forward.
It is our goal to contribute towards offsetting CO2 emissions through this campaign as well as others. Yet another project in this regard is the PLANT-MY-TREE reforestation initiative which is dedicated to protecting the climate through first afforestation initiatives, forest restructuring, forest conservation and forest rejuvenation. Soennecken supports the foundation with a major planting campaign, the resale of trees as well as proceeds from sales under its proprietary brand, oeco.
Digitalisation within the retail trade is advancing. Which aspects from the digital world benefit retailers the most to your mind?
M.B.: Wherever people will be working in the future – be it in an office, at home, or on the road – digitalisation has become integral to modern-day workplaces. Soennecken eG covers companies’ growing need for IT equipment to fit workstations with the help of its IT subsidiary, Nordanex, plus the interaction between partners, retailers, and systems providers. The portfolio comprises the full breadth of the IT market: from IT workstation equipment, telephone and collaborative solutions as well as solutions for growing demands on IT security via cloud-based and computer centre services as well as software implementation through to supplying the retail trade with hardware.
Also, digitalisation has entered retail outlets. Last year once again showed us just how important it is for retailers to offer their merchandise across all channels. Even post-Covid, end customers will continue to want to decide for themselves whether to shop at a brick-and-mortar shop or online.
But it is not only about selling – it is also about the visibility of retailers and their products. For this reason, all communication channels must be used: the shop and the shop window, analogue and digital advertising, an online shop and social media. We provide a balanced mix of actions to our members for these marketing channels.
Soennecken eG has created an experimental area with WorkLab, to create the future of work. What exactly happens there?
M.B.: WorkLab’s development was backed by the conviction that we need to think more in terms of designing working environments when it comes to working in an office rather than workplaces. And Covid strengthened this belief even more insofar as these working environments exist not only at a company, but also at home.
For hybrid working to function well and be liveable, economic, and efficient, it takes more than just a desk at the office or a notebook to work remotely. Especially in a working environment that is becoming increasingly agile and digital, employees need to find the best possible conditions everywhere to feel comfortable in order to contribute their working power. The goal is to view humans and their place of work as one system and to design an integrated environment accordingly. Next to a personalised workplace, this requires a system that is perfectly fine-tuned in terms of space, processes and organisation.
WorkLab provides us with a suitable space to work on ideas and develop new solutions with agile methods like Design Thinking and Scrum. It then becomes a given that #TeamSoennecken uses WorkLab to create and trial strategic and new projects such as our franchise system, Die Kaffeemeister [The Coffee Masters] or our new shop system. It is here that our employees simply find ideal conditions to work creatively.
What do you appreciate about Insights-X in Nuremburg for your affiliated retailers?
M.B.: To me, Insights-X scores with a highly personal atmosphere. As a visitor, it is possible to reach many new suppliers at short distances.
And if you want to network with retailers and suppliers, the industry get-together in the evening is the ideal setting for this. Overall, the expo offers a solid and straightforward exchange with key market players.
If you think of #welovestationery as your guiding theme, where does your heart skip a beat when in a stationery shop?
M.B.: I can think of many moments. When I see the pride on a child’s face when leaving the shop with their first school satchel following a personal consultation, or a customer in the segment for writing implements testing some beautiful handwriting. Even when customers stroll between greeting cards or gift items for inspiration. It is also beautiful to see when customers become a community during a workshop to obtain or exchange creative input. My heart skips a beat when a shop offers many ways for customers to feel comfortable in a pleasant atmosphere. It is then that they will also enjoy buying something.
Soennecken eG is the leading retail cooperative in the German-speaking region for products and services for office and remote working environments. Within this market, Soennecken as a brand stands for almost 150 years of innovation and skilful problem solving. The service-centric cooperative represents such values as solidity and reliability that are typical of mid-sized enterprises. The essence of Soennecken is the mission of making work more liveable – whether at the office, at home, or on the road. Via its Germany-wide cutting-edge sector-specific logistics centres, retailers have access to more than 25,000 brand items and the exclusive brand, Soennecken.
Members of all trade associations and buyers' cooperatives that are partners of Insights-X can enjoy the benefits of the PartnerLounge.Overview of cooperation partners