The power of the office products purchase

By Susan Avery

March 09, 2011 at 2:14 PM

Talking with Quave Burton, vice president, procurement services, at Collective Brands in Topeka, Kans., and a member of the My Purchasing Center editorial advisory board, the other day, I asked her about the company’s office products purchase--whether she is sourcing the category strategically. And, yes, indeed, she is actively managing it.  

In fact, office products is the first category she and her team tackled as part of their transformation of the company’s indirect spend, and now they are using it as a model for other categories. The team has been successful with its transformation so far: For both 2009 and 2010, they exceeded their cost-savings targets. 

I asked her for suggestions for procurement professionals who have not consolidated the office products spend, and whether she had any advice on how they should begin. She says that understanding who buys office products and what they buy is key. Equally important, she says, is understanding the capabilities of potential suppliers. 

For office products, Burton’s team looks for a supplier with geographic scale. Collective Brands (Payless ShoeSource, StrideRite, Sperry Topsider, Saucony, Keds) has about 5,000 locations in the U.S. and Canada so a supplier has to be capable of providing office products to the sites. Systems capability is another criteria that’s critical for them.

The team also considers experience of the individual the supplier assigns to its account. “We want to work with someone who will bring new ideas to us through our quarterly business review process,” she says. 

Ultimately, the team joined a group purchasing organization through which they are now sourcing office products. That was about 18 months ago. Today, the supplier is helping Burton and her team with demand management by suggesting substitute products. She says the supplier also is helping with the company’s sustainability efforts, by tracking and measuring its carbon footprint, and offering ideas for improvement. 



Tags: Strategic sourcing Office products buy Indirect sourcing
Category: Blog Post

Susan Avery


Susan Avery is Editor-in-Chief at My Purchasing Center. She writes articles, blogs and white papers and manages and creates other content for the online procurement and supply management publication. She produces and moderates roundtable discussions, podcasts, webcasts and video interviews. Susan has 30 years experience covering procurement and supply management for Purchasing magazine and 

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