Merchants with National Reach
With flagship SAPPI product, Galerie Art showing huge uptake potential, Papercor continues to make a name for itself in South Africa’s printing and packaging industries
Writer: Emily Jarvis
Project Manager: Nick Norris
Papercor cc was founded in Johannesburg more than 28 years ago by Geoff Saks as a mini paper merchant, focusing primarily on the smaller printers and retailers of paper products in the Johannesburg and Pretoria areas. In May of 2013 Papercor Holdings (Pty) Ltd, under the ownership of Raymond Blake, Ian Falcon and Dean Le Touze, bought the business from Saks with the objective of expanding it with increased specialised products as well as growing the national footprint.
Blake, Managing Director, closely supported by Le Touze, Sales Director, have between them more than 50 years’ experience in the paper merchanting industry in South Africa. Falcon, Commercial Director, though not from the paper industry offers the company more than 30 years of business knowledge and experience. Under this management team, Papercor supplies paper and board products to the South African printing and packaging industries via its comprehensive paper and paper conversion services.
A paper merchant is best described as a company which buys paper products, warehouses them and then supplies them to the print and retail industries. For Papercor, the focus has been to buy from recognised major producers around the world that follow acceptable and acknowledged environmental practices and who are renowned for their quality, and sell paper and board products to the printing industry in South Africa.
“In essence, we supply the right size paper and board products which local print companies use, for example, in packaging, for the printing of magazines, company brochures, annual financial reports, flyers and business cards,” says Raymond Blake, Managing Director of Papercor.
In addition to its Johannesburg operation, Papercor has opened facilities in Cape Town and Kwazulu-Natal which enabled the company to become known as a national paper merchant. Both of these operations are managed by knowledgeable people who have a number of years’ experience in paper merchanting.
“Andrew Flack and Craig Stevens in Kwazulu-Natal became shareholders in Papercor in 2014. Further to this, our three branches are fully staffed and we have an experienced national sales force, boast fully stocked warehousing facilities and all the logistical capabilities to assure our ‘just in time’ service promise.
“The Johannesburg converting division has sheeting, slitting and guillotine capabilities while both Cape Town and Kwazulu-Natal are for the moment limited to guillotine only,” Blake adds.
Addressing the overcrowded market
Blake identified that the market for these kinds of paper and board products is very competitive which means Papercor has had to think of ways to make it stand out from the crowd. Its flagship coated-paper product, Galerie Art, has helped it do so: “Galerie Art is a diverse premium product that we buy from renowned South African paper company, SAPPI. As our flagship product, Galerie Art is a high specification triple coated paper. It is a product that reflects our two biggest selling points: quality and being mindful of the environment.”
Papercor’s Commercial Director, Ian Falcon details that SAPPI used to be the primary manufacturer of paper in South Africa, but over the past 10 - 15 years cheap imports from the east have secured a significant market share: “Customers are finding too many inconsistencies in print quality so the industry has been changing to reflect this. Ultimately, the industry is still price-driven in some areas, but quality and print efficiency are becoming a deciding factor in the final choice,” he says.
Historically the industry has allowed the printers to determine the print specification which, given the inconsistency of a lot of the product from the east, has led to frustration. Papercor’s approach has been to involve the industry in the decision-making of the right paper for the print job in order to ensure quality consistency and customer satisfaction.
“The thing that adds value for us is our ability to go to advertising agencies and corporations, and present these high specification products that spread our credibility and try and get South Africans to buy into the Papercor brand and range that we offer,” explains Blake.
In support of this, SAPPI has given full merchanting rights of the Galerie Art product to Papercor for the South Africa market. As a premium coated art paper that competes favourably with the lower priced products imported from the east, it is the most environmentally credible coated art paper in South Africa.
Being mindful of the environment is a key aspect of Papercor’s mission and it strives to share its influence with others in the market. “We have a huge amount of experience among management and shareholders when it comes to environmental considerations. Our clients are recognising this and our focus on quality of service is a key element that sets us apart from the competition.
“An increasing number of brands are keen to be seen as green and environmentally friendly. Ultimately advertising agencies and corporates will specify to the printer what they want to use for a range of print runs, which is often in line with their own energy saving and environmental practices,” says Falcon.
To better address this need Papercor has been working with its sister company, Papercor Maratek to provide a solution to recycle solvents in the paper industry. “The technology, developed by our business partners, Maraket Environmental in Canada, is now exclusive to our South Africa operations and we are working with the printing industry to draw interest and make an impact,” Falcon adds.
Additionally, Blake says that a good relationship with suppliers on a local and international scale is key, and by working with the likes of SAPPI, Mondi and Singapore trader, Vital for importation, Papercor is geared to handle large volumes on request. “Of course, living in South Africa means we support our local suppliers as much as possible and we spend considerable amounts of time working closely with them,” Blake further adds.
In the future, Papercor will replace equipment with a view to implement more automated techniques in its Johannesburg converting lines. Moreover, Blake says the company will create extra capacity for the paper converting side of the business and take part in further learnership schemes to multiskill Papercor staff. “We strive to get away from the historical belief that staff have one duty; everyone needs to handle the job and over time staff are realising the benefit of this.
“In line with this, we are continuing to look for partners who can bring the right demographics required to increase our BBBEE position,” he comments.
Through the introduction of the RISE (Respect, Integrity, Service and Empowerment) philosophy, Blake and his management team hope to demonstrate their devotion to the brand to emerge at the forefront of the industry.
“We don’t want to be number one in the market, we simply want to position ourselves in the correct sectors in the paper merchant industry, which will in return foster company growth. Our exclusive flagship SAPPI product, Galerie Art, is set to help us increase our market share in South Africa and has already made a big impact over the past 10 months. As a result, we expect to gain a 25 percent market share in this product category over the next year-and-a-half.
“Ultimately, our commitment and drive for the Papercor brand will be what separates us from the competition,” Blake concludes.
For further information on Papercor and its product offering,