Distributor Essendant names a new CEO bullish on online B2B sales

July 23, 2015 02:46 PM

Essendant Inc. appointed a new CEO today, Robert Aiken, who in his first earnings conference call as the top executive said “winning the shift to online” sales is one of the company’s key growth strategies.

Sales through Essendant’s online channel accounted for 10.6% of total sales for the first half ended June 30, or $283.46 million out of $2.674 billion, Aiken said in the conference call, which is recorded on He didn’t break out online sales for the second quarter, but noted they rose 4.4% from a year ago, as total sales increased 1.6% to $1.34 billion.

Aiken succeeds as president and CEO P. Cody Phipps, who resigned in May “to pursue other opportunities,” the company said at the time. Aiken, who is also a member of Essendant’s board, took over as interim CEO when Phipps left.

The company’s strength in online sales, Aiken said on the conference call, “demonstrates our unique capabilities as we support our online resellers with a broad assortment of thousands of items that we can seamlessly deliver right to their end users.” Essendant defines its online sales as sales processed through its thousands of online wholesalers and resellers—many of which use the company’s technology and services to operate their own e-commerce sites to sell to resellers. Essendant also provides fulfillment services to end-customers through its own network of distribution centers.

Aiken said Essendant has defined a three-part growth strategy:

● Strengthening its core businesses of distributing office products, janitorial and sanitary products, and breakroom supplies;

● “Winning the shift to online” sales through its network of wholesalers and resellers;

● Expanding and diversifying its product lines into higher-margin categories, including automotive parts and fleet services, which it has been building over the past year through its acquisitions of distributors MEDCO and Nestor Sales.

Essendant, which changed its name last year from United Stationers Inc., partly to reflect its move beyond the declining business of paper office supplies, is also moving ahead with plans to improve how its customers place orders online. “2015 is an important year of investment” into Essendant’s new common online ordering platform, Aiken said. The platform project, which the company started last year, is designed to make it easier for the company’s customers to more easily order products from multiple Essendant divisions, including its office products and janitorial/sanitary products.

Essendant also sells power tools and related products online through CPO Commerce, which, unlike other Essendant units, sells directly to consumers as well as to businesses through its e-commerce site, Essendant acquired CPO Commerce in 2014.

Aiken has served on the Essendant board since February, after having served during a prior period between 2010 and 2014. In prior positions, he was CEO of Feeding America, a hunger-relief organization; CEO of the portfolio of food industry companies at private equity firm Bolder Capital; CEO of Metz Baking Co., and a senior executive at U.S. Foodservice Inc. and Milwaukee Sign Co. He started his career as a corporate attorney.

Sign up for a free subscription to B2BecNews, a weekly newsletter that covers technology and business trends in the growing B2B e-commerce industry. B2BecNews is published by Vertical Web Media LLC, which also publishes the monthly business magazine Internet Retailer. Follow B2BecNews editor Paul Demery on Twitter @pdemery.




Top Solution Providers