Rebranding to Buy on Purpose two years ago was one of the best decisions Simon Lee, owner and president, ever made. The dealership had phenomenal growth in 2019 due, in part, to the success of the new brand and the impression it makes on customers.
“Our strength is that we are one of the only companies in the U.S. office supply industry that donates 50 percent of profits,” says Lee. He says that the story is strong and companies that have a social giving aspect in their DNA are attracted to the brand. “Our prices are competitive for the Houston market, but we’re not the lowest and we don’t claim to be the lowest,” he says. “So the brand, the story itself, is what attracts people.”
With the rise of Amazon and other online sellers, the Buy on Purpose story becomes even more important. “If you don’t have a strong brand and a strong story that builds relationships, people will undercut you for a penny,” says Lee. “We are fortunate that we are not a price driven company,” he adds. “We are a story driven company.”
As the dealership moves into 2020 it is working to give its stories greater emphasis in an effort to further engage its customers. “We’re going to send out more emails about stories rather than sales,” he says. Additionally, when you are story driven you have to back that up with five-star customer service. In a regular, twice-yearly customer service survey, Buy on Purpose recently received a net promoter score (NPS) of 84, compared to big-box competitors that are typically rated in the 40s, Lee reports.
Also contributing to its phenomenal growth in 2019, Buy on Purpose bought an e-commerce company that sells office products online. Lee says it is probably the fifth largest online seller of office products. The e-commerce site will not be branded as Buy on Purpose but will share its approach to working with charitable organizations.
Whereas Buy on Purpose is very strategic and only gives to a few charities— Home with Hope, Elijah Rising, Jesus Said Love and Living Water international—the ecommerce site has a much broader approach. “They give to hospitals, they give to cancer research, they give to pets; they’re kind of giving everywhere,” says Lee.
Following the acquisition, which is expected to provide a large sales boost to the organization, the management team was reorganized late last year. “We have a team that oversees the e-commerce business and a team that oversees Buy on Purpose,” says Lee. The goal for the year is a smooth transition and to have the vision for both companies clearly defined. “My main job is to oversee these two management teams,” he adds.
The most important product category at Buy on Purpose is toner and the dealership promotes its own brand under the Exact name. Each box of toner carries the giving story that is the mark of the dealership. “We have been doing that for 12 years and we have also arranged for our e-commerce company to sell Exact toner,” he says.
Looking ahead Lee believes that product development and innovation has to be faster than ever before. He recalls that the wholesalers were not prepared to sell iPhone X accessories when the smartphones were first released. “We didn’t have cases, screen protectors or power cords,” he says. He is working with vendors to improve product availability. “I hope other dealers are saying the same thing so that they will be more voices on this. I think it is a big challenge in our industry.”.
Key management team members: Simon Lee, owner and president
Products carried: Office Supplies, Office Furniture, Technology, Jan San, Breakroom and Promotional Items.
Year founded: 2004
No of Employees: 13
Sales volume: $10M
% of total sales generated