On Thursday, June 21, the members of Bosta assembled in the Botanic Garden of Meise for the annual general meeting. The immense collection of plants housed there is invaluable for scientific research and for man in general. Not unlike the way Bosta has proved vital to the office, school and stationery products sector. A much needed oxygen injection that keeps the sector dynamic and on its toes!

A glimpse of the botanic garden

The meeting kicked off with a guided tour of the fabulous botanic garden, which houses 18,000 species of plants from all corners of the world on its 92-hectare area. The passionate guides - or should we say walking botanical encyclopedias - showed the members around the park and greenhouses. You could easily spend a day or more in here, there’s just so much to see. Which, unfortunately, the members didn’t have time for, since the curriculum listed more than just botany.

PBS-Network: sharing data online

After the eventful guided tour, participants settled down for coffee and a chat in the atmospheric setting of the Castle of Bouchout, once the royal residence of Empress Charlotte. Sales and marketing expert Bob Boekema then proceeded to give a presentation about PBS-Network, set up as a non-profit organization in 1996 by major German office supplies manufacturers. PBS-Network plans to make inroads into the Benelux market with an online platform that exchanges data from manufacturers with distributors and dealers. In doing so, the e-platform strives to simplify complex administrative processes. And profile itself as an independent intermediary who defends the interests of industry players.

Responsible Office has big plans

Kathleen Bosteels presented an update of Responsible Office (RO): the online platform that coordinates the supply and demand of sustainable, environmentally friendly office and school supplies. The aim is to support the government’s ambitions to make its purchases 100% sustainable and ecological by the year 2020.  The site currently lists 12 manufacturers, including newcomers Durable and Fellowes. RO also supports Green Deals: a voluntary agreement between (private) partners and the Flemish government to jointly start a green project. Dessauvage and InterOffice were hailed as the first RO dealers right from the start. Now let’s have dealers in every province!

Investing responsibly pays off

After a brief review and preview of the Paper Show and Secretary Bea Wollaert’s gentle reminder to register for the 2019 edition, chairman Frank Schelkens looked over the balance sheet, explaining the red ink clearly. Bosta is a future-oriented organization that invests heavily in initiatives that will benefit its members both today and tomorrow. Responsible Office in particular requires financial efforts to make sustainability an industry priority. Bosta aims to redress the balance and achieve a break-even result by 2020.

Board of Directors Election

The general meeting kicked into formal gear with the election of a new board. Frank Schelkens (Pilot) is currently in his fourth year as chairman. Which means that he passes the torch next year. The lucky one? Current vice-chairman Bert Lippens (Brepols), who in turn will be succeeded as vice-chairman by Tom Smet (Staedtler). All outgoing board members who were eligible for re-election were re-elected. Ruben Tas (Despec) will also be sitting on the board from now on.

Bosta currently has 81 members - a considerable growth, thanks, in part, to the new DIS and DIS+ membership formulas.

Bosta traditionally regaled its members with plenty of information, topping it all off with a refreshing reception and delicious dinner. The perfect, convivial way to wind down and process everything.

Bosta Spring Meeting 2018:
a celebration of innovation!

What’s in a name? On the day of Bosta’s spring meeting, it didn’t feel anything like spring. We did get a feeling for the future, though, as our meeting took place at Living Tomorrow. A unique meeting place that invites visitors to take a look at future-oriented technologies. Bosta likes to look forward, but on this occasion we also looked back. On the programme: a guided visit into the future, an evaluation of the Paper Show and interesting trends and figures from GfK.

From dancing robots to smart refrigerators

Members were given a guided tour and stepped into the wonderful world of tomorrow. The tour kicked into gear with a demo of a sympathetic high-tech robot dancing to the catchy tune of ‘Gangnam Style'. Performing cool tricks is only a fraction of what this programmable robot can do, however. Many of its ‘peers’ are being deployed in healthcare and hospitality roles. We were demoed Zaha Hadid’s futuristic kitchen, which includes a digital message board that creates shopping lists, proposes recipes and monitors your water consumption. Furthermore, we were introduced to some innovative applications for the medical sector, (bio) industry, science, and much more besides. Living Tomorrow is about much more than just living in a house. In the future, many of the showcased technologies will probably manage large parts of our lives. Whether or not that is a good thing, is another debate altogether ...

Paper Show 2018: an amazing impression

After a welcome cup of coffee during the networking moment, our sympathetic chairman Frank Schelkens wisecracked his way into the meeting. Then, members were shown a professionally edited movie of Paper Show 2018 highlights. Bea went on to present the figures of this special edition: the first to take place in the Nekkerhal in Mechelen. The trade show was one of superlatives: more exhibition space, more booths, more exhibitors than ever. The number of visitors remained status quo with last year. Major innovations included the press & meeting point, new Award categories and a drone shooting 360-degree footage.

You can find a detailed press release about the show and awards on the Bosta website.

Record amount for the Simba House

Bea then outlined some working points for next year’s edition on 20 and 21 January 2019: stepping up promotional efforts in the Netherlands, entering more products for the awards and making the most of the commercial opportunities offered by the check-book.

The show’s biggest boost was undoubtedly the magnificent amount collected on behalf of the Simba House of SOS Children's Villages. True to tradition, Kim Gevaert accepted the cheque for 13,500 euros. Funnily enough, it seems like every new edition brings a new addition to the Gevaert family ...

The industry in numbers

The likable young lady who came to present the GfK report met with great response and interactivity from the audience. She introduced the figures transparently and with a lot of flair. These are the most important trends to remember:

· The shopper has become 'hyperconnected': purchases are increasingly made digitally, and on a variety of devices (desktop, laptop, smartphone, ...).

· The advance of digital does not spell the end of traditional retail: companies should key into the needs of the customer, and service him through all channels. In two words: offer an integrated experience.

Gainers and losers

· Consumer confidence is on the rise, both in Europe and in Belgium. Having said that, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are doing considerably better than Belgium itself.

· The market for technical consumer goods is relatively stable, although online sales of such products in Belgium are lagging behind.

· Stationary sales are unfortunately presenting a downward trend, mainly due to a sharp fall in the sales of cartridges.

· Then again, Belgium is doing quite well in the field of writing utensils.

Bosta members get full access to GfK's extensively detailed reports, one of the many membership benefits.

GDPR Workshop: a must!

Bea concluded the meeting with a word of explanation about the new DIS and DIS+ membership formulas, developed specially for distribution companies who are still under-represented at Bosta today.

Please make a note of the GDPR workshop in your agenda on 24 April. Professionals who are industry experts will be providing crucial information about the new legislation and guidelines in our sector. Participation is a must. Expect an e-mail invitation with more information and the location soon.

As always, the meeting ended in beauty with a dinner at the 'restaurant of the future'.