Grand & Toy wants to be a solution provider

With a 126-year old brand in the office products arena and an infrastructure that includes a call centre in Edmonton and over 40 retail locations across Canada, Grand & Toy aims to be a one-stop shop for businesses looking for office supplies. And that now includes information technology.

The office supplies chain has recently enhanced its online technology catalogue to include over 250,000 technology products, including brands such as HP, IBM, Microsoft, Cannon and Lexmark. However, Grand & Toy is looking to move beyond just product sales, building a national team that will advise customers, package solutions to fit their needs, and even perform installs at customer sites.

Mark Lorne, general manager of technology and business imaging for Grand & Toy, said he joined the company two years ago with a mandate to grow its technology offering.

“Most customers would know us for ink and toner media, but we wanted to become more of a solution provider to our customers,” said Lorne. “I was able to put together a team of folks at head office that have a lot of industry experience, and we’ve worked with a lot of vendors and partners.”

They’ve built a sales organization with account managers across the country working on SMB and enterprise accounts, working out of 27 sales offices across Canada. Grand & Toy also has 26 regional Tech Product specialists across the country that conduct on-site visits to businesses to help them determine their technology needs, and recommend the right products and solutions.

“They’re really the product experts from a tech standpoint,” said Lorne.

At its centralized call centre in Edmonton, Lorne said they’ve also established a new team of Tech Solutions Advisors that will at no charge help customers find the right products to fit their technology needs.

“The process starts with understanding customer needs,” said Lorne. “We’ll ask you some questions, try to understand what your requirements are, and recommend the right solution. Depending on the location we may have one of our tech product specialists visit the business, and from there recommend the right solution and product, and package it together with service, onsite installation, extended warranty and service contracts.”

Lorne said Grand & Toy won’t have service staff in the field, but will work with its manufacturing partners and service organizations to provide installation and service. Grand & Toy’s approach is multi-channel, so its’ hard to pin down one category they’ll be competing in. In different scenarios, Lorne said they’ll be competing with local VARs, with retailers, and with organizations such as CDW.

“We’ve been in business in Canada for over 100 years and today technology is becoming more a part of office solutions,” said Lorne. “We’re working with our clients on business interiors, on office furniture, and we see (technology) as an extension of that. Our message to corporate Canada is we can offer you a complete offering in a cost-effective way.”

There are a lot of players in the market for technology products, Lorne admits. He said Grand & Toy’s focus will be working with its own customers looking to have a single provider for their office products, be it interiors, supplies or technology. He admits getting past the perception many have of Grand & Toy as a more traditional stationary will be a challenge.

“That’s a fair assessment today, I think a lot of us have grown up thinking of Grand & Toy one way, and part of the focus for us is getting people to think differently about Grand & Toy,” said Lorne. “Our research shows customers think of us as a trusted partner, and there’s a lot of loyalty we think will fit in well with out technology offering.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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