There are six millions students in France, and every middle school student has to buy, on average, 10 notebooks for the whole year," says Stéphane Hamelin, Chairman of the Board at Groupe Hamelin, a leading supplier of paper products to the office, school and fine art markets.
The flagship brand of Hamelin is called Oxford. The first exercise books of this prestigious notebook brand were sold in the UK in the early 1930s. Earlier this year the French TV channel M6 wanted to show the entire chain – from the standing spruce in the forest to the ready notebook on the student's desk. They took a trip to the world´s northernmost paper mill, Veitsiluoto, near Kemi in Finland. This is where Stora Enso's eco-labelled office paper BergaWrite is being produced and delivered to Hamelin and other European customers.
"We started buying paper from Enso-Gutzeit 45–50 years ago and have continued ever since," Stéphane Hamelin says. He describes the relationship with Stora Enso like a marriage.
"Stora Enso is one of the top paper manufacturers in Europe – and in the world. We have faced and overcome crises together. We share a lot of the same values, such as loyalty and honesty. Of course, paper price is a large share of our costs and we expect high-quality products, service, and competitive prices; but, besides these 'traditional' requirements, I think it is our common values that have formed the basis for our long relationship."
Groupe Hamelin has a proud history of its own: it was established in 1864 by Ernest Hamelin as a manufacturer of accounting ledgers in Normandy, France. During the 1990s, Stéphane Hamelin, together with two partners, started expanding the group on a European scale and acquired a number of companies. By the early 2000s, Hamelin was recognised as the leading European company in this industry. Today 70 per cent of its turnover originates from outside France.
"We need to be flexible and very innovative to go along with digitisation. For example, we have designed and patented a notebook with 4 tags on each page. Scanned with a smartphone, the page is immediately converted into a digital file. It is a little revolution in the world of notebooks and also a success story: 1 million pieces sold last year and double-digit growth this year," Stéphane Hamelin notes.
Development and a close dialogue with its customers are key strategic elements also for Stora Enso.
"Hamelin has been a loyal customer throughout the years. Good customer relations are enormously important. If we are to add more value to our customers' business and develop our service offering, we must have a deep understanding of the customers' business challenges and the solutions we can offer. Spending time with our customers on all levels of the value chain gives us a better understanding of their business and of how we can help to add value," says Jonathan Bakewell, Vice President of the Office Papers Segment at Stora Enso.