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S&P 600 Component
Industry Wholesale Distribution
Founded 1922
Headquarters Deerfield, Illinois, United States
Key people
Robert Blaine Aiken Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer
Products Business products, office supplies, electronics, furniture, industrial, janitorial
Revenue Increase $5.369 billion (2016)[1]

Essendant, formerly known as United Stationers, is a leading national wholesale distributor of workplace essentials, with consolidated net sales of $5.3 billion. In 2013, it ranked 484 (478 in 2012; 467 in 2011) out of the Fortune 500 companies. Essendant stocks a broad assortment of over 160,000 items including traditional office products, office furniture, janitorial and break room supplies, technology products, industrial supplies and automotive aftermarket tools and equipment. The company's network of 70+ distribution centers allows it to ship products, most overnight, to more than 90% of the U.S. and next-day delivery to major cities in Canada for its 30,000 reseller customers. Essendant is headquartered in Deerfield, Illinois and also has operations in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). In addition, the company operates as an online retailer and sells industrial tools direct to end consumers.


Essendant stocks over 160,000 products in these categories:

Janitorial and Breakroom Supplies: Essendant holds over 25,000 items in the following areas: Janitorial supplies (cleaners and cleaning accessories), breakroom items (food and beverage products), food service consumables (such as disposable cups, plates and utensils), safety and security items, and paper and packaging supplies.

Technology Products: Essendent stocks over 10,000 items including imaging supplies, data storage, digital cameras, computer accessories and computer hardware items including printers and other peripherals.

Traditional Office Products: Essendant is one of the largest national wholesale distributors of a broad range of office supplies. It carries approximately 23,000 brand name and private label products such as filing and record storage products, business machines, presentation products, writing instruments, paper products, shipping and mailing supplies, calendars and general office accessories.

Industrial Supplies: Essendant carries approximately 100,000 industrial items including hand and power tools, safety and security supplies, janitorial equipment and supplies, various industrial MRO (maintenance, repair and operations) items, oil field and welding supplies, and automotive aftermarket tools and equipment.

Office Furniture: Essendant is one of the largest office furniture wholesale distributors in the U.S. It stocks approximately 4,000 products including desks, filing and storage solutions, seating and systems furniture, along with a variety of products for niche markets such as education, government, healthcare and professional services.


Essendant serves a diverse group of approximately 30,000 reseller customers. They include independent office products dealers, contract stationers, office products superstores, computer products resellers, office furniture dealers, mass merchandisers, mail order companies, sanitary supply, paper and food service distributors, drug and grocery store chains, healthcare distributors, e-commerce merchants, oil field, welding supply and industrial/MRO distributors, automotive aftermarket dealers and wholesalers and other independent distributors.

Marketing & Customer Support[edit]

Essendant provides value-added services designed to help their customers market their products and services while improving operating efficiencies and reducing costs.

The company provides comprehensive printed catalogs for easy shopping as well as reference guides to more promotional materials. Extensive digital content and capabilities are provided to better position resellers on the internet. This ranges from a content database digitized for e-commerce to advanced eBusiness capabilities, website development, analytics and digital promotional campaigns. Essendant produces the printed and digital assets on behalf of resellers and collects fees and/or advertising revenue from them in return.

Essendant also provides specific services that enable resellers to improve their business model. These include primary research efforts, brand strategy and development, campaign creation, customer segmentation, cost management and training programs designed to help resellers improve their sales and marketing techniques.


Essendant's distribution network enables the company to ship most products overnight to more than 90% of the U.S. and next day delivery to major cities in Canada, with an average line fill rate of approximately 97%. Essendant's domestic operations generate approximately $5.1 billion of its approximate $5.3 billion in 2014 consolidated net sales, with its international operations contributing another $0.2 billion to 2014 net sales. Efficient order processing resulted in a 99.7% order accuracy rate for the year.

Essendant's network of 75 distribution centers is spread across the nation to facilitate delivery. It has a dedicated fleet of approximately 475 trucks. This enables the company to make direct deliveries to resellers from regional distribution centers and local distribution points.

The "Wrap and Label" program is another service provided to resellers. It gives resellers the option to receive individually packaged orders that are ready to be delivered to their end consumers. For example, when a reseller places orders for several individual consumers, Essendant can pick and pack the items separately, placing a label on each package with the consumer's name, ready for delivery by the reseller, to the end consumer. Resellers benefit from the "Wrap and Label" program because it eliminates the need to break down bulk shipments and repackage orders before delivering them to their end-consumer.


The markets in which Essendant participates are highly competitive. The company competes with other wholesale distributors as well as with the manufacturers of the products the company sells. In addition, the company competes with warehouse clubs, and the business-to-business sales divisions of national business products resellers.

Essendant competes primarily on the basis of breadth of product lines, availability of products, speed of delivery, order fill rates, net pricing to customers, and the quality of marketing and other value-added services.


As of February 13, 2015, Essendant employed approximately 6,500 people.


The current officers of the company include:[2]

  • Richard D. Phillips, interim President and Chief Executive Officer[3]
  • Janet Zelenka, Senior Vice President - Chief Financial Officer and Chief Information Officer
  • Eric A. Blanchard, Senior Vice President - General Counsel & Secretary
  • Ric Phillips, President of Industrial
  • Carole Tomko, Senior Vice President - Chief Human Resources Officer


Essendant was incorporated in 1922 under the name Utility Supply Company. During the early 1930s, the company published its first office products catalog. The concept was such a success that the business was further expanded with the opening of its first retail store in 1937. In the early 1950s, in addition to its catalog and retail operation, management recognized growing opportunities in the office products wholesale business. In 1970, the company opened its first state-of-the-art distribution center. As time passed, the company found it difficult to compete as both a retailer and wholesaler. So, in 1978, the retail operations were sold and the company began to operate exclusively as an office products wholesaler.

To provide the capital to further its growth, Essendant incorporated and then went public in 1981 as United Stationers Inc. (USTR) on the NASDAQ. In 1984, the company established MicroUnited to capitalize on the growth in the computer supplies sector. The company's MicroUnited division focused on the distribution of peripherals and supplies to computer products resellers. Essendant recognized that its marketing programs and distribution infrastructure would be attractive to customers within other industries.

In June 2002, the company announced that, as part of its succession plan, Richard W. Gochnauer, 52, would become the company's chief operating officer and a member of the board of directors, when he joined the company on July 22.[4]

In December 2010, the company announced that P. Cody Phipps, the company's Chief Operating Officer, would become president and CEO when Richard W. Gochnauer, CEO, retired at the annual shareholders’ meeting in May 2011.[5]

In April 2015, the company announced the departure of P. Cody Phipps, the company's Chief Executive Officer, and Director Robert Blaine Aiken Jr. would take over as interim CEO.

In early 2015, the company announced the re-branding of the company to Essendant from United Stationers. The new company name became effective in June 2015. The company's symbol on the NASDAQ Global Select Market changed from USTR to ESND.[6]

July 22, 2015 Essendant announced that its Board of Directors appointed Robert B. Aiken Jr., president and CEO effective immediately. Mr. Aiken, who was serving as interim president and CEO since May 2015, would also continue as an Essendant Board member.[3]

For an infographic of the company history, click here.

Mergers & Acquisitions[7][edit]

To expand their line of business, on October 31, 1996 the company acquired Lagasse Bros., Inc., a wholesaler of janitorial and sanitation supplies.

As competition in the late 1980s intensified within the office products industry, consolidation at all levels of the industry became commonplace. In June 1992, the company acquired Stationers Distributing Company, a $425 million office products wholesaler in Fort Worth, Texas. This transaction made the company a $1.5 billion wholesale distributor.

In March 1995, the company acquired Associated Stationers, a $475 million general line wholesaler.

On April 3, 1998, the company acquired Azerty, a $350 million wholesaler of computer consumables. Azerty was founded in April 1983 by Marvin Frackt as the US subsidiary of Inter City Papers Limited of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Bill Dueger was the first manager of Azerty, reporting to Marvin Frackt. Subsequently, the company's MicroUnited division was merged into Azerty. In July 2000, Essendant increased its geographic penetration in Canada by purchasing Azerty Canada, a $115 million computer consumables business.

To broaden the Lagasse division's reach, the company completed the acquisition of Peerless Paper, a $75 million wholesaler in the janitorial/sanitation industry, in January 2001.[8]

In May 2005, Lagasse completed the purchase of Sweet Paper, a $250 million distributor of janitorial/sanitation, paper and food service products.[9] This acquisition expanded Lagasse's product line and enhanced its scale and infrastructure in key markets.

On March 31, 2006, the company decided to sell its Canadian division. In June 2006, it completed the sale of certain assets associated with its Canadian division.

To diversify and expand its product and customer base, the company acquired ORS Nasco, a $285 million wholesale distributor of industrial supplies, on December 21, 2007.[10]

On March 1, 2010 the company acquired their first technology company, privately owned MBS Dev, a Colorado-based software provider.[11]

In November 2012, the company signed a stock purchase agreement to acquire 100% of the outstanding shares of O.K.I. Supply Co. (O.K.I.) for an all-cash purchase price of $90 million.[12]

On May 29, 2014, the company announced that its wholly owned subsidiary, United Stationers Supply Co., signed an agreement to acquire 100 percent of the outstanding shares of CPO Commerce, Inc., for an all-cash purchase price of $30 million, with up to an additional $10 million to be paid in three years based on performance.[13]

On October 31, 2014, the company completed the acquisition of Liberty Bell Equipment Corporation, a United States wholesaler of auto aftermarket tools and supplies, and its affiliates (collectively, "MEDCO") including G2S Equipment de Fabrication et d'Entretien ULC ("G2S"), a Canadian wholesaler.[14]

On December 17, 2014, the company announced the sale of MBSDev to ProjectAX.[15]

On August 3, 2015, The company completed the acquisition of Nestor Sales LLC., a wholesaler and distributor of tools, equipment and supplies to the transportation industry.[16]


Further reading[edit]

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