Tom Marshall of Asco
aving trained as a mechanical of the range being sourced from the Far East.
engineer, Tom Marshall This has signifi cantly worsened over the past
had a lot to learn about the four or fi ve years. Fortunately we do get a large
catalogue industry. As the part of the range from European companies,
managing director of £3.8 which is easier.
million Asco Educational
Supplies, he has learned his lessons well. What are the major issues
What is your background, and marketers right now?
how did you come to buy Asco? The schools and nurseries sector is a peculiar
After graduating in mechanical engineering, I niche of b-to-b marketing, and the major
became a systems analyst and eventually joined marketing problems relate to oversaturation of
EJ Arnold, who were the largest educational the market, as well as the diffi culties of running
supply company in the UK at that time, a catalogue at a time of volatile exchange rates
eventually becoming purchasing director. and a fragile supplier base. We have had three
EJA were bought by Robert Maxwell, and he price increases in four months from some
eventually sold the company to a competitor suppliers but are expected to produce a fi xed-
in 1989, and most of the employees were made price annual catalogue.
I was approached by a French company What advice would you give
to set up a subsidiary in the UK, which I did any up-and-comers regarding
with two colleagues. We were quite restricted b-to-b cataloguing?
by being a subsidiary and struggled to get the Know your customers, look for ways to
business to break even. Eventually in 1997 I differentiate yourself from large existing players
was told—over lunch—that the French were in the market, and develop your own ethos.
going to sell or close us, so I offered £1 for the
business, which was accepted. You’ve worked with the same Whom in the business world
creative agency for 10 years. do you most admire?
You’ve recently revamped your What’s the secret to a successful Ferdinand Piëch of the Volkswagen Group,
catalogue and branding with help relationship between agency and for building his business on excellence of
from marketing agency Brahm. catalogue? product rather than being browbeaten by the
What are your expectations from I feel that it is a combination of a client who has accountants.
the new catalogue? a pretty clear idea of where he wants to go and
We were looking to make better use of space as an agency that can appreciate the peculiarities What was the last online or
well as refreshing our overall look and wanted of the particular market sector and has the catalogue purchase you made?
to produce a catalogue that reﬂ ected our creative ﬂ air to produce an exciting result. Six bottles of champagne from The Wine
high-quality range whilst having the fun factor At my fi rst meeting with [Brahm managing Society.
appropriate for a catalogue for the early-years partner] Anne Hadfi eld, it was her ability to
market. I am hoping it will cement our position pick up on some sketchy ideas and run with
as a quality niche player who is “different” in them with an appreciation of my market that
a fairly saturated market and will help us to made the decision easy. An agency that can
continue to grow. cope with my writing helps.
What else can we expect
from Asco in 2009?
With all the current economic uncertainty
and having spent quite a bit on the
new catalogue and brand, we will
be treading pretty carefully for
the next few months. We will
issue a smaller mailing of the
catalogue with some new
products and some price
What is the greatest challenge
of your job on a day-to-day basis?
Maintaining service levels with increasingly
unreliable sources of supply mainly due to parts
Catalogue e-business www.catalog-biz.com
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