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United Stationers

Traded as NASDAQ: USTR
Industry Wholesale Distribution
Founded 1922
Headquarters Deerfield, Illinois, United States
Key people
Robert Blaine Aiken Jr., Interim President and Chief Executive Officer
Products Business products, office supplies, electronics, furniture, industrial, janitorial
Revenue $5.085 billion (2013)

United Stationers is the largest wholesale distributor of business products in North America, with sales in of nearly $5 billion. In 2013, it ranked 484 (478 in 2012; 467 in 2011) out of the Fortune 500 companies. United Stationers is made up of multiple divisions: United Stationers Supply Company (business products), LagasseSweet (janitorial and sanitation products), Azerty (technology products), ORS Nasco (industrial products), CPO (Tools) and MEDCO (Automotive products). United Stationers is headquartered in Deerfield, Illinois.

United Stationers sells to a broad spectrum of customers, including office products dealers; contract stationers; office products superstores; computer products resellers; office furniture dealers; mass merchandisers; mail order companies; sanitary supply, paper and foodservice distributors; drug and grocery store chains; e-commerce merchants; oil field, welding supply and industrial/MRO distributors; and other independent distributors. It serves a reseller community of 30,000. The company maintains nearly 70 warehouses supporting its different divisions and is able to boast next morning delivery for almost 100,000 products it carries to every state in the continental United States for orders entered as late as 5PM the previous evening. Its focus on operational excellence has given the company an average line fill rate of better than 97%, a 99.6% order accuracy rate, and a 99% on-time delivery rate.[1]

The current officers of the company include:[2]

  • Robert Blaine Aiken Jr., Interim President and Chief Executive Officer, Director
  • Todd A. Shelton, Senior Vice President - Chief Financial Officer
  • Timothy P. Connolly, Chief Operating Officer
  • Eric A. Blanchard, Senior Vice President - General Counsel & Secretary
  • Ric Phillips, President - Online & New Channels
  • Joe Hartsig, Senior Vice President & Chief Merchandising Officer
  • Carole Tomko, Senior Vice President - Human Resource Officer
  • Janet Zelenka, Chief Information Officer

United Stationers offers a number of private label brands to its reseller community. These brands include Innovera (tech products), Windsoft (sanitary paper products), Universal (office products), and Alera (Office Furniture).


  • History 1
  • Mergers and acquisitions 2
  • Company locations 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6


The company 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, United Stationers went public in 1981. 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. United Stationers recognized that its marketing programs and distribution infrastructure would be attractive to customers within other industries. Therefore, the company established its United Facility Supply Division in 1994 to participate in the distribution of facility maintenance supplies.

In June 2002, United Stationers 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 United on July 22.[3]

In December 2010, United Stationers 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.[4]

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

In early 2015, United Stationers announced the re-branding of the company to Essendant. The brands operating under the Essendant name will be United Stationers, Azerty, LagasseSweet and ORS Nasco. The company settled on Essendant because it is a combination of “essentials” and “ascending. The new company name is set to become effective in June 2015, pending shareholder approval. Also announced was plans to restructure that include taking a $9 million charge to exit certain business and layoff an undisclosed number of employees.

June 1, 2015, United Stationers becomes Essendant. United Stationers Supply Co., Azerty, LagasseSweet and ORS Nasco will come together under the Essendant brand starting in June, while MEDCO will follow shortly thereafter. The company's symbol on the NASDAQ Global Select Market changed from USTR to ESND

Mergers and acquisitions

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, United Stationers 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 merged with Associated Stationers, a $475 million general line wholesaler.

On April 3, 1998, United Stationers 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, United Stationers increased its geographic penetration in Canada by purchasing Azerty Canada, a $115 million computer consumables business. The company was renamed Azerty/United Canada after merging the Azerty and United operations.

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.

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

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

To diversify and expand its product and customer base, United Stationers acquired ORS Nasco, a $285 million wholesale distributor of industrial supplies, on December 21, 2007.[5]

On March 1, 2010 United Stationers successfully acquired their first technology company, privately owned MBS Dev, a Colorado-based software provider. A Microsoft Certified Partner, MBS Dev will retain its name and operate as a separate unit within the larger company. [6] MBS Dev specializes in implementing Microsoft Dynamics AX software for wholesale distribution companies in vertical markets and was named one of Inc. Magazine's 500 Fastest Growing Companies in 2009.[7]

In November 2012, United Stationers 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.

On May 29, 2014, United Stationers 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.

On September 11, 2014, United Stationers signed an agreement to acquire MEDCO, a United States wholesaler of automotive aftermarket tools and supplies, and its affiliates including G2S Equipment de Fabrication et d'Entretien ULC ("G2S"), a Canadian wholesaler. The all-cash purchase price is $130 million, subject to closing adjustments, with up to an additional $10 million to be paid over three years based on performance.

On December 17, 2014, United Stationers announced the sale of MBSDev to ProjectAX.

Company locations

United Stationers maintains company locations in the following cities: Albany, Atlanta, Baltimore, Birmingham, Boston, Canada, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Harrisburg, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Memphis, Miami, Minneapolis, Muskogee, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Francisco, Seattle, South Bend, St. Louis, St. Paul, Tulsa, Visalia.


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  3. ^ "United Stationers Names Gochnauer as Chief Operating Officer". 
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Further reading

  • "Big interview: Cody Phipps", Office Products International magazine, March 1, 2010. The interview is with Cody Phipps, President of United Stationers.

External links

  • United Stationers website
  • Essendant website
  • Azerty website
  • LagasseSweet website
  • ORS Nasco website
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