Varis, ODP Corp.’s new procurement technology and services platform, “is making super-fast progress” since its initial launch early last year, Prentis Wilson, Varis president, said during an ODP Investor Day presentation last week.
Wilson, whose extensive ecommerce background includes being the first head of Amazon Business, noted the accomplishments and growth curve at Varis since he joined it as its top executive early last year:
- It acquired BuyerQuest, a platform that provides subscription-based procurement services to large companies.
- It built a team of executives formerly with Amazon Business and other major technology-focused organizations including Microsoft, Dell and the U.S. General Services Administration.
- It integrated its procurement technology with Microsoft’s widely used Dynamics 360 enterprise resource planning system, letting Dynamics users access Varis directly through their enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
- It has recorded 64% annual growth in volume of managed procurement spend while retaining 100% of BuyerQuest customers and gaining new customers through references.
Varis’s growth has come at a substantial cost — which led to a Q3 net operating loss of $17 million for the unit even as it recorded $2 million in revenue — but ODP executives said Varis is nearing the end of its investment phase and is expected to soon enter a long period of substantial growth. Varis processes sales of products across multiple categories, going far beyond ODP’s traditional market of office supplies.
Ready to turn on the revenue flywheel
Anthony Scaglione, ODP executive vice president and chief financial officer, noted on the Q3 earnings call that Varis’s $2 million in Q3 revenue was primarily from its already established BuyerQuest subscription-based accounts for large enterprise customers, according to a transcript from Seeking Alpha of the combined earnings call and investor day presentation. Going forward, he added, Varis will soon begin to grow procurement sales and services to a new broad base of companies of all sizes. “We expect that this will be the peak year of investment for Varis as we ready the platform for launch, turn on the revenue flywheel and scale the business.”
Wilson, who brought Amazon Business to more than $10 billion in annualized sales within its first six years, noted Varis’s existing customer base includes more than 21,000 locations, “including everything from manufacturing organizations to some of the world’s largest quick-serve restaurants.”
But he added that says Varis is “really excited” about providing the latest in procurement technology to small and midsized businesses.
He asserted that a lot of buyers at SMB companies “attempt to secure customer agreements or drive contract compliance, [but] it’s almost impossible because on the buy side, the technology to adhere to those contracts or to be able to direct those purchases doesn’t exist.”
“There’s a number of point solutions out there today that attempt to solve various parts of the problem,” he added, “but nobody really integrates everything into one package.”
“That’s what Varis is doing,” Wilson said. ”We’re bringing the consumer-like super convenient buying experience that people demand and are used to in their personal lives, with a trusted network of suppliers and pre-negotiated or pre-established agreements.”
ODP projects Varis will realize a compound annual growth rate of more than 130% over the next three years to reach $120 million in revenue and become cashflow positive in 2025. In 2023, it says it will “focus on rapid deployment of marketplaces and suppliers; in 2024, it will expand payment capabilities and improve catalog and contract management, among other services.
ODP’s B2B sales grow as retail sales fall
To help Varis realize that growth, ODP said it has retained investment bankers Perella Weinberg Partners to help it identify potential strategic investors.
Varis is one of the recently realigned ODP’s four main business units. The other three are ODP Business Solutions, which offers contract sales and services to large companies; Office Depot, which includes sales to small businesses and consumers through OfficeDepot.com and physical stores; and Veyer, a supply chain and logistics services business that offers next-day delivery and other services to internal ODP units and to external customers.
For ODP’s fiscal third quarter ended Sept. 24, the company said total sales dipped by less than 1% year over year to $2.2 billion. Growth came mostly from ODP Business Solutions, where sales climbed 9% to $1.03 billion, as Varis was slack at $2 million. Sales at the Office Depot unit fell 8% to $1.13 billion. The Veyer unit’s sales, which were nearly all to internal ODP operations, fell 3% to $1.48 billion.
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