Systemax's system involves being direct. The company is primarily a direct marketer of computers, electronics, and technology products in North America and Europe. Through 15 catalogs, some 25 websites, and 40-plus retail stores, it offers thousands of brand-name and private-label items. The company assembles its own computers, which are sold under the Systemax and Ultra brands. Systemax also sells material-handling equipment, shelving, storage items, furniture, and other industrial products. Customers include businesses, government agencies, and schools, as well as individual consumers. After acquiring the assets of defunct retailers CompUSA and Circuit City, Systemax exited the software business.
Slimmed down Systemax's two remaining business segments -- technology products (91% of sales) and industrial products (9%) -- contributed to its 2.5% gain in total sales in 2011 vs. 2010. The smaller industrial products unit logged a 28% jump in sales, while sales of the company's core technology products were essentially flat (up less than 1%). The company blamed the poor performance of its technology products unit on decreased consumer demand for its products, while crediting the availability of more products on its Web site for the big gain in industrial product sales. Net income jumped nearly 28% in 2011 vs. 2010, while cash flow took a nose dive. Systemax's relatively lackluster 2011 financial performance followed a strong 2010 when sales were up more than 13% vs. the prior year and both business segments logged double-digit sales gains.
Beyond North America, Systemax has its eye on Europe, and to a much lesser extent Asia. The company's international business contributed 30% of sales in 2011 (up from 27% in 2009). Overseas sales growth has outpaced North America over the past two years. The acquisition of WStore Europe, an IT products supplier for small and midsized businesses in the UK and France, for $4 million in late 2009 has helped fuel overseas sales. WStore complements Systemax's Misco brand, which is geared largely to individual consumers and the public sector in Europe. Since the deal's completion, Systemax has integrated WStore's operations.
Looking to gain from the ruin of failed electronics merchants in the US, Systemax emerged as the winner for the brand, trademarks, and e-commerce operations of Circuit City in 2009. It paid $14 million in cash and agreed to pay a share of revenue generated from those assets over 30 months. Although CircuitCity.com relaunched in mid-2009, Systemax said it was too early to determine whether retail stores would also make a comeback. Unlike Circuit City, Systemax has been expanding CompUSA's network of retail stores. (It acquired CompUSA's brand, trademarks, and e-commerce unit, as well as about 15 retail outlets, for $30 million in 2008.) The company rebranded its more than 10 existing TigerDirect shops as CompUSAs and added five new locations in 2009. It added about half a dozen more CompUSA stores in 2010. Systemax said it purchased the electronics giants in an effort to expand its e-commerce operations, led by TigerDirect, its online computer sales subsidiary.
The Leeds family, including Chairman and CEO Richard Leeds, runs and owns about 70% of Systemax.