Return of the Viking?
What’s Office Depot up to with Viking in the US?
Office Depot appears to have resurrected the Viking brand in the US five years after it was dropped.
An e-commerce operation – www.viking.com – has been up and running since April, Office Depot confirmed.
Depot told OPI that this online-only business model under the Viking name "enables us to provide buyers a unique and secondary channel for the purchase of discount office supplies".
However, no reference to Office Depot is to be found on the site, with the ‘About Us’ section calling the business "a high-spirited start-up" that is run by "seasoned office products experts".
The whole feel of the site is certainly one of a ‘cool place to come and buy cheap office supplies’ in the style of many similar online operations that have sprung up over the last few years, aimed at casual small business buyers and consumers, rather than a serious full-service model.
Furthermore, no Office Depot or Viking branded products are offered on the website. Instead, the site relies on SP Richards’ Sparco and Elite brands for its private label lines.
Dig a little deeper and it can be found that the Viking site is "owned, controlled, or licensed" by OfficeSupplies.com, a domain name that has been owned by Office Depot for the last decade. According to the Corporation Wiki website, OfficeSupplies.com’s officers include Depot’s BSD President, Steve Schmidt, and CFO, Mike Newman.
Office Depot told OPI that there was no reference to the company on Viking.com because it "is tailored to a unique online shopping experience that is distinguishable from the traditional retail store model, around which the OfficeDepot.com retail web site is more closely aligned".
There was some concern amongst the independent dealer community in the US about SP Richards’ relationship with Office Depot via the Viking site. The wholesaler’s CEO, Wayne Beacham, was quick to play this down.
"For years we have offered Sparco brand and other proprietary brands to power channel customers," he told OPI. "Like all of our customers each has the right to market these and other products in ways they feel best meets their needs."
Beacham also confirmed that Office Depot would not have access to the recently launched Business Source brand. "One of the key drivers for developing the Business Source brand was to provide a brand that is exclusive to independent dealers. And true to our word, that is and will be our means to take Business Source to market," he said.