Editor’s Comment: Traffic problems

We often talk about independent dealers' ability to be nimble in comparison to their big box rivals, and perhaps nowhere is this better illustrated than by Staples' efforts to grow its top line.


While progressive independents have been able to grow their businesses through a mix of product diversification, acquisitions and pragmatic entrepreneurship, Staples just can’t seem to turn the corner despite a perfectly logical and well-executed reinvention strategy that has been in place for the best part of two years – and which gained momentum with the ‘Make More Happen’ campaign earlier this year.

Of course, dealers are generally just B2B operations while about 39% of Staples’ annual sales of $23 billion come from its North American retail stores – a retail network that looks  increasingly like a millstone around its neck as the move to online gathers pace. All 1,800 North American outlets will have been remerchandised by the end of June, featuring a broader selection of non-traditional office supplies such as safety products, party supplies and snacks. But will this be enough?

Interestingly, one financial analyst recently visited a Staples store and shot some video with a mobile phone. The thing that struck me, apart from the rather unappealing look of the store itself (obviously not one of the new format stores), was that there didn’t appear to be a single customer, and driving traffic to stores is a major headache. The analyst said the merchandising changes were just “delaying the inevitable”.

For the industry’s sake, let’s hope he is wrong.

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