By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Framingham, Mass. – Staples has developed an “omni-channel” prototype store that features Internet kiosks and consultation areas for small business customers.
The No. 1 office-supply chain and, according to the company, the second largest e-tailer, said the stores will allow it to leverage its extensive real estate and digital capabilities.
The first pilot stores, located in Norwood, Mass., and Dover, Del., will also serve as test labs for new products and services, the retailer said.
The stores feature several touchscreen stations where customers can access Staples.com and its 100,000-item assortment. There’s also a business lounge with meeting space and work station; an ink and toner finder; and remodeled Copy & Print and EasyTech IT support areas.
“We listened to our customers and provided the products, services and features they need to succeed,” said Demos Parneros, president of Staples’ North America stores and online. “Our stores make efficient use of space while offering more products and services than ever through our mobile and online features.”
“We also know that shopping is an occasion and we’ve created a fun experience for our customers,” he continued. “We’re very proud of our omni-channel stores and this is just the beginning as we’ll continue to evolve our network.”
Staples faces a shifting office-supply landscape as channel competitors Office Depot and OfficeMax prepare for a year-end merger. Analysts believe Staples could benefit from the expected closure of its rivals’ overlapping stores, although the union may also result in a stronger No. 2 chain.
Meanwhile, the company faces sluggish sales as it continues to consolidate stores. It closed 48 locations between May 2012 and last month, which contributed to a 3.5 percent decline in first-quarter sales, while comps slipped 2 percent due to a decrease in traffic, flat average order size and soft demand for computers, software and tech accessories, Staples said. Operating income fell 18 percent during the quarter as Staples invested in its online operations and revamped its store labor model.
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