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Staples Earns Best National Retailer Nod For Office-Supply Inroads

10/04/2010 12:01:00 AM Eastern

FRAMINGHAM, MASS. — Staples has
joined the extremely short list of non-CE specialty
retailers — along with Costco in 2007
to displace Best Buy from its usual perch as
Best National Retailer.

The No. 1 office-supply retail chain earned
that distinction by creating the office superstore
concept and providing a vast range
of products and services to customers
in 26 countries through more than
2,000 stores, 91,000 associates,
and one of the world’s
largest global e-commerce
sites.

In the process, Staples
moved beyond toner and
corded telephones to present
a rich assortment of CE to small
and large businesses, students
and consumers alike, creating a vital
new channel for PCs, printers, peripherals,
software, digital imaging, portable navigation
devices, personal media players, networking
products and all manner of accessories,
which now represent about 40 percent of the
total mix.

To keep all that equipment running smoothly,
the company also developed a Staples
EasyTechs IT-support service that provides
customers with a wide range of technology
assistance, including new computer setup,
hardware and software installations, data
transfer and security, and repair and troubleshooting.

Along with EasyTechs, Staples also continues
to soothe customers’ CE jitters with its
“That was easy” marketing campaign.

Apparently the strategy is paying off. According
to TWICE’s Top 100 CE Retailers Report, Staples
ranked 16th in consumer electronics sales nationwide
last year, with more than $1.4 billion in revenue. New
stores and a widening array of technology products
helped boost CE sales 7.3 percent during the depths
of the recession, putting the chain ahead of hhgregg,
Sony Style, P.C. Richard, BJ’s Wholesale, Kmart and
QVC in electronics sell-through.

Overall financial performance has also bucked the
economic storm. Second-quarter profits rocketed
40 percent to $130 million on flat sales of
$5.5 billion for the three months ended
July 31, while its 1,888 North American
retail stores increased revenue 2
percent to $2 billion and raised the
operating income rate by 5.3 percent
thanks to increased product margins
and reduced depreciation, distribution and
marketing expense.

Currently, the retailer is gearing up for a
fresh CE infusion later this fall led by Kindle, which
would make it only the third retailer besides Amazon.
com, Best Buy and Target to carry the e-tailer’s proprietary
e-book reader and related accessories.

“As part of our efforts to offer customers a wide
range of top technology products and services at
amazing values, the new Kindle is a natural fit,” said
Jevin Eagle, Staples’ merchandising and marketing executive
VP. Added Amazon’s Steve Kessel, senior VP
for Kindle, “We are excited that such a great company
and brand as Staples will be offering the new generation
Kindle to its customers.”

Staples will carry three Kindle models: the basic
$139 unit; the Kindle 3G ($189); and, beginning in
late fall, the 9.7-inch Kindle DX for $379.

This past summer Staples was first out of the gate
to establish itself as a destination for back-to-school
CE with an expanded assortment that included
Hewlett-Packard’s DV6 notebook ($700); High Sierra’s
Beatrice over-the-shoulder tote bag with pockets
for a notebook computer and cellphone ($60);
and Omnitech’s 2GB swivel flash drive ($13), 2GB
clip-on MP3 player ($30) and mini portable speaker
($10).

The company is also looking to reenter the mobile
business through trials of cellular sections within its
CE departments.

“Staples is focused on making it easy for our
customers to buy office products, technologies and
services,” Eagle said in a statement issued to TWICE.
“One of the growth areas for our business and our
customers is in the technology space. With the proliferation
of hardware and software options, customers
need a trusted advisor to purchase the right products
and keep them up and running.”

He added: “Staples has many options for our business
customers, for example, offering a wide range
of laptops and networking solutions for the office,
and providing hot new technology like the Kindle and
Beats headphones for business travelers.”