FRAMINGHAM, MASS. — Staples is taking a step away from its normal product assortment with the addition of an in-store and online home-automation section.
This will have the office superstore chain selling products that range far from its normal assortment of paper and inkjet toner to now include door locks, garage door openers and window blinds. However, the new additions will have a high-tech edge with the ability to be networked and controlled from any connected device in or outside of the home.
Staples Connect is a family of products that utilize an open-source software platform created by the technology firm Zonoff, which ties together a series of home-automation products that can all be controlled via a single iOS or Android app, said Peter Gerstberger, Staples senior category merchant.
Staples Connect is centered on a small wireless hub, built by Linksys, that acts as the controller. It will be part of a starter package selling for about $99. The products come from a variety of vendors that worked with Zonoff to make their existing devices compatible with the Staples Connect apps. These are now available from Staples’ web store.
Starting in November, Staples Connect will receive a limited physical rollout; Gerstberger would not give an exact figure on the number locations receiving the update. There are plans to increase the store presence, but those plans are being tightly held at this time.
Gerstberger believes the online store will handle the majority of the sales at first because the early adopters who will be interested in these devices are comfortable shopping in that environment.
The display areas will consist of a 12-foot display case prominently located in the store’s technology section. As new products are added, the display area will be expanded. Gerstberger said no existing products will be supplanted by these displays.
There will be an attached tablet running the Staples Connect app as a demo tool, as well as specially trained personnel to assist customers. The tablet will run through all the products available by turning on a light to indicate the device, and will then run through how it works.
The concept is designed to let consumers and small businesses, which Gerstberger expect to be big buyers of automation devices, to enter the home-automation category at their own pace.
“I don’t expect anyone to come in and drop $3,000, but instead to build at a slow pace,” he said.
The apps that control the devices are also designed to help with this buildout. Each has a tile showing either a purchased device or one that is for sale. To make an additional purchase, the customer just has to click on the tile and is launched to the Staples’s store. Next-day delivery is available for many of the products, Gerstberger said.
All of the products will have a common packaging to tie them together, and Staples will put together bundles.
Gerstberger said Staples Connect will focus on non-A/V products at first, but he noted the store does sell televisions and other entertainment products online, and these could find their way into the home-automation section in the future. Health and fitness products would also be a good fit, he said.
Although the Staples Connect products are designed for the do-it-yourself customer, some products — such as light switches and door locks — may require a level of installation skill beyond that of the average consumer. To help these people Staples will contract with licensed third-party electricians to handle that aspect of the sale.
The first batch of products include lighting and shades from Lutron; lighting solutions from Philips, including Philips Hue, and GE; climate control from Honeywell; safety products from Yale and First Alert; EcoLink motion sensors and door/window sensors; Aeon Labs surge protectors and water sensors; DoorBot wireless doorbells; D-Link cameras; Chamberlain garage door openers; and Ivee alarm clock with voice activation.
In other Staples news, the chain became an authorized Apple reseller and began selling iPads online last week. It also acquired Runa, a San Mateo, Calif.- based software company that develops e-tail shopping personalization programs.