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Staples Connect Department Now In Stores

FRAMINGHAM, MASS. – Staples rolled out its new home-automation center in 30 stores nationwide last month.

The new store section, dubbed Staples Connect, focuses on selling products not normally found in an office superstore. These include door locks, remote controlled window blinds, garage door openers and lights among other items.

This coincides with the No. 1 office-supply chain’s effort to expand its product portfolio, said retail analyst Aram Rubinson of Wolfe Research.

While the in-store roll out is limited, the entire expanse of product and services is available at Staples’ online store.

The in-store area is centered on a 12-foot display located in the stores’ technology section, where customers can get an idea of what is offered via a tablet running the Staples Connect app.

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. Some of the companies are Honeywell, Yale, GE, Lutron, First Alert and Philips.

The majority of the products offered are designed for the average do-it-yourselfer to handle, but Staples will offer an installation service for more complicated products such as door locks and light switches.

The initial product rollout focuses on non-A/V device, but the chain said these could find their way into the mix in the future as Staples does sell televisions and entertainment products online.

The initiative comes as Staples faces a revitalized competitor within the office-supply channel as a result of the recent merger of No. 2 player Office Depot and third-ranked OfficeMax.

In a research note, Rubinson said their one- to three-year integration process should buy Staples additional time to make good on a number of initiatives, including its repositioning beyond office supplies as a broadline retailer; another possible round of cost cuts, following $150 million in savings over the past 18 months; and the recent opening of an “innovation” satellite office in Seattle.

The last change is harder to quantify. Rubinson, after meeting with CEO Ron Sargent and his senior management team (including recent hire Faisal Masud as global e-commerce executive VP), said the chain, to its credit, is making “a cultural shift.”

“While the company’s struggle to gain relevance will continue, we detected progress in the company’s cultural mindset,” Rubinson observed.