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Staples Expands Home-Automation, Wearables Efforts

New York — Staples is rolling out wearable electronics and home and small-business automation products to 500 stores from 32 by July 15, the company announced.

The retailer is also dramatically expanding its assortment of both types of products.

A total of 148 Staples Connect automation SKUs will be available online, and about 40 to 50 will be displayed in an 8-foot display rolling out to 250 stores, said Peter Gerstberger, director/ divisional merchandise manager of new business development. The next 250 stores will get a 4-foot home-automation display.

All 500 stores will also get an 8-foot wearables display with about 50 SKUs, including products in different colors.

Both displays will be placed up front in the Staples stores near each other.

Staples operates more than 1,500 stores in the U.S.

As part of the merchandising changes, the company’s home-automation selection goes to 148 SKUs from 38 companies, up from 60 products from 15 companies when the company launched its pilot program last Thanksgiving in 32 stores.

For its part, the wearables display will be the retailer’s first dedicated wearables display, which features about 35 to 40 SKUs, including different colors. About 75 to 80 SKUs are available online.

The company’s in-store wearables assortment was previously limited to two SKUs as part of an app-enabled accessory display that was also launched in 32 stores last Thanksgiving. Those displays included products such as Bluetooth speakers, HDMI projectors and the like, said Gerstberger, but Staples decided to focus on wearables in its new displays because the company’s wearables sales “took off.” Another reason for the wearables expansion was that Staples “saw at CES that wearables would take off,” he added.

As part of the Staples Connect expansion, the company also announced that its system will become the first mass-market home-automation system to integrate with a wearable product, a Jawbone fitness band available in the summer. It will also be the first mass-market home-automation system that will be controllable from a TV when a Samsung smart-TV app rolls out, targeted for summer availability.

With the new Jawbone fitness band, users will be able to automatically turn off lights, lower shades, lock doors and change thermostat settings when the band is placed in a sleep mode to measure sleep duration. The band will also automatically adjust home systems in the morning at the press of a button.

Separately, the company announced a price reduction on its Linksys-made home-automation hub to $99 from $49 and the launch of its second hub, a D-Link model at $79. The D-Link hub adds wireless Bluetooth LE and Zig-Bee to the Linksys model’s Z-Wave, Wi-Fi and Lutron Clear Connect wireless technologies to connect with a wider range of home-automation products.

Staples also announced that a Staples Connect control app is available for Windows 8 PCs and tablets, joining an iPad app, iPhone app, an app for Android devices and an HTML5 web-browser interface.

The 38 companies with Staples Connect-certified products include Lutron, Philips, Honeywell, First Alert, Yale, Kwikset, Schlage, Leviton, Cooper, GE, D-Link, Radio Thermostat, Cooper, Leviton, Linksys, Sylvania, Aeon Labs, D-Link, Doorbot, GE, Jasco, Jawbone and Goji.

The wearables brands becoming available at Staples include Samsung, Polar, Magellan, Jawbone, Fitbit, Netatmo, Geopalz, Misfit, iFit and Striiv.

Based on its home-automation pilot program, Staples found that IP cameras and lighting are the most in-demand applications, said Brian Coupland, business development VP. Zonoff CEO Mike Harris, whose company created the Staples Connect platform, said he was “pleasantly surprised” that a “broad array” of products, including smoke detectors and thermostats, “has moved.”

Staples has also found that the owners of the Staples home-automation hub have seven devices connected to it on average and that they use the Staples Connect app eight time per day. Consumers start with two to three connected products and continually add more, Harris added.

A third of households have a Connect app installed on three or more mobile devices, and the native iPad app is the most-downloaded of its apps to date, Staples noted.

With the Zonoff-based system, Harris noted, control and monitoring of all home systems are integrated into a single app for ease of use. Device players who previously offered an app solely for their products, such as door locks, “are starting to see the value in an integrated system,” he noted.