Staples’ New Retail Concept

featured image from Chain Store Age

In this morning’s email from Chain Store Age, one of the leading articles was First Look: Staples launching new retail concept in Boston by Marianne Wilson.

My first thought was, “Wow, I haven’t heard anything about Staples in years.” I’m sure that there are plenty of others in that boat, too, and I was even more surprised that the headline had to do with innovation at Staples.

Once upon a time, when I used to go back to school shopping with my mom, for the earliest years I remember heading to Staples to get all of my supplies. I loved picking out new folders and notebooks, pens and paperclips, rulers and calculators, etc., and looked forward to it every year.

As I got older, we started to go to Target for back to school shopping instead, and only visited Staples to get the more obscure items that we couldn’t find at Target. The most recent time that I went to STaples was when my mom brought me there when I was 13 or 14 because I got an ugly virus on my Mac and none of us had a clue how to get it off and there were no such thing as Apple stores nearby.

Now, in my 20s and at the end of my education road for at least a couple years, I find myself buying any office supplies I need off of Amazon and heading to Target if for whatever reason I actually need a notebook. I had to think hard about why I would ever need to go to Staples, and I think that many people might have to ask themselves that question, too.

After reading this article, though, I’m really excited for the future of Staples and I’m incredibly optimistic about these new store formats. I believe that evolving from a warehouse type of store with ugly carpets and beat-up walls to a space where people can work, accomplish those life tasks that no one really knows how to do (get TSA precheck, print something when you don’t have a printer or print something larger than what the household printer can do, find a decent place to hold a meeting, record a podcast, find professional legal and tax help, etc.), and buy anything that you might need for any kind of office space is what Staples needs to become relevant in the life of the average American again.

Here is a quote from Mike Motz, CEO of Staples US Retail (pulled from the CSA article)-

“We recognize that the way people shop is changing, and with the launch of Staples Connect we are adapting to fit the needs of our customers. Our customers are teachers, students of all ages, small business owners and side hustlers. Research shows that much of what they are seeking is real human interaction with members of their community and industry, which is key to productivity and growth. At Staples Connect, we do more than just supply your success through product offerings, we wholeheartedly support it.”

Adapting to the needs of the Staples customer will be what shapes the future of “office retail.” I love that Motz points out that the Staples customer is a teacher, a student of any age, anyone with a side-hustle, or just anyone who does some kind of work.

There’s something welcoming to me about the Staples Connect idea, and I think that coworking at a Staples could be less intimidating than a hip, start-up coworking place that we hear so much about, especially when there are plenty of work-related services offered that you often have to go elsewhere to find.

I also think about the span across the US that Staples has. While this concept is only being tested in a few Boston stores and will probably not make its way into the more rural areas of the US, I think it could easily cater to suburban working Americans. If I still lived where I grew up in New York and owned my own small business, I would essentially have no options for coworking, printing resources, legal/marketing services, or anything of the such other than my tiny local library or heading down into NYC. However, there is a Staples 25 minutes away (which is a tiny, tiny commute for the area) and I would 100% go work there if the space was inviting and there were all kinds of resources for me and my business, which is what makes this idea so powerful for me.

I’m hoping that this concept is a successful one that can revive the Staples brand for the average working American.

Published by Emma Irwin

Emma Irwin is a passionate student of the retail industry. Freshly graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.S. in Retail Merchandising, she will be pursuing an M.S. in Apparel Studies with a concentration in Retail and Consumer Studies in fall 2020. Career ambitions include writing a formal research paper, becoming a retail writer and reporter, and maybe being a CEO someday.

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