Paper and paper clips add up to big money for Office Depot. The world's #2 office supply chain (behind Staples), Office Depot sells office supplies through some 2,000 retail stores in about 60 countries following its merger with OfficeMax. The big-box retail stores sell to both consumers and small and medium-sized businesses. In addition to general office supplies (about two-thirds of sales), its stores offer computer hardware and software, furniture, art and school supplies, and printing and copying services. Office Depot also sells goods through catalogs and call centers, the Internet, and a contract sales force. Amid declining sales, Office Depot merged with smaller rival OfficeMax in 2013; in 2015 it agreed to be acquired by Staples.
Mergers and Acquisitions
Office Depot acquired OfficeMax in a $1.17 billion all-stock deal that closed in November 2013. (Office Depot shareholders own 51% of the combined company, with OfficeMax getting 44%.) The combined company, known as Office Depot, has about $17 billion in annual sales and is led by its new chairman and CEO Roland Smith, formerly CEO of grocery operator Delhaize America. Together, the two office supply companies hoped to create a more formidable rival to market leader Staples and to save $300 million to $600 million in costs through the merger. In early 2015, however, Staples agreed to acquire the combined entity in a deal worth more than $6 billion. The deal is expected to close by the end of 2015 and will create an office supply behemoth with sales of nearly $40 billion.
Office Depot rings up more than 70% of its sales in the US. The office products giant sells to customers in some 60 countries, including France, South Korea, and Sweden. Through its joint venture (formed in 1994) in Mexico, Office Depot de Mexico operates about 250 stores there, and in Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama. (The company has agreed to sell its stake in the joint venture to its partner Grupo Gigante for about $690 million.
Sales and Marketing
To help boost its small-business business, Office Depot in 2013 teamed up with NFL veteran and entrepreneur Fran Tarkenton. Office Depot launched a Small Biz Club to provide a one-stop shop for general business tips, customer-tailored advice, networking, and, of course, office supplies.
The recession and its lingering effects -- not to mention the demise of paper! -- have taken a toll on Office Depot's sales. In 2012 sales fell 7% vs. 2011. All three of the company's business segements posted declines, with the international division down 10%, followed by the North American retail division (down 8%). The contract sales channel (known as North American Business Solutions) saw its sales decrease by about 1%.
Indeed, 2012 marked the fifth consecutive year of declining sales for the office products retailer, with sales down 31% since 2007. Also, Office Depot was unprofitable in 2012, posting a loss of about $77 million. Cash flow from operations continued to decline.
In response to decreased demand for its products and services, Office Depot has reduced its store count by more than 150 locations in North America since 2008. In addition to closing retail stores, the company has shuttered distribution and call centers. Overseas it has abandoned Hungary, Japan and Israel, selling its stores there to an Israeli department store chain. Adding to its considerable woes, Office Depot is seeing increased competition in Europe and at home as a result of the acquisition of Corporate Express NV by Office Depot's larger rival Staples. Corporate Express is a major office products wholesaler, with more than half of its sales in the US through Corporate Express US. To spur sales by making shopping easier for its customers, Office Depot has adopted a new store format, called Millennium2 (M2), used in all new store openings and remodels. The M2 minimizes construction costs and strategically locates products to encourage sales consultation.
The recent decline in the company's international business reversed its previously growing contribution to Office Depot's coffers. To extend its reach into India, Office Depot partnered with Reliance Retail, a unit of India's Reliance Industries, in a joint venture to sell office products and services to business customers in India.