Despite its old-fashioned name, Quill Corporation is an Internet Age supplier of office supplies and equipment. Through Quill.com, the company distributes products to more than 1 million small and midsized US businesses via its website and catalog. To compete with superstores, the company markets some 160,000 products under the Quill brand, as well as under the Bic, Hewlett-Packard, Mead, Papermate, and Xerox names. Quill also equips medical professionals with workplace goods through its Quill Healthcare unit. Founded by Jack Miller in 1956, Quill is owned by office retailer Staples, which counts Quill among its North American Commercial segment.
Quill operates as part of the Staples North American Commercial segment, which accounts for 37% Staples' annual sales. The North American Commercial segment, which was formed in 2012 as Staples realigned its reportable segments, consists of US and Canadian business units that sell and deliver office products and services directly to businesses and includes Staples Advantage and Quill.com. Along with its office supplies business, Quill operates Quill Healthcare, an Internet and catalog business that sells specialized office supplies and products for health care professionals.
Besides office supplies and business machines, Quill sells a range of cleaning and break room supplies, such as bath tissue, coffee products, vending machine snacks, and trash bags. It also offers printing services for business cards, envelopes, letterhead, and promotional materials.
From its headquarters in Lincolnshire, Illinois, Quill directs the operations of a dozen distribution centers. Strategically placed to better serve its customer base with next-day deliveries, the company's distribution facilities are located in Illinois, Georgia, Wisconsin, Ohio, Texas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Florida, California, Oregon, and Connecticut.
Sales and Marketing
Quill relies on a direct sales force to provide industry-leading customer service and to meet the needs of its specialized health care-centric Quill Healthcare business. The company leverages the Staples global buying and merchandising staff, as well as local employees, to achieve specific buying and merchandising requirements. Using its own branded products and services, Quill is able to sell products to customers at an average 10% to 20% lower than national brands, thereby generating higher gross margins on average than national brands.
While Staples does not break out separate financials for Quill, its North American Commercial segment reported a 1% decline in sales in fiscal 2014 (ended January) versus the prior year, to $8.04 billion. (Fiscal 2013 included an additional week. Excluding that week, sales increased by 1% driven by sales to new customers, partially offset by lower sales to existing ones.)
Quill.com has a different customer base than Staples.com and targets business customers exclusively.
While it's Quill's strategy to offer a larger assortment of core office products, the company is looking to expand its product categories beyond core office supplies as it works to become a one-stop shop for existing and new customers. It's also concentrating on continuing to improve its "perfect order metric," which measures the number of orders it fulfills on time and without error. Quill is banking on outstanding customer service to attract and retain its customers.
Through a 2013 partnership with Wayfair.com, Quill began offering office furnishings, small appliances, exercise equipment, and outdoor furniture on the Quill website. The move extends the Quill.com product catalog with new categories.