Staples is clipping along as the #1 office supply superstore operator in the US and as a worldwide leader in the office category. It sells office products, furniture, computers, and other supplies through more than 2,200 Staples stores in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Australia. In addition to its retail outlets, Staples sells office products via the Internet and through its catalog and direct sales operations, including subsidiary Quill Corp. Staples also provides document management and copying services at its stores. After expanding in Europe, Staples is growing in Asia and South America. The office-supply company will face increasing competition from newly-merged Office Depot and OfficeMax.
Staples rings up more than two-thirds of its sales in the US. Canada is the chain's second-largest market accounting for more than 10% of sales. Staples has 100-plus stores in the UK, as well as a retail presence in Australia, China, Germany, and about a half a dozen other countries in Europe. The chain has a couple of stores in Argentina.
The office products giant's North American retail business (stores and online) contributes about 50% of sales. Its North American Commercial segment sells and delivers office products and services directly to business, and accounts for about a third of total sales. Staples' International arm runs stores and provides direct-to-consumer and direct-to-business delivery of office products in about two dozen countries. Looking to tap the talent of area engineers, Staples in mid-2014 opened a new Development Center in Seattle that focuses on testing and launching online selling models, among other functions.
Staples' sales fell nearly 3% in fiscal 2013 (ended January) versus the prior year, and the company posted a steep loss. Indeed, Staples swung from a profit of about $985 million in fiscal 2012 to a loss of about $210 million in 2013. While sales in the US and Canada posted modest increases, International sales fell by 10%, erasing gains In North America.
A 2% decline in comparable store sales in North America also depressed results, as did the unfavorable impact from foreign exchange rates. Declining sales of computers, technology accessories, and software were partially offset by growth in facilities and breakroom supplies, tablets and other mobile technology, and copy and print services.
The decrease in net income was primarily due to the increase in impairment and goodwill and long-lived assets charges.
International expansion became a priority for Staples when sales in North America slowed as a result of the deep recession. To that end, Staples focused on further expanding its operations in Europe, where it has grown to about 280 retail locations. Other new markets for the company include Argentina and China. It is looking to other emerging markets, including India and Brazil, where it operates a delivery business. Staples has a 50-50 joint venture with India's largest retailer, Pantaloon, to bring office supply warehouse stores to India. In China, where the company has 25-plus stores, Staples has partnered with United Parcel Service to launch co-branded stores there. Australia is also on Staples's short list for international expansion. It has taken full control of Corporate Express Australia, after bidding A$390 million for the roughly 40% it didn't already own. Adding Finland to its domain, in 2010 Staples acquired Oy Lindell Ab. Some 120 years old, Oy Lindell has seven company-owned and two franchised office supply stores in Finland.
Staples two main competitors in the US, Office Depot and OfficeMax, merged in late 2013 to create a combined company with about $17 billion in annual sales, an amount that while impressive is still substantially below the $24 billion and change Staples rang up in fiscal 2013. Together, they hope to create a more formidable rival to Staples. Also, Staples is facing increased competition from online giant Amazon.com, as consumers increasingly avoid big-box stores and instead opt for the convenience of the Web.
To counter the effects of its shrinking office supplies business, Staples plans to double to 1,000 the number of its stores that sell cellphone services by the end of 2013.
It's also inking partnerships to expand its merchandise mix. In mid-2014, for example, Staples began offering workplace furnishings from Steelcase on Staples.com and in certain US Staples stores.
Mergers and Acquisitions
In July 2014, Staples acquired Vancouver-based PNI Digital Media, whose technology enables retailers to offer on-demand personalized products, including business cards, invitations, and photo books, for about $67 million.
In a move that significantly enlarged its footprint in Europe, Staples acquired Netherlands-based business supply wholesaler Corporate Express NV after a hard-fought deal valued at about $2.7 billion. Corporate Express is a major office products wholesaler, with more than half of its sales generated in the US through Corporate Express US. The acquisition also established Staples's contract business in Canada. The integration of Corporate Express has taken several years, but is nearly complete. Staples is still in the process of transitioning all legacy Corporate Express customers to its contract ordering website, StaplesAdvantage.com.