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Staples is Set on Making More Happen

January 6, 2014

Retiring its "That was Easy" tagline after more than a decade, Staples is adopting a new slogan, "Make More Happen," to herald how its assortments now extend well beyond the ink, office chairs and other white collar office supplies the retailer is known for.

One new 30-second TV spot, titled "Big Idea," is set in an ultra-modern factory where workers are using products purchased through Staples, including the latest technology, safety equipment, factory signs and coffee.

[Image: Staples Spot]

The bent staple in Staples' logo (the letter "L") is also being removed to showcase its broader mix. Initially, Staples is excluding it on Staples.com, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter, where fans can join the "What the L is going on at Staples?" conversation by using the hash tag #WhatTheL. This Thursday, Staples will swap the letter with items such as water hose spray guns, scales used in medical settings, and dog biscuits.

With demand for paper and ink lessening in the digital era, Staples has been reducing the number of products available in stores while adding "breakroom" items such as Folgers coffee mix, bottled water, candy, and candles as well as janitorial supplies such as paper towels. Its larger stores are being exited as leases come due with an overall focus on a smaller, more-convenient model.

But "Make It Happen" particularly support Staples.com, which features 300,000 items and has been expanding at a rate of 2,000 new products per day to appeal to businesses across a wide range of industries, including retail store, safety, education, and healthcare. The website promises to soon offer packaged solutions for restaurant and food service, sewing and tailoring, florist and garden and salon & spa. Online orders can be sent to a nearby store.

"Make More Happen highlights how Staples is reinventing itself to provide every product businesses need to succeed," said Shira Goodman, EVP, global growth, in a statement.

While many businesses are said to be seeing the advantages of using Staples.com, billed as the world's second largest internet retailer, as a one-stop destination, the everyday retail customer hasn't caught on.

"Where they have struggled has been in retail," Gary Balter, an analyst who follows Staples for Credit Suisse, told the Boston Globe. "They haven't gotten the customer to associate Staples with anything but office supplies. This campaign is a step to try to fix that and it's a good step."


Discussion Questions:

What do you think of Staples change in strategy? Will its new logo and marketing campaign be successful in helping the company achieve its goals?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

How likely is Staples to succeed with its shift in strategy?


Staples is making the right move and addressing the non-office operation. The marketing will help, but the key for them is how to gain mindshare of Grainger's - and many other wholesalers' - target markets. This is the challenge, and ads only go so far. Logos last for a week.

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Tom Redd, Global Vice President, Strategic Communications, SAP Global Retail Business Unit

I always thought of Stapes, OfficeMax, and Office Depot are the exact same store, until now.

The need for Staples to disassociate the brand identity from an office product that is virtually obsolete and become the one-stop-shop for small businesses and budding entrepreneurs is a much needed move.

My view of Staples has changed.

Eric Chester, Keynote Speaker, Author, Reviving Work Ethic, LLC

We've talked about the blurring in retail. Evidently the mantra for retailers has become, "Be as many things as you can be." Staples will probably look and feel more like Target, like Walgreens, like Walmart, Costco, etc., but not exactly like them. I didn't read any mention of Rx or fresh food or clothing.

As Staples offers more products, consumers will position Staples either in a landscape of prices or a context of product categories. At this rate of sameness I have to wonder how shoppers will differentiate among retailers. And if differences are hard to see, customers' choice of store will be more random and less manageable.

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Joan Treistman, President, The Treistman Group LLC

The best move Staples made was to enter the online business back in 1998. This has allowed them to become a significant player in their space and provided the platform to increase product categories. Online will be particularly useful as Staples pursues the noted new channels: foodservice, floral, etc.

That leaves them with the dilemma of what to do at retail. It will be a long and difficult process to change consumer perceptions of what is the new Staples. "That was Easy" resonated with consumers seeking immediate household and home office solutions. The announced move to smaller stores, in conjunction with its expansion of online, may allow Staples to make the transition to a more dominant online player and at the same time provide manageable, convenient retail outlets serving the consumer versus business customer.

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Richard J. George, Ph.D., Professor of Food Marketing, Haub School of Business, Saint Joseph's University

If they want to become Walmart, great idea, but good luck with that. Their reason for being is they have everything you need for an office. And it was easy to get stuff, hence the tag line. Walking away from that makes no sense - they've implanted the concept in people's heads - why change?

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Dr. Stephen Needel, Managing Partner, Advanced Simulations

Staples' change in strategy may well help them in their online business as that growing segment will have more options for business customers. My assumption is that the majority of that business is not consumers but varied businesses. The consumer may see a smaller Staples retail store (which typically is not in the highest traffic location) as just another option for home products, so price and ease of shopping will now be major factors in trip and purchase decisions.

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J. Peter Deeb, Managing Partner, Deeb MacDonald & Associates, L.L.C.

Definitely a move in the right direction! They 'own' the category of office supplies in Canada, and with that, have top-of-mind awareness with businesses both large and small. Leveraging that relationship to become an even more relevant and oft used solutions provider can only mean greater sales and success.

This isn't a 'me-too' strategy of trying to be all things to all people. It's focused on their bread and butter business customers of all sizes.

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Kevin Graff, President, Graff Retail

I think it is not only a great idea but the timing is perfect. Their two primary competitors are just finishing their merger and Staples needs to be different in some way. It is the best way to take them on with such a bold offensive more. It should help them retain their number one position in the segment.

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Frank Riso, Principal, Frank Riso Associates, LLC

Staples has done a lot of things right, and it's tough to argue with their new direction. It's obvious from their catalog that they've expanded into other areas. They have better name recognition than many of their competitors (think: Uline) so they may well succeed. Keep moving, Staples.

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Cathy Hotka, Principal, Cathy Hotka & Associates

Office stores have next to nothing for retailers. It is nice to see Staples offering items such as a RFID printer, price check scanners and tablet kiosk stands now available.

This is probably a big deal and will separate Staples from the rest pretty quickly.

Ed Dunn, Founder, (Stealth Operation)

The repositioning is very savvy.

By offering total solutions to sole proprietors and small businesses, Staples is capturing a greater share of wallet and capitalizing on the trend of moonlighting with a home business.

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Liz Crawford, SVP, Strategy & Insights, Head of ShopLab, Match Drive

What Staples is doing is terrific! To succeed in this market, they do need to expand into all facets of business. All the "staples" that a business needs.

I think that the idea of playing with the logo will capture the attention of the consumer long enough to get across the message and perhaps inspire curiosity to get them into a store.

I applaud Staples! Kudos!

Lee Kent, Sharing Insights for Success in Retail, YourRetailAuthority

Has anyone tried to start a small business, your first time, out of the box? What do you need? Supplies? Equipment? Software? How do you file all your required government forms? When? Advice trumps trial by error - if you can get it. I have run a number of business incubators and programs. My experience is that people can come up with great biz models but often don't know how to get off the ground.

Staples, add some official "geniuses" to your employee mix. I have encountered a few at Staples, usually specializing and hiding in the PC and peripherals area, but there doesn't seem to be any strategy for incorporating expertise as a service. It is basically catch as catch can with the employee mix at the stores. Apple uses geniuses as salespeople, tech support, advisors, and to create stickiness. Also, think of doing some small biz clinics. Home Depot does this with improvement projects to create traffic, sales, and good will. (If you are doing any of this at your stores, I haven't noticed it.)

Small businesses (newbies and existing small businesses) need to see how to automate, integrate, and run a back office. Help to EDUCATE them and sell more stuff regularly.

Thomas Muscarello, Chief Strategist, Make It Happen Now

Good move for Staples; and the timing in the marketplace might be right for this.

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Ed Rosenbaum, CEO, The Customer Service Rainmaker, Rainmaker Solutions

Good new direction for Staples - opening up the mindset for small business beyond office supplies is right. The small electronics in the ads were a good intro as to what can be available. Starting a home business, small non profits, items needed for fundraisers and of course, small retail can add new value.

Anne Bieler, Sr. Associate, Packaging and Technology Integrated Solutions

Overall, this appears to be a smart strategy. The have a dominance with business customers and particularly online. One of the oldest success formulas in retail is to get existing customers to buy more from you, in this case in more categories, based on trust and convenience. I suppose the marketing ultimately will move the consumer to associate this retailer less with "staples" as in the office supply item, but rather "staples" as in all the necessities for my business.

Mike Osorio, Senior VP Organizational Change Management, DFS Group

I think it is a strong strategy, but a weak, almost confusing commercial introduction. Years ago I remember reflecting on all the novice business owners running around the aisles of my local office supply outlet and thinking what an opportunity to help! 26 years later, Staples has realized the same thing. But the commercial, with all its cuteness, muddies the point that they are trying to say . . . and will probably drag along for a long time or falter.

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Jerry Gelsomino, Principal, FutureBest

One cannot discount other factors here in the decision process: With the merger of Depot and Max, there will be store consolidation soon as corporate structure is stabilized. With that a "new" entity/competitor emerges; Staples is taking the initiative to differentiate itself.

In addition, although poorly merchandised and disheveled in many locations, Walmart still takes market share with a bigger and bigger emphasis on the lucrative back-to-school season. Staples needed to find new profit centers.

Also, any advertising campaign has a lifespan as well. Remember, Staples pulled the critically unacclaimed "that'a low price" campaign after a shorter run.

Alan Cooper, Training Consultant, Independent/Freelance

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