Careers at Staples
Staple’s mission is to make it easy to make more happen.
Staples is a provider of office products and services. The firm operates three reportable business segments:
- North American Stores & Online segment – Consists of retail stores and Staples.com businesses in the United States and Canada.
- North American Commercial segment – Includes the U.S. and Canadian businesses, including Staples Advantage and Quill.com, that sell and deliver products and services directly to businesses.
- International Operations segment – Includes businesses in 23 countries in Europe, Australia, South America and Asia.
In 1985 Thomas Stemberg was fired from his managerial job at a grocery chain. Stemberg used his year’s worth of severance pay to examine other opportunities. An idea first came to him when he was writing a business proposal and his typewriter ribbon broke. Because it was Independence Day weekend, all local stationery stores and suppliers were closed. He sensed an opportunity.
Later that year he was interviewing for a job at a warehouse club retailer and observed that the office supplies aisle was in disarray, suggesting that there had been many purchases. Combined with his previous experience, Stemberg realized that there was a market for a convenient provider of office products – one that would focus on that category while still providing a wide variety of items.
Stemberg began outlining his business strategy. He noticed that the office product supply chain included several middlemen – manufacturers sold items to one of six leading wholesalers in the U.S., who sold the goods to stationery stores and office supply dealers, who sold the goods to small businesses/individuals and large companies, respectively. All of these layers drove up costs.
He decided that he would cut expenses by buying directly from manufacturers and keeping overhead costs low. He reasoned that his idea would spur many imitators, so planned to raise significant capital and expand quickly. He approached a former grocery competitor, Leo Kahn, who invested $500,000. He also presented to venture capitalists, and was able to raise $4 million in funding.
In 1986 he opened the first Staples store in Boston, MA. It was a 14,000-square foot building that strongly resembled a warehouse. It featured 40 employees and shopping carts for easy transport. It stocked everything that might be used in an office, from pens to microwave ovens. Because costs were low, it was able to offer prices at half the amount of those of its competitors.
In late 1986 Staples opened its second store, and in 1987 its third store, located in Rhode Island. It began expanding across the Northeast. To reduce rent costs, it invested in a centralized distribution facility. This would also enable it to stockpile fewer products in retail locations, quickly replenish shelves when necessary, reduce freight costs, and keep payroll costs down.
By 1989 it had 16 stores and annual revenues of $40 million. It sold stock to the public later that year. Over the next two decades its success continued. It introduced its first eCommerce website in 2001. It also introduced Staples-branded stores within various supermarkets. In 2015 it announced plans to acquire its competitor Office Depot. However, the U.S. government blocked the merger.
Benefits at Staples
Business model of Staples
Staples has a segmented market business model, with customer groups that have slightly different needs. The company targets its offerings at consumers, home offices, and small businesses.
Staples offers four primary value propositions: accessibility, innovation, cost reduction, and brand/status.
The company creates accessibility by providing a wide variety of options. It has acquired numerous other firms since its founding, including Quill Corporation, Office World, Thrive Networks, American Identity, Corporate Press, and PNI Digital Media. This strategy has enabled it to greatly diversify its portfolio and expand its offerings and capabilities.
The company offers convenience by making life simpler for customers. It enables customers to buy products online and then pick them up in-store within less than an hour. Also, its website allows users to find what they need quickly using the “Order by Item” feature and restock their favorite products using the “Easy Reorder” feature.
The company embraces innovation as part of its culture. Its creative efforts include:
- Giving customers the ability to speak with sales and customer service employees for shopping help and post-sales support through Facebook Messenger. Customers can also receive tailored updates such as order confirmation notifications.
- Starting a partnership with WorkBar through which it provides co-working facilities for customers within select Staples locations. Users can collaborate and network with other members.
- Offering the latest in 3D printing technology, tools and services, enabling customers to print their own designs at work, at home, or in stores.
- Starting a contest with Fundable enabling consumers to pitch their crowdfunded products to Staples, with the winners' products obtaining a place in Staples stores and online channels.
- Powering the app Makr, which enables customers to design their own marketing collateral (logos, etc.) and have it printed and delivered to their doors.
The company reduces costs through a variety of options. Its website offers “Daily Deals”, a “Weekly Ad” with discounts, and online coupons. It also maintains the Staples Rewards program through which customers can get 5% back in rewards and free shipping on orders costing over $14.99. Moreover, it has a Price Match Guarantee through which it matches the prices of any competitor.
The company has established a powerful brand due to its success. It is the largest supplier of office products and services in the world, with operations in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. It maintains over 1,907 stores and provides over 45,000 office-related products as of January 2016.
Staples’ main channel is its website. It also sells its products through its retail stores and through a contract workforce. The company promotes its offerings through its social media pages and TV/radio/newspaper/online advertising.
Staples’ customer relationship is primarily of a self-service nature. Customers utilize its products and services while having limited interaction with employees. The company’s website provides answers to frequently asked questions. That said, there is a personal assistance component in the form of phone and e-mail support and customer support from in-store personnel.
Staples’ business model entails distributing products and delivering related services to customers.
Staples’ key partners are the third parties that provide it with the merchandise it sells through a distribution network. It also maintains an affiliate program through which it invites others to promote it through their platforms (websites, mobile apps, etc.) in exchange for a commission.
Staples’ main resources are its physical resources. These include its network of over 1,907 retail stores in 46 U.S. states and other countries worldwide, and its set of 104 distribution and fulfillment centers in 28 states in the United States and other countries worldwide. It also relies heavily on human resources in the form of store associates, sales personnel, and customer service staff.
Staples has a cost-driven structure, aiming to minimize expenses through significant automation and low-price value propositions. Its biggest cost driver is cost of goods sold, a variable expense. Other major drivers are in the areas of sales/marketing and administration, both fixed costs.
Staples has two revenue streams: revenues it generates from the sale of products and revenues it generates from the sale of services to its customers.
info: Shira Goodman earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Princeton University, a Master’s degree at MIT's Sloan School of Management, and a JD at Harvard Law School. She previously served as Interim CEO and President, North America Operations at Staples.
info: Christine Komola previously held several leadership roles at Staples, including Corporate Controller; General Merchandise Manager for furniture; Vice President of Planning, Margin, and Control; and Chief Financial Officer of Staples.com.
info: Joseph G. Doody earned a B.S. in Economics at State University of New York and an MBA at the University of Rochester. He previously served as President, North American Commercial and as President, Staples North American Delivery at Staples.
info: Michael Williams earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree at Ithaca College in New York and a JD at University of San Diego. He previously served as EVP, General Counsel and Secretary at Staples and as EVP, General Counsel and Secretary of Sony Electronics, Inc.
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