Will Staples’ new concept Connect with small business owners?
Staples is trying out a new concept in hopes of creating a store experience that cannot be replicated online.
The new initiative is called Staples Connect and has been launched in six existing locations in Massachusetts. Staples Connect features an area where customers can host or attend free events called SpotlightSpace. It also has a podcast studio with a soundproof booth and on-hand professional recording assistance. There is a coworking space called Staples Studio, which requires a membership to use and features shared and private offices, meeting rooms and community kitchens. The store also sells a range of tech, printing and other professional services in addition to the small business-focused product assortment.
Staples’ major competitor, Office Depot (which has owned one-time competitor OfficeMax since 2013), began transforming itself into a one-stop-shop for SMB services a few years ago to combat waning brick-and-mortar foot traffic.
Early in 2018, the rival to Staples launched its BizBox: Powered By Office Depot store format meant to provide services and support to SMBs. Later that year, the chain rebranded the format as Workonomy and introduced enhancements such as a coworking space in the pilot location.
Staples, for its part, has been pursuing a rebranding effort to establish itself as a chain focusing on business services rather than products. Billing itself as “The Worklife Fulfillment Company” starting in March of 2019, Staples began producing podcasts, e-newsletters and a free quarterly publication aimed at business customers called Staples Worklife shortly thereafter.
Staples Connect’s subscription-based coworking space may raise eyebrows, as the extent to which coworking spaces can turn a profit is a matter of debate.
A 2019 study by Deskmag reports that only 43 percent of coworking spaces generate a direct profit from their operations, as had been the case for the preceding three years. It did specify, however, that the number jumps to 90 percent when looking at coworking spaces that have more than 200 members, are more than a year old and do not subsidize their operations through other businesses.
- Staples Connect: Retail Reimagined – Staples/Business Wire
- Staples creates content to reposition and differentiate its brand – RetailWire
- Will Office Depot’s BizBox become the go-to place for SMBs? – RetailWire
- Office Depot Continues to Expand Its Business Services Platform: Workonomy – Office Depot/Business Wire
- How Profitable Are Coworking Spaces in 2019? – DeskMag
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Does a concept like Staples Connect position the chain for a comeback or is this too little/too late? What do you make of incorporating coworking spaces, given the difficulties with ROI the model has shown to date?