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Watch out Amazon — Staples is aiming for your turf

Sta­ples have just announced a major new push into the world of e‑commerce, tak­ing a leaf out of Amazon’s book and diver­si­fy­ing its prod­uct offer­ings in the process.

The move, which will alert the atten­tion of many an intre­pid e‑commerce man­ag­er, web con­tent man­ag­er and e‑commerce ana­lyst, is set to deliv­er $250 mil­lion in cost sav­ings by the end of the finan­cial year 2015.

The retail trend to e‑retail

Sta­ples isn’t alone amongst big box retail­ers in turn­ing to e‑commerce.  We recent­ly report­ed that Home Depot made a rad­i­cal switch from bricks-and-mor­tar to online sales in its Chi­nese oper­a­tions, but that was large­ly moti­vat­ed by the spe­cif­ic demands of the Chi­nese con­sumer. Wal-Mart, too, has recent­ly invest­ed heav­i­ly in improv­ing its e‑commerce activ­i­ties by launch­ing a new search tool based on seman­tics tech­nol­o­gy, guar­an­tee­ing online cus­tomers a vast­ly more accu­rate results page when they browse for goods.

But Sta­ples almost cer­tain­ly has Amazon’s busi­ness mod­el in mind and is tak­ing the bold step of recon­fig­ur­ing its sales empha­sis from the tra­di­tion­al store based approach (which comes with mas­sive square footage and painful­ly high costs for occu­pan­cy and rent), to an online sales strat­e­gy offer­ing a much broad­er range of products.

Should Ama­zon worry?

How real­is­tic is the ambi­tion to become a com­peti­tor to the Goliath of e‑commerce, Ama­zon? Dyda­comp CEO Fred Liz­za believes that Sta­ples is no Ama­zon “wannabe”. He said, “Actu­al­ly, Sta­ples is much clos­er to an e‑commerce pow­er­house than you might think, and the rea­son is they have invest­ed heav­i­ly in IT infra­struc­ture and sup­ply chain capa­bil­i­ties,” he told the E‑Commerce Times. Look at how rapid­ly they turn around orders for office sup­plies and oth­er prod­ucts and effi­cient­ly deliv­er them to small busi­ness­es locat­ed vir­tu­al­ly anywhere.”

There’s a lit­tle addi­tion­al work to be done to attract cus­tomers to the web­site rather than to the stores, Liz­za believes, but the real­ly tough part – the tech­no­log­i­cal infra­struc­ture to launch online sales oper­a­tions – is very def­i­nite­ly in place.

Sta­ples’ e‑commerce move was endorsed by indus­try expert Stephen Wyss, an assur­ance part­ner at BDO USA’s retail and con­sumer prod­ucts prac­tice. He said, “Since a large por­tion of Sta­ples’ cus­tomers are small busi­ness accounts that don’t need to browse the aisles at the brick-and-mor­tar loca­tions, the shift in strat­e­gy to online makes a lot of sense.”

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