Tag: delivery

Staples moves away from office supplies

Staples is overhauling its marketing as part of a high-stakes pivot away from what it was built on — selling low-priced office supplies at big stores.

The rebranding campaign kicks off next week with nationwide television commercials in which stores are nonexistent and products are only shown in passing. There’s no mention of discounts either.

Instead, the spots star and extol office and building managers as they fix copy machines, clean up spills and restock the breakroom — all with the help of Staples’ delivery business. These are precisely the workers the company sees as crucial to its revival from years of falling sales because they make the purchasing decisions for more than a million U.S. small businesses.

“We wanted to tell a new Staples story,” said Frank Bifulco, the company’s chief marketing officer. “It’s going to convey to all audiences that Staples is much more than a retail office-supply company.”

After U.S. regulators blocked the company last year from buying smaller rival Office Depot Inc., Staples shifted from consolidation mode. Instead, it began to aggressively pursue customers in the $80-billion-a-year U.S. midmarket — or businesses with fewer than 200 employees. Staples currently has less than 5 percent of that market. The plan includes adding 1,000 people to its sales staff, acquiring regional distributors, and offering memberships and services to make office and facilities management easier.

This is all part of the company’s push to expand its delivery business, which offers customers a sales representative and online ordering. This division was already generating more revenue than the brick-and-mortar stores, which have struggled as more consumers shop online. Staples, based in Framingham, Massachusetts, still has about 1,500 locations, but continues to pare down that the number.

While delivery has been a key part of the company’s history since 1993 — just seven years after Staples was founded — it’s barely been mentioned in advertising. The focus has always been the physical store, but that’s not where the company sees its future. By 2020, it expects only 20 percent of revenue to come from retail locations — down from about 40 percent now. The rest will be generated by delivery and online sales.

Having the delivery unit already in place gives Staples a concrete way to veer off the dubious path that many of its retail peers are headed down. The company wants to be seen as a business-to-business “solutions partner” that “makes the workplace work,” Chief Executive Officer Shira Goodman said in an interview earlier this year.

That’s reinforced in the commercials, with the new corporate slogan “It’s Pro Time” replacing “Make More Happen.” One 30-second spot portrays office and facilities managers taking pride in their work as the voice-over says, “It’s not always easy to summon your pro, but once you’ve found it, you’ll find you can do anything.”

That theme will be woven into the company’s back-to-school shopping campaign — with moms being treated as the pros, Bifulco said.

The campaign, crafted by ad agency MRM/McCann, also marks a tonal shift from the silliness that permeated Staples marketing for years. That history has included ads featuring ink fairies, robot love triangles, riffs on “The Sopranos” and a guy walking around the store absurdly yelling, “Wow, that’s a low price!”

“Levity has been part of how we communicated and we’ve done that extremely well on occasion, and other times we kind of did not,” Bifulco said. “We have moved away from that. We’re honoring and celebrating work.”

By Matt Townsend for www.providencejournal.com

The mayor of Paris this week issued a stern warning to Amazon over its express delivery service, raising concerns over its impact on local businesses and criticising the US company for informing authorities “only a few days” before it launched.

In a press release published Sunday, the office of Mayor Anne Hidalgo called on Amazon to guarantee that its Prime Now delivery service will not add to the city’s pollution problems and that it will preserve the “diversity” of Paris’ economy.

Amazon launched its Prime Now service in Paris last week, offering one-hour delivery of more than 18,000 items to Amazon Prime subscribers. The service covers fresh and frozen foods, though the Seattle-based company says it is distinct from its Amazon Fresh grocery service, which launched in the UK earlier this month. Amazon is charging €5.90 for one-hour delivery, or free two-hour delivery on orders of at least €20.

In its press release, Hidalgo’s office said it would file a dossier with local legislators to determine whether safeguards are needed to protect local businesses. In an interview with FranceInfo, Olivia Polski, City Hall’s adjoint for artisanal and independent businesses, described Prime Now as a form of “unfair competition” that will harm local merchants, noting that it will not face the same taxes and regulatory requirements as other vendors.

“While this operation is liable to severely destabilize the commercial equilibrium of Paris, this large American enterprise only decided to inform authorities a few days before its launch,” the mayor’s office said.

An Amazon France spokesperson declined to comment on the mayor’s statements when reached by The Verge.

Multinationals like Amazon, Google, and Facebook have for years faced regulatory hurdles in France and other European countries, amid concerns over tax schemes and unfair competitive practices, as have sharing economy startups like Uber and Airbnb. Earlier this month, the European Union called on member states to take a softer approach to regulating sharing economy services, in an attempt to harmonize rules across the EU.

Amazon has come under particularly severe criticism from French authorities over its impact on domestic businesses. In 2013, Aurelie Filippetti, France’s culture minister at the time, described Amazon as a “destroyer of bookshops,” and a law that went into effect in 2014 banned Amazon and other online retailers from offering free shipping on discounted books. (In response, Amazon began offering a €0.01 shipping charge on discounted titles.)

Earlier this year, it was reported that Amazon was planning to acquire the French shipping company Colis Privé, in which it already owns a 25% stake, but the US company told the AFP last month that it had abandoned those plans for “reasons exterior to Amazon and beyond our control.” French newspaper Les Echos later reported that the acquisition fell apart during negotiations with France’s competition authority.

By Amar Toor for www.theverge.com

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