January 19, 2001, 12:00 AM

Bricks Meet Clicks

Don Davis

Editor in Chief

Staples Inc. says that it is transforming its business by installing in-store Business Solutions Centers that merge the online "clicks" of Staples.com with the "bricks and mortar" of its stores. The centers give a store the ability to operate more efficiently and productively, the company says, to expand its virtual inventory by offering more than 100,000 products not found on the shelves, to sell business services to customers, to give store associates an online sales tool and to give the company a way to manage the in-store special-order process.

The Business Solutions Centers are red-and-blue kiosk computer stations with Staples.com and other interactive features that have been installed in 20 pilot stores across the country. Each pilot store includes five or more access points to the centers, some facing the customer and some facing sales associates. The program will be refined in the 20 stores and then expanded throughout the U.S., says Framingham, Mass.-based Staples.

A customer or a sales associate can access Staples-approved service providers for business printing, web design, payroll management, long-distance telephone, shipping and other services. The centers also feature content that gives customers the resources to make an informed buying decision, plus a Quote Request process that lets customers compare price quotes from thousands of national and local vendors.

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