November 20, 2002, 12:00 AM

Staples reports third-quarter Internet sales up 38%

Web sales are outpacing both store and catalog sales at the 2nd-largest office supplies retailer. Staples says it`s on a pace to hit $1.6 billion in online sales in its current fiscal year.

Growth in web sales is outpacing growth in store sales at Staples Inc., the office supplies retailer tells InternetRetailer.com. Online sales amounted to 15% of overall North American sales for its third quarter ended Nov. 2, up from 11.8% in the year-ago period, the company says.

"The number of orders placed electronically continues to grow," a spokesman says. Total North American e-commerce sales for the third quarter exceeded $430 million, up 38% from $311 million a year ago, putting the company on a pace to hit $1.6 billion in Internet-based sales this fiscal year, the spokesman adds. The company’s fiscal year ends Jan. 31. Staples also reported $251.7 million in Q3 European sales, up from $204.6 million a year ago, but it doesn’t break its European figures down into offline and online sales.

Staples, the 2nd-largest retailer of office supplies after Office Depot Inc., breaks out its overall North American sales into two segments: retail stores and direct delivery, which includes web and catalog sales. For its current fiscal year’s third quarter, its combined web and catalog direct delivery sales reached $910.57 million, or 32.1% of overall North American sales of $2.8 billion. That represents an increase in the share of direct delivery sales over the year-ago period, when they accounted for 29.6% of overall North American sales, or $777.60 million out of $1.85 billion.

For the nine months ended Nov. 2, combined web and catalog direct delivery sales reached $2.5 billion, or 32.9% of overall North American sales of $5.1 billion. In the comparable year-ago period, direct delivery sales were $2.24 billion, or 31% of overall North American sales.

Among direct delivery sales, orders placed over the Internet account for a larger share than telephone orders, the spokesman says. He adds that web sales are most popular among large company customers, for which orders placed over the ‘Net currently account for about 70% of direct delivery sales. Among small companies and consumers, web-based orders account for 45% of direct delivery sales, he says.

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