November 28, 2011, 8:31 AM

OfficeMax sets its sight on small business

The retailer will focus on attracting small businesses to OfficeMax.com.

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Office supplies retailer OfficeMax Inc. plans to focus more web resources on small business, which increasingly is the fastest-growing segment of its online customer base.

While OfficeMax.com is generally thought of as a consumer site, many users are small businesses, Jim Barr, executive vice president and chief digital officer, told analysts last week at the company’s 2011 Investor Day last week in New York.

“We need to do a better job on this audience because it is core to our company’s strategy,” Barr said. “This segment is also more favorable to our business model because its customers tend to be more loyal than individual consumers.”

OfficeMax earlier this year launched Reliable.com, a wholesale office supply site for small business orders featuring gifts with purchase, deals and tiered pricing. The site previously served as a paper catalog business.

In addition to devoting more resources to serving small business, OfficeMax, No. 9 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, also plans to expand the number of products available online at all its sites, Barr says.

“Sufficient depth and breadth of assortment is a necessary ingredient of success online,” he said. “Customers have come to expect a nearly endless aisle of assortment.”

OfficeMax already has started to expand the number of online products at OfficeMaxSolutions.com, its site dedicated to contract business, with the goal of tripling the number of searchable products, Barr said.

The retailer also plans to invest more resources in using its web sites to generate more store sales. “We will invest in not only making the online experiences better but also for connecting those experiences to our other channel experiences,” Barr said. “Customers should be able to buy online and pick up their order in their local store, or have it delivered to them when they choose to have it delivered.”

With the increased focus on digital services, OfficeMax also will be expanding its e-commerce staff and investing in better features and functions such as improving site search, Barr said.

Improved e-commerce performance will be a big part of driving growth at OfficeMax, which in recent months have been tough. OfficeMax doesn’t break out quarterly web sales, but sales through the first nine months of 2011 declined year over year 1.9% to $5.28 billion from $5.38 million.

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