September 25, 2012, 12:29 PM

Staples aims to unite the web and stores with a corporate revamp

The office supplies chain will reduce store space while increasing online investments.

Allison Enright

Editor

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Staples Inc., the office supplies chain and second-largest online retailer in North America, today announced it will close 15 more North American stores by the end of the year—bringing its 2012 total North American closures to 30—and increase its investments in the web as part of a company-wide restructuring plan. Staples operated 1,917 stores in North America at the close of fiscal 2011, which was in January 2012.

The retailer says the goal of the restructured company is to better serve the needs of its customers and, to do that, it’s realigning its priorities. Staples says it will invest to grow its online businesses and to better integrate stores and online. To that end, Staples is uniting leadership of its stores and online businesses under Demos Parneros, who has been president of U.S. stores since 2002.

Joe Doody, who was president of Staples North American Delivery, the Staples unit responsible for e-commerce, will continue to head Staples’ North American Contract and Quill.com businesses, and will also now head up supply chain and customer service operations in North America.  Both Parneros and Doody will report to Ron Sargent, Staples’ chairman and CEO. 

“By realigning our organization around our customers, we are much better positioned to take advantage of our unique supply chain and retail store assets, while accelerating online growth and significantly improving productivity,” Sargent says. Staples did not provide details on how it would accelerate e-commerce growth.

The retailer says it will also restructure its international operations. Staples will close 45 stores and several delivery businesses in Europe by the end of the year. That equates to 13.6% of the 331 stores it operated in the region at the close of fiscal 2011. It’s also looking to sell its European printing business. Staples also announced the appointment of John Wilson as president of Staples Europe, replacing Rob Vale, who is retiring.

The retailer says it will also rebrand its Australian business as Staples, but did not disclose details. Staples acquired an ownership stake in office supply firm Corporate Express Australia Limited in 2008.

Staples says it will reduce its North American retail store square footage by 15% by the end of fiscal 2015. The retailer says it expects the company restructuring and cost savings plan will generate annualized pre-tax savings of $250 million by the end of 2015.

Earlier this year, Staples opened what it calls an E-Commerce Innovation Center in Kendall Square in Cambridge, MA. Working there are teams focused on designing and deploying e-commerce tools and features to serve Staples’ customers. The retail chain has also said it intends to triple the size of its e-commerce and information technology staff within the next two years.

Staples is No. 2 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. It is No. 4 in the Top 400 Europe.

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