June 2, 2014, 12:26 PM

United Stationers acquires CPO Commerce

United Stationers is acquiring the niche tools web retailer to make a bigger run at business-to-business e-commerce.

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United Stationers Inc., a business-to-business retailer of industrial products and related items, is acquiring online tools retailer CPO Commerce for $30 million in cash and an additional $10 million if certain performance goals are met.

CPO Commerce, which generated web sales of $78 million in 2013, is a niche retailer of tools and related items and operates 46 different e-commerce sites such as CPOTools.com, CPOIndustrialPowerTools.com and others. CPO Commerce is No. 256 in the 2014 Internet Retailer Top 500, which ranks companies by the annual web sales.

Altogether CPO Commerce carries an online inventory of about 15,000 SKUs across all its sites and was launched in 2004. United Stationers is acquiring CPO Commerce because it needed an online retailing company with an established business and available technology platform to grow e-commerce, says United Stationers’ CEO P. Cody Phipps. “We are positioning United to be the premier supplier of business essentials with a focus on winning the shift to online selling,” Phipps says. “We expect CPO’s e-commerce platform to provide new capabilities to allow us to drive digital services, engage our resellers through online tools and enable their continued online success.”

United Stationers carries 140,000 types of industrial and office supplies and operates various information web sites such as BiggestBook.com, which provides information on office products. But with more of its customers looking for more e-commerce options, United Stationers is making a bigger push for selling business-to-business products online beginning with its acquisition of CPO Commerce. “We have an expanding portfolio of e-commerce competencies and have invested in skilled leadership to grow our online business,” Phipps says. “This acquisition is the next step in executing our strategy.”

CPO Commerce made the deal in part because it now has the backing of a bigger company with substantially more resources, says founder and CEO Rob Tolleson. “We are excited to bring our e-commerce expertise to United Stationers and look forward to leveraging United’s strong operational capabilities to better serve our customers and brand partners,” Tolleson says.

For the first quarter ended April 23, sales for Chicago-based United Stationers grew 0.3% to $1.254 billion while net income grew year over year 58.7% to $21.9 million from $13.8 million. CPO Commerce is based in Pasadena, CA. United Stationers will continue to operate CPO Commerce as a stand-alone organization, says vice president of marketing Diane Hund.

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