Big Box Watch: Office Supply stores hit hard by recession

Just browsing the big-box news and came across an article by Tribune Media Services columnist Andrew Leckey. While the bulk of an article relates to his personal encounter with a big-box retailer (describing it as “a ghost town”), he has some eye-opening facts at the end of the piece:

Financial results underscore a brutal economy and industry in transition:

— Staples’ net income dropped 14 percent in its fiscal fourth quarter ended Jan. 31. It suspended its store remodeling and is looking toward smaller stores.

— Office Depot is closing 112 under performing North American stores, reducing by half its new-store openings and closing six distribution centers. Including substantial charges, it had a $1.54 billion net loss in the fourth quarter.

— With charges, OfficeMax had a net loss of $396 million in its fourth quarter, suspended its quarterly dividend, eliminated jobs and delayed store remodeling.

The thing that I always notice when people are making these doom-and-gloom predictions for the office supply industry? They always seem to be referring to brick-and-mortar stores. First it was the big-box stores pushing out local enterprise, and now it’s those very same big-box stores crumbling in the bad economy. No one seems to mention that the new face of office supplies has been online retailing for quite a while now, and people looking to improve their office-supply experience only need to look as far as their computer.

This doesn’t help all those big-box retailers, of course, and I’m sad for the people who are losing money when office store stock crumbles. But for the average consumer needing office supplies, the future’s never been brighter.

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