While well-known as a retail office supply store, Staples is increasingly being recognized as a significant competitor in the B2B space across a broad range of product categories, from office supplies to jan-san and breakroom. Chris Correnti, vice president and general manager, Staples Facility Solutions, recently spoke with MDM about the company’s “reinvention strategy.”
MDM: Staples was primarily viewed as a retailer prior to its acquisition of Corporate Express in 2008. In the seven years since that acquisition, how has Staples’ focus shifted?
Chris Correnti: To better serve the needs of our customers and to provide them with everything they need to succeed, we have significantly expanded our product assortment beyond office supplies. Our vision is to become the leading product authority for millions of businesses and build on our success inthe facilities category.
Additionally, we recently revamped our digital storefronts staplesadvantage.com as well as staples.com to make it easier for businesses of all sizes to find the products and services they need. The refresh of Staples.com features faster performance, a new interface designed for easier navigation and expanded personalization. For StaplesAdvantage.com, we transformed the website to provide a more personalized experience that is tailored to our customers’ organizational needs. We also created a more simplified checkout process.
MDM: Was it a difficult transition?
Correnti: As customers’ needs are changing, we are committed to providing products and services that are more suited to their requirements. Our reinvention strategy builds on our greatest strengths, including our strong relationships with business customers of all sizes, our industry-leading online presence, extensive retail network and world-class supply chain capabilities.
MDM: You used the phrase “reinvention strategy” – what does the reinvention refer to?
Correnti: We are reinventing Staples. For example, we sell a wide range of products beyond office supplies. From facilities and break room to furniture and tech, we are committed to offering everything our business customers need.
MDM: Does this mean that Staples’ focus has shifted more toward B2B sales, rather than B2C? Or are the two segments simply approached differently, aided by the 2008 acquisition?
Correnti: Staples has always been focused on serving the needs of businesses. We have millions of business customers. At the same time, we also meet the needs of many consumers, particularly during back to school.
MDM: Where does the company see the greatest opportunities for growth?
Correnti: Facilities is one of the fastest growing categories at Staples, with more organizations recognizing the need for providing employees with a safe, healthy and clean environment.Our wide range of facilities offerings can help employers foster an environment that encourages employees to be healthy and productive throughout the day.
MDM: To what do you attribute this success? Are expectations that this will continue?
Correnti: We attribute our success to our laser sharp focus on better understanding the needs of our customers. We are continually reinventing to ensure our customers provide safe, clean, comfortable, healthy and stress-free environments to their employees to keep them happy, refreshed, engaged and productive.
To give you an example, we have facility category specialists who go above and beyond to truly understand the needs of customers and then prescribe solutions. Overall, our hands on approach to find better ways to keep buildings clean and safe has been the key to our success.
Staples has a dedicated team of experts including sales associates, chemists and technical trainers who are committed to offering products that are inherently safer and more sustainable to
maintain a healthy workplace. While we can’t predict the future, we can tell you that we have strong growth plans in place.
MDM: Beyond moving products, what types of services/training does Staples offer for jan-san B2B customers?
Correnti: Our customers are under constant pressure to achieve more with less. For example, in facility maintenance, 90 percent of the costs are tied to labor, a significant part of the budget. However, majority of the facility managers focus on reducing product costs to save money. Ironically, that’s only 10 percent of their total budget. Needless to say, this presents a huge opportunity for facility managers to save in labor costs and find a strategy that balances both product and labor costs. We work closely with our customers to understand their needs and then provide recommendations that work best for them.
MDM: What are some of the changing needs that you’re seeing in today’s markets?
Correnti: There’s been a shift toward providing healthier and safer workplaces, as well as providing workplaces that appeal to millennials. We’ve seen a major uptick in businesses requesting healthier snacks and beverages for their employees, and we’ve added items such as granola bars, nuts and healthier drinks to our product mix to help businesses provide more nutritious options for their employees.
Businesses are also paying close attention to fostering a safe workplace culture and keeping their employees safe in the event of inclement weather, a natural disaster or an accident.
Lastly, as millennials become the largest demographic in the U.S. workforce, employers are trying to understand how to attract and retain millennial talent. According to Staples Advantage Workplace Index, a recent study of 2,602 employees, eco-friendly practices in the workplace, flexibility and office perks are key to retaining millennials. In recent years, we’ve expanded our assortment to include products such as tablets, healthy snacks, comfortable furniture and sustainable and green products to help businesses provide millennials with a workplace more suited to their needs.
MDM: How does Staples approach this part of the business? Is it viewed as an add-on or as a critical piece of the relationships?
Correnti: Understanding our customers’ needs and then providing recommendations is essentially how we operate. This is a critical component of our relationship and business model.
Staples Advantage is a strategic procurement partner that sells everything a business needs to succeed.
We help our customers simplify the ordering processes, identify ways to reduce overall costs and gain better insights into spending trends – all offering multiple product categories ranging from office supplies, facilities and breakroom supplies, copy and print, furniture and technology products.
MDM: How important is e-commerce to Staples’ B2B business? Is there a specific segment of customers that use these options more often?
Correnti: E-commerce is a significant part of our overall sales strategy. With more people shopping online, more and more B2B customers have the same expectations of a great online experience as their B2C counterparts. They are shopping online in their personal lives and that has made them raise the bar for the sites they use while at work. We are committed to providing B2B customers of all sizes a great online experience and also achieve the objectives that they have from a procurement and cost management standpoint.