Oh boy. As Staples (and its failed merger partner, Office Depot) tries to recover from disappointing sales, it has partnered with Workbar to set up office spaces for customers in a few stores around Boston.
The space is far back from the retail area where customers can work without having their own real office. Said Evin Charles Anderson, whose video production company has been using the space, “On the weekends when we’re here, we see people peering in through the windows.”
Yeah. They’re wondering what the hell Staples is doing. The office supplies stores are in a free fall with Office Depot closing stores and regulators ending the proposed merger between Staples and Office Depot.
Staples Workbar is a tactic, not a strategy
Both supply stores, in fact, are looking for new CEOs to lead the retailers into a new era where all retailers are becoming more and more irrelevant. The Workbar additions, just in beta stage at this point, won’t hurt but it won’t fix the problem either.
For one thing, who wants to work in the back of a Staples store? FedEx, off its successful merger with Kinko’s, has something similar that has now existed for nearly a decade.
More importantly, however, the working world is no longer dependent on having a traditional office or even one that resembles one, such as the Staples Workbar situation.
As many employees at very large companies will tell you, working from home is the new normal. (The sheer number of them doesn’t even consider freelancers.) You may go to FedEx Office for shipping but you can buy just about anything off the internet. There’s no need to go to a Staples store to work.
That is, unless Staples had a brand that compelled you to seek it out.
But there’s no emotional reason to go to Staples or even the Staples Workbar space, which is the only reason to create preference. As Napoleon said, “You must speak to the soul to electrify men.”
That’s what the office supplies stores are missing. They believe they can out-tactic their way out of their dilemmas, rather than looking at a complete overhaul of what they provide and what they mean.
I’ve been thinking recently that the entire brick and mortar retail market is in serious trouble. Malls are becoming a thing of the past and the industry as a whole is losing their shirts to Amazon.
So, there’s now Staples Workbar. OK. So what?