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Influx interview-staples

April 18, 2007

The world of office supplies has seen very little in the way of design innovation, most of the products we buy, look and function the same way as they have done for 50 years of more.

The office supplies retailer, Staples has set out to developing a program to bring design innovation to its own brand of products.

Influx was keen to learn more, so we fired off some questions to the Staples team.

1. When did Staples design initiative start and what was the catalyst for it?

Over the last four years Staples has placed an increased emphasis on building the world’s best office products brand.  We have made investments in both internal and external resources to help launch higher quality, more innovative products.  The catalyst for this investment was our customers telling us they want an easier shopping experience.  Staples brand products are a big part of that experience because we offer them with quality equal to or better than the leading national brands at a better value.

2. What are some of the first products you’ve produced and what are the stories behind them?

We are always developing and launching new and innovative Staples brand exclusive products.  Four recent products worth mentioning include:

*    Staples better binder – Built for life, the new binder design addresses a clear customer frustration – durability – and features an improved ring system with an easy open button design, reinforced yet flexible rubberized edges and spine, and an easy-insert spine label.  The better binder’s sleek design and great colors allow it to blend with any office, home or classroom environment.
*    The One-Touch line of staplers first launched a few years ago.  This is the easiest stapler we’ve ever seen.  Our customers can staple through 20 sheets of paper with push of one finger (we make a high capacity version that will go through 60 sheets).


*    MailMate Shredder – Staples discovered that most consumers open their mail in their kitchen, but there was not a shredder designed to fit seamlessly into the kitchen environment that could devour junk mail whole. With ID theft on the rise and the undeniable link between junk mail and ID theft, Staples designed the compact and attractive MailMate shredder.
*    The Staples Heavy Duty Micro Cut Ultra Quiet Shredder – Staples employees noticed that places like doctor’s offices waited until after business hours to shred private and confidential documents because of the loud noise.  Staples looked for a way to minimize the noise, which resulted in the launch of the Heavy Duty Micro Cut Ultra Quiet Shredder.

3. Who does the design work?

The design work is led primarily by our internal teams, but we start with our customer first.  We spend time in their work settings (offices and home office environments) to understand what frustrations exist with existing products and how we can help make better products that solve those frustrations.

4. What do your suppliers feel about you taking the lead, is it shaking them up?

Innovation and high quality products are a top priority for our customers.  We will always offer our customers a choice of brands, including our own. Our suppliers are generally supportive.  Additionally, the innovation of Staples brand products has helped us secure distribution in several grocery store chains that hope Staples’ unique product offerings will help them differentiate vs. the competition.

5. What other categories might Staples extend this initiative into?

We are actively looking at all product categories to see where there is an opportunity for us to make a difference.  Supplies, technology and furniture continue to remain key categories for us.

6. How successful has it been and how are your customers reacting?

Consumer reaction has been tremendous.  Staples brand products accounted for 20% of our revenue in 2006, up 11% from four year’s ago.  Our customer research shows that Staples leads the pack when it comes to innovation as we work to maintain our brand position as the world’s best office products company.

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