Staples was playing for its future on Tuesday in US District Court in Washington, DC, as it rebutted the Federal Trade Commission’s contention that the retailer’s planned merger with Office Depot would be anticompetitive.
But that’s not all the office products chain is doing to try to ensure a future in which commodity-oriented bricks-and-mortar brands are increasingly endangered by e-commerce and other trends.
Staples also announced that it is partnering with office-sharing startup Workbar to use a portion of the square footage in its retail locations as work spaces, a type of experimentation in bringing other activities and even other retail brands under its roof that Staples now has in common with other chains including Macy’s and Sears stores.
Beginning with three Boston-area stores close to its Framingham, Mass., headquarters, the chain is hoping the collaboration not only will take up idle real estate but also increase in-store traffic. Workbar will run a 2,500- to 3,500-square-foot communal space inside the stores that will include a mix of simple desk areas, conference rooms, private phone room, printers, copiers and other standard office equipment, according to Consumerist.com.
“Obviously, it drives traffic for us,” Peter Scala, Staples’ executive vice president of merchandising, told the Wall Street Journal. “Our goal here is to continually focus on making large stores more productive.”
Meanwhile, Scala’s colleagues and Staples lawyers also are focusing on defeating antitrust regulators in court to get approval of the $6.3-billion deal with Office Depot. Both chains have closed stores and cut staff and are pointing to their dwindling mass as evidence that they wouldn’t pose an anticompetitive threat in the office supplies markeet, but the federal government doesn’t agree.
This week, in the antitrust case, Staples took the unusual step of urging Judge Emmet Sullivan simply to dismiss the suit because the government failed to prove that the deal should be blocked and that Staples didn’t need to present a defense.
Seems like more of a Hail Mary—but when you’re pressed on all sides as Staples is, you try many things.