Office Depot hopes to offer more technology, better customer service at downsized location
Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 20, 2013
SALISBURY — After downsizing from 33,000 square feet to just 5,000 square feet, the redesigned Office Depot at 715 E. Innes St. hopes people still believe the adage, “good things come in small packages.”
Office Depot used to occupy most of the big box store next to Kmart. The new, small-format store now stands in one corner of the building, which it will share with Big Lots and reportedly, Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts.
If you shopped in the previously cavernous Office Depot, walking into the redesigned store is a different experience.
“It’s more intimate,” manager George Barnett said. “We are one-on-one with the customer.”
The chain has adopted the new approach around the country in an attempt to win more customers. Barnett said Salisbury has one of the first new format stores on the East Coast.
The warehouse feel is gone, replaced by a well-lit, easy-to-navigate store that offers fewer office supplies — and fewer choices of the supplies that remain — but more high-tech gadgets, accessories and customer service.
“It’s pleasant and inviting,” said Steffone Wynn, executive director for the East Spencer Housing Authority. “It’s more convenient. At other stores that are so large, staff is sometimes not available.”
Wynn said Office Depot serves as one-stop shop for printing and office supplies for the housing authority.
The redesigned format includes a Bluwire store-within-a-store, featuring popular tech and mobility products such as iPhone cases, accessories for iPad and MacBook, Beats by Dre headphones and wireless speakers.
The store has a PC bar where people can sit down, plug in their laptop or tablet and get to work. Don’t have a computer? Rent one for about 35 cents a minute.
Free Wi-Fi is offered throughout the business with a free recharge station and free coffee available between 8–10 a.m. and 3–5 p.m. weekdays.
The store centers, literally, around an augmented copy and print area, offering same-day business cards, copying, document shredding, custom printing and packing and shipping. Self-serve copiers are still available.
Tech services provides computer repair, network set-up, software installation, virus removal and more.
The little store is big on interactivity, with several touch screen displays throughout the business where consumers can order any product from www.officedepot.com they can’t find on the shelves. Delivery is free.
Jesse Carson High School teachers shopping at the new store last week said they liked the appearance but worried about lack of options and steeper prices.
“The colors initially grabbed us,” said Colleen Young, who teaches marketing. “Everything is labeled and organized.”
The prices, however, were a little higher than expected, agriculture teacher Jason Dellinger said.
“But you know you’re getting quality,” he added.
Barnett said the store still stocks 4,500 products, including ink, paper, pens, cleaning supplies, office furniture, school supplies and more. The downsizing cut three positions, and Office Depot is down to 13 employees from 17 in the big box.
Barnett said he’s excited about retail and restaurant changes coming to the east side of town, including Big Lots, Jo-Ann and Panera Bread, which will build next to Cookout.
“Instead of closing down, we are still here and we’re going for it,” he said. “People have faith, and we believe in this side of town.”
Office Depot stock has reacted favorably to the small-format store strategy. The stock price increased 10 percent Friday, a 42-cent gain, and closed at $4.65.
The stock sold for more than $40 in 2006. However, shares are up more than 100 percent from long-term lows in August.
Florida-based Office Depot has 1,675 worldwide locations in 60 countries and annual sales of about $11.5 billion. The chain has reviewed all of its North American stores to decide whether to downsize, relocate, remodel or close them.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.
What: New, small-format Office Depot
Where: 715 E. Innes St.
Why: The company is shrinking its big box stores around the country to offer a more intimate shopping experience and win new customers.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Buy ahead online: Go to www.officedepot.com to buy any item that’s in stock at the Salisbury store and pick it up one hour later.