Twenty-somethings sip gourmet coffee in comfy booths as a chill soundtrack plays. There’s funky art, as well as skylights, an artificial putting green and — on some nights — happy hours with beer and wine.
A W hotel? A tech start-up?
It’s a Staples office-supply store, that longtime favorite of cubicle jockeys and back-to-school shoppers.
The company offers this “co-working” space — where millennials on laptops set up their instant offices — inside the very first Staples store in the United States. Three decades ago, it opened in Boston’s Brighton neighborhood, down the street from the International House of Pancakes where future office-store magnate Tom Stemberg signed the company’s founding documents.
Under Shira Goodman, the company’s new chief executive, Staples hopes it can reverse its years of declining sales, unlike so many other retailers left for dead in the internet age.
Staples is targeting a market that, while now trendy, it still considers neglected: small businesses, from independent contractors who patronize co-working offices to entrepreneurs on Main Street and in Silicon Valley.
“If you want to get our strategy on one page, this would be it,” Goodman said from the company’s headquarters in the Boston suburb of Framingham, Mass., explaining its strategy after a merger with rival Office Depot was blocked by the Federal Trade Commission. “If you go to most people on the street and ask about Staples they’d go, ‘Oh yeah, the office-products superstore.’ But the reality is that’s very far from where we are today, and even farther from where we want to be.”
Goodman wants to dominate the $80 billion-a-year U.S. midmarket, or businesses with fewer than 200 employees. To increase a market share of less than 5 percent, Staples has sold off overseas divisions, shut down unprofitable U.S. outlets and has closed more than 300 stores. Sixty percent of supply orders now are online.
Goodman sees a silver lining in not having to handle integrating the operations of a rival. “Now you could have unbelievable focus around the Staples of the future and how quickly can we get there,” she said.