Funny how the world evolves. Years ago when I was helping the team at The Kelsey Group, we used to talk and write about how the big box stores were destroying Main Street U.S.A. We debated and discussed how that disruption would impact the local media business.

The thesis was that as Main Street’s Mom and Pop stores closed in favor of the Big Box stores – Office Depot, Best Buy, Staples, Lowes, Home Depot – the traditional Yellow Pages industry would also suffer as a result. And indeed it did.

The big winners in the local media space at the time were newspapers, as the Big Box stores came to rely on daily newspapers to promote their specials and sales.

We’ve entered a new phase with some of the very same companies, including Office Depot, finding themselves on the downside of the growth curve – in fact they’re being Amazoned.

In response, Office Depot is transitioning toward a services model instead of a paper clips and toner cartridge model. Office Depot reported that this week it opened the first BizBox, powered by Office Depot store in Austin, Texas.

According to the story in Chain Store Age “BizBox is designed as a one-stop-shop that offers end-to-end services to help small- to mid-sized businesses start and grow their companies, including logo and website design, digital and social marketing, full-service copy and printing, finance and accounting services, payroll, HR, tech support and more.”

It appears that Office Depot is planning to offer a set of SaaS solutions to its small business customers. No doubt there will be dozens and dozens of SMB SaaS developers knocking on the doors of Office Depot seeking to leverage its retail store footprint. Can a brick and mortar seller of staples and highlighters make the transition to selling and servicing SaaS solutions? Time will tell, but Office Depot faces the same uphill challenge as any business trying to pivot out of its comfort zone into new opportunities.

Another important note is that Office Depot is tasking former Verizon SMB channel chief Janet Schijns – whom they hired last July – with building out an indirect channel to sell services from newly acquired CompuCom to SMB customers. She knows plenty about the challenges of selling to, servicing and retaining SMBs.

The space Office Depot now occupies, offering cloud-based business services to SMBs, is the focus of LSA’s Tech Adoption Index business intelligence practice. The TAI is measuring small business adoption of cloud technology and analyzing the emerging SMB SaaS industry. 

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