While we wait for the grinding gears of the months-long merger process between Office Depot and OfficeMax to yield some sort of survivor company (“More Than 150 Team Members from Both Companies Engaged in 17 Workstreams,” per a July press release; “more than 100 CEO candidates have been reviewed,” per another), OfficeMax has been acting like the deal won’t go through.
One of several initiatives OfficeMax announced over the summer is the expansion of its “Business Solutions Center” concept, which should win an award for Most Generic & Boring Product Name of 2013. The BSCs, if you will, are small-format retail stores [~5000 sq. ft.], that, in company spokespeople vernacular, help local small businesses with:
“Every step of the process – from formalizing your business (definition, please?) to setting up your website and marketing – will be available…[including an] array of marketing, document and shipping services.”
Two problems here. First, each of these things already exists separately elsewhere – see The UPS Store, Best Buy’s Geek Squad, the local copy shop, and a zillion website developers and search engine specialists available online.
Second, OfficeMax in essence is promising small business customers the fable of the “one-stop shop,” that none of them desires or believes in – small business owners live by best of breed.
Credit OfficeMax for this, though: in its glowing press releases for the Business Solutions Centers, executives call them “relationship-based retail centers.” Which strikes at the heart of another small business truism – over the long term, they want to do business with people they would consider good neighbors.
Which small businesses don’t find by window shopping. No one is going to stumble over an OfficeMax Business Solutions Center and declare, “Aha! I think I will go inside and buy some SEO expertise!”
This sort of “shopping” requires a destination mindset. Customers need to be invited, and feel welcome. A nice cup of coffee, perhaps. A little conversation. A place to put up your feet.