Under Sandy Douglas, Staples Inc. Is Reinventing Its Business

staplesStaples has been reinventing its business over the two-plus years since federal regulators succeeded in blocking the merger of the Framingham, Mass. office-supply chain with Office Depot — including the ushering in of a new CEO, J. Alexander Douglas in April.

Douglas, previously president of Coca-Cola North America, was installed five months after Staples’ new owner, private equity firm Sycamore Partners separated the company’s retail business from its more lucrative commercial division, according to Twice magazine.

Staples’ B-to-B business “has a significant opportunity to accelerate long-term growth,” said executive chairman John Lederer, and Douglas’ 30-year tenure at Coke and prior experience at Procter & Gamble made him “an ideal leader … at this important time.”

“Since his appointment, Staples, under the new tagline ‘It’s Pro Time,’ has doubled down on ‘work solutions’ that provide products, services and expertise for facilities, breakrooms, furniture, technology, promotional products, and print and marketing services,” Twice wrote.

In June, Staples acquired HiTouch Business Services, one of the largest office products dealers in the country. While now a part of the Staples Business Advantage delivery organization, HiTouch’s marketplace website continues to serve as an independent platform run by the HiTouch management team, helping Staples’ growth into alternative distribution channels.

“The combination of HiTouch’s sales organization and the strength of Staples will allow us to give customers an even higher level of service,” Douglas said in the press release announcing the deal. “We will continue to look for strategic opportunities like this one where we feel we can help create better options for businesses in the marketplace.”

It didn’t take long. In September, Staples bought Essendant Inc., a leading national distributor of workplace items, in a deal worth $996 million including net debt. The Deerfield, Ill.-based company distributes janitorial and breakroom supplies, technology products, traditional office products, industrial supplies, cut sheet paper products, automotive products and office furniture to a diverse group of customers, including independent resellers, national resellers and e-commerce businesses.

“We are excited about the opportunity to move forward with this agreement, and to work with the Essendant team to complete the partnership of these two great companies, which will ultimately deliver significant value to independent resellers and end customers across the U.S.,” the company said in the press release announcing the deal.

Douglas in June told the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors that Staples wants to partner with more dealers, as the company’s “strategic priorities of improved service and reaching a variety of customers make partnerships with local dealers attractive.”

“We believe that the capabilities we are building at Staples — good procurement, low costs, great products, technology and services — can be used to significantly empower dealers towards a more innovative business model,” he said.

He’s No. 133 on Chief Executive and RHR International’s CEO1000 Tracker, a ranking of the top 1,000 public/private companies.

Sandy Douglas, CEO, Staples Inc.

Headquarters: Framingham, MA

Age: 57

Education: University of Virginia

First joined company: 2018

Positions prior to being named CEO: President of Coca-Cola North America

Named CEO: 2018

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