Staples plans to shutter 225 stores

Staples will shut down more than 10 per cent of its stores in North American by the end of next year, the second major chain to announce the mass closing of stores this week and the latest evidence of a retail landscape that is being altered drastically by the way Americans shop.

Staples will shut down more than 10 per cent of its stores in North American by the end of next year, the second major chain to announce the mass closing of stores this week and the latest evidence of a retail landscape that is being altered drastically by the way Americans shop.

The nation’s largest office-supply company said Thursday that nearly half of its sales are now generated online and it is working aggressively to cut costs and become more efficient. It aims to close up to 225 North American stores as part of a plan to save about $500 million by the end of 2015.

It had already closed dozens of stores in the past year.

Staples would not elaborate on the number of jobs that are being cut, nor the locations of stores that will close.

The recession did heavy damage to chains like Staples, which also face growing competition online as well as from discount stores. But the same thing is happening across the retail sector, no matter if the company is selling clothes, books, or electronics.

Staples has 1,846 stores in North America and Canada, the vast majority in the United States.

Chairman and CEO Ron Sargent said Thursday that his company wasn’t giving up on brick-and-mortar stores, believing that customers still want the convenience and service that they can get there.

“That said, stores have to earn the right to stay open,” Sargent said. “We are committed to making tough calls when it’s necessary.”

Those tough calls are being made by other retailers as well.

Two days ago, RadioShack announced plans to close up to 1,100 stores, about a fifth of its U.S. locations, after its losses widened during a dismal holiday season.

In the subcategory of office retail, there is a rapid consolidation taking place, both in physical presence and among one-time rivals.

Staples has cut the size of its typical store in half over the past several years.

Last fall, with sales flagging, rivals Office Depot and OfficeMax completed a $1.2 billion merger.

Shares of Staples Inc. tumbled Thursday after the company posted disappointing numbers for its most recent quarter and issued a weak forecast.

Sargent said no one is happy with the company’s performance.

“It’s clear we underestimated the headwinds we are facing in our retail stores as well as demand for core office supplies,” he said.

Staples, based in Framingham, Mass., reported adjusted earnings of $1.16 per share for 2013, well short of the $1.21 to $1.25 per share it said that it expected as recently as November.

In the fourth quarter, company earnings nearly tripled, but that is compared to a period when it booked $176.6 million in restructuring charges as it closed stores.

Staples earned $212.4 million, or 33 cents per share, in the quarter that ended Feb. 1. Revenue slumped nearly 11 per cent to $5.87 billion, partially because the 2012 quarter contained an extra week.

Those results also missed Wall Street expectations.

The company’s stock plunged more than 12 per cent, or $1.67, to $11.73 shortly after markets opened Thursday.

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