A Failure To Stand Out Led To Staples’ $6.9 Billion Buyout

More than a year after its failed merger with chief rival Office Depot that led to the resignation of then-Chairman and CEO Ron Sargent, Staples has agreed to sell itself to the private equity firm Sycamore Partners for approximately $6.9 billion, or $10.25 per share in cash. The transaction is subject to regulatory and stockholder approval, and is expected to close no later than December 2017.

The office supplies retailer has seen sales and store traffic sputter in recent years — enduring 14 straight quarters of same-store sales declines — and has struggled to differentiate its basic retail offerings as e-Commerce continues to thrive.

Whether Staples was selling office supplies, school supplies, computer hardware and software, printers or stationery, it had what was then considered a unique product positioning during its massive growth phase in the 1990s and early 2000s. Competing brands such as Office Depot and Office Max also expanded during this time, creating three major players within the office supplies vertical.

But as Best Buy started to become the go-to stop for tech products and Walmart sold more of the same items as the office supplies retailers, Staples and its competitors lost their differentiation advantage and ultimately suffered in the long run. Once Amazon entered the fray and other e-Commerce retailers began to sell many of the same products in an even more convenient fashion, shoppers had little reason…