- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2012

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — Staples is speeding up the closures of more than a dozen U.S. stores and plans to close 45 stores and some delivery businesses in Europe.

The office supply company also says it will invest more in its online and mobile efforts and will expand the product assortment that it offers to its business customers.

Staples Inc. said Tuesday that these moves and other actions are part of a strategic plan to better serve customers’ needs and accelerate growth.

Staples is trying to adapt to the evolving needs of its customers. Last month the company reported that its second-quarter net income fell as sales of computers, software, and basic office supplies softened. Computer sales have been pressured by the introduction to many offices of the computer tablet and other mobile devices. Traffic is also down at Staples‘ stores and Europe continues to be a weak spot.

The chain expects the U.S. store closings will result in a charge of about $35 million in the fourth quarter. For fiscal 2012, it anticipates about 30 U.S. store closings. Staples also expects 30 stores to be scaled down.

In Europe, the store closures are expected to occur before the end of fiscal 2012. The company has also tapped John Wilson to serve as president of Staples Europe, succeeding the retiring Rob Vale.

The company said its U.S. retail and online businesses will now be run by Demos Parneros. Joe Doody will continue to lead the North American contract and Quill.com businesses, and will assume leadership of supply chain and customer service operations in North America.

Staples expects its actions to result in charges of $145 million to $195 million by the end of fiscal 2012. It also foresees a third-quarter goodwill impairment charge of $790 million to $850 million within its European retail and catalog businesses.

The company said it is still looking into additional operational and strategic opportunities for its European operations, which include the potential sale of its European printing systems business. It anticipates taking a third-quarter charge of $15 million to $20 million as it classifies the European printing systems business as discontinued operations. The chain will also take a charge of $20 million by the end of fiscal 2012 as it rebrands its Australian business.

The Framingham, Mass., company anticipates annual savings of about $250 million by the end of fiscal 2015.

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