Office Depot closing shop

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Global office supplier to shutter E’town store after performance evaluation

By Marty Finley

A global office supplier on Dixie Avenue is closing its doors.

Office Depot has announced plans to shutter its store on Dixie Avenue in Elizabethtown, in the Starlite Center near Kmart and industry competitor Staples.

Signs dot the grass in front of the store alerting the public to the impending departure, promoting discounts on inventory with nothing held back. Signs on the doors of the store indicate savings of up to 40 percent on all merchandise.

Store employees referred all questions about the closure to the corporate office in Boca Raton, Fla.

Rebecca Rakitin, communications manager for Office Depot, did not provide a specific reason why the store is closing, but said the decision was made to nix the store after a performance evaluation.

“We consistently evaluate performance of our stores,” she said in an email.

When asked if the store was underperforming, Rakitin did not provide a direct response to the question.

“The information that I have is that we consistently evaluate performance of our stores and the store you referenced will be closing shortly,” she said in a reply.

No closure date was given by the corporate office and it is unclear how many employees will be displaced by the move.

Brian Kerr of Kerr Office Group said the industry is changing with the emergence of online competitors such as Amazon and the prevalence of electronics that has reduced demand for some office supplies. He said chains such as Office Depot are looking to reduce the number of stores as leases run out.

There was no immediate indication a downsized store would locate in Elizabethtown.

The company, too, is undergoing a merger with Office Max, which is headquartered in Naperville, Ill. According to a joint news release from both companies, the merger is expected to be complete by the end of the year and will create “supply chain efficiencies” and a more streamlined purchasing process with vendors. It was unclear how this consolidation will impact existing stores.

Kerr’s office group is part of Independent Stationers, a national office products cooperative that recently wrested a major contract with U.S. Communities from larger chains because of mounting troubles. U.S. Communities is the leading national purchasing program for school districts and higher education organizations, state and local public agencies and nonprofit organizations.

In addition to new competitive challenges, Office Depot has paid millions in penalties to settle claims it overcharged customers and state and government agencies, which Kerr said tarnished its stock value.

Mayor Edna Berger expressed regret and concern over the news of the closure.

“We hate to see any business close,” Berger said. “Anytime we lose any business, we hate to see it.”

The mayor also voiced sympathy for those who will lose their jobs, but was optimistic they would find new employment quickly because of the diverse economic base in the city.

“Hopefully, the stores in town will be able to fill this void left by Office Depot,” she said, pointing to other businesses that provide similar products as alternatives for customers.

The Elizabethtown store is not the only one Office Depot has targeted for closure. Stores in Fort Collins, Colo., and Fairview Heights, Ill., also have been reported as closing by media outlets this month.

Office Depot incorporated in 1986, opening its first retail store in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., according to the company’s website. It now has more than 1,600 worldwide retail stores, according to the news release.

Marty Finley can be reached at 270-505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.