One of things you will here me talk about all the time is how important it is for you to have a niche to drive your customers base. Wal-Mart has it’s low price niche (even if it really doesn’t have the lowest prices), Nordstrom is known for it’s customer service, and K-Mart is know for?
Now let’s look at one type of chain store that none of the competitors have set themselves apart and that is office supplies. There are three big stores when it comes to office supplies and that is OfficeMax, Office Depot, and Staples.
The problem is what sets these stores apart? I have to admit I used to work for OfficeMax, my wife worked for Office Depot at one time and her sister worked for Staples. So in other words we have all three covered.
If you ask a majority of their customers, they would say that they shop at the store that is most convenient for them. If there is a couple of stores close to each other people may choose one store over the other because of customer service but beyond that they have done little to set themselves apart. In fact I have never seen a market segment in which customers will when writing a check will not remember what store they are in and mistake it for a competitor.
While OfficeMax has tried to set itself apart by not having mail in rebates and Staples is pushing its Easy Button advertising, there is still little to set these stores of apart. They pretty much have the same product and services, at pretty much the same prices.
So what could these stores do to set themselves apart?