When Staples Inc. was acquired last August by investment firm Sycamore Partners, it laid out a plan to separate from its retail operations and focus the Staples brand on business customers.
It took a big step further into that strategy yesterday with the announcement that it had acquired HiTouch Business Services, a large U.S. independent office products dealer network. HiTouch—comprised of three operating divisions that sell office products, workspace design services and information technology products and services—will operate as part of Staples Business Advantage, the Staples division that caters to mid-size and large businesses through StaplesAdvantage.com.
“HiTouch will now be a part of the Staples Business Advantage delivery organization, and its customers will have access to a greatly expanded assortment of products, the latest e-commerce tools and a world-class supply chain,” Staples said in a statement announcing the deal. Staples didn’t say what it agreed to pay for HiTouch
HiTouch will continue to operate its e-commerce portal for its MyOfficeProducts at MyOfficeProducts.com, where it sells products ranging from paper towels and soap dispensers to computer hardware and office furniture, says HiTouch CEO John Frisk, who will continue to head the HiTouch business within Staples.
HiTouch also operates DesignWorks, which provides workspace design services, and ITSimplify, which develops customized computer hardware and software applications for businesses.
Frisk says HiTouch will continue to offer “one-on-one” service to customers, helping Staples to provide a broader range of personalized and online sales and service.
Staples CEO Sandy Douglas, noting that that HiTouch will help Staples offer a more comprehensive set of personal and online sales and service, adds that Staples will continue to seek out opportunities to expand how serves customers. “We will continue to look for strategic opportunities like this one where we feel we can help create better options for businesses,” he says.
The HiTouch deal follows a similar move last year by Staples rival Office Depot Inc., which in November acquired for about $1.1 billion CompuCom Systems Inc., a provider of IT services and products to large, mid-size and small businesses
“Technology is the office supply of the future,” Gerry Smith, CEO of Office Depot, said in announcing the CompuCom deal. “The combination of CompuCom’s enterprise I.T. services with our millions of customers and approximately 1,400 distribution points gives us the credibility and scale to build a sustainable platform and stand apart from the competition.”
In March of this year, Office Depot also acquired BizBox, which provides through MyBizBox.com such services as website design and hosting, digital marketing, and online applications for managing such operations as finance, accounting, HR, CRM and payroll—“and potentially in the future, more and more services as well,” Smith said.
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