How does Office Depot stay in business?When I was part of a start up business over twenty years ago the first store we went to when it was time to kit out our office was Office Depot. I can still remember practically bounding in and buying up chairs, office supplies, paper, printers, monitors, and everything else we needed.
Today, however, retail is a very difficult business. The high end retail items like Apple laptops aren't sold there; it is a mix of cheap and downscale laptops and inkjet printers. There are tablets, too, although many of them by makers you haven't heard of.
They used to have a giant wall of software. Today, however, software is mostly downloaded and not sold through retailers, and much of it is by subscription. Who goes to the store anymore to buy software? What do you do with the disc? Apple even stopped having a drive on their new Mac Book Air a few years ago and few people missed it. I went "old school" and bought a Mac Book Pro because I thought I might need one and I've used it about 3 times over the last 4 years.
What's left is mostly disposable. Want a phone system for your office? It is $100 for multiple handsets and a base set. Want a calculator? It is a few bucks. Now we are down to furniture and random office supplies. How can a giant store like that survive on margins from office supplies?
Ink for printers was a source of margins for a while and they still have a whole aisle; with modern internet delivery I'd bet that their margins have eroded significantly. If you want to take a chance on jamming your inkjet you can get refilled cartridges for almost nothing.
I'd say that Office "Depot" is an appropriate name for this retailer; it's where you go for low-end equipment and furniture for the parts of your office that aren't worth the Apple and the Herman Miller design touch.
Looking at their financials out on the web, Office Depot and Office Max recently merged and they are starting a plan to reduce their store overlap and gain synergies. Their margins are very low, as expected, and they are investing little in terms of capital into their franchise (which makes sense because they are collectively overbuilt).
Perhaps they have some sort of e-commerce distribution plan up their sleeve; the store is certainly giant and could house a lot of low margin office supplies for your downscale needs. I don't know if I'd put that in River North, however, where the rents are high; would probably be better off in a lower rent section of town.