Well, that didn’t take long. The last OfficeMax store in my local area is ready to close. The sign out front might say “Moving Sale,” but that description is accurate only in the sense that after the sale is over, the unsold merchandise will be shipped off to the nearest Office Depot store, in the next county. The store fixtures are not making the move, and many have price tags on them. Those are the real bargains in the store. The “Moving Sale” signs reflect the hope that customers might make the trip to the locations that remain open, but that is no more than a faint hope. Who would drive 16 miles to buy office supplies when there is a Kmart just around the corner? The 25% and 30% discounts have brought in more customers than usual, but the store is still conspicuously quiet when compared to the shopping mall it faces, two days before Christmas.
The local OfficeMax closing is part of a trend that saw a Staples store close already this year three miles away on the same street. More store closings are surely on the way as paper documents lose their central place in the business office. With fewer pages to print, an office supplier can’t sell enough ink and toner to keep the store in business. Office Depot announced the closing of 400 stores in May, but that number quickly rose to 450 and seems to be going up from there. In an ominous sign, staffing and worker hours are being cut in the stores that remain. Office Depot held off on store closings after the merger, not wanting to tell OfficeMax customers, “We bought your store just so we could shut it down.” Now that the store-closing habit has set in, though, it would hardly be a surprise if Office Depot ends up closing more than half of its locations and dropping the legacy OfficeMax name completely.
I can’t lament the loss of OfficeMax, not after what it has turned into. I would buy toner here for my laser printer, but I can’t. The printer I have was the biggest-selling laser printer model here last year, but that was last year. As this year winds down, the store no longer carries that toner cartridge. If I can’t buy toner here, what can I buy? Roaming the aisles, I picked out headphones and a USB flash drive. I tossed gel pens, Sharpies, and batteries into my basket. If I had paid full retail price my sales ticket would still have been under $100 — and I bought enough supplies to get through the next year at least. That kind of revenue isn’t enough to keep a store open.