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IQ News: Office Depot Tries 'Virtual' Expansion

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BY Laura Rich and Bernhard Warner
Office Depot, which was the object of a failed takeover attempt by Staples last year, will take a dramatically different expansion tack later this month, with the launch of a fully transactional online store.
Office Depot Online will offer a full complement of office products for sale on the Web. According to Keith Butler, executive director of marketing and merchandising for the division, the venture's primary objective is to build market share with Depot's largest business demographic--the increasingly wired small office/home office crowd.
Butler added that the online store will not derail the chain's physical expansion efforts in the real world.
The Delray Beach, Fla.-based office supply chain hired Butler in December to oversee the construction and marketing of the cyberstore. A San Francisco office has been established for Butler and his support staff to handle the marketing of the site and transaction fulfillment duties. While the plan hasn't been finalized, an online media campaign is expected to kick off in February.
Studio Verso, a San Francisco-based new media agency headed by new media designer David Siegel, was the lead developer on the project. In addition to designing the interface, Verso was involved on a strategic level. It may also be involved in banner design. Verso is a 15-person shop whose clients have included Sony and Hewlett-Packard.
The new site will be Office Depot's first online effort in support of its U.S. business. OfficeMax, Cleveland, was the first office supply retailer to open a store on the Web in 1995. Staples has yet to do so.