Friday, September 28, 2012

1076 Life Imitates Art

1076  Life Imitates Art

Okay... so in case you’re too young to remember, Willard, the human star in  a horror film, “Ben,”  that came out in the early 1970s.  It’s about a mansion-dwelling misfit with a “thing” for rats.


Remind you of anyone?  Anyway, Willard cultivates his rats and eventually realizes the population has grown to the point he can’t afford to feed them all.  So he ends up killing most of them.

NOW does it remind you of anyone?

Life imitates art.

Fast forward to the present and Bain Capital, the company allegedly formerly run by another Willard.

And let’s look at one of Bain’s “rats,” the office supply store Staples.  It and others like it are in trouble.  Too many stores, too many employees, too many nickel and dime items that don’t move off the shelves in too timely a fashion.

Staples isn’t in mortal danger.  But the population has grown to the point where food is becoming scarce, and the stock price is hovering in the eleven dollar range.

So they’re closing some stores, downsizing some others and playing musical chairs in the executive suite.  

Office supply discounters were a pretty good idea when they first started.  But they also did a Wal-Mart on locally owned competitors, pricing stuff low enough to dominate the markets.

They put up medium-box stores in low rent locations and bad neighborhoods, paid low wages, house-branded everything in sight and prospered.  Now, the shoe is on the other foot.  The small competitors are mostly gone.  But there are too many mouths to feed.

Among the mistakes that led to this:  moving into more upscale neighborhoods.  Expanding too fast and in too many directions.

Buy a computer from their dusty shelves?  Nah.  Most high ticket items don’t sell well there, especially when there’s a Best Buy or a real Wal-Mart around the corner. Those Staples copy centers are pretty much idle.  They’re set up to do big jobs.  Most of the big jobs go to what used to be Kinkos.  Faster, easier, cleaner.

The small jobs?  Almost every business has its own copier today.  Those that don’t go to the UPS Store.  Faster, easier, cleaner.

Office supplies?  Competition from Office Max, Office Depot, Office World and Staples’ own Quill.com, all of which have problems of their own are diluting the franchise.  Amazon sells most of that stuff and you can order with one click, even without Staple’s big red “easy” button.

Willard and his “job creators” can’t do much about this.  So they drown the rats.

Shrapnel:

--Speaking of Vulture capitalists, “Time Out Chicago” reports the megabucks vultures at, GTCR, has done what these guys always do, only faster.  After about 18 months of owning Merlin Media it announced it’s selling the radio stations in New York, Chicago and elsewhere.  And this time, they didn’t have to lift a finger, since Merlin was self destructing from day one, luring big talent and no listeners, then firing big talent and hiring machinery that also attracted no listeners.

--The ever so believable Randy Michaels, apparently inactive CEO of Merlin, denies the story.  But according to the Chicago report, Randy ain’t running things anymore and someone else in charge.  Can you spell dismantle?

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012

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