Officeworks’ massive new store was designed with online shoppers in mind

The biggest Officeworks store in Australia and biggest office supplies store in the world, according to the retailer, began trading on Saturday, March 23, in Mentone, Victoria.

At nearly 6500sqm, the store is four times the size of the average Officeworks, and its range of 35,000 products, double that of the average store, includes a huge assortment of educational materials and art supplies – new categories the retailer entered last year – office furniture, technology products, professional printing and copying services and more.

It’s a new “more is more” approach for the retailer, and if all goes well in Mentone, it will apply learnings from the store throughout its network and open additional XXL-format stores around Australia in the coming years.

“It isn’t just about one shop or a handful of shops, it’s about what we can do for the 165 other stores we’ve got around Australia,” Sarah Hunter, Officeworks’ managing director, told IRW.

The Mentone store is notable at a time when many other retailers are shrinking their store footprints – both in terms of number as well as overall size – to combat increasing rents and slowing foot traffic and to take advantage of the growth of online shopping.

But according to Hunter, who took over from long-time CEO Mark Ward earlier this year, the decision to go big makes sense for Officeworks on multiple fronts.

For one thing, the massive store enables the retailer to show customers that it sells more than just office supplies. A customer who comes into the Mentone store to pick up some paper for their at-home printer might realise they can also buy office chairs for their small business and canvases for their child who is into painting, rather than going to a specialty store.

Other Officeworks stores don’t have the space to showcase the retailer’s full range. And while customers can shop the full range online, Hunter believes some online shoppers aren’t in the frame of mind to browse and discover new products on the website, and others still want to touch and feel certain products before purchasing.

“It’s about helping the customer reimagine what we could be…they could have bought a lot of this product online already from us, so it will be interesting to see how physically being able to see it changes their behaviour,” she said.

“If they thought we had art, but didn’t understand we had this range of more professional supplies – which is an area we’ve really expanded in – they wouldn’t necessarily think about buying from us online. Whereas if they see it in-store, the chance of conversion both in-store and online is greater.”

The store also serves as a second fulfilment centre in Victoria and enables same-day delivery to the entire Mornington Peninsula. This is increasingly important for Officeworks, as more than 20 per cent of total sales now occur online.

“That’s about us meeting our customer needs effectively,” Hunter said.

“Customers aren’t one or the other. We’ve got to offer choice around how customers shop with us, so they can shop with us whenever they want and however they want, and then provide options around delivery so it’s convenient for them.”

A place to create things

The idea for the XXL-format store originated about three years ago and was inspired by a trip around the world to see what overseas retailers were doing in the space, according to Officeworks’ head of merchandising, marketing and supply chain, Phil Bishop, who spoke at the opening of the Mentone store last week.

“We asked [ourselves] why can’t we be something bigger than we are?” said Bishop, who is also the retailer’s interim head of retail, B2B, e-commerce and customer experience.

“Why can’t we be the biggest art store in Australia? No one owns that category…We want to be more than just a place to print and copy. We want to be known as a place to create things.”

While this shift to become more of a “one-stop-shop” could see Officeworks competing with more retailers in more categories – such as Spotlight and Lincraft in the arts and crafts space, and Temple & Webster in commercial office furniture – Hunter isn’t worried.

“We’ve always had a very fragmented competitor base, so arguably adding a few more doesn’t really make a difference,” she said.

“We’re only going to go into categories where we feel our customers are asking for it. Not just things…we think are interesting.

“It’s customer-led. That really has been the hallmark of Officeworks’ success over the last decade, and there’s a whole lot more we can do.”

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