Convenience Can Kill Your Profits
Are Office Supply Super Stores Killing Your Business?
Have you ever noticed how convenient those giant office super stores are? I mean we all use them. They’re on every corner out here in the suburbs of Boston. It’s Officethis or Officethat or something like Paperclips, you know, all the major players. Well, I’ve recently realized that over the past 10 years of prosperity that my small business has been paying a huge premium for this convenience. In the past several months, as a result of the recent economic downturn in our local economy, I have been doing everything I can to plug the holes in our spending and trying to “trim the fat” so to speak. Fortunately this is something that myself, my competition and other local business owners are not familiar with. We have all prospered and have rarely, if ever, worried about money.
One evening I was shopping with my family at Wal-Mart loading up on family stuff and I couldn’t help but notice that the same 100ct (or very similar) manila folders that I paid nearly $7.00 for several hours earlier at Officethat were available at Wal-Mart at an everyday low price of $1.77. Now, I never claimed to be a genius but a $5.00 difference on a product that I buy 5 boxes of a month is a $25.00 a month savings. That of course is $300 a year.
I quickly realized that I was on to something but I figured it was just a fluke. I had also bought a new water bubbler and a mini bar type refrigerator earlier and they both cost $149.00 each so I figured I would go and check out that aisle as well. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I found a water bubbler/mini fridge combo for only $99.00. Of course I bought it on the spot and when I got back to my office the next morning I repackaged the fridge and water bubbler and back to Office that they went with five boxes of manila folders and a few other overpriced items and I saved more than $225.00. Not too shabby. And to think that this was only one trip over the past ten years. How much could I have been saving the whole time?
When I try to mention this finding to people in my local business community I hear things like “who cares, it’s all a write off anyway” or “you should buy American”(as if these office superstores are all loaded with American made products.) These are both some of the worst excuses for spending way too much money for no reason I have ever heard. It is all a write off but saving several hundred dollars a month on office products allows more flexibility in other areas of my business. As far as the old “Buy American” thing, this one makes me laugh; I would literally have to hire a full time employee to determine what is made here and what isn’t. I usually just respond with something like “I’ll buy everything American if you start buying American gasoline or start riding your bicycle.” I am as American as the next person whose ancestors came over on the Mayflower but the bottom line is that when I am done with my office supply purchases now I have a lot of money left over.
Don’t get me wrong, I still use the office superstores for certain items when I don’t have time to go into a department store (they are convenient) and for one or two small items it is worth paying more. When I need to fill my supply cabinet, on the other hand, I will surely take a trip to Wal-mart, K-mart or even Target to save literally a bundle of cash. I simply don’t care how neatly organized the office goliaths are because with a little more effort you can find everything you need for your office and a little more while saving hundreds of dollars at a department store.