Some Staples Stores Will Soon Turn Into Coworking Spaces

The office supply retailer is embracing the younger generation of workers.

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Amidst the struggles faced by brick-and-mortar retailers of all sizes, Staples has come up with a unique strategy: they’re going to convert some of their stores into coworking spaces.

It was recently announced that Staples will be partnering with Workbar, a popular coworking space in Boston and beyond. As of now, three Staples locations in the Boston area will convert into full-fledged coworking spaces, complete with wifi and printing and all. Members will pay a daily or monthly fee for the service, just like at the original Workbar locations. These Staples coworking spaces will fit roughly 50 members each.

Staples provides services for businesses, so in a way, coworking is a logical extension of their business. Considering the amount of property they rent for their retail stores, they’re in a better position to serve the coworking market than most newbies who attempt to start coworking spaces. The paperwork involved with leasing a space and selling memberships is one of the hardest practicalities of running a coworking space, and Staples certainly has the team to handle it.

This is also a significant move for Workbar. The coworking space is well-known in the Boston area, but they’re not nationally renowned. Partnering with a major retailer like Staples is a big decision that will have lasting consequences. Assuming that these Staples spaces are well-run and don’t dilute the brand, it could be a major opportunity for Workbar to step into the mainstream and expand to other cities.

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This partnership raises the question of whether other coworking space owners will follow suit. Retailers who serve businesses have trouble reaching startups and freelancers who are short on time and prefer to make their small-scale orders on Amazon. Stores like Staples don’t have much appeal to small companies that aren’t ordering on a corporate scale. Meanwhile, their brand will continue to slip as the younger generation stops associating them with office supplies.

Instead, offering a work space that’s stocked with Staples products is a good way to pull in startups and get them interacting with the brand again. Other office supply stores, and even furniture stores, can follow this trend of letting customers interact organically with their product by providing a work space. Especially in the case of furniture, physical interaction with the product might make the difference between ordering on Amazon and dropping by the brand’s retail locations.

In an age where brick-and-mortar retailers have all but vanished from the public eye, it’s encouraging to see one of them embrace the younger end of the work force. If Staples’ attempt to attract a new audience is successful, we’re sure to see competitors follow in their footsteps.