Michelle Bottomley has been appointed chief marketing officer at Staples, the office supplies retailer announced Thursday. She will be responsible for marketing across Staples, including helping the company’s pivot to focusing on its North American Delivery business, according to a company press release. She will report to CEO and President Shira Goodman.
Bottomley replaces former CMO Frank Bifulco, who had previously announced his intention to retire in 2017 after three years, the company said. Bottomley most recently served as global chief marketing and sales officer at the human resources consulting firm Mercer. Before that, she was chief marketing officer for credit card company Barclaycard and spent 10 years at advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather, including as chief operating officer of its flagship New York office.
Meanwhile, Staples this week rebuffed a bid from private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, while private equity firm Sycamore Partners is still in talks regarding an offer, Bloomberg reports. Staples has previously declined to comment to Retail Dive on reports of takeover interest.
While Cerberus and Sycamore have maintained interest in Staples to date, other potential buyers, including Clayton Dubilier & Rice LLC, Advent International Corp and previously owner Bain Capital LLC, have reportedly become discouraged about the struggling office supplies retailer’s prospects in a tough retail environment. The fact that Cerberus apparently low-balled its offer indicates a tempered interest.
Bottomley's appointment comes amid other shuffles in the top ranks since the permanent appointment of Goodman as CEO last fall. The company named its first chief information security officer earlier this month.
“Michelle brings tremendous breadth and balance in the marketing profession, and has a well-earned reputation as a leader of high-performing teams,” Goodman said in a statement Thursday. “Her strong background in business-to-business marketing, including working closely with and leading sales teams, and deep expertise in digital marketing will be critical as we transform Staples to be a solutions provider for businesses.”
Staples is stabilizing after the disappointment and costs associated with its failed merger with rival Office Depot, but it's not likely to see a sustained turnaround this year, particularly because its strategy will likely further erode the retail side of its business, GlobalData Retail Analyst Carter Harrison said in a note emailed to Retail Dive.
Cost-cutting measures have been top of mind for both Staples and Office Depot as they move to execute new strategies after their merger was blocked last year over antitrust concerns. Since then, Staples has sold its U.K. stores and a controlling interest in its remaining European operations. To draw more entrepreneurs and remote workers to its stores, the retailer has also experimented with a partnership with workspace startup Workbar.
Both retailers are also focusing on their more lucrative business contracts in light of declining retail sales, but they're facing mounting competition in that space from Wal-Mart's Sam's Club unit, BJ's Wholesale and, in a surprise to many, Amazon.
“The impact that Amazon has had on Staples' consumer segment cannot be underestimated, but what is more concerning is the impact that Amazon is having within the B2B space,” Matt Sargent, senior vice president of Retail at Frank N. Magid Associates, told Retail Dive in an email last month. “Amazon is penetrating small, medium and large corporations within office supplies. This is a red flag for Staples given that corporate office supplies are the most profitable segment of Staples' portfolio.”
Nearly a quarter of corporate buyers “frequently” shop at Amazon, according to Magid’s research. “This would not necessarily be a shock for small businesses, but we found this to be true even in large businesses where 22% of buyers buying for business over 250 employees indicated they use Amazon ‘frequently.’ When seeing that 38% of Staples' customers use Amazon for business on a frequent basis, it really hits home for the company.”
That's why the business market is "not a panacea," according to GlobalData Retail. "Indeed, it suffers from many of the same pressures as retail, not least the incursion of Amazon and other online players," Harrison noted. "From our experience, it is far more difficult to persuade business customers to switch brands on the back of emotional marketing. We do not believe that Staples' efforts will fall entirely flat, if only because they will increase awareness of its business offerings. However, neither do we see them as being a medium term savior of the company."