This Week in Imaging: Staples’ Acquisition of DEX Imaging: Game-Changer?
One of the most interesting and potentially game-changing news items this week was Staples’ announcement that it had signed an agreement to purchase independent Florida-based office-equipment dealer DEX Imaging, marking what appears to be the first time an office-supplies retailer has acquired an office-equipment dealer.
The acquisition is unusual in that office-supplies stores and copier dealers have long been at odds with each other. Mega office-supply stores have long promised cheaper toner, supplies, and equipment – typically A4 – while dealers have fought back by arguing that the mega office-supply store can’t provide the more personal, responsive service that a local dealer can provide.
The DEX acquisition also comes along on the heels of Staples’ often up-and-down journey. Staples was first backed by private-equity firm Bain Capital, with Mitt Romney at one time sitting on its board. The company’s twice tried to merge with Office Depot, with both attempts blocked by the Federal Trade Commission, which both times ruled that the merger would harm competition in the office-supplies market.
In the last several years, Staples has also closed many of its retail stores and laid off workers. In the U.K., in 2012, it closed some 23 of its stores; in 2015, it closed 225 stores in the United States; and in 2016, it laid off hundreds of workers at its headquarters in Framingham, Massachusetts.
Staples itself was acquired by private-equity firm Sycamore Partners in 2017 for $6.9 billion. The company then was able to purchase office-supplies distributor, Essendent, for $1 billion last year.
Today Staples’ stores still sell the usual office paper and office supplies, but the company has branched out into PC maintenance and repair, as well as phone and tablet repair, and other services, such as office cleaning and office-relocation services. Meanwhile, the company’s’ Staples Advantage group provides managed print services, data-center management, design and printing services, and other services.
Will Staples be purchasing more office-imaging dealers? Staples CEO J. Alexander Douglas has indeed said that more acquisitions could be on the table, although he didn’t specify copier dealers: “Staples will continue to strategically invest in companies that can bring added value to our customers in the form of enhanced products and services.”
As for DEX Imaging, which was founded in 2002, and has approximately 35 locations throughout the southeastern United States, management – a father and son team, Dan Doyle Sr. and Jr., and other executives – will remain in place.
DEX will not only bring its 35 branch locations to Staples – where it sells Konica Minolta, Kyocera, Canon, and HP Inc. equipment – but also an in-house R&D lab. This in-house R&D lab develops mobile, digital, and cloud document-management solutions, and also manufacture its own toner cartridges in-house.
We can’t predict how this will turn out, but history has shown that sometimes the joining of two opposing forces has often produced great results. For DEX employees and customers, things probably won’t change much, as it’s hard to see Staples interfering with a profitable company like DEX. How vendors Konica Minolta, Kyocera, and HP Inc. – which supply the printers and copiers DEX sells – may react is another story.
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