Staples sweetens price-matching deal

Associated Press |

NEW YORK (AP) — Office supplies chain Staples is sweetening its price-matching offer for back-to-school shoppers.

The Framingham, Massachusetts-based company, which like several other key rivals already matches prices of retailers including Amazon.com, plans to give customers 10 percent off the difference between its price and the competitor's price for an identical product. The offer starts on June 29 and will end the first week of September.

Staples will also feature weekly deals and everyday low prices on 30 back-to-school essentials such as 17 cent single-subject notebooks. The moves will build on its new brand tagline "Make More Happen."

The moves by Staples, slated to be announced Tuesday, underscore how the office supplies retailer needs to step up the price game for what's expected to be a fiercely competitive back-to-school season, the second most important sales period behind the winter holidays. Late last year, Staples said it would match prices of Amazon.com for purchases made both online and in store. Prior to last year's steps, Staples honored Amazon.com prices with items sold on Staples.com.

Staples' back-to-school strategy comes a few weeks after Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, said it's expanding its online tool called Savings Catcher to cities nationwide in the next few months. If the tool — which compares prices on thousands of products with those of some of its competitors — finds a lower price elsewhere, it refunds the difference to shoppers in the form of a store credit. But while other programs only offer to match lower prices if shoppers do the research on their own, Savings Catcher is designed to do the legwork for customers. However, Savings Catcher, like Wal-Mart's in-store price-matching policy, excludes online competitors.

"We know customers are focused on price and value, especially for back to school," said Alison Corcoran, Staples senior vice president of North American stores and online marketing. But she noted that shoppers don't want to time their shopping to get each of the deals.

Corcoran declined to comment on Wal-Mart's Savings Catcher.

Staples has been struggling amid tough competition from dollar stores, discounters like Wal-Mart and Target, and online rivals. Staples reported in May that its first-quarter earnings tumbled 43 percent as the company shut store locations in a shift toward online sales.

In March, Staples said that it wanted to close more than 10 percent of its North American stores by the end of next year, up to 225 stores, as part of a plan to save about $500 million. It plans to close 80 stores in North America during the second quarter.

For Staples' Price Match Guarantee, customers who find a lower price on a new, identical item can show it to the Staples Customers service desk associate at the time of purchase at a Staples store. For a price match on Staples.com, customers can call 800-333-3330.

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