Staples Gutsy, Admirable Move

By Evan Schuman  |  Posted 2005-03-01 Print this article Print

Putting aside the PR lesson that prebriefing reporters to coincide with an event that is out of your control is remarkably risky, there are lessons here for any e-commerce player. The first key lesson is one where I have to give Staples well-deserved credit. In a lesson that Microsoft and Mercedes should have learned by now, cramming a bunch of great features into a product isnt a great idea if it causes performance to drag. Mercedes puts out one of the best cars in the world, with the best ride and the most wonderful features and accessories, but the electronics fail so often that hardly anyone wants to buy them. When it works well, its stupendous. But people care more about how the car drives when its not doing so well.
Microsoft crams it OS and its Office suite with tons of interesting features, but the typical user doesnt touch the vast majority of them. For those users, the unnecessary capabilities do little other than take up space and degrade performance. has had to take the lead in showing visitors what is possible. Amazon just applied those tactics to Yellow Pages. Will it work? To read more, click here. Someone at Staples came to the same conclusion. The ability to more easily use a coupon doesnt amount to much if the site takes too long to make a purchase. E-commerce sites must first focus on response times and making sure that the most basic fundamental capabilities (search, purchase, compare, log-in, etc.) work flawlessly 99.99 percent of the time. Staples trademarked tagline is "Staples. That Was Easy." I have to give credit where its due. In todays bitter e-commerce rivalries, to prebrief reporters and then to suspend a new site because its response times are inadequate isnt easy. Its gutsy. And its the right thing to do. Retail Center Editor Evan Schuman has tracked high-tech issues since 1987, has been opinionated long before that and doesnt plan to stop any time soon. He can be reached at To read earlier retail technology opinion columns from Evan Schuman, please click here. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on technologys impact on retail.

Evan Schuman is the editor of's Retail industry center. He has covered retail technology issues since 1988 for Ziff-Davis, CMP Media, IDG, Penton, Lebhar-Friedman, VNU, BusinessWeek, Business 2.0 and United Press International, among others. He can be reached by e-mail at

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