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Staples connects growing businesses with its online financing service

May 28, 2015 10:59 AM
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As Staples Inc. moves beyond just selling office supplies, a new online financing service is adding a new source of revenue and helping boost online sales amid declining store sales.

Staples launched in February an online lending service with Lendio, a company that forwards loan applications submitted via the web to lendors from thousands of financial institutions. Since the launch, 43 small businesses have received a combined total of about $1.5 million in financing after applying through the Business Loans section of Staples.com, Staples says. “We are committed to helping small businesses by providing everything they need to make more happen in their businesses through products and services they need, including capital,” says Alison Corcoran, senior vice president, North American Stores & Online, the division of Staples that sells to small businesses as well as consumers through Staples.com and its chain of more than 1,400 retail stores.

Clicking the “Get Started” button in the Staples Business Loans section takes the online applicant to a loan application form on Lendio.com. Staples did not say what percentage of total applicants have received financing, though Lendio says it works with more than 3,000 lenders to try and match financial institutions with applicants based on their credit scores.

Staples says businesses that have received financing through Staples Business Loans include:

● Hitt Medical Writing LLC, Alpharetta, Ga., which borrowed money to hire more writers to produce medical content for e-learning programs and other medical industry publications;

● Digital & Project Services LLC, Columbus, Ohio, which used its financing to develop projects in low-voltage electrical product installations and expand into plumbing services;

● Bubba Nubb’s Lunch Wagon, North Dinwiddie, Va., which purchased equipment to operate a food-truck business;

● HiMacc Remodelling, Dunellen, N.J., which used its financing to invest in new remodeling services and improve its cash flow. 

The financing service charges no fees to applicants, who only pay loan fees or borrowing rates charged by the lendors, a spokeswoman for Staples says. Staples did not immediately respond to a request for information on how it and Lendio handle any referral commissions received from lendors.

Although whatever revenue Staples has earned so far from the lending program is a tiny percentage of its overall online sales—it reported $11.232 billion on online sales in 2014—it nonetheless adds to revenue at a time when its North American Stores & Online division reported a 10% drop in sales for the first fiscal quarter ended May 2, 2015, to $2.372 billion from $2.634 billion, as the division’s net income fell 19% to $75 million from $93 million. Although Staples didn’t break out the division’s online and store sales for the quarter, it noted that sales on Staples.com increased 1% from the year-earlier quarter. Staples is No. 4 in the Internet Retailer Top 500, which ranks companies on their annual web sales.

Staples also reported for the North American Stores & Online division for the first quarter ended May 2:

● Comparable-store sales declined 3%. Staples includes in comparable sales its revenue from stores open at least a year and growth over the past 12 months on Staples.com;

● Declines in sales of computers, mobility products, business machines and technology accessories were partially offset by increased sales of copy and print services, and supplies for corporate facilities and breakrooms.

● Closed 28 retail stores, bringing to 197 the number of stores closed since last year, and approved the eventual closure of 21 more stores. Overall, Staples has reduced its number of retail stores over the past year from more than 1,600 to close to 1,400.

Staples is offering the Lendio lending program only through Staples.com. It has not said whether it plans to also offer lending services through Quill.com and StaplesAdvantage.com, which cater to small to large businesses as part of the company’s North American Commercial division. 

For the North American Commercial division’s first quarter ended May 2, the company reported:

●  Sales increased 2.5% to $2.108 billion from $2.056 billion a year earlier; net income dipped 1.5% to $134 billion from $136 billion;

●  The increase in sales was mostly related to higher sales of office furniture, printing products, and supplies for corporate facilities and breakrooms, and coincided with decreased sales of paper, ink and toner supplies.

Sign up for a free subscription to B2BecNews, a weekly newsletter that covers technology and business trends in the growing B2B e-commerce industry. B2BecNews is published by Vertical Web Media LLC, which also publishes the monthly business magazine Internet Retailer. Follow B2BecNews editor Paul Demery on Twitter @pdemery.

 

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