Ah, the lovely Officeworks. Stationery. Post–its. Sharpies. Swoon… ☺
Officeworks is a chain of Australian retail stores that sell, yep, you’ve guessed it, office supplies. (For my U.S. readers, the original concept was based on Office Depot.)
It was established in 1994 by Coles Myer, which is now called the Coles Group, and forms part of the mahoosive Wesfarmers Limited empire. Phew, glad we got that clear. Officeworks is therefore a sister company to some other pretty great brands – one of which is bound to come under the spotlight in the not too distant future – including:
– Bunnings (the haven of choice for the man of the house);
– Kmart (have you seen how cheap & fetching their ‘knock off Adidas’ sportswear is?!);
– Target (that’s ‘Tarjay’ to all of us, now – thanks Gok, we’d honestly never ever have got there on our own).
I frequent Officeworks quite a bit. Now I run my own business, I have the perfect excuse to ‘just be passing’ and to thoroughly browse the aisles for essential supplies. The fact is that there’s no stationery cupboard for me to pilfer from anymore. And, to be honest, they were actually never as exciting as a trip to Officeworks. It’s resplendent with vibrant pops of colour, painstakingly neat organisation and beaming little helpers at every turn. Well, not every turn. It depends… (More on that later.)
When I first arrive, I traditionally want to be left alone to peruse what’s new – you know you go to a store too much if you only look for what’s new. A bit like my trips to IKEA with my friend Laura, but that’s another story for a later date. So, yes, I like to be left alone during the first few moments across the threshold, to feel the vibe so to speak. Apart from the infamous day when I discovered the Alexandria store redesign and about a kilometre of neon Sharpies, just to the left of the front door, to get my grubby little mitts on. (They’re not grubby, I can assure you. It’s just a phrase. I’m very handy with the antibacterial wash.) On that day, I squealed loudly, with delight, at the nearest employee and he mirrored my reaction. I think he even jumped up and down a little bit with me… It was awesome.
Officeworks slots into the same ‘useful’ bracket as stores like the aforementioned IKEA, Kmart and Target here in Australia. And it’s comparable to brands like Argos and Tesco Direct in the UK. They sell shit you really need and each purchase does, in its own little way, make your life that little bit easier. They give you ‘solutions’. It’s a terribly overused word these days, especially in the technology space, but we do all have pressing, first world problems that need solving.
– running out of space (because our eyes are a hell of a lot bigger than our storage areas);
– ever increasing mounds of paperwork (stuff we feel the need to file to ‘deal with later’ rather than action at the time and store electronically);
– the need to scribble down all of those ‘golden nuggets’ that people utter during increasingly long business meetings (so we can never refer back to them later);
– the desire to dream up new ideas and ‘winning concepts’ on paper, through craft, or ideally a dose of Play Dough or Lego (and, thereby, try to remember what it was like to be a child with limitless imagination);
– and, of course, the inherent need to express our individual personalities with any particular colour/style/finish we want that particular day/week/year (and offset the ‘drudgery’ of having to work for a living).
Officeworks can solve all of this, incredibly efficiently. When I ordered my first, major business order, it arrived in less than 24 hours and with no delivery charges! As I stated in my Facebook post about the event, I was genuinely like ‘a pig in shit’. Incidentally, others don’t always seem to have the best experience, as a quick browse through the Officeworks Facebook page reveals. That being said, they let people rant on there; they seem to respond very swiftly to people’s gripes, in a nice and straightforward tone of voice; and, crucially, they do something about it. Hurrah!
Finally, in the practical stakes, there is, of course, something to suit each and every budget. Which is a given these days, but they do the product tiering in such a way that if you do choose ‘lower’ or less than premium, to put it bluntly: the item doesn’t look like a pile of crap and stand out for all the wrong reasons.
The Officeworks brand has undergone a few rebrands. In 2008 it was a low cost warehouse, that just happened to sell office supplies, and it carried the classic ‘Lowest Prices Everyday’ endline. Not a million miles away from any other big, service brand out here at the time, I’m sure. In 2012, it updated the line to ‘Big Ideas. Lowest Prices.’ A concept probably concocted in the same workshop as the now infamous line that its sister company Bunnings carries: ‘Lowest prices are just the beginning’. Regardless, it’s nice to have something in there about ideas. It’s way better than ‘solutions’ and it speaks to creativity, to the power of inspiration and it overtly sits before the value message, which is really important, IMHO.
All round, they’ve made a great effort with their branding. It’s painstakingly consistent across every brand touchpoint – and believe me, I’ve absorbed a lot of them, as Officeworks is firmly positioned in my current Top 10. Probably even my Top 3. This consistency and ‘slickness’ shows they dare to care and make an effort to be/look/act professional, to attract and secure repeat customers. The layout of the EDMs (electronic direct marketing i.e. salesy emails) is exemplary: bold headlines with an inherent thought (e.g. ‘Clean up’ rather than ‘Kitchen essentials’); simple, structured visuals; and a lovely little set of icons – I challenge anyone to deny they love the easy navigation of services these little beauties provide in a world crammed with promises galore.
Some other things I found out about Officeworks, while researching this post, include the little known fact that it ended its relationship with the paper supplier APRIL (who?) over claims that the company was illegally logging Indonesian forests. Hooray for a company with ethics and a code of conduct! They also, allegedly have free Wi-Fi in all stores nationwide. Who knew?! I can see a nice little message carried by that natty little proof point: because work never has to stop while you shop; at Officeworks, your business travels with you; for the customer who is ‘always on’; because giving is in our nature. Ok, I’ll stop now.
Playing in the area of functional, everyday, office supplies, it wouldn’t be unthinkable to keep things very straight bat and unemotional. But I’m pleased to note that Officeworks likes to make just the right amount of effort to ‘jazz up’ their wares with a few little personal trimmings. For example, the invoice attached to the (rather mundane) email confirmation of my order, clearly stated: “Thank you for your order. We appreciate your business.” Haven’t had one of those for a while and, come to think of it, my own invoices don’t even suggest as such. Hmmmm.
Another example would be a recent campaign, which travelled consistently well from instore comms, to EDMs and the mail out brochure stuffed into my post box, to the blog itself – who knew they had the latter? It challenged us to determine what our ’pen–sonality’ is. Somewhat clunky in language, sure, but the bright, cheery visuals of a selection of the 648 different types of pens they stock (yes, including the wonderful Sharpies) broke up the usual blue and white format of their branded communication, as did the hand drawn lines and smart musings on what you might be like depending on the pens you favour. I’m pleased to say that given I go for the ‘Artsy Pens’ every time, my individuality and imagination apparently has no limit and I might even be the next Picasso. Ha!
Of course, personal touches are not just delivered in the written form. They’re even better when delivered in person. Which brings me to the employees. As with most retail stores, it’s a mixed bag. My experience of Officeworks is that there are a couple of extremes at play:
1. the super enthusiast – really knowledgeable and an incredibly willing helper, complete with a personality and obvious sense of humour;
2. the aimless drifter – wanders the aisles, dreaming of better careers, avoiding eye contact and delegating enquiries onto the aforementioned enthusiasts, when things get real.
We all know, without any help from me, which employee delivers a better brand experience and more satisfied customers, but the bigger question is why the drifters are there? If they don’t love stationery, don’t dig the power of organisation and efficiency, or, at the very least, don’t want to help others in some small way, then why choose a role at Officeworks? It’s not the only option. Isn’t life also just that little bit temporary and fragile these days to be doing a job that bores us silly? I’m no doubt overlooking critical factors, not least the state of the economy and the ever increasing number of mouths to feed, but still.
The managers, instore, look great. They’re clearly ‘into’ what they do. And I’ve worked with enough service brands now to know that the shadow of the leader plays a big part in the morale and commitment of the employee being managed. So, where does the problem lie? Can Officeworks afford to be picky with the people who come through their doors looking for a job? I’d like to think so. But perhaps they don’t pay well, or don’t encourage enough of an internal culture to spread the good will from the enthusiast, to the drifter. Who knows. I’m willing and able to help them through this conundrum, by the way, should anyone from Officeworks be reading this. 😉
All in all, I absolutely love Officeworks. The fact that the word ‘stationery’ is enough to give me palpitations is only one part of the package. In reality, it’s nothing flash, but it’s a really, really useful ally to have in my brand repertoire. The mighty Staples is out here in Australia – there’s one near me too – but I’m not remotely tempted. When a brand delivers what it promises, time and time again, it has me hooked. I’ve worked out that visiting my local Officeworks is a form of ‘retail escapism’. (Not to be confused with retail therapy – that’s entirely different.) On my last visit, I was so ‘in the zone’ that I politely asked a (not unattractive) man in a blue top where the A2 portfolio cases were. He didn’t work there. Awkward.
I’ll end with a gratuitous picture of Post–its. Until next time…