These days, all signs point to the end of mega-retailers: Borders Books and Music shuttered in 2011; Circuit City called it quits in 2009; Office Depot and OfficeMax were purchased by Staples, cutting the number of players in the office-supply sector. Now, Barnes & Noble is even teetering on the brink of extinction.
But for Darin Kraetsch, Alan Woods and Brian Curin, founders of the popular franchise brand Flip Flop Shops, where one giant retailer door closes, another virtual door opens.
In 2012, they launched an online office-supply portal called OfficeZilla
. Shortly after, they were noticed by United Stationers, a distributor with a $750 million office-supply inventory and 30 U.S. warehouses. Together, they turned OfficeZilla into a franchise that marries new technology with the kind of quality customer service seen before the days of big-box retailers.
According to Kraetsch, their business works like this: E-commerce leads from OfficeZilla are fed to local franchisees, who then follow up with businesses to help them buy the right products—from pens and notebooks to janitorial supplies—in the right quantities.
The model has already attracted 19 U.S. franchisees, with more on the way.
“In a short period, we’ve seen a very competitive marketplace among big-box stores dwindle,” Kraetsch said in an article published in Entrepreneur. “That’s one of the things we hope to capitalize on. We hope to disrupt the space they have left open for small and medium-size business that Staples can’t afford to service.”