Still going strong |

Still going strong

PostNet, Pilot Office not backing down to Staples

— Steamboat Springs office supply and services business owners said they are prepared to compete with big-box retailer Staples.

The Steamboat Staples store opened a little more than a month ago in a shopping center at Pine Grove Road and Mid Valley Drive. The store is in the former Mountain Homefitters location.

Ironically, Staples is only a stone’s throw from the Steamboat PostNet store.

“We’re as busy now as we’ve ever been,” said Terry Stokes, who owns PostNet with his wife, Kathy Stokes.

PostNet offers shipping and printing and sells some office supplies. But a majority of PostNet’s business comes from businesses PostNet has had relationships with for years, Stokes said.

“Office supplies and business machines are a very small part of our business,” he said.

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Stokes said he was surprised Staples decided to move into the building directly across the road from PostNet. He said a competitor opening in town was inevitable.

Still, he was concerned when he learned the store was coming.

“It was more the fear of the unknown,” Stokes said. “Especially moving in right in front of us – they had a very strong presence.”

But when the Staples store opened, Stokes and his wife baked the Staples crew a cake and introduced themselves.

“If we’re doing a good job with our business, competition is a good thing, because it gives us someone to compare ourselves to,” Stokes said. “We are very competitive with them, price-wise.”

The Stokeses certainly know how to compete. They built the Steamboat PostNet into the top revenue-producing store of 850 PostNet franchises in the country in 2004. PostNet was honored with the 2004 Navigator Award as the Business of the Year by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.

In downtown Steamboat, Pilot Office Supply owner Tom Ptach said Staples brought some merchandise that people in the city wanted, like certain electronics.

“But (Staples is) also pulling some things out of the community,” he said. “People need to realize there is an advantage to leaving money in this town. We keep all our money in the community.”

Ptach named several local organizations that Pilot Office Supply supports, including LIFT-UP, Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association and Little League.

He said 25 percent to 30 percent of the products he sells at Pilot Office Supply also are sold at Staples. Office furniture and copying equipment account for the majority of his store’s business.

Sales of products Pilot Office Supply and Staples share have dropped between 25 percent to 30 percent since Staples opened, Ptach said.

Ptach said he expected the drop because of what he was told by the National Office Products Association trade organization. He said he expects to gain back about half of the lost business 90 days after Staples opened,

“We have had a number of customers go over and come back,” Ptach said.

But he said it will be hard to compete with Staples’ advertising and marketing efforts. Staples is known for the commercials that show people using Staples’ “easy” button.

“They’re a marketing company,” Ptach said. “They market that they are the easiest place to do things, but we’re just as easy.”

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