Inc. survey of how the office-supply discounters measure up.
A merchandising concept barely five years old, giant office-supply chains are spreading across the country. They've already spawned so many stores, they're now muscling in on one another's turf, each claiming to beat the competition's prices to a pulp.
To determine if that's so and by how much, Inc. shopped the catalogs of 10 superstores plus 3 discount mail-order houses, selecting for comparison five identical items. The results are shown in the table below, with stores ranked in order of overall savings on goods. Some observations:
* Savings vary by region. An East Coast purchasing agent could pay 35% more for an item than his or her West Coast counterpart -- and at the same chain!
* Delivery charges are quirky. Most retailers boast free or nearly free delivery; a few add freight charges. All three mail-order companies ship mostly for free.
* The suggested list price, which is referred to when items' discounts are promoted, differs considerably from chain to chain. Not that the figure means very much: even a local mom-and-pop is unlikely to charge full list price, if there really is such a thing. -- Robert A. Mamis
HOW THE DISCOUNTERS MEASURE UP
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