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36

Inc. Goes Superstore Shopping-Again
 

Price comparisons of thirteen office supply discounters.
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If you're supplying an office, dollarwise it pays to gear up in Los Angeles. For the second year running (see In the Office, June 1991, [Article link]), that's what we inferred from the gross cash-register estimates gleaned from our finger-walking tour through the catalogs of superstores and mail-order suppliers.

This year Inc. shopped for the budget-minded, determining the lowest available cost of 12 common items, as sold by 10 superstore chains and three mail-order houses. The aim: to spend as little as possible. Mostly, the goods were identical, but when they weren't, we priced similar items. To keep the comparisons fair, the one budgetary step we didn't take was to exploit special sales. Prices were taken from everyday catalogs as of August 1, 1992.

Three conclusions of note: The mail-order houses tended to be most expensive -- as much as 45% more than the cheapest warehouse. The most costly superstore was about 20% higher than the least costly. And Staples charged the most for staples.

* * *

HOW THE DISCOUNTERS COMPARED

Retailer (see key below)

Goods (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) (13)
5,000 standard staples $.69 $.69 $.58 $1.69 $.55 $1.69 $.58 $.58 $.69 $.59 $.63 $.59 $.59
One stackable desk tray .98 1.49 .98 1.49 .98 1.49 .96 .96 1.17 1.22 1.18 1.49 1.59
12 "While you were out" pads .89 .89 .99 .95 .99 .95 .99 .99 1.00 1.30 1.38 1.55 1.49
72 pencils with erasers 2.82 2.88 3.17 2.73 2.83 2.78 2.79 2.99 2.99 3.96 3.54 3.78 2.37
1 ream 20-lb. copier paper 2.89 2.89 2.99 2.53 2.99 2.53 2.99 2.92 2.89 3.29 2.69 3.99 3.79
1 ream 24-lb. envelopes 4.29 4.19 4.59 4.19 4.19 4.29 4.99 3.49 4.89 7.19 5.29 5.49 5.79
12 3M Post-It notepads 5.38 5.49 5.59 5.49 5.95 5.49 5.58 5.95 5.79 5.83 4.09 5.49 6.99
Ribbon for Epson LQ 1000 6.85 6.99 7.35 6.99 7.83 6.99 7.83 7.34 7.49 7.49 6.29 5.62 5.99
10 formatted high-density disks 14.99 10.49 12.99 11.95 12.99 12.95 12.99 15.99 6.99 11.99 10.90 15.20 16.40
2,500 sheets computer paper 14.99 13.99 13.99 12.99 15.29 13.99 15.99 15.99 13.99 13.99 17.98 20.99 24.99
6 rolls 328-foot fax paper 27.71 39.57 33.99 41.57 34.99 41.57 34.99 34.99 49.99 49.89 43.74 59.16 58.56
Laser cartridge for Hewlett-Packard Jet 63.34 59.77 63.34 59.77 63.34 58.77 63.34 63.34 69.99 68.91 82.89 79.99 82.99
TOTALS 145.82 149.33 150.55 152.34 152.92 153.49 154.02 155.53 167.87 175.65 180.60 203.34 211.54

Key: (1) Office Depot, Los Angeles; (2) Staples, Los Angeles; (3) Office Depot, Atlanta; (4) Staples, Boston; (5) Office Depot, Orlando; (6) Staples, Washington, D.C.; (7) Office Depot, Houston; (8) Office Depot, Seattle; (9) BizMart, Houston; (10) OfficeMax, Milwaukee; (11) Quill (mail order, 717-272-6100); (12) Reliable (mail order, 800-735-4000); (13) Viking (mail order, 800-421-1222).

-- Researched by Vera Gibbons

Last updated: Nov 1, 1992




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