Office supply superstore Staples, Inc. (Nasdaq: SPLS) announced today that it has sold a five percent stake in its e-commerce unit and has appointed an advisory board to guide it toward its goal of $1 billion (US$) in online sales by the year 2003.
The Framingham, Massachusetts-based superstore chain said that eBay President Meg Whitman, a current member of the parent company’s board of directors, and a group of executives from venture capital firms will make up an advisory board with a vast amount of Internet industry experience.
“The value these partners bring to the table is unsurpassed, and they have supported some of the most innovative and successful e-commerce businesses around today,” said Staples.com President Jeanne Lewis.
Executives from Highland Capital Partners, General Atlantic Partners, and Greylock Management Corp — all of which participated in the latest Staples.com private placement — will take a seat on the new advisory board.
The firms have participated in backing Ask Jeeves, E*Trade, priceline.com, Send.com, MapQuest, eToys and other successful e-commerce ventures.
Small Business Is Big Business
Staples.com has come to the e-commerce arena with a definite strategy aimed at the small business market. Since unveiling a revamped Web site in July, the company has signed deals and agreements and trotted out new features that are designed to capture the attention of small businesses.
With $7 billion in annual sales at its 1,100 stores in the U.S., Canada, the UK, Germany, Holland and Portugal, Staples is the leading office supply store. The company expects its online unit to snare an even larger market share of Internet business.
Staples says that surveys have shown that nearly half of America’s seven million small businesses will be online by the end of the year. The office supply category is expected to slip into the top five online sales slot over the next three years.
The company launched its small business solutions center earlier this month, offering free Intranet and expanded online services to business customers.
Staples also announced today that earlier this week, its shareholders approved the company’s plans to create a separate tracking stock for Staples.com. Shares of the new stock will be offered to employees as options and the company may issue the shares publicly or in private placement in the future.