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Coffee And Ink

Hoping to differentiate itself from its office supply peers, Office Max, the third largest office supplier with 950 stores, has designed a new prototype that includes a WiFi café. Also different: In a bid to reach out to a younger male audience, the company put a technology hub at the store's center to sell iPods and cell phones. The Macedonia, Ohio, store is the first of 10 of its kind that will be opened by year-end, the company said. The stores are being built on a racetrack design, rather than warehouse-style with long rows.

By creating six “subworlds” for categories, such as ink and paper or binders and boards, the design should help customers find like products easily. “Most of our customers are destination-orientated,” says Ryan Vero, chief merchandising officer for OfficeMax. “So if you are coming to buy a binder for a presentation, we have made it easier to also find all the things that could enhance your presentation.”

Competitor Office Depot redesigned their stores last year with a more customer-centric approach called Millennium 2. The jury is still out on that design, also built in racetrack fashion. While same store-sales for the third quarter rose 4 percent, the company lost $48 million as it undergoes reorganization and cost-cutting initiatives.

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