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Ketchup! At Staples? Believe it

To counteract weak demand for conventional office products, Staples is peddling some decidedly non-traditional office products as part of an expanded assortment billed as, "summer celebration essentials."

The company is offering condiments such as ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard along with grills, coolers, bottle openers, patio furniture, salty snacks and disposable cutlery to appeal to Fourth of July shoppers.

"Staples’ expanded assortment of products makes it easier than ever to stock up on summer celebration essentials," said Mike Edwards, EVP of merchandising for Staples North American Stores and Online. "We’ve added thousands of new items, and shoppers can find everything from barbecue grills to picnic snacks to customized banners for reunions and gatherings."

Staples, and other office products retailers, have long offered the category of merchandise known as breakroom supplies, but this latest merchandising initiative from Staples appears to widen that definition considerably. The strategy could pay dividends considering weakness evident in more traditional merchandise classifications such as computers, business machines and technology accessories. Breakroom supplies was singled out, along with tables and copy and print services, as one of the categories that helped Staples offset weakness in other areas of its North American retail business during the first quarter. Even so, sales weren’t good and declined 4% to nearly $2.8 billion as the company closed 48 stores and same store sales declined 2%. During the fourth quarter, same store sales declined 5% and for the full 2012 fiscal year dropped 2%.

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