Among the companies incubated by Bain Capital, Staples is Mitt Romney’s go-to on the campaign trail. The office superstore employs tens of thousands and, unlike Romney’s private equity career, is a tangible business voters can get their heads around. Sadly for Mitt, he might have to find another avatar of capitalism from the Bain portfolio.
In a Tuesday press release titled “Staples, Inc. Announces Strategic Plan to Accelerate Growth” the company said it would be doing the opposite of that, closing 15 U.S. stores (plus 45 in Europe). Summing up the damage, “Staples now expects a total of approximately 30 net store closures and 30 store downsizings and relocations in North America during fiscal year 2012.” The release did not specify the restructuring's job toll.
The store closures come after a long rough patch for Staples. While the stock market at-large has climbed back to pre-recession levels, Staples is trading on the Nasdaq near five-year lows. Despite these troubles, the retailer assures investors that it will not forget its commitment. “Staples plans to return more than $1 billion of cash to stakeholders during fiscal year 2012.” Clearly Mitt has taught the store well. If it didn't share his commitment to efficiency and maximizing shareholder value, it might have waited six more weeks before the announcement.