Keep Your Eye on Dell, HP and Staples

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Staples' president and chief operating officer, Michael Miles, tipped his hand yesterday to activity that will be coming down the road between the office retailer and PC and printer giant Hewlett-Packard.

Miles was talking about the company's quarterly results in a call with financial analysts, noted some progress Staples has made in the printer and ink space and said:

We are also working closely with HP and have a number of exciting initiatives underway and plans for the future. These include the exclusive debut of the new office jet pro printers, the broadest assortment of genuine HP ink and toner available at any national retailer, innovative promotions like rewards for toner cartridges and machinery cycling, and targeted co-marketing campaigns.

But Staples isn't focusing just on HP. It's also been working aggressively with its newest big partner, Dell. According to Miles:

Here are several things that we are working on: our exclusive line of Dell products continued to show good results from both a sales and margin perspective. We've expanded our assortment of Dell ink and toner, laptops, desktops, and monitors. . .

We advertised Dell ink at our national television ads and have seen great results from that campaign. As ink and toner grow as a percent of the Dell sales mix, margins for the whole product line improve and having the broadest assortment of Dell ink reinforces Staples' position as the destination for ink and toner.

It's unclear what's going on behind the scenes, and whether Dell and HP are duking it out between themselves in the price-and-promotion front to keep their brand front and center on the shelves of Staples. It would look that way, but it's not entirely clear by viewing the posted numbers we saw last night from Staples or HP.

The next question: Will HP and Dell work as hard to boost volumes and margins for the commercial VAR channel partners as they seem to be for Staples on the retail front?

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