The Paper Store: Evolving Beyond Paper into a Retail Powerhouse

As it celebrates its 50th anniversary, the retailer continues to evolve into the future. Over the past few years, it has grown beyond its home state of Massachusetts into Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Though the growth has been exponential, COO Tom Anderson, son of founder Bob Anderson, says it has not been without its challenges.

“When we started, we were a newspaper and office supply retailer, but we morphed over the years into something different,” explains COO Tom Anderson. “Paper explains our history more than our brand.”

Marketing Savvy

Because The Paper Store is much more than paper, communicating this message outside of its home state of Massachusetts can be difficult. To surpass this hurdle, The Paper Store has developed a robust marketing and advertising department led by a homegrown talent that started with the company as a teenager. Anderson explains that today, “the company sends out four catalogs a year to nearly a million current and prospective customers, has a growing social media presence, employs a very successful customer rewards loyalty program, sends out targeted emails to customers based on purchasing behavior and maintains consistent presence throughout media channels.”

This marketing strategy has performed well. The Paper Store recently opened its 42nd store in Brookfield, Conn. Since 2009, it has added 20 stores to its portfolio and has grown its revenue significantly by improving sales of established vendors and building relationships with promising vendor partners.

“Over the past three years, we have grown our business significantly,” Anderson says. “Since 2009, we have increased our sales over 120 percent while doubling our store presence throughout New England.”

Good Growth Factors

A number of factors add to those rapidly increasing numbers and have set the foundation for growth.

For instance, The Paper Store implemented a best-in-class retail management ERP system designed by Epicor. The retail software provides streamlined solutions for tasks such as purchasing, bill payment and inventory management. Anderson says it gave the company a scalable model, allowing it to expand easier and faster.

“From a technology perspective, we now have all the capabilities of a big-time retailer, allowing us to be much more sophisticated in the running of our business,” Anderson says. “It provides fantastic analytics, real-time information and strong integration between each application.”

Key partnerships with lifestyle brands Hallmark, Alex and Ani, Chamilia, Vera Bradley, Yankee Candle and others is another key to The Paper Store’s growth and success. The Paper Store has partnered with Hallmark since 1972 and is now one of the largest independent Gold Crown retailers in the country. The Paper Store’s partnerships with quality jewelry manufacturers, Alex and Ani and Chamilia, although much more recent, are equally critical to the company’s development and success.

“Both brands are so important to the continued effort to remain relevant to our customers,” Anderson says, “so relevant that we pulled out all the stops to ensure The Paper Store is the preeminent destination for our customers.” This effort led to renovating nearly every store location and building a unique store-within-a-store concept. This also meant investments in staffing, training and commitment to inventory.

The investments have paid off, especially with partners such as Alex and Ani. Following these retail changes, The Paper Store quickly became the jewelry line’s leading retail partner.

“Our training efforts are now focused on the customer experience and providing our guests with great service from educated and well-trained team members,” Anderson explains. “We want every customer walking out of our stores thinking, ‘Wow, that was a great shopping experience.’”

Every vendor housed within The Paper Store has benefitted from this renewed focus. Whether it’s Vera Bradley handbags and accessories, the heirloom quality of Chamilia jewelry, or luxury bath and body products from Crabtree & Evelyn, The Paper Store is focused on training employees to sell products from a foundation of knowledge and passion.

“Walking through our corporate offices, you can feel the energy and passion for the business,” Anderson says.  “Everyone is so invested in the company success, and I think that passion filters down to our stores.”