Office Depot (NYSE:ODP) is rolling out handheld point-of-sale devices for associates in its 1,600 stores beginning on Sunday (July 28), according to Internet Retailer.
Exactly what device the new handhelds will be based on wasn't announced, although Mobile Commerce Daily reported it's an iPod Touch running custom software. The chain did say associates will use the devices to help customers find products and determine availability, select merchandise and, if items aren't in stock at the store, order the product with free shipping. The devices will be able to accept payments using credit or gift cards.
The mobile POS launch is part of a broader omnichannel effort that will also include touchscreen kiosks, one-hour in-store pickup of online orders, and a new app that lets customers access free in-store Wi-Fi, scan bar codes and research product information such as ratings and reviews.
How the new devices will fit into Office Depot's planned merger with OfficeMax (NYSE:OMX) isn't clear, at least in the short term. Shareholders of both companies approved the merger this month, but it's still awaiting a green light from regulators. The deal is expected to close before the end of the year, but until it does, it would be highly problematic for the two chains to share technology.
Aside from the problem of two nominal competitors using the same custom systems, in the event that regulators actually did scuttle the deal, the chains would once again be actual competitors—but one would have inside knowledge of the other's tech, a very messy situation for two major players in a retail segment that depends increasingly on this kind of technology. That likely means OfficeMax will stay at arm's length from Office Depot's new handhelds until the merger is officially complete.
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