Staples closing stores

Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS) has been trying to gain approval for its proposed merger with Office Depot, but as that becomes less likely, the retailer is looking to its Plan B: closing stores.

The company said it could shutter 50 locations as it prepares to go it alone.  

Staples agreed to buy Office Depot for $6 billion in February 2015, but in the year since, the merger has twice been rejected by the Federal Trade Commission on the grounds it would significantly reduce competition in the office supply market. The companies' B2B business is of particular interest. Office Depot and Staples typically compete for company accounts.

"We've been working on Plan B for several months at this point," CEO Ron Sargent said in a conference call with analysts, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Staples has agreed to make concessions and sell assets in order to win FTC approval, but in spite of passing muster with European Union regulators who approved the deal in February, FTC approval is looking less likely.

Staples reported a 5 percent decline in same store-sales on Friday. According to Sargent, the company will have to close stores and take additional measures to stem the losses should it be forced to proceed without Office Depot.

Total company sales for the fourth quarter declined 6.9 percent and were down 6.4 percent for the full year.

For more:
-See this Wall Street Journal story (tiered subscription)
-See this Staples financial release

Related stories:
Staples gets EU approval, pushes forward for US
Staples shakes up C-suite
FTC blocks Staples-Office Depot merger
Staples purchase of Office Depot not easy, EU investigates
Office Depot closes $1.2B merger with OfficeMax