In the Matter of Staples/Essendant, Inc., File No. 1810180 #02755

Submission Number:
02755
Commenter:
Justin Stofferahn
State:
Minnesota
Initiative Name:
In the Matter of Staples/Essendant, Inc., File No. 1810180
I strongly urge you to reconsider your approval of the Staples-Essendant merger and consider the consequences of further eroding competition in an economy increasingly dominated by giants. Independent businesses and entrepreneurs have long been a critical driving force of our country's economic success, but this merger will create yet more structural imbalance and undermine communities in the process. I live in a suburb north of St. Paul, Minnesota that has long stood out as a unique community, in part because of its thriving small businesses. Where other suburban communities are defined by their shopping malls and big box stores, White Bear Lake is known for a downtown teeming with independent businesses that have helped foster the city's unique civic pride. Unfortunately, this core component of what makes my community so great is under threat by the forces that are consolidating our economy. Furthermore, I also view this issue through my involvement in the Minnesota Main Street Alliance a group of small business owners that advocate for policies -- such as improved healthcare access and paid family and medical leave -- that help ensure an equal playing field. The business owners that give voice to the Alliance are not looking for handouts or bailouts like their large corporate competitors, they simply want to compete on equal terms. Mergers like this one will only serve to further wipe out what independent office supply companies remain, despite the better deal they provide to customers. This strikes me as similar to what has happened to independent pharmacies across the country. I am lucky enough to have access to an independent pharmacy that offers better prices and customer service than CVS or Walgreens, but that industry is increasingly becoming a competition between those two dominant firms. As if the erosion of competition that this merge represents wasn't bad enough, it will also serve as another victory for the private equity industry. Staples is owned by Sycamore Partners, a private equity firm with a track record of buying retailers only to gut them by selling off their most valuable pieces. Should Sycamore do this to Essendant, it would result in deep harm to independent office supply dealers and consumers. The FTC did not consider this in its decision. I urge you, for the sake of communities across this country and the local businesses that power them, please do not approve this merger. It does nothing to enhance the economy, it only serves to undermine it. Sincerely, Justin Stofferahn