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Staples digs deeper to get itself back on track

Lynne Sladky /Associated Press/File 2011

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Ron Sargent got on the line early in the morning, braced to deliver bad news.

Staples Inc. had already reported disappointing quarterly earnings before the sun rose on Aug. 21. Sargent, the chief executive, was about to warn stock analysts and investors on a conference call that Staples had also decided to scale back expectations for the rest of the year.

Each division of the office supply retailer was performing worse than it did the previous year and the pace of decline appeared to be accelerating. The early stages of a critical business turnaround plan at Staples weren’t producing results fast enough.

“Clearly, we’re not happy to be taking down [business forecasts] this morning,” Sargent told the analysts. “We’re making good progress on our strategic reinvention, but it hasn’t been enough to offset tough trends in our core” businesses.

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