OfficeMax, Gateway Evaluating Joint Business

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OfficeMax Inc. yesterday said it is in continued talks with Gateway Inc. to alter the companies' joint business relationship by expanding on the inventoryless licensed computer department model now featured in about half of OfficeMax's 1,000 stores.


The inventoryless operation allows Gateway to feature its computers in OfficeMax stores without staffing them with workers. Instead, the computers are highlighted in an online kiosk that lets shoppers browse and buy electronically while interacting technically with a Gateway customer service representative.


The companies said their initial arrangement called for Gateway computers to be featured in all OfficeMax stores, but the facilities fully staffed with workers no longer produced the traffic they once did.


The proposed change in operation, both companies agreed, is in response to the overall decline in personal computer sales and the somewhat dim forecast now being projected for PCs.


"Since we established our original relationship, the computer industry has experienced an almost 180-degree change in customer demand and direction," said Michael Feuer, OfficeMax chairman/CEO.


OfficeMax officials said they have been encouraged by some recent results of the inventoryless stores.


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