Soft lighting, sleek signs: Is this Office Depot’s new format?

Updated May 23, 2016

With its soft lighting, sleek signs and smaller footprint, a freshly refurbished Office Depot store in Broward County presents a stark contrast to the retailer’s warehouse-like locations of yesteryear.

The 15,000-square-foot format is half the size of Office Depot’s big-box stores. Departments are labeled with lower-case letters in shiny chrome.

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The Boca Raton-based retailer — which saw sales shrink 10 percent from 2014 to 2015 — has been coy about the location of its experimental “store of the future.” In a call with Wall Street analysts last week, Chief Executive Roland Smith said he’d reveal its whereabouts and offer tours “at the appropriate time.”

Office Depot hasn’t acknowledged that the Margate store is indeed the model for its new concept, but the format fits Smith’s description of a cleanly designed location that opened in February.

Located less than 30 minutes from Office Depot’s headquarters, the store carries such old-school offerings as three-ring binders, linen resume paper and metal filing cabinets. But fresher items like laptops, phone cases and earbuds get prominent placement. A sign in the door touts same-day smartphone repairs.

Two parking spots at the entrance are marked “online order pickup.” Store employees walk out with bags of goods for customers who don’t want to come into the store.

On Monday, a steady stream of customers shopped at the location, including Carlos Pagan of Coconut Creek. He said his job as an auto technician requires him to make occasional trips for toner and paper, and he finds the new layout more comfortable than other Office Depot locations.

“It actually looks nice,” Pagan said. “When you go into the store in East Boca, it feels a little claustrophobic.”

This month, a federal judge rejected the proposed merger of Staples and Office Depot (Nasdaq: ODP), leaving the two struggling companies to figure out a Plan B. Sales of pens, pads and paper have been shrinking, and Office Depot faces competition not just from larger rival Staples but also from Amazon and Wal-Mart.

Meanwhile, brick-and-mortar retailers face a brutal climate. Sports Authority last week said it would close all 460 of its stores, and Sears and Macy’s are closing stores, too.