WEST JORDAN — One of Utah's oldest retail companies is preparing to make its final sale after more than a century of doing business.
Utah-Idaho Supply/Map World announced Wednesday that it will close its doors in early 2018 "due to competition from national-chain, big box stores and ever-expanding online vendors." The firm has supplied supplies to educators for more than 120 years.
Founded in the late 1890s as the textbook depository for Utah and Idaho, the business originally specialized in textbooks before later offering teaching aids, office supplies, educational toys, games and maps, said co-owner Brent Goodrich. Over many decades, the company was the primary supplier of pencils, crayons, construction paper and ruled writing paper used by students in elementary schools across both states, he said.
At one point, the company said it also held the contract for providing state offices with supplies. However, business has consistently declined over the past decade due to increasing pressure from online competition, according to Goodrich.
"It's Amazon and other (online) retailers that were the 'death knell' for us," he said. "With the newer schoolteachers, they're all so tech savvy that the first place they check when they go to buy something for the classroom is online."
Another challenge his company faced, he said, was its suppliers changing their business model and going straight to the consumer, thereby eliminating the need for "brick and mortar" retail outlets.
"So you could imagine that they could offer a lot better deals than we could," he said. "They (also) cut some deals with some of the 'big guys' like Amazon and got better pricing. They got better pricing than we could get."
Goodrich said the gradual change to online retail prompted a 10-year "slide" in the company's annual revenue, leaving the business less and less able to remain viable.
Utah-Idaho Supply/Map World, at one time, operated five retail locations and a catalog for educators. But increasing opposition in recent years online and the availability of educational aides at big box stores cut into retail sales severely.
"We really tried to switch over to push and market our website, (but) we couldn't compete price-wise with the publishers who were shipping direct to consumers," Goodrich said.
Last year, the company closed its Sugar House location and most recently closed its Ogden store in November. Over the next month or two, the company plans to close its three remaining locations in Layton, Lindon and West Jordan.
Goodrich said the company will thank its longtime customers for years of loyal patronage by deeply discounting its product inventory over the next several weeks. While the company's owners and employees are sad to see the demise of the business, he said they are proud of the rich legacy of educating generations of Utah schoolchildren the business will leave behind.14 comments on this story
"Quite frankly, that's one of the reasons we kept it alive 10 years longer than we should have," he said. "There was a certain teacher base out there that was extremely loyal to us who were great customers and would come in every year to look for new, innovative ideas and ways to help educate kids in the classroom. They were excited when new products came out and couldn't care less about price."
He noted that many company employees have backgrounds as educators "so they could 'talk the talk' with these people who were in the classroom."
"Unfortunately, our customer base continued to shrink to the point where we just couldn't make it last anymore," he said.
The company is expected to close permanently at the end of February.