In the wake of what some have called an “economy stuck in neutral,” Staples stock tumbled by 15% recently. That was their biggest one-day drop in over a decade, as investors reacted to the office supply retailer’s earnings report, which fell short of Wall Street expectations.

Staples’ net income rose 5% from a year ago, and same-store sales have only slipped by 1%, and the company expects 2011 earnings of $1.35 to $1.45 per share, although that’s down from a projected $1.50 to $1.60 per share.

Analysts of the Office Supply Retail Category thought the brand was going to significantly beat the competition, and, indeed, according the Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index rankings appear as follows:

1. Staples
2. Office Max
3. Office Depot

And while engagement and loyalty metrics are leading-indicators of consumer behavior, they are just one ingredient in market modeling, and, of course, and unfortunately, office supplies tend to lag during economic recoveries because they are so closely tied to employment and, thus, product usage.

But – and we agree – according to one analyst, Staples is positioned to maintain a dominant market position over the long haul.

It’s just that sometimes it’s not easy for a brand.

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