Sales of office supplies continue to shift online as the competition for consumer dollars heats up.
Office supplies generated $12.4 billion in sales in the United States in 2019, according to The NPD Group. While the bulk of sales (85%) were from brick-and-mortar retailers, it was the e-commerce channel that experienced year-over-year growth.
Overall online sales for the category grew 12% for the year. The 2019 back-to-school season in particular fared well for online sellers, with e-commerce sales growing 20% year over year during the period.
More than $200 million industry sales shifted online in 2019 — nearly double than what moved in 2018 — and the categories moving online at the fastest rate include organization and small business-related segments, such as traditional pens, binders, portable storage, glue and adhesives.
Tia Frapolli, president of office supplies at NPD, said new opportunities for office supply brands exist thanks to the ebb and flow of the industry.
“In the ever-changing retail landscape of today, competition is fierce, and growing market share is becoming more and more challenging,” she said, “but the brands that are innovating and connecting with consumers are finding success.”
However, while consumers may be all too eager to purchase their office supplies online, it may be the low-tech nature of the products that’s really calling them.
“The digital transition taking place is impacting how consumers purchase their supplies, and is also influencing the types of products they’re buying,” said Leen Nsouli, NPD executive director and office supplies industry analyst. “At the same time, consumers are recognizing both the advantages and disadvantages of technology being incorporated into their daily lives.”
Nsouli added: “Manufacturers in the supplies space need to strike the right balance between technology integration, and maintaining a platform for consumers to achieve their much-needed digital detox.”
Dated Products: Blue Sky
File & File Storage: Sterilite
Mail & Ship: Uboxes
Office Paper: Five Star
Presentation & Reference: Five Star
Writing Instruments: Pilot
Based on market share growth
Source: The NPD Group