Gains occurring in
e-commerce, as more consumers feel comfortable purchasing office supplies

Port Washington, NY, August
8, 2019
– While back-to-school season is already top-of-mind in some areas of the U.S., summertime also represents the height of moving season (May – September), and both factors influence sales of office supplies. Year-to-date, total sales in the office supplies industry are down, however, mailing and shipping materials as well as portable storage solutions represent bright spots in the space. Mailing and shipping product sales – up 4 percent year-over-year according to recent research from The NPD Group (52 weeks ending June 2019*) – tend to benefit during this time period as consumers purchase more packing accessories to assist in their moves. Many of the increases across the category can be attributed to substantial gains in e-commerce, up 18 percent year-over-year in the mailing and shipping categories.

Portable storage solutions – a sub-category of filing storage – have also shown year-over-year growth, accounting for 2 percent sales gains during the 52 weeks ending June 2019. This category includes mobile filing and storage systems – usually made of plastic – that are designed to be transported easily and hold up over time. The momentum of portable storage solutions sales is also being driven by e-commerce, which posted 13 percent growth for the same time period.

“There are several drivers that are contributing to the up-tick in portable storage purchases, likely including increased usage of on-demand moving companies and public storage spaces,” stated Leen Nsouli, executive director and office supplies industry analyst, The NPD Group. “There’s a good chance we’re seeing a confluence of these trends as the Millennial generation begins to need such services and spaces. As a group, Millennials tend to be more willing than previous generations to seek out affordable, market-driven, convenient moving and storage options.”

In fact, packing products – including corrugated boxes (+42 percent), wrapping (+8 percent) and packing accessories (+9 percent) – are also experiencing growth. Again, e-commerce gains are pronounced in this segment, showing a 15 percent increase year-over-year during the time period.

Traditionally confined to the May – September time period, U.S. moving season sees increased activity as college students move back home after finals in May and back-to-campus in August, new graduates relocate for jobs, and consumers elect to relocate while their children are out of school. According to NPD’s Checkout data, in line with the peak of moving season, home hardware retailers see a pronounced peak in sales of mailing and shipping products during the third quarter of the year. Other channels such as mass retailers experience an increase in sales during this period as well, in addition to peaks around the holidays when consumers choose to purchase these types of products for gifting and package delivery.

“Retailers and manufacturers looking to play in the moving supply space during the peak of the season need to consider who is in their store buying these products, and when, so they can get ahead of the trends and be prepared to capitalize on those buying cycles,” added Nsouli. “By taking a more strategic approach to the supply-and-demand of these products, they will be better equipped to offer convenient solutions to serve the different purposes for which their customers are using these supplies.”

*The NPD Group/Retail Tracking Service, July 8, 2018 – July 6, 2019.