The back-to-school season is drawing to a close and classes are underway around the U.S. for elementary and college students alike. For office supplies industry players, September also means it’s time to head to ECRM to showcase and view the latest in supplies trends and new product innovation.
At ECRM’s School & Office Supplies EPPS last week, I had the opportunity to present on some of the biggest factors influencing sales within the traditional supplies space.
Several trends are having an impact on sales growth levels for traditional supplies. An important one is the increasing presence of lower-priced private label or store brand alternatives at retail. The number of categories where the consumer may opt for a private label product to take advantage of a lower price-point and more savings has been intensifying over the past few years. According to retail sales data from NPD, the presentation, reference, and storage binders category is one example, where private label share of sales has grown from 29 percent in 2014 to 53 percent in 2016. Another example is encased pencils; the $0 - $0.99 price range for encased pencils is seeing actual unit growth led by private label product sales, as eight of the 10 top growth brands are private label.
Consumers are looking for savings, but at the same time they are willing to trade up and spend on added perceived value. Aside from purchasing larger pack sizes which usually come at higher price-points, consumers are paying more for traditional supplies products that offer fun and fashionable benefits like cool, stylish designs. The presence of fashion and design in supplies was no exception at ECRM.
Integrated into the fashion, design, and style trends in supplies is personalization. Products that provide consumers with the ability to personalize their experience with their supplies is key, and manufacturers are finding various ways to succeed at this at retail. Manufacturers looking to take advantage of the trend around personalization and fashion are generating creative ideas like build-your-own planner concepts. Consumers are being provided the opportunity to personalize items such as their dated products, binders, and notebooks.
Consumers may be looking for ways to trim cost in their traditional supplies purchases, but there is unlocked opportunities and growth potential in putting fashion in function. Manufacturers and retailers are headed in the right direction by developing products that can be personalized to provide a unique and creative experience for consumers.