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Office Supplies Market Research & Business Solutions

Pens, planners, pencils, pushpins, paper, paint, plus dozens of other things that don’t start with the letter “p.” If it’s sold at an office supply store, we know about it.

Companies monitor their competition and examine which brands and products are selling with our point-of-sale (POS) office supplies market research. With detail at the category, brand, item, and product attribute levels, we give manufacturers, retailers, and financial analysts a better read on what’s happening in the market. Our data reflects actual sales reported by all major channels representing 95% of the retail market in the U.S.

Our office supplies market research helps companies make more informed product development and marketing decisions and deliver effective client sales presentations.

In addition, we combine NPD’s pervasive retail footprint with Nielsen’s analytics solutions to enable clients to optimize marketing programs, including marketing mix analysis.

October 10, 2016

Exploring Regional Back-To-School Shopping Patterns

In this installment of a new video series, NPD Office Supplies Industry Analyst Leen Nsouli examines who is buying what in different regions of the U.S. and what influences these shopping behaviors.

1:07 | Play

September 22, 2016

Understanding Teachers During the Back-To-School Season

The back-to-school shopping season accounts for 35% of yearly office supply dollar sales. Explore teachers’ shopping dynamics, including how and when they restock their classrooms. Find out what they spend throughout the year and in which channels they spend more – it’s all in this video featuring Leen Nsouli, Industry Analyst.

2:51 | Play

August 25, 2016

An Eye on 2016 Back-To-School Trends

Learn about exciting back-to-school trends, including the growth of online shopping and shifts in the timing of back-to-school shopping across the U.S., in this video featuring NPD Industry Analyst Leen Nsouli.

1:46 | Play

August 10, 2016

Win Today’s Back-To-School Shopper

In this new video series, NPD Office Supplies Industry Analyst Leen Nsouli discusses the back-to-school season and how K-12 shoppers differ from college shoppers. These insights can help you target specific demographics based on their in-store preferences.

2:25 | Play

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Office Supplies

Retail Tracking

Unmatched point-of-sale information enabling you to understand market dynamics, partner with retailers, and identify opportunities for growth. We recently added additional retailers to substantially grow our POS footprint, increasing market visibility and providing the most complete and accurate view of the market available. Our Weekly Retail tracking provides the ability to monitor product launches, promotions, and seasonal sales cycles, especially when fast market response is required. Covering more than 50 office-supplies categories, this service delivers more frequent and more granular insight about what’s happening at the category, subcategory, brand, and model levels.

Store-Level Enabled Retail Tracking

Store-Level Enabled Retail Tracking complements our national Retail Tracking Service– it can help you determine whether sales are distribution-driven or whether certain parts of the country are contributing more to national share or driving growth.
The velocity measure set that is part of Store-Level Enabled Retail Tracking takes into consideration sales volume (Annualized Industry Volume or AIV) rather than considering store count alone, for a more meaningful read on where products are selling and how they are performing.

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Account Level Reports

These reports give retailers and their approved vendors one data set to guide business decision-making and improve results.  Vendors approved by a retailer to purchase their reports will have access to the same data in the same tool and format that the retailer receives, providing the visibility to truly partner with the retailer to drive growth.

Back-to-School Monitor

Answer your critical marketing questions during and after the back-to-school season so you can quickly adjust selling strategies and marketing promotions to capitalize on what consumers are reporting. The Back-to-School Monitor’s data and analysis are based on an online survey fielded weekly from July to September. The study focuses on tracking consumers’ shopping and buying dynamics to deliver insights on the total office and school supplies market, key consumer groups’ shopping behaviors, channel and retailer shifts, influence of school lists in shopping, and how school supplies fit in with other back-to-school purchasing.

Office Supplies

You have opportunities. You face threats. What you need are smart, quantifiable methods of distinguishing one from the other and maximizing your chances of success. NPD’s Analytic Solutions Group includes a team of senior leaders with extensive experience developing and delivering analytic solutions that address strategic marketing, sales, and planning issues.

We combine NPD POS and consumer information, industry expertise, and custom survey research – then add state-of-the-discipline research techniques and methodologies to explain the "why behind the buy.” Through advanced modeling and analytic services, we offer insight into what will happen in the future, not just what has happened in the past, answering your most pressing business questions:

See how clients have used our analytic solutions to solve their business challenges in our Analytic Solutions Case Study Library.

Office Supplies

Understand the Growing Handmade Movement

See what’s happening in this growing market through new information straight from consumers and analysis from industry expert Leen Nsouli. Identify the top performers and trend leaders, get category overviews by channel, and explore segment performance.

Today’s Teachers: School Supply Purchasing Dynamics & Behaviors

Get a clear sense of what teachers purchase for their classrooms, what’s on their lists for students, and what drives decision making when it comes to school supplies.

Office Supplies
Press Releases

October 14, 2016

Going Green: Over Half of Office Supplies Purchasers Buy Environmentally Friendly Products, The NPD Group Finds

With growing concerns about the environment, office supplies are no exception to the consumer drive for products that promise wellness and sustainability. More than half of small office and home office consumers buy environmentally friendly office supply products, according to Understanding the Small and Home Office Consumer, the latest report from global information company The NPD Group. That number increases to 76 percent among those purchasing for an office of 31-50 employees, who have a larger carbon footprint.

October 11, 2016

Consumers Shift More of their Back-to-School Supplies Spend Online and Purchase Later in the Season, NPD Group Reports

Shopping in stores remains the preferred method of purchasing traditional supplies during the back-to-school season, accounting for 92 percent of sales this year; however, more dollar spend is shifting online, according to global information company The NPD Group.

June 28, 2016

NPD Highlights: Back-to-School 2016 Shopping Predictions and Influencers in Traditional Supplies

The back-to-school season is a crucial time for the traditional supplies industry, accounting for 35 percent of the $11.8 billion in yearly sales and nearly half of unit sales in the U.S.*, according to global information company The NPD Group. While the season’s importance to the industry is consistently high, at the same time how and where consumers shop, combined with other influencers from teachers to online shopping, is shaking up the industry.

April 26, 2016

From Paint Nights to Adult Coloring, a Handmade Movement in the U.S. is Shaping New Opportunities for the Office Supplies Industry, According to NPD

Crayons, colored pencils, and chalkboards may evoke a feeling of childhood nostalgia, but as more adult consumers exercise the art of crafting, a handmade movement is driving up art and coloring supply sales. This is also carving out new opportunities for the office supplies industry, according to “Adult Coloring, Crafting, and the Handmade Movement: An NPD Office Supplies Industry Report,” from global information company The NPD Group.

February 18, 2016

Writing Instruments Drive Growth for Office & School Supplies Industry in 2015, NPD Reports

The U.S. office and school supplies industry grew 3 percent in 2015 to $12 billion, with $1.2 billion stemming from online sales, according to retail sales data from global information company The NPD Group.

Office Supplies

November 10, 2016

Understand Today's Small Office and Home Office Consumers

There's a lot to know about today's small office/home office consumers and how they shop for office supplies. Find out how purchasing frequency differs for this group, which items they're purchasing more of, and how their online and brick-and-mortar purchasing measures up.

November 10, 2016

Understand Today's Small Office and Home Office Consumers

There's a lot to know about today's small office/home office consumers and how they shop for office supplies. Find out how purchasing frequency differs for this group, which items they're purchasing more of, and how their online and brick-and-mortar purchasing measures up.

October 10, 2016

Exploring Regional Back-To-School Shopping Patterns

In this installment of a new video series, NPD Office Supplies Industry Analyst Leen Nsouli examines who is buying what in different regions of the U.S. and what influences these shopping behaviors.

September 22, 2016

Understanding Teachers During the Back-To-School Season

The back-to-school shopping season accounts for 35% of yearly office supply dollar sales. Explore teachers’ shopping dynamics, including how and when they restock their classrooms.

August 30, 2016

Today's E-commerce Office Supply Shopper

E-commerce office supply unit sales are up 12%, while sales decline at stores and within the commercial space.

August 25, 2016

An Eye on 2016 Back-To-School Trends

Learn about exciting back-to-school trends, including the growth of online shopping and shifts in the timing of back-to-school shopping across the U.S., in this video featuring NPD Industry Analyst Leen Nsouli.

August 12, 2016

Go Back To School with NPD – An Early Read on 2016 Results

The 2016 back-to-school season is in full swing in the U.S. To make the most of it this year, it’s important to understand shopping behavior across all retail channels. Take an inside look at the latest buying behavior across brick-and-mortar, e-commerce, grocery, and drug. See what we’re seeing this season.

August 10, 2016

Win Today’s Back-To-School Shopper

June 15, 2016

Go Back to School with NPD: 2016 Shopping Insights

June, July, August, and right back to school – it’s the season that can make or break your bottom line. Are you clear on what to expect and what to watch during this year’s shopping season?

March 10, 2016

Planners Are About the Future, Not the Past

I’ve been using a Franklin Planner for more than 25 years. Much of my adult life is recorded in the paper pages of that calendar system, which is designed to push users to organize their time by focusing on their personal values.

I don’t know if I’ve become more moral, more focused, or more organized over those years. But if I have fallen short in any of those areas, the Franklin isn’t the problem. The Franklin Planner, based loosely on the planning system used by Benjamin Franklin, is about as close to perfect as a planner can be.

It’s also old.

And out of fashion.

Here at The NPD Group, where hundreds of people work, there’s only one other guy I know who uses a Franklin. That guy, and let’s call him Hugh Lookoldtoo, is not a young man. Like me, Hugh is at the tail end of the Boomer generation. We’re not kids, and we’re forever doing those sorts of things that signal our advancing years:  grunting when we get out of chairs, squinting at the whiteboard, talking incessantly about heart-healthy diets, and starting meetings by opening our Franklin Planners.

But if you assume the younger folks at the office roll their eyes at the Franklin and turn to their smart phones, you’re wrong. Our office is filled with young adults using paper planners. But their planners are nothing like the ones that Hugh and I use.

The young people’s planners are brighter and more colorful. They often have a positively juvenile feel about them -- sporting superhero logos or videogame characters or flowers or abstract forms. Their planners are seemingly meant to evoke something about the user, rather than the planner. Personalization is the norm.

There is, however, a group of people who do roll their eyes at both the Franklin and its more youthful competitors. These people, who seem to eschew paper planning all together, are neither old nor young. They are middle-aged, although not entirely comfortable with that idea yet. They are Gen X. And they are the generation that came of age replacing everything old with new digital versions.

They are the folks, in other words, who entered the workforce in the 1990s and early 2000s and used the now all-but-forgotten Palm Pilots.

And they seem to have played a pivotal role in the disappearance of old-style planners and the rise of the new styles.

Assistants and companions
Palm Pilots were wonderful devices. I owned one back in the day, too. But even during the PDA heyday, I kept using my Franklin. Why? Because Palm Pilots were utilitarian. They were efficient. They were convenient.

They were, in other words, the opposite of a Franklin or any other paper planner. Paper planning is meant to be slow, thoughtful. Using a paper planner is akin to keeping a journal. It requires time apart. It insists upon reflection. A PDA like the Palm Pilot was a personal digital assistant. A paper planner is more like a companion. And companions are seeing a resurgence.

Online sales of appointment books and planners jumped 49 percent in dollar terms in the 52 weeks ending January 2, compared to the prior year. At brick-and-mortar stores, sales of books and planners also rose, but only by roughly 7 percent.

And growing even faster than planners themselves are items related to the personalization of planners: the so-called “organizer accessories.”

Dollar sales of those items in brick-and-mortar stores jumped a remarkable 64 percent in the 52 weeks ending January 2 over prior year. Online sales of those same items rose by about 42 percent in dollar terms.

Much of this growth comes from newer, smaller, and/or more youth-focused players in the space.

Dollar sales of my beloved Franklin Planners fell more than 15 percent at brick-and-mortar in the same period, and they dipped slightly more than 7 percent online. Those declines are part of a larger trend for the Franklin. Dollar sales at brick-and-mortar last year were down more than 25 percent from two years earlier. Dollar sales are flat online from two years earlier.

Unit sales online have fallen more than 7 percent in the past two years. At brick-and-mortar stores, unit sales have plummeted 36 percent from two years earlier.

It’s a similar story for another of the classic old-school brands. Unit sales of Rolodex fell more than 60 percent in at brick-and-mortar stores in the year ending January 2.

One notable exception among the older brands is Moleskine. The classic luxury maker of planners and notebooks loved by Picasso and Hemingway has seemingly broken the Millennial code of authenticity, artisan skills, and an appreciation for a distant past they don’t remember. The brand markets itself through a “philosophy” of “culture, travel, memory, imagination, and personal identity.”

Moleskine unit sales at brick-and-mortar stores have skyrocketed 98 percent in the year ending January 2 and more than doubled online!

In fact, that story – old-school brand reinvents itself as a youth-focused maker of colorful, personalized paper companions – is being replicated across the industry. Consider the story of Carolina Pad. The company once made those black-and-white marble composition books. Today they specialize in adorable and colorful items for teens. And with some distribution deals with big-box retailers in hand, dollar sales of the company’s planners rose more than 988 percent in 2015 at brick-and-mortar.

Or consider Blue Sky, maker of pretty, colorful, upbeat planners “thoughtfully designed in sunny southern California.” Dollar and unit sales of Blue Sky products more than doubled online in the year ending
January 2.

It’s hard to argue with success like that. But it’s also hard to change, as Hugh and I can attest. So he and I will keep using our old-school planners. And our Gen X coworkers will keep to their smart-phone calendars, while the Millennials among us, and the companies that understand them, will move on without us and revamp the category.

Paul Conley is the director of content marketing for The NPD Group. When he finished writing this article, he checked it off as “done” in his Franklin Planner.

Office Supplies
Insights and Opinions from our Analysts and Experts

February 8, 2017

Things are About to Get Pretty Sticky

Each year, a new trend sweeps the hallways of schools across the United States. We’ve seen coloring, rubber band bracelets, boondoggle, and many more in recent years. This year the hashtag “#Slime” is nearing two million posts on Instagram. What this can be attributed to isn’t clear. What is clear is that slime is making a comeback; and consumers, who are mainly students, are making it from scratch at home. The at-home slime recipe calls for one bottle of glue, shaving cream, borax, water, and food coloring.

For those who might be unsure as to what slime is, it’s a moist, soft, and slippery substance which may have formerly been looked at with disgust. That’s changing. Some Instagram videos feature slime being kneaded with the hashtag “#oddlysatisfying,” promoting relaxation through the visual. More importantly, students are embracing slime and bringing their homemade slime with them to school.

Students have always found ways to create homemade projects and bring these to school to exchange, gift, and even sell to each other. Thanks in part to this latest trend, glue sales are up 4 percent for the latest 26 weeks*. With parents and students heading to the store to purchase slime ingredients, 70 percent of glue growth is stemming from brick-and-mortar stores.  Sales of school glue, the main slime ingredient, are up over $3 million versus the prior year. And with students making slime in various colors, including glittery slime, it’s no wonder glitter glue is up 12 percent for the same time period.

So far, U.S. regions seeing the highest rate of growth include the East and West South Central census divisions**. The slime trend is oozing its way into schools throughout the nation and worldwide, and as more parents receive requests for the five key ingredients, retailers want to make sure they not only have these, and other slime enhancing supplies, stocked, but are staying up to date on the latest fads that can move sales in the school and office supplies space.


*Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Weekly Retail Tracking Service, 26 weeks ending December 2016
**Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Weekly Store-Level Retail Tracking Service, 26 weeks ending December 2016

February 11, 2016

Paperworld Germany At A Glance

One of my favorite quotes I’ve heard so far while researching trends on the back-to-school season compares the first day of school to walking the runway, with shoppers taking time to add a bit of ‘extra flair.’* Often times, this thought process applies not only to apparel, but extends to the supplies students carry with them. From what I’ve seen, “school supplies fashion” doesn’t end at high school or college; many professionals take pride in the supplies they carry with them, and use every day. This thought, among many others, crossed my mind as I walked the halls of Paperworld 2016 in Germany this month, and scanned the many styles, colors, fashions, and intricate designs that exist in supplies.

At Paperworld, the design studios of Bora Herke spoke about the anticipated global trends in supplies for 2016 and 2017. Three beautifully designed sets depicted how themes such as floral liberty, graphic vitality, and essential serenity translate in supplies. Terms like ‘bohemian festival’ and ‘retro folklore’ were used to describe floral liberty. Graphic vitality, they said, is created through illustrations, logos, and linear and geometric shapes with bold colors. My personal favorite, essential serenity, brings the minimalist, relaxed, and self-contained styles to life with neutral and sophisticated color combinations including milk-white, stone, cloudy blue, and graphite black highlighted with an apricot burgundy. I’ve seen some of these patterns and graphics in stores already.

As expected there were many variations surrounding themes on licensing, customization, and personalization. In a section of Paperworld called Creativeworld, exhibitor booths included art supplies, live do-it-yourself tutorials, and trends in crafting from around the world. One particular display showed how bland brown paper is used as gift wrap after being given a major face lift with decorative crafting accessories. In the U.S. the handmade movement has nearly doubled in the last decade. Tying in with this trend, patterned, design, and logo decorative tape sales increased by over $2 million in 2015**.

At Paperworld, fine writing pens and pencils were paired with matching fashion accessories like cufflinks. In the U.S., luxury supplies such as fine writing pens and pencils grew $2 million in sales in 2015**. Similar to what was being showcased on the conference floors, popular fine writing barrel colors including classic black, blue, and silver experienced the largest dollar growth in 2015, with fountain and gel leading the growth out of all fine writing pen types**.

In 2013, we saw stores full of neon and brightly colored supplies. In the years that followed, color assortments expanded beyond that, with popular shades swaying toward neutrals, pastels, metallic, and other bold and sophisticated color combinations. While we generally attribute fashion trends to industries such as apparel, fashion has become an integral part of the school and office supplies industry. Notebooks that evoke a sense of essential serenity say something about our personality, just as a fresh outfit on our first day of class.

*Source: The New York Times, “Back-to-School Shopping Campaigns, Already?” (May 2013)
**The NPD Group, Inc. / Weekly Retail Tracking Service, 52 weeks ending January 2, 2016

February 11, 2016

Keeping A Pulse On The Growing Handmade Movement

Consumers’ fascination with adult coloring books is only one example of the many developments within the handmade movement that’s helping to boost sales of coloring, art, and writing supplies. According to NPD data, retail sales of coloring and art supplies reached $1.1 billion in 2015 after growing over $125 million in the past two years. The fourth quarter makes up nearly half of unit and dollar sales online for these supplies, with consumers shopping for holiday gift ideas or using these supplies for craft-related projects. At retail stores, over 30 percent of yearly dollar sales occur during the fourth quarter, with consumers purchasing gifts like art kits or even self-gifting items like adult coloring books*. For adult coloring books, approximately 1-in-10 adults currently own one, and 1-in-5 are still interested in buying one**.

Over the last 10 years, the handmade movement as a whole has nearly doubled. Millennials are driving the growth within this movement, making up half of crafters and spending twice as much as any other demographic***. The handmade movement is attractive to Millennials aligning with important values such as authenticity, self-expression, and empowerment through a do-it-yourself approach, all while promoting the spirit of education, good health, and entrepreneurship. Millennials are frequenting wine and paint nights, art classes, and crafting events, and their affinity for working with their hands and sharing their creativity is not exclusive. Other generations are participating and contributing to this movement as well. On Etsy, for example, 63 percent of sellers are 35 years of age or older.

The handmade movement is estimated to be a $29 billion industry and it’s expected to continue to grow***. With the widespread availability and adoption of visual social media platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube, new ideas, projects, or activities which were once done at home alone or with a small circle of friends are now being shared with millions. Social networking websites like Coursehorse.com and Meetup.com provide crafters, artists, and makers with an opportunity to connect with likeminded individuals, exchange ideas, and meet-up at common ‘makerspaces.’ Strangers become project buddies, teachers, and even friends. In addition to the social element of crafting, marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay, and Etsy provide the crafter with a platform to not only share ideas, but start and grow a business as well.

In the U.S., craft stores are expanding their footprint to meet the needs of this growing movement, and mass merchandisers are also responding by expanding their craft department presence both inside the store and online. As old trends fade out and new ones pick up, it will be important to pay attention and maintain a pulse on the market potential and permeation of popular trends.

*The NPD Group, Inc. / Weekly Retail Tracking Service, 52 weeks ending January 02, 2016
***“Etsy and Pinterest Allow Millennials to Leave Their ‘Maker’s Mark,’” Millennial Marketing, 2016

January 18, 2016

What Women Want

As the large glass doors slide open, a rush of sounds race to greet my sister and I – metal clinking, repetitive beeps, the rustle of plastic, and bits of chatter overheard from nearby conversations. An hour later, we emerge from the aisles and park our overfilled carts at the register line. Next to the groceries are needed bathroom and kitchen items, cosmetics, and home office supplies. Every Sunday, my sister and I attempt to run the majority of household errands together before the start of our work weeks.

Our Sunday routine, while small in comparison to the retail spending universe, is actually part of a broader change that’s influencing the retail space, from office supplies to apparel and everything in between. It’s estimated that women will make up nearly three-quarters of consumer spending globally by 2028. In the U.S., nearly half of the total labor force is made up of women balancing home life with work life.* Millennial moms are a growing segment and account for 46 percent of their age group, with 71 percent working outside of the home**. According to the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of women act as the sole or primary source of income for the family. Gender lines are blurring and it’s happening in a multitude of ways. For office supplies industry players, the consumer segment of working women is an important one, especially when considering their shopping and buying behaviors for their home office, small business, and on-site office needs.

In the office supplies industry, retail sales outside of the back-to-school season shift towards the small- and medium-sized business customer, which includes freelancers and home office workers. In 2015, NPD found that office supplies retail sales outside of the back-to-school season grew 3 percent, and accounted for 72 percent of total yearly office supplies sales growth***. According to the Freelancers Union, approximately 34 percent of the U.S. population works as a freelancer and this number is expected to increase to 50 percent by 2020. Women make up more than half of all full-time freelancers. Types of freelancing vary from self-employed moonlighters to full-time independent contractors, and work can be done on-site or from a home office. Increased usage of social media alongside the evolution and prevalence of online marketplaces have really helped to encourage freelancing as an alternative or bonus to traditional part-time and full-time employment. On Etsy, for example, over 80 percent of sellers are female and 36 percent hold a full-time job in addition to their online business—a 10 percentage point increase versus 2013. Self-employed women make up 40 percent of the self-employed workforce* and female entrepreneurship is on the rise.

Overall, there is also a growing segment of women working from home. Amidst a growing population of employees that work from a home office or distribute their weekly working hours between home and office, women made up 39 percent of these teleworkers in 2015, up 10 percent from 2013****. The work-from-home woman spans several consumer segments including working from home supporting a large corporation, freelancing, or as a business owner.

From product development and merchandising to where she’s shopping and what she’s buying, the changing female consumer demographic opens doors to new opportunities for retailers and manufacturers. For those serving the home office, self-employed, and freelance worker it’s important to take into account these changes, and pay close attention to the working professional woman and in what ways her behaviors, preferences, and needs vary at retail.

*Source: U.S. Department of Labor
**Source: Exponential
***The NPD Group, Inc. / Office Supplies Weekly Retail Tracking Service (excludes Janitorial and Breakroom)
****Source: Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit, Inc.

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