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.
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.
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.
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.
Checkout delivers the most comprehensive view of consumer purchase behavior for general merchandise categories, across all retailers over time, to help you understand how to adjust your marketing to fuel growth. Checkout E-commerce offers the most complete and accurate view of the online channel – including first and third-party sales for Amazon and other marketplaces, 400+ e-commerce retailers including direct-to-consumer, and an early read on emerging players.
NPD’s Analytic Solutions group includes senior leaders with extensive experience developing and delivering analytic solutions that help clients predict areas of risk and growth to improve marketing and product development. By combining NPD’s unique data assets and industry expertise with state-of-the-discipline research techniques and proprietary solutions, our Analytic Solutions team is able to answer clients’ most pressing business questions.
Discover how and why consumers engage with specific office supplies retailers and products
The back-to-school season is the second-largest retail shopping season. That means it’s critical for manufacturers and retailers to understand how consumers choose where and what to purchase, what triggers their purchases, and the types of promotions most likely to capture their attention.
The janitorial and breakroom category is showing double-digit online growth. Do you know enough about this booming part of the office supplies market?
Our office supplies insights help you make informed product development and marketing decisions. With detail at the category, brand, item, and product attribute levels, you can get a better read on what’s happening in the market.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported this flu season to be the worst in a decade. As the virus spread across the entire country, sales of hand cleaners, particularly sanitizer and wipes, have also gone viral, according to global information company The NPD Group.
Sales of traditional supplies for the 2017 back-to-school season amounted to $4.2 billion in the U.S., a 1 percent increase over 2016*, according to global information company The NPD Group. With more dollars being spent in the latter part of the season, September was the catalyst of growth, as it drove sales for the entire season through September 23.
Pre-Packaged School Supply Kits Prove to be a Popular Option for U.S. Consumers Fulfilling Back-to-School Lists
Some U.S. consumers opt for eliminating the shopping when it comes to buying school supplies
Global information company, The NPD Group, has named Tia Frapolli president for the firm’s Office Supplies business. Tia will report to Perry James, who continues to lead the firm’s U.S. Hardlines Sector, including Automotive, Home, and Office Supplies.
The latest trends around creative expression, from slime and “floam” to coloring and crafts, are driving U.S. sales of office supplies ahead of Easter, according to global information company The NPD Group. The double-digit sales growth seen across coloring and art related categories suggests that a different wave of items may be joining the chocolate bunnies and stuffed animals in Easter baskets this year.
Total retail sales for the U.S. office and school supplies industry grew 1 percent in 2016 to $12.1 billion*, with e-commerce the thrust behind the growth, according to global information company The NPD Group. Brick-and-mortar sales remained flat though the channel accounted for 89 percent of the total industry, while online sales grew 12 percent for the year; however, the online growth rate has slowed compared to previous years.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A major cutting tools manufacturer wanted to launch a new cutting tool that would set it apart from competitors, but the manufacturer needed to get a handle on the likelihood of success in its category. New product forecasting revealed the answers.
The back-to-school season now includes more options for the consumer than ever before. We took a look at how U.S. consumers shopped for back-to-school products in 2017 to help you plan for the 2018 season.
The back-to-school season isn't about one-stop shopping anymore. Find out what it is about these days.
Key industry trends and U.S. shopper insights for seasonal planning
This year’s back-to-school shopping season will be longer, and could be larger, than last year’s season. The majority of U.S. consumers plan to spend about the same as last year
The back-to-school season is the second largest retail shopping season. To gauge what’s to come this year, we looked back on last year’s back-to-school shopping behavior
To uncover opportunity in the office supplies industry, it’s crucial to understand the small office/home office consumer. What is unique about the omni-channel shopper’s purchase behavior, and what factors influence where they shop?
E-commerce accounted for 76 percent of total office supplies growth over the last year, but that growth is slowing. Learn what’s affecting the growth rate.
Get a holistic view of this year’s back-to-school shoppers, and learn what they are buying across apparel, school supplies, and more.
Beyond competing on price there is a lot that office supplies brand and manufacturers can do to stay ahead of the competition. Learn more from Leen Nsouli, Industry Analyst – Office Supplies.
Insights and Opinions from our Analysts and Experts
In today’s Digital Age, the U.S. Census Bureau found that nearly 80 percent of Americans own a laptop or computer, and 75 percent own a smartphone. We have many technologies and devices at our disposal; however, many of us turn toward various activities and products to cleanse ourselves from the ‘digital stare.’ It’s often difficult to disconnect and unplug ourselves from digital tasks, but there’s a shift happening that’s moving us away from purely living and breathing digital.
“Digital detox” was a prominent theme at the 2018 Paperworld conference in Frankfurt, Germany, last month. Office trends reflecting technology, while present, moved into the background. Instead of a computer or laptop being the focal point of the desk, it was notebooks, folders, and file storage stealing the spotlight, in favor of a more calming design. This not only portrays consumers’ desire to do more of their work through raw, tangible mediums, but also the importance of focusing on “mindfulness” in the office. Some companies are innovating by transforming their offices to provide spaces for quiet time, collaborative work, private spaces for relaxation and thought, mood rooms, and creative spaces. For many offices, this transformation requires a wide variety of new architecture, furniture, and themes. However, the time and investment is not just for aesthetics; many believe that these future office concepts increase employee productivity, happiness, and overall well-being.
Another way consumers are reducing their digital usage is by getting back to basics and using pens and planners to schedule their daily routines instead of their smart devices. According to NPD data, sales of appointment and planner books/organizers have grown by nearly $10 million year over year*. While planners were very popular at Paperworld 2018, notebooks, pens, and unique writing instruments like calligraphy and brush-tip markers, were prevalent as well. Trends such as bullet journaling and hand lettering are growing, which is also reflective of the digital detox.
Digital detox embodies a shift towards relaxed environments with less emphasis placed on technology. Using notebooks instead of a laptop during a meeting, or scheduling daily tasks in a paper planner, are ways consumers are able to change their oftentimes monotonous, digital-filled days. While technology will most likely always be an integral part of modern society and the working world, there are many concepts that are becoming commonplace that ease the overwhelming digital presence in our day-to-day routines.
*Source: The NPD Group/ U.S. Retail Tracking Service, 52 weeks ending February 3, 2018 versus same weeks in 2017
The U.S. office supplies industry is no exception to the shopping trends emerging this holiday season, as there are several products trending for holiday crafting, gift giving, and home décor. Do-it-yourself holiday crafts and activities are prevalent on social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram, which are great sources of inspiration for consumers in the holiday spirit.
Decorating trees with holiday ornaments has evolved into a family crafting opportunity, with ornament decorating and painting becoming more popular with consumers. Paintbrush pens, which are an essential tool for ornament decorating, grew sales by over $1 million during Holiday 2016* from the previous year. The ornament decorating trend has prevailed on holiday blogs this season, and paintbrush pen sales have grown by over 60 percent in the four weeks ending October 28, 2017.**
Wrapping gifts in attractive paper has been popular for centuries; however, with the popularity of home crafts and washi tape, gift wrapping has been taken to a new level. Several trends are emerging with washi tape, such as Christmas tree wall art, homemade holiday greeting cards, and décor. Washi tape sales grew by $2.8 million during the 2016 holiday season, and continue to grow, showing a positive trend for Holiday 2017.
While crafts and décor are necessary during the holidays, the gifts themselves are still at the top of many consumers’ lists. Planners, small notebooks, and journals appear on holiday gift guides across the Internet, and are sure to be a classic gift this season. Small notebooks and journals added $3.7 million in sales to the office supplies industry during Holiday 2016, and have already shown 35 percent growth heading into the holiday season this year. Additionally, appointment books and planners grew by nearly $6 million last year, and are showing double-digit growth heading into this holiday.
Consumers are showing their creativity during the holiday season and engaging with products in fun and whimsical ways. Many of the more recent trends that have moved the needle for the office supplies industry were sparked by social media, making it a strategic platform that retailers and manufacturers should utilize to build brand and product awareness – both during and outside the holiday season.
*Source: The NPD Group/ Retail
Tracking Service, 3 months ending January 2017 vs. prior year
**Source: The NPD Group/ Retail Tracking Service, 4 weeks ending October 28, 2017 vs. prior year
Setting political views aside, the women’s movement has positively influenced the sales of office supplies.
Demonstrations during the Women’s March took place in over 600 cities around the world. To communicate their thoughts and emotions, those participating in the march came with a variety of signs. Most signs were homemade, which showed that their makers clearly put a lot of work into creating them. The week before the Women’s March, sales of poster boards in the U.S. were up 33 percent and foam boards by 42 percent versus the same week last year, according to retail sales data from The NPD Group. Over 6.5 million poster boards were sold during the month of January, with nearly one-third being sold during the week of the Women’s March. Sales of easel pads/flip charts also grew, by 28 percent. Tools used to assist in making the poster messages stand out also grew during that week, including paint markers (+35 percent), specialty markers (+24 percent), and permanent markers (+12 percent). Poster makers also included images and letters on their posters using craft tools such as glue (+27 percent), adhesives (+12 percent), scissors (+6 percent), and paper punches (+4 percent). In addition to holding their posters, some wore t-shirts with personalized messaging; fabric paint sales the week before the march were up at least three-times as much compared to the other weeks in January.
More events have taken place since the January march, and there is discussion that similar events are planned for the future, presenting an opportunity for retailers and manufacturers to monitor and prepare for product demand in larger cities where they typically occur. Regardless of personal views on the current political climate, consumers’ demand for products that allow them to creatively express themselves represents an opportunity for incremental sales.
Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Weekly Retail Tracking Service
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
Outside of the back-to-school season and throughout the holidays, the focus for the office supplies industry shifts to the small business and home office consumer. This consumer segment is gaining share at retail and is critical to the overall success of the industry. At NPD, we recently uncovered what makes these consumers tick, and how retailers are responding to more effectively compete and attract their business.
According to The NPD Group’s recent study, “Understanding the Small Office/Home Office Consumer,” two-thirds of small business and home office consumers report purchasing supplies at least once a month or more. This reinforces the fact that, although advances in technology are paving the way for new office solutions such as cloud-based storage, electronic data filing, document cameras, and digital boards, consumers will always need and use traditional supplies.
At the same time, vendors and manufacturers of office supplies must also understand the full scope of the needs of the small business and home office consumer. Simply providing the supplies is no longer enough to maintain a competitive edge in today’s retail environment. At retail, the emphasis has shifted to offering a holistic solution for the customer buying supplies.
Here are three ways retailers are adapting and changing in order to more effectively compete and grow their share of the small business and home office consumer:
Providing High Value Services
Approximately half of small business and home office consumers indicate that having in-store experts is “extremely to very important” to their in-store experience. It’s important to remember that this service isn’t limited to the physical store; experts can be made available through text, phone, or video chat. Advances in artificial intelligence are also helping to provide quick solutions and satisfy the needs of this important consumer. Other valuable services that retailers are providing include promotional or logo printing, solutions centers, and co-working environments, and these are increasingly being made available online to increase the level of customization for the customer Services which small business customers find lacking are related to speed of shipments and an incentive model that rewards long-time customers. Retailers should explore ways to capitalize on these opportunities.
Having an Office Solutions
At retail, simply offering a great product is no longer enough; it’s about providing consumers with an experience that they’ll remember and want to repeat. The small business and home office consumer is not just looking to buy a pen or notebook – she is looking for solutions that will help to optimize the whole office, from writing to sanitation and breakroom needs, and at a sensible price. Consumers also want to be able to find these solutions across purchase channels.
Office supplies retailers are expanding the customer experience in the store, online, and are connecting the two. The customer experience encompasses everything on the path to purchase, from the research phase, to receiving the product, and the post-purchase period. Although the consumers may know they need a specific item, retailers and manufacturers have the opportunity to also remind consumers about what else they need during their shopping experience. After all, impulse purchasing is common, with almost half of office supplies purchasers indicating they buy on impulse at least some of the time. Factors such as sales, clearance events, and purchase frequency tend to drive the rate of impulse purchases up for small business and home office consumers. Providing a holistic solution to serve whole office needs and optimizing the user experience across all channels will drive loyalty, spending, and will grow share of this important demographic.
Offering Loyalty Programs and
Most retailers offer some type of reward or loyalty program for their customers, but not all offer programs designed or tailored to the small office or home office consumer. Almost half of such consumers feel it is “very or extremely important” to offer some type of awards/loyalty program. This is especially true among those purchasing for a small office of 31-50 employees who tend to purchase not only more supplies, but more frequently as well. When asked about the preferred benefits of these programs, small business and home office purchasers cite shipping benefits, special discounts, and earning points or cash back incentives. These programs also satisfy the concept of providing a holistic solution for the business customer, and meeting their needs across supplies.
There does, however, seem to be a gap either in the awareness level or availability of a program that rewards based on time-in. For example, a customer with 10 years of membership and consistent purchasing wants to receive enhanced benefits compared to a customer with only two years of membership. In building strong, long-lasting relationships with these consumers, this type of rewards model would make sense.
These are three big ways retailers are expanding in-store and online services to better meet the evolving needs of small business and home office consumers. These consumers are looking for holistic office solutions that deliver convenience and value, and they want it all done quickly. Expect to improve consumer acquisition and retention by meeting these requirements and closing the existing opportunity gaps.
It was about two years ago that we at NPD detected the adult coloring book trend beginning to take flight and, alongside this trend, sales of colored pencils, markers, and even gel pens soared. During the first month of the 2015 holiday season, sales of coloring pages were up 70 percent and sales of complementary products like colored pencil sets grew over 100 percent. Demand for these items was so strong that some manufacturers were unable to turn around enough colored pencils to meet the consumer demand. Exactly one year later and the consumer demand for these products has continued.
Sales of adult coloring-related items have reached and surpassed October 2015 levels. Activities related to coloring have been linked to health and wellness, a lifestyle trend that is having a positive influence across industries. To satiate the expansive color palettes they crave while bringing life to the coloring books’ intricate designs, consumers are buying large-pack sizes of colored pencil sets, with the greatest dollar growth coming from 36, 50, and 100-pack sets. Gel and porous pens are also seeing a boost from this trend. Gel, a category which currently makes up 44 percent of all traditional pen sales, is driving growth in the pen category. During October, gel pen sales rose by 16 percent. This growth was likely amplified by the “InkTober Initiative,” a worldwide drawing challenge conceived in 2009 in which artists commit to producing one ink drawing per day for the month of October. As more consumers get in touch with their artistic side this holiday season, we will continue to see sales of coloring pages and complementary products rise into 2017.
Whether for themselves or as holiday gifts, consumers continue to purchase coloring-related items. The concept of coloring has become so popular that it has stretched beyond solo coloring, to coloring in groups or as a family. On another social level, Instagram and Pinterest have made it easier than ever for consumers to share the art they create. As new coloring, drawing, and painting trends take hold, manufacturers will need to reinvent and innovate, to meet consumers’ demand in finding different ways to create and share art as a means of personal expression.
*Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Weekly Retail Tracking Service, 4 weeks ending October 29, 2016
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.
Planning, organizing, and executing a move to a new home, apartment, dorm, or city is never easy. Between childhood homes, campus dorms, and apartment living, I’ve done my share of moving over the years, and like most U.S. movers I made these moves during the spring and summer months. This means that in addition to shopping for the beach and grill, weddings, graduation parties, and back-to-school, a number of consumers are also purchasing for and partaking in the 35-40 million moves that take place every year in America*.
More than half of annual moves take place from May through September, with approximately 32 percent happening in July and August. In 2015, although September saw a 4 percent drop in moves versus 2014**, the number of moves for the full year has remained relatively steady over the past few years***. However, where consumers are moving to and from has varied. In the U.S., movers are primarily heading South and West. States such as Oregon, South Carolina, and Idaho are experiencing the highest levels of inbound moves. With inbound moves on the rise in these states, the Northeast is experiencing the highest level of outbound moves stemming from New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut***. Factors such as booming industries, desire for warmer weather, and increased demand for outdoor activities are contributing to the moving trends. With a boom in their technology and creative marketing sectors, cities like Portland and Seattle are attracting young professionals. As consumers pack up their homes and apartments to move out West and down South, NPD found that sales of packaging products in high outbound regions like the Northeast are seeing the greatest rate of unit growth, at 6 percent****.
Retailers are responding both online and in-store to help make the moving process as painless as possible for consumers. Bundled moving packages are available that incorporate different sized boxes, protective wrapping, labels, markers, and other moving supplies. Promotional discounting when purchasing one product is offered for another. Online suggestion agents help with making sure the consumer remembers all the needed materials for the move, such as having enough packaging tape and protective wrapping. Services allowing the consumer to order online and pick up in-store make acquiring all the needed moving materials more seamless. Also, the ability to make online price comparisons means that the consumer is simultaneously looking for the best price while determining where and how many boxes to buy. Besides looking for a good price, finding quality products that protect and secure the movers’ belongings is a critical part of the purchase decision.
Moving often marks a turning point in someone’s life. It is often an emotional and anxious experience, filled with excitement and concerns for the consumer. Key seasons such as weddings, holidays, and back-to-school may be top of mind for most consumers throughout the year, but with the average American making approximately 11-12 moves during her lifetime*, it is a worthwhile market to pursue. Better understanding the mindset of this consumer can help manufacturers to grow in an opportune space. Generating hype by promoting and communicating the benefits and features of moving supplies may prove to be an advantageous move.
*U.S. Census Bureau
** The NPD Group, Inc. / Consumer Omnibus Survey, September 2015
***United Van Lines, United National Movers Study 2015
****The NPD Group, Inc. / Weekly Retail Tracking Service, 52 weeks ending January 02, 2016
Every year during the back-to-school season, the building where I live holds a school supply drive asking residents to donate supplies for school children and to help families in need. As school start dates inch closer, the stockpile of supplies in the building’s reception area grows larger as residents including myself add our purchased donations to the batch. Back-to-school season charitable donations come in many forms, and it’s a growing trend that’s making a big impact, not only for the shoppers and recipients, but at retail as well.
Individuals and corporations alike want to contribute positively to the communities around them, and the numbers show this. In the U.S., consumers are giving more than they have in prior years. In 2014, Americans donated an estimated $358 billion to charity – the highest in 60 years*. In 2015, the number grew by another 4 percent**. Factors such as widespread access to the Internet and participation in social media are a few of the many factors that have contributed to the growth in charitable giving.
When it comes to school supplies, websites now exist that provide explicit directions on how to start and promote a school supply drive from scratch, and NPD has found that there is a need for such donations. On average, only 62 percent of parents are able to supply all the items on their child’s school list, and this number is even lower in urban school districts, according to NPD’s Today’s Teachers report***. Teachers are asking for more donations through added items on school supply lists and distributing wish lists, with 46 percent of teachers indicating that the school receives and distributes donated goods to the students. In cases where parents are provided the option to purchase school supply packs directly from the school, they are also given the option to purchase school supply packs for donation purposes, on top of the one they are buying for their child. In addition to local school supply drives, consumers are also donating online and internationally. Shoppers will buy notebooks, pens, and pencils in bulk, with the intention of providing these supplies to international children and families in need. In other cases, options exist online to donate a backpack full of supplies to a child.
During the back-to-school season, the average consumer makes two trips to the store. During these trips, when shoppers are purchasing supplies for the K – 12 student(s) within their household and self-gifting, they are also considering charitable school supply purchasing. Better understanding this thought-process and how it factors into the back-to-school shopping experience for the consumer is critical for retailers and manufacturers within the office supplies industry, and across all other back-to-school related categories.
**National Philanthropic Trust, Charitable Giving Statistics
***Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Today’s Teachers: School Supply Purchasing Dynamics & Behaviors
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