Office supplies industry dollar sales in the US are forecast to remain stable through 2022, according to The NPD Group’s Future of Office Supplies report, with hand cleaners and other janitorial and breakroom supplies being the main source of growth as attitudes and behaviors related to COVID-19 continue to reshape the industry. The janitorial and breakroom category — which includes products such as hand sanitizers and wipes, tissues and dispensers, and disposable plates and bowls—contributed $14.9 billion in 2019 and is projected to rise to over $16.1 billion in 2022.
“Janitorial and breakroom has been a bright spot for the office supplies space over the past couple of years, and the COVID-19 crisis will only serve to strengthen sales as increased demand for sanitizers and other cleaning products will drive additional growth,” says Leen Nsouli, NPD’s office supplies industry analyst. “Manufacturers and retailers will need to focus on maintaining both strong supply and distribution lines, while managing prices for consumers in what is sure to be a highly competitive space.”
Sales impact of staying at home
Spending on coloring and art supplies is also expected to grow steadily over the next three years, nurtured by the sales momentum established shortly after the implementation of stay-at-home mandates. Growth from these more optimistic categories is expected to help offset declines in other areas of the office supplies space that have faced more headwinds due to COVID-19 and been more directly challenged by technology, including filing and file storage, office paper, and other office essentials.
“An accelerated migration to digital and higher technology adoption in business and learning is reducing the purchase frequency in categories such as paper notebooks, filing, and binders. As working from home becomes more commonplace, this will reduce the consumption of certain supplies and also has implications for the commercial B2B as fewer supplies will be consumed in the workplace,” says Nsouli. “At the same time, however, as we see from the growth in coloring and art, the current environment has engaged office supplies consumers in new ways. This behavior will not be unlearned, and the balance between technology and the traditional will be key.”
Outlook for back-to-school
In thinking about the upcoming back-to-school season, safety is on parents’ minds, as almost 50% of them plan to purchase hand sanitizer to have available when the next school year starts – ranking alongside pencils and notebooks as the top supplies they plan to purchase for the upcoming school year.
Stocking up in the springtime and uncertainty about the coming school year will also have an impact on sales outlook: With families and their children at home during part of the school year, the COVID-19 crisis spurred a springtime sales surge for traditional school supply list products. According to the NPD study, some parents are not planning to buy school supplies because they already have enough (37%) or feel it’s too early to plan (32%).
“A surplus of sales, consumer willingness to head back into stores, and uncertainty remaining around how and when schools will start are factors that will likely cause sales to shift later and condense as more consumers may shop last minute as school plans unfold,” adds Nsouli. “While parents and students adjust to their school environment and ‘learn’ their needs this year, we may see sales of some categories rise as an ‘after-thought’ purchase. Additionally, some schools are beginning the school year digitally with a plan to phase-in physical classroom attendance, which could push a percentage of their purchases out later as well.”