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08/30/2021

U.S. Office Supply Revenue to Rise 8% in 2021

Back-to-school gains forecasted at 12%, according to NPD
Bridget Goldschmidt
Managing Editor
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U.S. Office Supply Revenue to Rise 8% in 2021 The NPD Group
Core K-6 school supply category sales, including such items as composition notebooks, encased pencils, colored pencil sets and crayons, are up 50% season to date versus last year, according to The NPD Group.

The U.S. office supplies market is expected to end the year with revenue up 8% compared with 2020, according to The NPD Group’s annual forecast, “The Future of Office Supplies.” This is also an increase of 8% compared with pre-pandemic revenue in 2019.

Following a difficult 2020 back-to-school season amid the pandemic, 2021 back-to-school season sales were up 21% for the five weeks ending Aug. 7 versus the previous year, based on NPD's Retail Tracking Service data. Given the earlier start dates of this back-to-school season versus the delays of 2020, the market researcher expects 2021 sales to slow later in the season and net out with revenue 12% higher than the 2020 back-to-school season and flat compared with 2019 sales in this space.

With U.S. schools welcoming students for a new year of classes or gearing up to do so, the 2021 back-to-school season is off to a solid start. Core K-6 school supply category sales, including such items as composition notebooks, encased pencils, colored pencil sets and crayons, are up 50% season to date versus last year, as recorded for the five weeks ending Aug. 7. According to NPD, some of this growth is attributable to pandemic precautions such as not sharing supplies. For example, NPD's Checkout data found that teachers expect 73% of their students to bring their own crayons as compared with 49% in earlier years, with similar trends noted for markers and glue sticks.

“Coming out of a strong back-to-school season and looking ahead to the holidays, we expect to see a slight slowdown in office supplies sales compared to 2020, down 1%, but Q4 sales are expected to come in above 2019 levels,” said Leen Nsouli, executive director and office supplies industry analyst for Port Washington, N.Y.-based NPD. “During the holiday season, we expect wellness activities for use at home or on the road will be a focus, presenting a continued opportunity for the industry. We also expect to see collaboration-related supplies do well as U.S. adults continue to find optimal ways to work together in a virtual and hybrid world.”

For 2022 and 2023, NPD predicts that revenue in the office supply category will decline slightly, down 2% and 1% respectively. These decreases will be partly due to the acceleration of digital product usage in offices and classrooms as a result of the pandemic. In fact, 40% of teachers surveyed in “The Future of Office Supplies” said that they will continue to depend more on digital teaching methods. For many industry players, however, this shift to digital has opened up opportunities for innovation and is likely to result in more technology-blended products coming on the market, according to NPD.

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