Event Insights: School & Office Supplies  10/14/2015

People do different things to relieve stress. Some go for a run, or do yoga. Others may loosen up with a drink, take a quick drive in their car, or eat chocolate. More and more, however, adults are turning to coloring books for stress relief.

Adult coloring books were among the top trends mentioned during event debriefings – one-on-one interviews between ECRM staff and buyer and seller attendees – at ECRM’s School & Office Supplies event held last month in Orlando.

The adult coloring book hobby -- which falls under the crafts category as does scrapbooking -- is so popular that, as of the time of this writing, of the top 20 best-selling books on Amazon (we’re talking out of ALL books sold), four are adult coloring books. One of them,
Adult Coloring Book – Stress-Relieving Patterns, ranked as high as No. 6.

And, as the title of that book says, stress relief is why many folks are drawn to these adult coloring books, as well as other crafts that require mindful concentration and time “unplugged” from the Internet and mobile devices. Psychologist and author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi , known for his best-selling book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, provides some insights on how these activities accomplish this stress reduction:

“The most important step in emancipating oneself from social controls is the ability to find rewards in the events of each moment. If a person learns to enjoy and find meaning on the ongoing stream of experience in the process of living itself, the burden of social controls automatically falls from one’s shoulders.”

The adult coloring books and other craft activities such as scrapbooking do just that, providing an activity that requires the participant to learn and execute on specific skills needed to achieve a specific goal, in this case – filling a drawing outline with color or building and designing pages of a scrapbook. The key is, according to Csikszentmihalyi, that the process itself is just as important as the goal, so that it absorbs the person’s focus, requiring them to increase their mindfulness, and thereby freeing them from the worries of the past or future. (See video below for a recent Yahoo news report by Katie Couric on the adult coloring book craze.)

The beauty of this trend is that adult coloring books, scrapbooking, and other crafts require regular trips to the store to replenish supplies of items used in these hobbies, such as pencils, crayons, tape, markers – even confetti.

In addition to the popularity of adult coloring books, other trends discussed at ECRM’s School & Home Office event included:

  • Organizational items: The bestselling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo (No. 5 on that same Amazon list mentioned above), has spurred on a home organization revolution, providing retailers and suppliers an opportunity to provide solutions to help consumers in their “tidying” efforts.
  • Gender-neutral items: This is something that is gaining in popularity among retailers in many categories. For example, at Target, teams are working across the store to identify areas where it can phase out gender-based signage to help strike a better balance. 
  • Lanyards: These items are becoming part of functional fashion for school kids, who use them to carry holders for IDs, bus passes, cell phones and money. Licensing products are popular in this area.
  • Hi-Tech Bags and packs: Backpacks with headphones built-in, as well as bags with custom compartments for mobile devices.
  • Unique prints and colors: Items with edgy designs and unique colors or patterns have been popular for the past couple of years, and continue to trend this season.
School & Office Supplies: September 11 to 15, 2016 at Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront (Jacksonville, FL)


Katie Couric reports on the trend of adult coloring books

Joseph Tarnowski

VP Content

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