What Retail Buyers Want: School & Office Supplies  6/21/2017

As part of their preparation for ECRM’s 60+ EPPS meetings, retail buyers complete a form on the EPPS prep site, indicating the subcategories they are buying for, and on what areas they are focusing their buying efforts.

Based on this information, collected from almost 125 buyers and category managers attending ECRM's upcoming School & Office Supplies EPPS meetings, here are a few key areas of interest:

Pre-Pack Back-to-School Kits: Kits that combine all of the necessities to get the kids ready for school, bundled together and packaged for seasonal back-to-school sales.

Home Office Supplies: As more people – like myself – are working from home, there is more demand for those products aimed at creating a productive and efficient home office, such as desk organization tools, small whiteboards (or static-cling dry-erase paper, an ECRM favorite), the usual pens and pads, computer screen wipes, and printer paper and ink. And many buyers are looking for these items packaged in bulk, so that we can have plenty on hand at a reasonable price.

Arts & Crafts: All of the necessities for creative endeavors at home, whether it’s scrapbooking, or colored pencils and markers, paint, construction paper, decorative tape, glue, and scissors (including safety scissors for kids, as some buyers noted they are looking specifically for products aimed at early childhood and elementary school-aged kids). While the adult coloring book craze has died down a bit over the past two years, it’s still popular.

Electronic Accessories: Today’s kids are growing up in a digital world, so it goes without saying that electronic accessories are becoming a mainstay of any school and office supplies assortment. Cell phone cases, charger cords, headphones, phone stands, stickers and other decorations, and bags, cases and backpacks with plenty of pockets to organize them all. One benefit of these items is that they are also great for impulse sales – whether at the front end checkout, on a shipper, or on clip strips.

Impulse & Novelty: Novelty school supplies are great impulse items, including decorative pens and pen caps, uniquely designed cell phone cases (or solar-powered charging cases), or anything unique that will help kids stand out among their peers. One buyer noted he was looking for fidget spinners to include in their school and office supplies assortment. While at first I thought it was a little odd, I then realized how helpful these gadgets might be to keep a home office worker entertained during a long conference call!

Journals: Journaling is growing in popularity among the Millennial crowd, but they like to keep their recollections and thoughts in a nicely-designed journal that reflects their personality. Think custom designs and colors, with good paper.

Close-outs, Off-Price, and Opportunity Buys: Extreme value items and opportunity buys that can help continually refresh assortments for those retailers looking for a “treasure-hunt” experience that keeps shoppers returning to find something new. This includes closeouts, excess inventory and packaging changes.

Private Brands: Merchandise across all categories that can be sold under the retailer’s brand.

Fashion: Across all of the school and office supplies segments, it’s important to realize that – particularly among high school and college students, products should be functional and also fashionable. Many of these students will look to buy products that match their stylistic tastes, and buyers are looking to address this in the products they buy.

Melinda Young

SVP of General Merchandise

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