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U.S. Office Supply Sales Up in 2015

The U.S.’ office and school supplies industry grew 3 percent in 2015 to $12 billion, with $1.2 billion in online sales, according to the NPD Group.

April 6, 2018

2 Min Read

Writing instrument sales among top reasons for 3 percent growth last year.

The U.S.’ office and school supplies industry grew 3 percent in 2015 to $12 billion, with $1.2 billion in online sales, according to the NPD Group.

“From writing to adult coloring, a number of exciting trends emerged and reemerged in 2015, which helped grow dollar sales for key players in the office supplies industry. These trends continue to have a positive impact on sales,” says Leen Nsouli, office supplies industry analyst, the NPD Group.

One of the key drivers behind the industry’s revenue came from the writing instruments category, which represented 20 percent of total industry sales and experienced a dollar and unit growth of 8 percent, and 7 percent, respectively.

Within the writing category, traditional pen sales grew 5 percent and specialty pens grew 11 percent.

Consumers also increased their spending on writing instruments by nearly $2.5 million on fountain, gel and ballpoint pens compared to what they spent in 2014.

Colored pencils were also popular this year, with sales up 40 percent for the year.

Despite the pen category seeing an increase in sales, 2015 marked a shift in pens versus pencils during the back-to-school season, with traditional pen sales losing unit share to both encased and mechanical pencils. Looking back at the purchases, consumers traded 27.6 million individual units of pens for pencils last year.

Overall, while looking at channel performance, the writing category experienced growth across all retail channels–including brick and mortar, online and food/drug stores–and outperformed the overall supplies industry in each.

“The keys to growth in supplies–whether for the office, school or crafting–are all about innovation and price,” says Nsouli. “I’ve seen this done through new styles and designs, new licensing agreements, a blending between glass and paper, and the creation of new activity like adult coloring, which lead the way to increased sales across supplies categories.”

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