Gains erased for office supplies names

Mar 01, 2008 10:30 PM  By

People and businesses are still purchasing pencils to push, but the overall office supplies segment of the catalog market shrank during the past two years.

In the fourth quarter of 2007, there were 7.4 million 12-month buyers in the segment, according to New York-based media brokerage firm ParadyszMatera. That’s up from 6.7 million in the previous quarter, but down from the 8.5 million names in the fourth quarter of 2006.

In the past year, two notable changes have occurred within the office supplies market at the list level. The first was Staples releasing the mailing list for its Quill subsidiary.

But Staples also removed a sizable portion of its main house file from the market, according to ParadyszMatera.

Staples Consumer Buyers was the largest active buyer file in the segment for the fourth quarter, with a universe of 1.54 million names. The masterfile of competitor Office Depot was close behind at 1.52 million. But Office Depot’s customers had an average order of $160 — $90 less than Staples’ $250.

OfficeMax, with 796,857 names, Quill (781,570), and New England Business Service (627,709) rounded out the top-five biggest files.

Office Depot’s house file grew, however, by 12.5% during the past year, gaining 169,000 names. OfficeScapesDirect, a cataloger that specializes in artificial plants, flowers, and trees for the workplace, saw its house file double, to 45.3 million buyers from 23 million the year earlier.

Incentive use by office supplies catalogers rose sharply in 2007, with 59% of all office supply promotions offering at least one incentive, compared to 41% the prior year. Twenty-five percent of mailers offered discounts in 2007, up from 11% in 2006. Key discount incentive mailers include Staples, Quill, and Office Depot.

While premiums are fairly unusual in consumer catalogs, back-end gifts are commonplace among office suppliers. Quill, Reliable, and Uline all increased their use of varying merchandise premiums last year, accounting for the overall gain (41% in 2007 vs. 25% in 2006). Bags and electronics remain popular types of premiums.

Twenty-nine percent of office supplier efforts offered free shipping last year, up marginally from 28% in 2006. Office Depot, Reliable, and Staples are among those using free shipping.

House file universe: office supply catalogs
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Total universe 7.6 7.7 7.9 7.7 8.5 8.6 6.0 6.7 7.4
Office supply catalogs with the largest active-buyer files
Rank List name 4Q 2007 house file universe Average order
1 Staples Consumer Buyers 1,542,840 $250
2 Office Depot Masterfile 1,522,570 $160
3 OfficeMax 796,857 $230
4 Quill Masterfile 781,570 $200
5 New England Business Service (NEBS) 627,709 $120