Market Snapshot: Office-Supplies Buyers? We Got That

Office-supplies catalogs don’t mail just to offices anymore. With the growth of home businesses, merchants of office furniture, toner, software, paper, and pens are mailing to homes as well as to corporations. That, in turn, has contributed to significant year-over-year growth in the number of active buyers in the office-supplies category.

According to New York-based list brokerage services firm ParadyszMatera, the names of 8.9 million 12-month buyers from office-supplies merchants were available for rental or exchange during the fourth quarter of 2006. That’s up nearly 18% from the fourth quarter of 2005. And the universe of active buyers doesn’t include names from two of the sector’s largest merchants, Corporate Express and Quill, which do not have their house files on the market.

Staples, the parent company of Quill, does rent the names of buyers from its Staples-brand catalog and Website. In fact, two lists of Staples buyers are among the five largest active-buyer files in the category. Topping the list is the Staples Consumer Catalog Buyers file, which has more than 3.8 million 12-month buyers — a year-over-year increase of 76%. Staples’ list of buyers at business addresses is the fourth largest file, with more than 469,000 12-month buyers.

New England Business Service (NEBS), part of the Small Business Services division of Deluxe Corp., also made major gains in terms of 12-month buyers during the past year. For the fourth quarter of 2006 it had more than 1.1 million active buyers, up 75% from the previous fourth quarter. Whereas the other merchants on the top-five list are generalists, NEBS specializes in business forms, promotional products, and stationery.

From 2004 to 2006, 47% of the office-supplies catalogs received by ParadyszMatera offered some sort of purchase incentive. Premiums were just as popular as free shipping, with each offered by 36% of the catalogs. Bags (such as Staples’ business attaché with laptop holder) and electronics (such as Amsterdam Printing & Litho’s MP3 player) were among the most common types of premium. Only 11% of the office-supplies catalogs offered discounts.

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