Office supplies market hard at work

Thanks in part to the growth of the small office/home office (SOHO) marketplace, the house file universe of office supplies catalogers has risen steadily during the past few years. New York-based media brokerage services firm ParadyszMatera estimates that the names of 7.6 million 12-month buyers from office supplies merchants were available for rent or exchange in the fourth quarter of 2005. That’s up 16% from 6.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2004 and an increase of 31% from 5.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2003.

The largest file is testament to the strength of the SOHO market: The more than 2.18 million 12-month buyers on the Staples Consumer Catalog Buyers list are, as the name suggests, consumers shopping from their home addresses. It’s also the fastest-growing office supplies house file, up 53% since the fourth quarter of 2004. The file does not include the 500,000 Staples buyers at business addresses nor customers of Staples’ sibling catalog division, Quill.

The second and third largest files — the Office Depot and Viking Office Products masterfiles — are another set of sibling brands. Or rather, they were — Office Depot last year began absorbing its domestic Viking business into its core brand (it still operates Viking catalogs and Websites overseas). The Viking list stopped adding names in June 2005, according to ParadyszMatera.

Number five on the list, OfficeMax, has a sibling catalog as well: Reliable. With 322,000 12-month buyers, the Reliable catalog house file is little more than half as large as the nearly 631,000-name OfficeMax file. But Reliable enjoyed solid growth of more than 13% during the past year. Also enjoying a 13% rise in the number of 12-month buyers was the Organize Now catalog from Ultimate Office; its active house file reached nearly 94,000 names.

From 2003 to 2005, 58% of office supplies catalogs offered an incentive. Free shipping was the most popular, promoted by 49% of the mailers, while 42% offered premiums. Viking Office Products, for instance, offered mini-refrigerators, coffeemakers, and portable TV/radios with minimum orders of $25-$50. Office Depot’s premiums last year included CD players, luggage, and briefcases, while Quill Discount Office Products gave a tin of Mrs. Fields cookies to those with orders of at least $125.

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