Companies in this industry distribute paper products and other office supplies. Major companies include Essendant (formerly United Stationers), SP Richards (a subsidiary of Genuine Parts), and the distribution arms of retailers Office Depot and Staples (all based in the US), as well as Pelikan (Germany), Lyreco and Manutan International (France), and Spicers (UK).
Demand is closely tied to the level of business activity. However, workplace digitization is depressing demand for traditional office products. Traditional office products contributed less than 15% of market leader Essendant's net sales in 2017. Also, the convenience and large economies of scale offered by ordering office supplies online from dealers such as fast-growing Amazon Business has resulted in e-commerce becoming the dominant ordering method in many countries, challenging traditional channels. The profitability of individual companies depends on merchandising and an efficient delivery system. Big companies have economies of scale in distribution because they can supply a wide range of products to the same customer. Small companies can compete successfully by distributing specialty products or providing superior customer service. The US industry is concentrated: the 20 largest companies generate nearly two-thirds of revenue.
Products, Operations & Technology
Major products include general office paper, office supplies, labels, and greeting cards, which together account for about 80% of industry revenue. Toner and toner cartridges account for more than 15%. Office supply distributors may also offer furniture, cleaning supplies, breakroom supplies, and technology such as phones, shredders, and computer accessories. Distributors of computers are not included in the industry.