In today’s digital workplace, the demand for traditional office supplies is at a standstill. Last year, the U.S. office supplies market grew by only 1% and, according to Research and Markets, is predicted to grow by only 0.25% YoY over the next 4 years. But this doesn’t mean that the office supplies industry is static; not even close. Office products is an exciting, highly innovative retail sector, especially when it comes to e-commerce, where Amazon is the market leader.

The NumbersOffice Supplies sector retail sales analysis

As you can see, Amazon’s growth in this sector is significant, and this growth has continued well into 2017. The first 24 months of the year show an additional 25% growth, earning $1.25 billion USD in Amazon.com office supplies sales so far, more than 50% of the 2016 total.

The decrease in brick-and-mortar office supplies sales isn’t entirely due to eCommerce, however. Physical stores are still responsible for the majority of sales, with people in the habit of picking up more paper, toner, writing instruments, etc., from their local office supplies store. The problem facing brick-and-mortar stores is that the items people buy from them are being used less and less in the modern workplace. Printers, staplers, pens and paperclips are all gathering dust as every professional task, however menial, gradually becomes digitized. Environmental concerns culminating in the “green workplace” movement are also driving offices to go paperless. That’s not to mention the growing proportion of the workforce that now works from home.

Office products are more than just everyday consumables, however, and the strongest companies are those that invest in innovation, in everything from office furniture and workplace organization to presentation aids and digital appliances. Naturally, the most innovative brands gravitate towards eCommerce, and the smartest brands are reaching their audiences through the sector’s largest digital retail channel, Amazon.

Top-selling Categories on Amazon.com, 2016Office-Supplies-top-revenue-Amazon-categories data analysis of retail sector

CategorySubcategory2016 Sales
Toner$270M
Office Organization$270M
File Folders and Labels$75M
Binders & Binding Systems$60M
Labeling Tape & Roll Refill$60M
Ink$230M
Writing Instruments and Accessories$200M
Woodcase Pencils$35M
Gel$25M
Permanent Marker$20M
Classroom Supplies$135M
Presentation/Display & Scheduling Board$55M
Classroom Teaching & Learning Materials$40M

In both 2015 and 2016, Toner and Office Organization tied for the two top-selling categories on Amazon.com, growing 35% to reach $270 million. The adage that printer manufacturers are not in the business of selling printers, but in the business of selling ink, holds true. In fact, the only top 5 category not to survive from 2015 to 2016 was Inkjet Printers, which has been dethroned by Classroom Supplies.

All top 5 categories in 2016 represent low-cost, consumable items that are purchased repeatedly throughout the year. While this doesn’t come as a surprise, it also doesn’t paint the whole picture; for that, we need to look at the top selling individual items.

2016 Top-selling ASINsTop revenue ASINs for Office Supplies ecommerce revenue on Amazon

Ranking by 2016 RevenueCategoryItem
6CalculatorsTexas Instruments TI-84 Plus Graphics Calculator, Black
7Office OrganizationDYMO LabelWriter 4XL Thermal Label Printer
8InkHP 61 Black & Tri-color Original Ink Cartridges combo pack
9Single Function Laser PrintersBrother HL-L2340DW Compact Laser Printer, Monochrome
10Multi Function Inkjet PrintersCanon MX922 All-in-One Printer, Wireless and Mobile Printing

When broken down this way, we can see office appliances outperforming many other individual items, with Fujitsu scanners not only the bestselling item of 2016, but three of the top five bestsellers. Also in the top 10: two laser printers, a graphics calculator and a label printer. Most of these appliances still appear in the top 10 items year-to-date in 2017, even though all the top categories are consumables:Office-Supplies-Retail-Statistics-Amazon

2017 YTD: Top-selling Categories

Fastest-growing Categories

Category2017 YTD SalesCategory2017 YTD Growth
Ink$165MInk75%
Toner$160MPrinter Accessories70%
Office Organization$140MPaper55%
Writing Instruments and Accessories$100MSingle Function Inkjet Printers45%
Paper$70MToner40%

The picture is very similar overseas. In both the UK and in Germany, the top two categories are Printing Consumables and Office Organization respectively, with both Office Supplies and Writing Instruments and Accessories appearing in the top 5. One outlier in the UK is the YTD fastest-growing ASIN, the AmazonBasics Cross Cut Paper Shredder, an Amazon private brand workplace appliance that has more than tripled its sales in the first 24 weeks of 2017, revealing that loyalty to the Amazon marketplace itself is just as influential in purchasing decisions as loyalty to specific brands.Amazon International Office Products Revenue Data Analysis


 SalesGrowth SalesGrowth
UK 2017 YTD£93M9%Germany 2017 YTD€85M35%
Top-selling CategoriesTop-selling Categories
Printing Consumables£36M5%Printing Consumables€42M10%
Office Organization£19M10%Office Supplies€23M5%
Writing Instruments and Accessories£10M-10%Office Organization€9M10%
Office Supplies£13M15%Writing Instruments and Accessories€7M0%
Paper, Envelopes and Shipping Supplies£5M0%Basic Supplies€3M10%

In Q3 2016, Amazon drove 82% of the total U.S. e-commerce growth, according to Internet Retailer. For office products, eCommerce is the industry’s sole growth area. As brick-and-mortar sales shrink, Amazon has emerged as the market leader in online sales. With their Amazon Business service, launched in 2015 in the US and 2016 in the UK, they’ve recognized the need for a marketplace for B2B sales, creating a streamlined environment for office managers to skip the office supplies store and go online instead. In 2017, there’s no better time for brands to follow suit.

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