The e-commerce channel, which established itself in 2010 as a viable channel for U.S. retail office and school supplies, had a strong second half of the year due in part to back-to-school and holiday sales, according to The NPD Group. From June to December, the e-commerce channel grew 4% while the office super store channel grew 1% and mass merchant/drug channel grew less than 1%.

“After a couple tough years, the office supply industry is showing signs of a modest recovery,” said Perry James, president of NPD’s office supplies and non-games software group. “During the heart of the recession in 2009, many consumers and small businesses shifted out of the office super store and e-commerce channels and into mass/drug to save money. As the economy rebounded in 2010 sales shifted back to office super stores and e-commerce.”

In 2010, U.S. retail office supplies across the three major channels grew 1% in revenue after experiencing a 5% decline in 2009. The e-commerce channel grew slightly more than the office super store and mass merchant/drug channels, experiencing 2% growth while also experiencing price increases of 2.5% versus the prior year. The office super store and mass merchant/drug channels grew 1% each.

“Similar to what we’ve seen in other categories, it appears that consumers and businesses are becoming comfortable purchasing office supplies through the ecommerce channel,” said James. “Retailers, who sell both through brick and mortar and online, need to determine how they manage and differentiate both of these channels in order to maximize profits.”

[Source:  Research conducted by The NPD Group.  15 Mar. 2011.  Web.  16 Mar. 2011.]