In this Placer Bytes, we check in on office supplies to see if there are signs of life and dive into rising visits to a leading purveyor of wine and spirits.
Can the Office Supply Sector Recover?
In June, we decided to shake up our annual predictions with an added list that took into account the unique realities and potential opportunities that would come from the pandemic and recovery. And while brands like BJ’s Wholesale Club and Tuesday Morning are repaying that confidence, there is one sector that has left us disappointed: office supplies. And specifically, Staples and Office Depot. While other sectors have seen rebounds, the office supply sector has struggled even while work and learning from home needs have increased.
And until recently, there was one brand that was clearly outperforming the other, Office Depot. From early August, the visit rates for Office Depot were much stronger when comparing to 2019 numbers. From the week beginning August 3rd through the week beginning August 31st, Staples visits were an average of 31.1% down compared to the equivalent weeks in 2019, while Office Depot was doing much better down just 20.4% year over year. Yet, all of this was turned on its head in early September. The week beginning September 7th saw visits to Staples surge to a year-over-year increase of 21.8% for the equivalent week. And while much of this centered around a later Labor Day shifting the year-over-year comparison, it also went far beyond Office Depot who saw visits down 3.6%, its second-best week since the pandemic but far off the mark set by Staples.
And it appears this trend could have some staying power. From September 7th through 15th, Staples has seen daily visits that have been up an average of 22.8% year over year, while Office Depot daily visits were down an average of 4.2% for the same period. Does this mean that the office supply sector in general and Staples, in particular, is back? No. But it does mean that Staples was able to identify an angle to drive visits in a period where they had been struggling significantly. Should the retailer prove capable of sustaining this, it could be positioned for significant benefits in the longer term.
The last few months have presented a uniquely difficult and stressful period, and one sector that may be helping consumers overcome this complex reality deals in wine and spirits. Total Wine has seen year-over-year growth in visit rates since May, with July and August seeing jumps of 12.8% and 9.4% respectively. Impressively, the brand’s seasonal peak comes in November and December indicating that the best may still be on the horizon for the retailer.
Will the Staples streak continue? Can Total Wine hit a new peak this holiday season? Visit Placer.ai to find out.