Office supply store: How to choose
Finding an office supply store isn't difficult; it's choosing the right one to suit your needs that can get tricky. Independent office supply retail stores are still used but large superstores, mail order suppliers, contract stationers and online vendors are where the majority of businesses now get their office supplies.
Different types of office supply retail stores
- Superstores - attract small to medium-sized businesses because they are able to offer discounts on popular everyday items.
- Independent stores - are a good place to search for difficult-to-find products because they tend to offer a very wide range of products.
- Mail order - appeals to both small and large businesses because of the convenience of ordering over the phone or online from a catalog. They are able to compete with local superstores by offering free ordering numbers, cheap shipping, quick delivery and wholesale prices.
- Contract stationers - cater to large businesses because they offer an extensive range of products and services. The services they provide include customized pricing, usage reports and electronic ordering.
- Online vendors - many major office supply retail stores have websites but there are also vendors who deal exclusively over the Internet. By choosing an online office supply store you can benefit from discount or wholesale prices and quick, cheap delivery but you need to ensure that they have a customer service number that you can call when you need to speak to a real person.
Choosing the right office supply store:
When looking for an office supply store most businesses see product range as one of the most important criteria. Independent dealers and contract stationers offer the widest selection with contract stationers offering around fives times more than superstores.
Mail order and superstores usually supplement their limited range with a catalog but items from the catalog would normally not be available right away.
The range of services offered by vendors is also one of the most important deciding factors when choosing an office supply store. Contract stationers are a clear winner when it comes to offering a full range of services but not everybody requires such extensive services. Ordering, delivery and support are the key services that are offered by most office supply stores.
Ordering varies considerably depending on the vendor and can range from simple phone or online ordering to long lists that need to be faxed through to the dealer. Mail order supply stores offer phone ordering along with extended hours and online options. This can be especially convenient for ordering emergency or last minute items that may not be included on a regular purchasing list.
Delivery is fairly standard and the majority of office supply stores offer free delivery if the order exceeds a certain amount. However, superstores and independent stores are likely to limit delivery t certain areas.
It's a good idea to look for stores who offer good post-purchase support if you're buying office equipment.
While superstores and mail order offer low prices on popular items they make up for these low prices by putting prices up on other items. So while these may be good options for buying supplies in small amounts they are not ideal for bulk buying.
Contract stationers are a much better choice when it comes to regular ordering because they offer competitive prices on the most frequently used items.