The Search for Office Supplies Savings

Five ways to generate additional cost savings on office supplies.

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We hear it every day: our customers still need more cost savings in the office supplies category. In a category that’s managed extremely well by Corporate United Category Lifecycle Management activities, it’s not always easy to find new opportunities for savings – but, it can be done!

Here are our top five suggestions to find the cost savings your organization needs on office supplies.

1. Target maverick spend

Maverick spend is still a major challenge for procurement teams.

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While a ubiquitous challenge, it’s not impossible to tackle. One option is to work with your GPO (or directly with your supplier if you aren’t a member of a GPO) to identify areas of non-compliance. For example, if your GPO or category manager is leveraging an analytics solution to manage and report on your office supplies spend, it should be fairly easy to find the areas that could use improvement. Once areas of non-compliance are identified, procurement teams can work with internal stakeholders to target those areas and campaign for improvement within your organization.

Another way to help reduce maverick spend – especially in organizations with remote or field employees – is to establish a clear process for office supplies ordering through your designated supplier and make sure that process is communicated throughout the organization. Easy online ordering options and retail store cards can help encourage employees in the field to purchase through your negotiated program.

2. Think outside the traditional “office supplies” box

Office supplies retailers often sell a range of products outside of the traditional office supplies category. Consider other areas that are related to office supplies, for example:

  • Office furniture
  • Ergonomic supplies
  • Technology and peripheral items
  • Breakroom supplies

We often find that these areas are still being purchased from local or regional suppliers. By purchasing these items through your office products supplier, you can leverage your broader, national spend and consolidate to a single supplier for added visibility and more efficient approach to supplier management.

3. Take advantage of special pricing programs from select manufacturers

Your GPO or supplier partner for office supplies may have existing agreements with certain manufacturers to offer lower prices on specific products. Identifying items that you’re currently buying, that could be swapped for a similar product from a different manufacturer.

For example, Corporate United’s office supplies program offers deviated pricing with select manufacturers through Office Depot. Certain products from HP, Georgia-Pacific, Inscape, Boise Paper and Newell Brands are offered at even deeper discounts for CU members, saving them even more on the products that they’re already buying.

It’s worth checking with the organization that you’re buying office supplies from to see if any of these opportunities for further savings exist.

4. Identify items that can be substituted for lower-cost alternatives

When it comes to office supplies, there are often many different options for each product type (think about all of the different types of pens and pencils available). Naturally, some options are more cost-effective than others; and, it’s likely that some items on your list that could be swapped out for similar items at a lower cost.

This is something that we see often, as we continuously work with Corporate United to identify these “Best Value” alternatives for CU members. By substituting these items for similar ones that they are purchasing, CU members are able to achieve optimal savings.

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5. Reduce the number of SKUs that your organization purchases

As I mentioned previously, the office supplies category offers a large variety of products for organizations to choose from. For something as simple as writing instruments, it’s common to see SKU variations due to differences in brand, color, type of instrument, form, ink, etc. If your company has multiple business units, locations or employees in the field, and hasn’t recently streamlined your office products requirements, you could be purchasing a large number of SKUs and brands.

You can work with your GPO or supplier partner to understand how many SKUs you are currently buying, and determine any opportunities to reduce. Try starting with the most commonly purchased items, as those are the areas that will most likely yield sizeable results.

For example, if your organization purchases 400 binders, create a list of standard binders that can be purchased in the following categories: round ring, d-ring, view binders. Choose one per category and add all the sizes and colors available for a well-rounded selection.

Maximize Your Savings With a GPO

In addition to exploring the suggestions above, partnering with a GPO can offer valuable benefits (including more savings!) for your office supplies program. Leveraged buying power of a GPO membership will help you secure hard-to-beat pricing and contract terms, and the category management that some GPOs provide can ensure ongoing value throughout the entire life of your agreement. Find out more in our infographic, “3 Reasons to Rethink Your Office Supplies Program.”


Valya Broyer: Director - Buying Groups at Office Depot
Valya began her career with Office Depot (Boise, OfficeMax) in May of 1998. In her 29 years, she has managed through and thrived with the significant changes that have occurred in the industry. Valya has a well-rounded sales, administrative and process improvement background as she has spent significant time in each of the following functional areas: procurement, eCommerce, administrative management and sales management. In her current role she works with her team to deliver maximum value to member based organizations.