The filing and archiving category is the most traditional of traditional office products segments and there’s no point explaining what we all already know – it’s in a tricky situation and, for the most part, whoever you speak to in the world paints a gloomy picture for what the future holds in the category.
UK dealer group Advantia is predicting a 5-10% drop in the category over the next 12-36 months, US dealer group Independent Stationers forecasts a 3-4% decline per year, and manufacturer Jalema sees a 10% drop each year for the traditional products in this segment.
That doesn’t make great reading for those involved in filing and archiving, but it’s hardly surprising given that the category has been getting both barrels from the double blast of workplace digitisation and cloud storage.
“The impact is already huge,” Jalema Sales Director Frank Demarteau says. “We see large organisations going digital and outsourcing their physical archives. Everybody wants to work independently from a place and time, so cloud computing is the future.”
At Tarifold, Marketing Director Benjamin Baruteaud believes the twin attack will destroy the middle part of the category. “Often when a category is facing trouble there are opportunities in the high or in the low part of the market. I believe filing is no different”, he says.
Avery still sees filing as a broad tool that is still very much alive as Marketing Director Fiona Mills explains: “Although there is a shift towards saving information on cloud-based platforms, most organisations encourage employees to print and file important documents for security and protection from loss of data, so there is always a need for filing and archiving. Filing isn’t just for the office, it’s a tool to organise pay slips, revision notes, handwritten documents, letters, etc.”
Rationalising the category
For the most part resellers have to rationalise their filing and archiving offering as the market slips, but just how much are they reducing the space they make available for the category?
At United Stationers, the US wholesaler is trying to help its resellers adjust to the changes in end-user behaviour while making sure it doesn’t “over-correct”.
Product Manager Stephanie Loup says: “We are evaluating which items and brands our customers want and need most, not just for today but for the days ahead. As we look at different uses, we are also looking at the pack types we carry. If people are filing less, they may not need as many 100-count items, but a 50-count or 25-count pack might make more sense for them.”
United adds that until digital storage costs become more affordable, SME customers will continue to purchase product in the category, but that government regulation changes could push a faster decline in the category to digital storage.
Elsewhere, UK dealer group Nemo has actually increased space for 2014 to accommodate more private label that is a growth area while Hungarian wholesaler Corwell is also maintaining stock.
Looking for further positives, a trend that continues to offer comfort in the category is the growing demand for visually attractive and fashionable products. Their inherent attraction for younger consumers is proving desirable in a segment where manufacturing innovation is obviously limited.
Nemo Director of Purchasing Tina Russell says: “We are introducing products more suitable for home filing. With so many people now using their home as their main base, there is a very distinct need for filing that is a little more gentle on the eye.”
In addition, the modern mobile workforce – so often considered the enemy of the filing category – is looking for mobility with portable wall organisers, products with die-cut handles for easy lifting and vertical filing formats that work better with backpacks.
United Stationers is looking to embrace the modern mobile workforce with filing and archiving products and says it will “continue to focus on providing products and services that enable our resellers to meet the evolving needs of mobile workers”.
There are still opportunities out there even if the traditional parts of filing and archiving seem to be out of step with time now. While it certainly is a category in need of a lick of paint (figuratively and literally), the industry is not yet willing to entertain ideas of a dying category.