Paper Products Distributors

Industry Profile Report

Dive Deep into the industry with a 25+ page industry report (pdf format) including the following chapters

Industry Overview Current Conditions, Industry Structure, How Firms Operate, Industry Trends, Credit Underwriting & Risks, and Industry Forecast.

Call Preparation Call Prep Questions, Industry Terms, and Weblinks.

Financial Insights Working Capital, Capital Financing, Business Valuation, and Financial Benchmarks.

Industry Profile Excerpts

Industry Overview

The 7,000 paper and paper product distributors in the US act as middlemen between paper products manufacturers and large customers, such as publishers, printers, government offices, corporate offices, manufacturers, resellers, and retailers. Companies may specialize in bulk printing and writing paper; stationery and office supplies; or industrial and personal service paper. Some large companies have retail operations.

Competition From Alternative Sources

Paper products distributors compete with a variety of alternative sources, including office supply superstores, office supply distributors, traditional retailers (mass merchandisers, warehouse clubs), manufacturers, and Internet retailers.

Push For Less Paper

Technology and the increasing concern over recycling and the environment have led to considerable efforts to reduce paper consumption.

Industry size & Structure

The average paper products distributor operates out of a single location, employs 17-18 workers, and generates about $12 million annually.

    • The paper products distribution industry consists of about 7,000 companies that employ about 123,000 workers and generate about $86 billion annually.
    • The industry is concentrated at the top and fragmented at the bottom; the top 50 firms account for about 70% of industry sales.
    • Some companies are vertically-integrated; converters may act as distributors and large distributors may have retail operations.
    • Large companies with paper distribution operations include Office Depot and Essendant (formerly United Stationers).
                                    Industry Forecast
                                    Paper Products Distributors Industry Growth
                                    Source: Vertical IQ and Inforum

                                    Recent Developments

                                    Mar 2, 2023 - Study: EPR Programs Can Improve Recycling Rates
                                    • A recent study by the Recycling Partnership showed that governments could increase recycling rates for printed paper and packaging materials by implementing extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs. Through EPR programs, firms that manufacture packaging products are charged fees which are used to help fund local recycling efforts, reducing the financial burden on taxpayers and local governments. The study examined the effects of EPR programs in seven international jurisdictions and six US states. The report showed that EPR policies boosted the collection of targeted recyclable materials to more than 75% in counties including Belgium, the Netherlands, South Korea, and Spain. However, recovery rates in the six US states were only 60%, and study authors suggested this was due to “the lack of sustainable funding.” California, Colorado, Maine, and Oregon have implemented EPR programs, and several other states are considering doing so.
                                    • Paper and wood products trade group American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) has raised concern that proposed extended producer responsibility (EPR) legislation in Washington could undermine the paper industry’s momentum on recycling infrastructure investments, according to Recycling Today. The Washington Recycling and Packaging Act (WRAP Act) would create an EPR program whereby packaging producers help pay for recycling programs in Washington.
                                    • The global fiber-based packaging market is expected to post steady growth amid consumer packaged goods companies’ efforts to make their products more sustainable and as packaging manufacturers innovate to introduce more value-added applications. According to a recent report by paper, print, and packaging consulting firm Smithers, the global fiber-based packaging market (which includes corrugated board, folding cartons, molded pulp, and flexible and specialty papers) was valued at $425.4 billion in 2022. Worldwide demand for fiber-based packaging is projected to see average annual growth of 3.4% through 2027, reaching a value of $503.4 billion. Consumers’ widespread understanding of fiber-based packaging’s recyclability and commitments to phase out single-use plastics are key demand drivers.
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