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

                                    Dec 2, 2022 - OCC Price Drop Offset by Higher Costs for Other Inputs
                                    • Firms that use old corrugated containers (OCC) as feedstock to manufacture corrugated boxes and other product packaging have been enjoying lower OCC prices, but in some cases, those cost gains are being offset by higher prices for other inputs, according to Resource Recycling. Paper manufacturers report higher prices for energy, including electricity and natural gas, chemicals, and labor. Virgin pulp prices have also risen, which has driven up production costs for some types of products, including tissue papers. If distributors can’t pass higher producer prices onto customers, margins could suffer.
                                    • Seasonally adjusted wholesale sales of paper products fell 0.6% in September 2022 compared to the prior month, according to the US Census Bureau. Unadjusted wholesale sales of paper products were up 14% in September compared to a year earlier.
                                    • Demand for eCommerce has fallen as consumers have returned to in-store shopping and pulled back on discretionary spending amid inflation and rising interest rates, according to Reuters. Weaker e-commerce demand is likely to reduce sales of corrugated boxes used in shipping. Delivery firms UPS and FedEx, and the US Postal Service, beefed up staffing and facilities to handle the extra volume earlier in the pandemic. This holiday season, industry consultant Satish Jindel suggests higher package delivery capacity could surpass peak demand by 18 million packages.
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