- Stationery and office supplies encompass a diverse range of product categories. Glues and adhesives, and pens and pencils constitute the major export categories.
- As well as making products for OEM (original equipment manufacturing) clients, some Hong Kong manufacturers also market their own branded items. Hong Kong companies also accept ODM (original design manufacturing) orders that require substantial design input from suppliers.
- The stationery industry is exploring new growth areas by modifying traditional stationery items with new technologies. One example is the smart pen, a device which records brush strokes and converts handwritten information into digital data, enabling the data to be utilised in various applications. Computer consumables is another growth area.
- Stationery products made from environmentally-responsible materials and that comply with product safety standards are gaining traction among consumers.
The Latest Stationery Market Trends
In developed markets, selling stationery has become more than a seasonal, back‑to‑school business. The widespread use of computers, smartphones and tablets has increased sales of IT‑related products. There is therefore sustained demand for computer accessories such as USB flash drives, linking up traditional wholesalers with IT specialists.
Developments in technology have also affected the traditional stationery business. Computerised electronic devices enable paperless work and provide digital methods for documenting and storing information. The rise of electronic communication forms such as e‑mail has also reduced demand for traditional stationery products. Responding to this trend, manufacturers have begun looking to market traditional stationery as gifts or luxury items, offering unique designs with stylish alternatives to the mainstream gold, silver or lacquer finishes.
In most developing countries, however, stationery is still a necessity rather than a luxury, as people there have fewer electronic devices. The demand for all types of stationery increases moderately with a rise in the working population and with increased literacy in general. These customers tend to be price‑sensitive, which means that reducing prices through mass production of similar products continues to be the main strategy for most companies.
Competition in the stationery industry is keen, which adds pressure on prices. As well as taking cost‑cutting measures, such as relocating to less expensive production bases, suppliers need to counter this pressure through innovation, making use of striking designs and attractive colours, and by reaching out to new target groups. Manufacturers can no longer regard themselves as just the sellers of a product. Increasingly, products must be sold along with a concept.
1. Technology-Driven and Multi-Functional Stationery
The proliferation of computers and mobile devices has had a definite impact on the development of stationery products. The stationery industry is exploring new growth areas through modifying traditional stationery items with new technologies. For example, the combination of smart pen technology, digital ink, cloud storage and artificial intelligence (AI) enables handwriting and drawings on paper to be converted into text and image formats on screens. Another growth area is the sale of computer consumables such as printing papers, labels, mouse pads, printer inks and USB devices.
Stationery products are becoming more sophisticated, focusing on novelties and items with multiple functions. For example, message pads now come with light displays showing incoming messages and dual time LCD clocks. Manufacturers are also turning out multi‑function ballpoint pens which incorporate features such as magnifying glasses, needles and threads, torches or even USB memory sticks.
2. Green Stationery
Green office products, such as notebooks made from recycled paper and biodegradable pens, are gaining popularity, thanks to advances in technology and manufacturing processes that have lowered the cost of producing recyclable stationery. Paper products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) are increasingly in demand. FSC certification ensures that paper products are made from wood taken from responsibly managed forests, providing a guarantee of a high level of environmental and social responsibility from forest to manufacturer to merchant. In addition, there is greater emphasis in plastic‑free packaging in stationery products. For example, Mitsubishi Pencil Company UK, known for its Uni‑ball brand, launched cardboard packaging last year to fully replace plastic as part of its back‑to‑school campaign.
3. Personalised Stationery
Whilst demand for traditional stationery is declining as companies move to paper‑free environments, personalised stationery is becoming more popular. This can be seen on the e‑commerce site Etsy.com, which has multiple stores selling personalised products such as customised note cards, business card holders and monogrammed leather notebooks. Brands such as Typo, kikki.K and Moleskine also offer personalised stationery to stimulate sales across the category.
4. Renewed Interest in High-end Writing Instruments
In recent years, a growing number of consumers have sought creative and meditative activities, such as western calligraphy, as a means of taking a break from the digitalised world. Despite niche demand, such activities are likely to drive sales of high‑end writing instruments and stationery supplies such as branded fountain pens and inkwells, particularly in developed countries. High‑end writing instruments also continue to signify craftsmanship and quality and remain popular as gifts for both personal and corporate occasions.
Stationery Industry in Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s stationery manufacturers offer a wide range of products, including paper stationery, plastic office/school supplies, writing ink, writing utensils, staples, crayons, letter openers, pencil cases, chalk boards, memo boxes, file rings, push pins and adhesives. These products are available in a variety of finishes and surfaces, such as chrome (gold, silver or bronze in colour), plastic, imitation leather and genuine leather.
Prepared glues and other adhesives now dominate Hong Kong’s stationery export mix. However, paper stationery – encompassing exercise books, albums, diaries, sketchbooks, memo pads, registers, account books, receipt books, gift boxes, shopping bags, shipping bags and gift wrapping materials – also remains an important export category. Gift boxes and shopping bags, which are made for manufacturers or retailers of consumer goods, usually bear company names, logos or advertisements. Some are made for subsequent resale to consumers wishing to wrap gifts they have purchased.
In general, ball point pens manufactured in Hong Kong are targeted at the premium market. Most manufacturers rely heavily on imported ink, refills, brass ball points and barrels. Only a few companies make their own refills. Various parts are then assembled in‑house. Some also make their own barrels if the design is intended to incorporate a particular function, such as an LCD time display.
As well as producing for their OEM customers, some Hong Kong exporters also market their own branded items. Hong Kong companies also accept ODM orders that require substantial design input from suppliers.
Stationery products are mostly exported directly by manufacturers, although some are handled by general trading firms which may also deal in other kinds of products. In Hong Kong, stationers, office supply shops and bookstores are the major distribution channels. European brands such as Montblanc dominate the upper end of the market, while Japanese and German products both have a strong presence at various levels. Well‑known stationery brands such as Moleskine, kikki.K and Staedtler have established a physical presence in Hong Kong.
Home and small offices are expanding, especially in the US. Superstores and mail order companies dominate the channels for selling to small offices in the US and increasingly in Europe. In the US, for example, the two largest office‑supply chain stores are Staples and Office Depot. The online market has become a convenient one‑stop shop for all types of stationery, school and office supplies. Amid keen competition from hypermarkets and online retailers, stationers and office‑supply stores have developed online sales platforms and adopted an omni‑channel approach.
Marketing and promotion efforts usually include advertising in related industrial publications and through participating in exhibitions. To expand their business networks, explore new market opportunities, and promote their products and brands abroad, Hong Kong stationery makers may choose to participate in some well‑organised and influential international trade fairs. Since stationery items are very often dispensed as souvenirs and gift items, stationery manufacturers and traders usually take part in gift and premium fairs too.
List of Major Stationery Trade Fairs
|Country Region||Major Events|
|Hong Kong International Stationery Fair|
|Mainland China||Paper World China|
|US||National Stationery Show|
|Japan||International Stationery & Office Products Fair Tokyo|