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Not so long ago, the average office needed a large quantity of file folders, paper clips, envelopes, printer paper and post-it notes. These traditional supplies play a smaller role in today’s digital world, but every office still needs them – along with restroom and break room supplies, printer and toner cartridges, hard drives and cleaning supplies.
Finding supplies is a simple matter. Brick and mortar office supply stores abound in suburban shopping centers, and the number of online vendors has soared in the past few years. Both channels have advantages and disadvantages, so consider some important factors before you pull out your credit card.
Before You Shop
The fastest way to waste money is to hit the keyboard - or local office supply store - without a plan. To make the most of your office supply dollar, observe these guidelines:
Brick and Mortar Office Supply Outlets
Online shopping is quick, easy and typically budget friendly. But given the stepped-up competition from e-commerce sites, brick-and-mortar stores are doing what they can to sweeten the deal. And the fact remains that some business owners like to see, touch and smell what they're planning to buy.
Even so, exercise caution when browsing retail aisles, because it’s tempting to make impulse purchases of items that you don’t really need.
Stores specializing in office supplies such as Office Depot, Staples and Office Max offer the widest selection and prices are good. Brick-and-mortar fans also like having a real person available to handle questions and concerns.Virtually all the big-name outlets also have an online presence, so non-stocked or out-of-stock items are easy to get, requiring only a day or two for delivery. Often, you can order an item online and pick it up at the store on your way home – saving both time and delivery costs.
Virtual stores, including e-commerce sites operated by the major brick-and-mortar office supply retailers, do not allow customers to physically handle the product, but other benefits are undeniable. These include:
As convenient as this may be, though, not all online office suppliers are created equal. Some are full-service retailers with robust customer support, while others simply sell products. Consider whether you need an online retailer that offers these services:
Remember - the ultimate goal is to save money while purchasing high quality products, whether you prefer to shop online or in brick-and-mortar stores. You may find that the best strategy is to do a little of both.