Stationery business wrecked by online learning, WFH

Stationery business wrecked by online learning, work-from-home culture

Businesses have reported a 60 to 70% fall in demand in the last year and a half

Representative image. Credit: DH Photo

The stationery business has been hit hard by the clamour for digital learning and the work-from-home culture taking root during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

While conducting classes online, many educational institutions opted for digital exercises, making notebooks, copiers, papers, pens, pencils, crayons and other writing implements redundant. 

Businesses have reported a 60 to 70% fall in demand in the last year and a half. 

The Karnataka Paper Merchants and Stationers' Association says the digital learning method is one of many factors that had hit the business during the pandemic. 

More than 2,000 wholesale and retail stationery shops are involved in the business on a large scale. "We hope the unlock phase will help us sail through the crisis,” association president Ranjeet Jain told DH

Traders from Avenue Road, Bengaluru's traditional shopping hub, say copiers always had a high demand but their sales have now come down to single digits. "Offices and corporate companies have switched to the work-from-home option,” said a wholesale stationery dealer. 

Chail Singh, of Reliance Stationery World, Avenue Road, admitted that the situation had changed significantly from a year ago. "When we opened briefly between the first and second waves of Covid-19, only 25% of the regular retailers turned up," he said. 

G Saravana Kumar of Arun’s Notebooks, one of the leading notebook makers in Karnataka, said both manufacturers and traders had suffered losses in the last year and a half. "Sustaining the business for one or two months in such situations is feasible, but this has been going on for 18 months now and we don’t know what is coming next," he said. 

Traders particularly feel the pinch in May, June and July since these were the months when the demand for stationery products peaks with schools, retailers and students buying in bulk for a year. 

"The sudden lockdown last year resulted in unsold stocks. Some schools had placed orders to customise notebooks with their names but refused to buy them after the lockdown," Kumar said. "Our problems are not even recognised by anyone."  

Jain said some workers and owners had left town or switched businesses. Paper merchants and stationers complain they do not have a strong forum to air their grievances to the authorities. 

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