OFFICE SUPPLIES

Office supplies encompass a wide range of materials that are used on a regular, every-day basis by business owners and/or employees. Staple office supply items that are often utilized by even the smallest company or home office include pens, writing paper, notebooks, Post-It notes, scissors, erasers, computer diskettes, binders, slides, file folders, labels, basic reference materials (dictionaries, etc.), file cabinets, fax paper, envelopes, and a host of other items. In addition, equipment that is used in most office environments—printers, copy machines, fax machines, etc.—is often included under this umbrella term.

Despite the growth of technologies that supposedly herald the impending arrival of the "paperless office," offices in today's business environment would still be decidedly incomplete without paper, pens, file folders and other traditional office tools. Although their cost is small when purchased separately, in the aggregate they amount to a substantial portion of office expense. Small business owners should thus make sure that they pay attention to office supply costs and keep all receipts of such purchases, since office supplies are a legitiimate business deduction for tax purposes.

Entrepreneurs and business managers also need to take care to ensure that they get what they pay for. Most companies engaged in selling office supplies and equipment are scrupulous and reliable, but fraudulent suppliers do exist. For this reason, experts urge small businesses to proceed methodically, especially if dealing with a new supplier. "Prevent supplier swindles by adopting a written purchasing policy, which includes a list of your approved vendors," stated Scott Clark in Pugent Sound Business Journal. "A specific credit check procedure must be completed for a new vendor to be added to this list." Small business owners should also insist on written confirmation of all supplier claims and demand an opportunity to review sample goods before placing an order.

PROCUREMENT OPTIONS In recent years, office superstores and catalogue supply houses have emerged as the most efficient and inexpensive way to purchase various types of supplies. The average client of these superstores is the small- to medium-sized business, as well as the home office market. The convenience of being able to find virtually any office supply at one location is one of the primary reasons for the increased popularity of the superstores. In addition to convenience, these stores and catalogues offer merchandise that is very competitively priced since they are able to purchase their goods at bulk rates. Some of these savings are usually passed along to small business customers, especially if the stores are operating in a competitive environment.

The proliferation of Internet shopping has opened up a new avenue for office supply procurement as well. This option is expected to continue to grow in popularity, especially as technologies such as electronic fund transfer (EFT) evolve.

Finally, many small (and large) businesses are choosing suppliers who offer materials made from recycled materials This "green" trend in procurement can be seen in all types of paper products (computer paper, envelopes, tablets, file folders, etc.) as well as big-ticket items like office furniture. In the latter case, remanufactured, refurbished or reused furniture has emerged as a particularly attractive option for cash-strapped start-ups and growing businesses, who can register savings of 30-50 percent by pursuing this course of action. According to some experts, furniture recyclers now represent almost 10 percent of the $13.6 billion commercial furniture industry.

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