Scribbles and Screens: A look at the evolving stationery market in the UK
July 2nd, 2024, Lesley Simeon

Scribbles and Screens: A look at the evolving stationery market in the UK

Swift taps on a keyboard, easy swipes on a screen and seamless texts to a friend are all good. But the click of a new pen and fresh ink on aged paper  is satisfaction unmatched for many.

Nonetheless, consumers today have digital alternatives to several traditional stationery items -digital notebooks, pens and even planners (South Korean boy band BTS launched a digital stationery collection recently as well).

We explore data from YouGov Self-serve, a tool that helps you build highly targeted rapid research surveys, to take stock of the stationery sector in Great Britain - how often Brits buy stationery, when and where they buy it and what influences their purchases.

Almost 7 in ten Britons say they don’t shop for stationery very often; most of these purchases are made during special occasions 

Britons aren’t big on buying stationery often - most of them (68%) don’t. Nonetheless, a considerable proportion of them - 29% - purchase stationery items like pens, pencils, notebooks or papercraft often.

As for when exactly these stationery purchasing transactions take place, YouGov Self-serve data reveals that almost three in five Brits (59%) buy stationery supplies on occasions - such as birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. Further, nearly a quarter of respondents (23%) buy stationery primarily during the school year.

Offline trumps online, when it comes to where exactly Brits buy stationery 

Consumers in Great Britain (76%) are more likely to head to bricks-and-mortar stores for their stationery needs. Although a majority of both women and men go IRL stationery shopping, the former are more likely to do so (80% vs. 71%)

More than two in five (42%) Brits head to online stationery retailers as well.

Digging deeper into bricks-and-mortar stationery shopping habits, we see that 65% of Britons shop from supermarkets like Tesco or Sainsbury’s. Again, a larger proportion of women (70%) shop for stationery from supermarkets than men (59%).

A notable proportion of Brits (45%) shop for stationery from specialised stationery stores like Ryman or WHSmith.

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Most Brits limit their stationery spend in a month to under £9

We now know that bricks-and-mortar establishments win favour among Britons when it comes to purchasing stationery. But how often do consumers buy stationery to begin with?

Almost a third of British adults surveyed (32%) say they bought stationery supplies once in the past three months, while another 32% say they bought supplies two to three times. A quarter of consumers (25%) haven’t bought stationery items in the past three months at all.

Further, nearly three in five Brits (59%) spend between £1 and £9 on average on stationery in a month and 14% of them spend £10 to £29.

Most Britons aren’t aware that Paperchase stationery is now available at Tesco

Of the range of stationery brands, one has been in the news for a while - Paperchase. The half a century old stationery chain was first bought out of administration, acquired by a consortium, put up for sale again and finally acquired by British retailer Tesco.

The retailer relaunched the Paperchase brands in its stores and online in October 2023. But YouGov data reveals most Britons (67%) are not aware of Paperchase stationery being sold in Tesco stores. Just three in ten Brits (29%) are.

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Social media doesn’t influence stationery purchases at all; sustainability does, somewhat 

When asked to what extent their stationery purchases are influenced by social media, a majority of Brits (80%) say they aren’t influenced at all. Roughly one in ten (11%) are moderately influenced.

Alright, social media is of no influence when buying stationery. But what about the ‘sustainability’ factor?

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For three in ten Brits (30%) sustainability is not a factor at all when buying stationery, while it is ‘somewhat of a factor’ for nearly half of them (47%). More than one in ten Britons (12%) say sustainability is one of their top factors during stationery shopping.

Sustainability is somewhat of a factor for more than half of all 18-to-29-year-olds Brits (53%). Further, women are more likely than men (51% vs. 42%) to claim that sustainability is somewhat of a factor when buying stationery items.

Brits most likely to use a mix of both physical stationery and digital tools for tasks like taking notes and making lists

We may well be living in a world dominated by digital technology but few things spell familiarity as much as grabbing a piece of paper and scribbling out a number or a checklist.

Yet nearly one in five respondents in Great Britain (19%) have cast aside the ancient ways - this group primarily uses digital tools on their phones, laptops or tablets for tasks like taking notes, making to-do lists and keeping a calendar. Perhaps the lure of note-making applications draws this group in? Fair, given how digital planner tools are upping their game in recent times, complete with mind maps, flow charts, customised filters, historical statistics, location-based reminders and more.

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Britons are more likely however (43%) to use a mix of both physical stationery and digital tools, while nearly a third (32%) primarily use physical stationery for tasks like taking notes, making to-do lists or keeping a calendar.

Expectedly, the oldest demographic surveyed, consumers aged 51 years and above, are most likely to use physical stationery like pens and notebooks to make notes and write lists.  Similar proportions of 18–29-year-olds (24%) and 30–50-year-olds (23%) primarily use digital tools.

Women are more likely than men (35% vs. 28%) to use physical stationery. They are also more likely to use a mix (47% women vs. 39% men). Men lead in their likelihood to primarily use digital tools (24% men vs. 14% women) to take notes or make lists.

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Methodology: YouGov polled 1500 British adults online on 4 June 2024. The survey was carried out through YouGov Surveys: Self-serve. Data is weighted by age, gender, education level, region, and social grade. Learn more about YouGov Surveys: Self-serve.

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