Pandemic drove up office supply demand as workers moved home

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer
memara@fortfrances.com

When COVID-19 forced the closure of many retail businesses, some of them had to lay employees off to make up for the lost revenue. However, the pandemic also drove up the demand for office supplies as working from home became the new norm.

Lowerys and Wilson’s Business Solutions are two local office supplies and stationary stores in Fort Frances that saw an increase in demand of technical supplies since March 2020.

Jim Hudson, manager at Lowerys, said they have seen a demand in items that are needed to set up a office at home.

“There was more office furniture going to homes as employers were setting up their people at home with the right ergonomic furniture,” Hudson said. “There was also a lot of technical support required in order to get up their video conferencing.”

Hudson said many people were gearing up with webcams, larger monitors and upgrading their computers because they had been gathering dust as many people were using their phones instead. They realized that with video conferencing, a bigger screen would be better for them, he added.

Hudson said the orders began trickling in two weeks after the first lockdown was in effect. Because COVID-19 also saw the delay in shipping time, Hudson said they had to adjust their ordering method to mitigate shipment delays.

For example, Hudson said if they found a system that would be great for their customers, they would place more orders so they could have enough of them, even if there are not going to customers right away.

If Hudson was placing a special laptop order for someone Pre-COVID, it would take about three days to get into the customer’s hands. Right now, it would take twice as long – about six to eight days to get an item, Hudson said.

“We knew if the [items] were there from our supplier today, they’ll likely be gone the next day,” Hudson said. “We had to order extra just to make sure we would get a reasonable amount shipped to us.”

Stephen Gillon works as the computer sales and support at Wilson’s Business Solutions. He said they had more orders coming in from businesses as they tried to set their employees up with laptops and printers.

Besides working around COVID-19 safety regulations, Hudson said they had to work extra to find the right products.

“Maybe Lenovo would not have them in stock, so I would look for an alternate computer system from Acer or HP to cover the demand from that particular type of laptop,” Hudson said.

Despite the constant change of rules surrounding curbside pickup and in store shopping capacity, both Hudson and Gillon said their revenues were not affected, if not increased.

“There was an initial bump for sure when COVID first kicked in and everybody was getting their whole video conferencing going and getting either their existing computers upgraded or replaced,” Hudson said. “Since then, it’s settled down now.”