Purchasing equipment and supplies for your business might make you long for the days of hopping in your car and heading to the store to buy things yourself. Buying for a small to medium-size business can mean lengthy orders, lots of paperwork and a continual hunt for the best deal.
Many large retailers offer plans for businesses, but they can be confusing and fraught with lots of rules and restrictions. Further, businesses want to know where they can get the best deal and what hidden "gotchas" may be out there for unsuspecting small companies.
For small business owners who are new to purchasing office supplies online or who need help sorting through the best options, here are some solid programs to investigate.
Shopping at Amazon is usually a no-brainer for many. But if you want additional tools that are geared directly for businesses, consider Amazon Business. The company aims to meet the needs of businesses of all sizes, from a sole proprietor to a large corporation.
Some items have discounts exclusively for business users. This can further reduce the costs on large purchases of multiple units of the same product. You can add team members to your Amazon account and create a workflow approval process so inventory replenishment and other ordering is streamlined.
To qualify, you'll need to prove that you're a real business by submitting verification of IRS filings, a business license or documentation from your state/commonwealth that contains an official insignia. Additionally, you'll need another document to prove employment for the individual submitting the application. If you're a sole proprietor, make sure you indicate that you own the business.
The key issue, of course, comes down to cost. Joining Amazon Business is free, but if you want Business Prime shipping benefits, that will cost you. It's $179 annually for up to three users, with plans increasing in cost based on how many team members you want on the plan. It tops out at $10,099 per year for larger organizations with over 100 users. This enables free, two-day shipping on all Prime-eligible items on Amazon.
The other large option to look at is the company that is trying to keep pace with Amazon: Walmart. The company offers corporate accounts; however, you're currently only able to use them to purchase or reload gift cards.
With your online Walmart purchases, you can track your order history, invoices, and PO numbers. There's the Walmart for Business section of the company's website that focuses on items that companies are most likely to order. There's a good curation of office supplies as well as broader categories of products. As Walmart ramps up its competition with Amazon, it's worth monitoring if further benefits are offered down the line.
Casting a wider net
While Amazon and Walmart are the most successful retailers out there, it doesn't mean these are your only choices when it comes to business purchases. This is particularly the case with technology buys, as Apple offers a volume purchase program, which can be used both for hardware and software purchases. Samsung offers a similar storefront as do other hardware makers.
For small and very small businesses, the best plan may be as simple as using a corporate card or account to make and keep track of the purchases. This way, the focus of your efforts is shopping around to find the best deal without being tied to one retailer. Many corporate cards offer the opportunity to earn points or cash back that can be used to further help the business. If you have to spend money, you might as well make it work for you.
Also, don't forget the popular adage about shopping local. Many times, a local store is happy to accommodate the needs of a local business and offer discounts for bulk purchases or a steady stream of orders.
No matter which option you go with, there are plenty of ways for your business to get what it needs at the best price. With the right amount of research, you can match your options with your business's needs.
Tips for saving money on office supplies
- Buy items in bulk whenever you can. The cost per unit is much lower when items are purchased in bulk. Such items as pens, printing paper and ink cartridges should be bought in bulk to cut down on cost. Office supplies stores often offer discounts where items are bought in bulk. It is however essential to only buy items that you will use. Stationery items do not go bad and can be stored for long periods of time. Some of the benefits of buying in bulk include lower costs and a long-term, steady supply of items.
- Compare prices. Before choosing a retailer to buy office stationery from, compare prices at different stores. Office stores sell similar products at different prices. Where items are bought in bulk, a small change in price could result in significant profits for the business. Compare online prices, too, as they could be cheaper compared to office stationery stores (online stores have lower overhead costs).
- Shop online. There are many benefits as to why you should shop online for your office stationery. There is a wide range of products to choose from when buying products online. This allows you to choose products that suit your needs. Buying online offers a one-stop solution for all your stationery needs.
- Track your monthly expenses. Management should keep track of how much is spent on stationery to reduce waste.