It’s a recognition that behaviours even in the classroom have changed alongside how people shop, with Ms Hunter saying more parents are choosing to do their back-to-school shopping online this year.
“We are seeing continued growth in online, with more parents placing their book list orders online. That area of our business is going from strength to strength,” Ms Hunter said.
In November, Officeworks revealed its sales had rocketed 23.4 per cent for the first three months of the new financial year, with online making up nearly 40 per cent of trade.
However, unlike other retailers reporting double and triple-digit online growth, the digital channel was already Officework’s largest.
In-store sales are still king, however, and the retailer has devoted more of its floor space to its electronics and office furniture ranges, again in response to changing purchasing patterns brought about by the pandemic.
“One change from previous years is that we’re seeing parents and carers want to set up the home environment specifically for their children’s learning,” Ms Hunter said.
“Particularly for parents who have done homeschooling in the last year, they’ve recognised the importance of having those dedicated learning sites.”
Similarly, digital learning tools such as laptops and tablets have been popular ahead of the return to school, though Ms Hunter believes many parents will value the importance of in-person, classroom learning more than ever this year.
Officeworks has been a prime beneficiary of the virus thanks to a massive run on desks, office chairs and computer monitors as Australians established their work-from-home setups.
At times, the level of demand meant stock was hard to come by, but Ms Hunter said she was broadly happy with stock levels across the business, despite some “challenges” in the early days.
“Sure, maybe at times, the choice wasn’t as great as I would have liked, but the reality is every customer could get something to help them stay home and be safe,” she said.
Ms Hunter said a focus for Officeworks for the new year will be ensuring its offerings are geared towards people working from home than ever before.
“One of the longer-term trends emerging now is around flexible working, so we’re looking at the role that we can play to make it easy for our business customers to support their staff and team members to work flexibly,” she said.
Dominic Powell writes about the retail industry for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.