Online purchasing networks for school supplies received a great deal of attention beginning about two years ago, as nearly a dozen companies sprouted to serve those responsible for making an estimated $85 billion in purchases annually on behalf of U.S. schools. While the early ardor for these sites has cooled (alongside a retrenchment of all e-commerce), experts say the sites are gradually making their mark in K-12 education.

In the months ahead, some sites will merge. Others will go out of business. But one or more sites will flourish, as school purchasing directors, administrators,...

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