Views about Pens

August 2005

Is Handwriting Back?

I am a big user of technology. My approach to communications in the business environment is to use technology to the max. But I have noticed the individuals react differently to hand written communications over such mediums as e-mail. A handwritten thank you note seems to rank way higher on the appreciation scale than an e-mail.

Part of the appreciation of hand written communications come with the personal touch and the move away from e-mail. The pleasure of checking one's e-mail box has been replaced by the unpleasant experience of checking a "junk folder" and deleting the never ending flood of spam mail.

I think we have all experienced the power of written notes to some degree. A sympathy card received in the mail with a few written words strikes one as so much more meaningful than an e-mail. Friends have told me of the feeling they get finding old letters and remark at the way we used to communicate with each other.

So what is the fate of the pen. Sadly, I receive more e-mails advising of a pen store on the list that is no longer there. Independent stores are closing as owners retire. The larger network of stores, such as Paradise Pens with 21 stores across the United States, are expanding. Montblanc expansion of its retail stores is noted in Richemont's (the owning company) annual report with more to come.

Some owners are selling the Limited Edition pens, sight unseen, phone calls, e-mails and faxes are sent the the the FEDEX, UPS and the Purolator are benefiting from the shipping. But overall, based on a good sample of the e-mail that I receive, most still like to go into a store, hold the pen in their hand and give it a test.

Richemont, the company that owns Montblanc, Montegrappa, reported in June 2005 that sales of the Montblanc and Montegrappa lines increased by 10% over the previous year. Writing instruments in total for the company increased by 7% so it was the two "M's" that seemed to lead the way. The demand for the Montblanc Starwalker collection is particularly of noted in their Annual Report.

NewellRubbermain, the company that owns the Parker and Waterman lines has not released its full 2005 Annual Report, but in its letter to shareholders Office Products, which includes lots more than those two pen lines, showed a slight increase in sales. With the firm message of restructuring and belt-tightening.

As I talk to pen store owners the feeling I get is of caution and tight management. Control your inventories. Watch your lines. There are some optimistic feelings towards the new Waterman Exception expected to be out in North American by this winter. (I am hoping to see it this fall when I am in Italy.)

So things appear to be somewhat optimistic. The "that store has closed e-mail" has dropped somewhat in frequency. There is a good level of interest in a good pen.

I am looking forward to my trip to Italy in September and seeing what is out there. Always something I must just have.

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Glenn Marcus • New Westminster, BC Canada •