Views about Pens

December 2005

It is the end to another year with the enthusiasm for fountains pens still remaining a market item.

It is comforting that the number of e-mails I receive letting me know of a pen store closing has dropped off. For a while I would receive more "out-of-business" e-mails than notes about a great pen store.

At the high end, Richmont, the luxury goods company that owns lines such as Mont Blanc, Cartier, Dunhill etc. has issued its Interim Financial Results (September 2005) and they note that writing instrument sales for Mont Blanc and Montegrappa increased by 13% and operating results increased by a whopping 65%. Yes those are high prices we are paying for those high-end pens.

In terms of the other major player in pens, Newell Rubbermaid, it is always a little more difficult to review their financial reports and identify the relative success of their writing instruments lines such as Waterman and Parker. I must admit, although, that in one of their recent presentations, Strategy Review, by Joe Galli, Chief Executive Officer, brands such as Parker and Waterman are included on the "Brand Clutter" slide and only the name "Waterman" appears on the Future Power Brand slide. Although in the presentations on Office Products, both Parker and Waterman appear.

In the Home and Office presentation, it is noted that fine writing instruments amounts to a 9% share of a 11 Billion market - so it seems that with that amount of market it makes sense to develop products. In his presentation, Steve Marton, Group President of Office Products notes both the Parker and Waterman pen lines. The Waterman Exception is noted as an example of an innovation initiative product line as well as use of high-end advertising and marketing for Waterman pens. That can only mean good things for the Waterman product. You can check out their web site and see that they invested a few dollars in the promotion of this pen (you will need a Cable or DSL connection to view the site).

As part of their distribution strategy, box retailers such as Office Depot, Staples and OfficeMax are identified and this means more opportunities for a physical-sales experience versus relying on on-line sales - good thing from a customer's perspective as long as those big-box retails will allow you to actually try out a pen.

Over the past year, as I looked at the numerous pens presented in such publications as Pen World, or the great on-line magazine Stylophiles - and still hold the view that there are only a limited number of pens that come out really designed for everyday writing. Some of the very ornate pens I would never contemplate taking to a business meeting.

So I look forward to yet even more pens arriving in my house. Over the years I no longer hear "do you really need another pen" to be replaced by a more logical "we really should buy something else right now".








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Glenn Marcus • New Westminster, BC Canada •