Stationery Market

The War on Plastic

The War on Plastic

Pictures from Indonesia showing  ‘solid rafts’ of plastic bags and bottles in local rivers, talk of the 965,000 square miles of plastic in a region of the South Pacific created by circular currents and Blue Planet 2 showing images of delicate seahorses holding cotton buds in their tails have all raised the profile of our use of and disposal of plastics in recent months… But as consumers, are we ready to change what, and the way we buy, and take responsibility for disposing of it?

Is our interest in premium Stationery brands waning?


Paperchase was in the news last month as the story broke that their credit insurer, Euler Hermes, has refused to cover new contracts with suppliers (a similar case to what happened to Poundland and Maplins recently). It’s pretty big news as it means the company is no longer covered if they don’t have the cash flow to pay their suppliers - and the story even made it onto the Radio 4 programme - You & Yours.

Paperchase weren’t ready to go on the programme to talk about it - as it hasn’t changed their relationships with suppliers or payment terms… its just business as usual.

Instead, the feature opened with a few words about the growth in the stationery market. Presenter Peter White explained:

“In a growing digital world, it seems that many of us are still preferring the ‘handwritten touch’, with stationery sales seeing a steady year on year growth of around 1% from 2015, reaching £2.9 billion” according to Mintel.

We then heard a few clips from consumers in Manchester who talked about their love of stationery (from hipster note pads to novel Disney stationery to smelly pencils) - and in the interest of fairness, one chap who explained he didn’t buy stationery (apart from greetings cards). 

I was pleased to have then been asked to contribute my take on why a premium brand like Paperchase is struggling, when the market is in fact growing.

Peter asked me whether it’s because our interest in premium brands is waning – and here was my response… 

 “I don’t think our interest in premium brands is actually waning at all. I suspect what Paperchase is suffering from is increased competition at that top end of the market. They’ve been the leader in stationery for 20 years, particularly fashion-led stationery, and a lot of other suppliers are beginning to realise what a fantastic opportunity that is… so the competition is definitely hotting up for them.”

He then asked: In contrast, companies like Smiggle are doing really well - they’re aimed mainly at children. Is this the market then that’s most interested in stationery?

“You heard from one of your contributors just before I came on air that her daughter loves to go into a retailer and spend a lot of money on pens and notebooks - and Smiggle are absolutely tapping into that demand, but really for the younger teens at the really fashion-led end. Paperchase, I would say, in the main is aiming slightly higher than that, in a slightly more aspirational way…” 

When you say ‘aspirational’… we’re always being told, nobody writes letters anymore, is that true?

“I think it’s far from the truth, and actually if you look at the sale of fountain pens and ink over the last couple of years, although it’s coming from a really low base now, actually it’s growing really, really strongly as people are thinking more about keeping in touch - and doing it with materials that they really take a pride in.” 

And that’s being reinforced by our listeners actually... so is there evidence that people are still actually doing this?

“Whether they’re writing letters on a sheet of A4 paper with an envelope or whether their writing a message in a blank greetings card, a lot of people are now sending messages to one another. It’s quite interesting that we’re seeing the same trends now as we did back in 2008 when the recession kicked in… as people feel slightly less comfortable about their personal situations, they often keep in touch more and letters or a card are a much nicer way of doing that than an email or a text.”

So perhaps the people who worry that we’re becoming not as literate as we were, are worrying unnecessarily? 

“I suspect it appeals to very specific areas of the market and certain demographics, but certainly writing isn’t on the wane for a lot of people, it’s very much in the ascendancy.”  

If you’d like to listen again, here’s the entire You and Yours programme (or skip to 29.10 mins for the stationery feature): 


Radio 4, daleks, sheep... and the GA Trend Talks

From gift trends and Dr Who icons in Birmingham, to the sheep drive in London - last week was non-stop!

On 27th September, the Giftware Association hosted a trends seminar day - with key speakers Marrianne Shillingford from Dulux sharing the global colour trends report (ahead of its official launch) and David Cartwright, from Birmingham's top social media agency, discussing digital trends and what’s happening in the world of social media right now.


Whilst in Birmingham at the seminar (held at the Giftware Association’s Federation House), I also called into the BBC studios to record a live interview with Peter White for the Radio 4 You & Yours Programme - more on this in a future blog! There are some great Dr Who icons on display at the studios, and I couldn’t resist a picture with the Tardis and a Dalek!

And then on Sunday 30th September, I headed to London for the annual Sheep Drive, representing the Stationers’ Company ! I, along with other Freemen of the City (including Alan Titchmarsh) gathered together to exercise our right to drive our sheep across London Bridge.  We did this for charity rather than agricultural purposes, but this event is a great platform for communicating agricultural issues!

Organised by the Worshipful Company of Woolmen the event raises thousands of pounds for the Lord Mayor's Appeal whilst also providing an opportunity for Londoners and visitors to learn about the City's historic traditions.


To find out more about this fantastic event, visit:

I’m passionate about what I do, and enjoy the variety of work I have the opportunity to experience every single week - but last week was especially fun, and extremely busy!

Are you brave enough to open a retail shop at the moment?

Are you brave enough to open a retail shop at the moment?

I expect most of you reading this headline would say ‘NO WAY’ - who would be daft enough to do something like that this in the current economic climate? Well the truthful answer is ‘plenty of people’. Both small independents and larger multiples. But why are they doing this when so many outlets are closing; what do they know that we don’t?

Let's Make A Date!

Let's Make A Date!

I am going to show my age now by admitting that I am one of the Filofax generation. I started work in the 1980’s when they were the thing to have that showed you had a ‘proper’job and had to plan because you were so busy and needed to be organised. Then it was electronic organisers, Blackberrys and the rest, and we were told that paper diaries were going to be a thing of the past! But here we are in 2018 and there are still racks and racks of diaries in WH Smith and Paperchase and Calendar Club’s whole business model is based on selling hundreds of thousands of paper calendars and diaries. So it is fair to say the sector is still thriving… and here are some of the latest big trends.

2018 Trends: What's hot in Journalling, Organisation and Stationery

2018 Trends: What's hot in Journalling, Organisation and Stationery

Following on from my last article on the Top 3 Stationery Trends of 2018, I promised to share some of my favourite examples of 'on trend' stationery that may be of interest to your customers. From Diaries and Journalling products to Social Stationery and Calligraphy sets - it's all covered in my blog this week...

My greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement?

Last month, I stepped down as chair of the Giftware Association - and in doing so, was asked what I felt my greatest achievement was. It took me a while to come up with the answer! For those who didn’t make the AGM, here are my notes from my handover speech, and the answer to the question…

Are these 3 Stationery trends relevant to your customers?

Are these 3 Stationery trends relevant to your customers?

Every trade show you go to, industry magazine you pick up or website you read will tell you what is 'on trend' - but as retailers and suppliers our role is to decide which trends are relevant to our customers and how we can tap in to this to maximize the opportunity it presents for us to grow our businesses by satisfying our customer’s needs. 

Modern Calligraphy - what's it all about?

Modern Calligraphy - what's it all about?

It's National Stationery Week - and today's theme is #PenandPencil. So it makes perfect sense to talk today about a fast growing trend: Modern Calligraphy. Why are people getting hooked, and what exactly is it all about?

My tips for clearing Old Stock effectively

My tips for clearing Old Stock effectively

If you've been to any of the season's Trade Fairs, you'll no doubt be excited by the prospect of the new stock you've sourced. But clearing old stock is just as important an activity - and can present a great opportunity to excite your customers and generate sales. Depending on the products you sell and who your customers are, your SALE strategy will vary.