The links between stationery and craft are always strong, simply because so many crafting activities use mediums and materials that are in the core to the stationery sector. This year is no exception with calligraphy, journalling and colouring all being very popular with creatives both in the UK and abroad.
Open the champagne and start the celebrations, because 2019 is my 30th year in the stationery industry. My love of the industry continues to grow and since becoming part of the industry, I have become an independent retail advisor in the cards, gifts, stationery and heritage industries, I work with many small and medium-sized businesses.
For most of us the referendum vote will be the biggest single thing to impact our personal and business lives in the coming years. It has been looming for a few years now and will continue to do so given the events of the last couple of weeks. Meanwhile, negative talk and scare mongering is creating increasing uncertainty for consumers, businesses, our government and the EU itself as no one knows what will actually happen…
As retailers, we should all be thinking about how we can maximise any opportunities that changes in circumstance present. More than that, we need to be keeping our eyes open and actively looking for them - and Health & Wellness is a growing trend that I believe we should all be paying attention to! Here’s why…
In my last blog in this series, I explained why during times of uncertainty people chose to spend time together doing things that don’t cost money. When they do buy products they will be items that enhance whatever it is they are doing together…
A good example of this is games and jigsaws which are seeing a significant increase in sales at the moment with many new products being launched to appeal to new emerging markets and consumers who would not have bought these previously. We want to laugh and have fun and what better way to do it than play games!
It’s already the last day of Spring Fair 2019 and I’m still wondering where the whole of last year went?! So before this year flies by any further - lets take stock, reflect on the trends of last year and see which are likely to continue to effect us in 2019. Understanding this will help you decide what to include in your range and identify product areas or categories you might want to introduce, grow or indeed remove. It really is worth taking some time to read these tips and think things through before investing in lots of new products for 2019.
If you’re still working on Christmas Eve (and if you’ve not already had enough of Christmas) here’s a round up of my Top 3 blogs for making the most of Christmas as an Independent Retailer. Do take a read and make sure you take a note of everything you have learned over this festive period, so you can put it to good use in 2019…
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):
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: sheepdrive.london
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!