Jump to content

The Fountain Pen Network uses (functional) cookies. Read the FPN Privacy Policy for more info.  To remove this message, please click here to accept the use of cookies


Registration on the Fountain Pen Network

Dearest Visitor of the little Fountain Pen Nut house on the digital prairie,

Due to the enormous influx of spammers, it is no longer possible to handle valditions in the traditional way. For registrations we therefore kindly and respectfully request you to send an email with your request to our especially created email address. This email address is register at fountainpennetwork dot com. Please include your desired user name, and after validation we will send you a return email containing the validation key, normally wiithin a week.

Thank you very much in advance!
The FPN Admin Team






Photo

Will The 'luxury' Market Kill The Fountain Pen Industry?

luxury market fountain pen

  • Please log in to reply
59 replies to this topic

#1 Uncial

Uncial

    Donor Pen

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,118 posts
  • Flag:

Posted 30 May 2017 - 12:02

Oh the woes of fountain pen economics! It really is only the larger companies that have the real ability to produce a cheap fountain pen that is a profit maker rather than a loss leader. However, I do believe that in the last five or so years there has been quite a dramatic shift in how companies, both large and small, have begun to market their wares. Perhaps I am overstating it or perhaps it is just as I age I still have a vague memory of things like books only costing 25p. Such things undoubtedly skew our perspectives. It does seem to me though, that good old fashioned capitalist greed under the veil of 'aiming for the luxury market' might begin to have (if it's not already having) a detrimental and negative impact on the future of the fountain pen. It's a niche market as it is, but pushing it into the luxury only arena would seem to me to be a big mistake. I've seen a number of fountain pen makers, some large and some small, all of whom have appeared to make a reasonably tidy profit, push their products into the higher and higher price brackets while not really changing the product itself. I've seen some of them start to struggle almost as soon as they make their initial strides down this path. Some of them have now gone completely. The problem is that when you start down that road you can't roll it back if you realise it isn't washing with your customer base. You can't suddenly turn around a year later and say, 'Oooops, sorry we made an error. here is the same old pen at the old, usual, cheap/reasonable price.' Despite this, there does seem to be a notion that 'luxury' is the way to go. Looking at the current market big players (not the small ones, although some undoubtedly are in the same position), I think I can see two major pen manufacturers that are at the edge of the abyss. It would be sad to see them go over, but I can't see how they will manage to correct the error in light of the path they are now well down the road on.

 

Somebody please tell me, it's just my age?!



Sponsored Content

#2 ParkerDuofold

ParkerDuofold

    Jersey Boy

  • Remembered Fondly
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,368 posts
  • Location:Eastern Time Zone; United States
  • Flag:

Posted 30 May 2017 - 12:25

...Somebody please tell me, it's just my age?!


Hi Uncial,

It's just your age. Stop being such an ornery curmudgeon. Now relax and don't worry about it. :D


But I think I know what you mean... just like the vanishing middle class; I can't help but wonder if the only two pen manufacturers that will remain will be Jinhao (and hopefully Lamy) and Mont Blanc. :D

- Anthony

Edited by ParkerDuofold, 30 May 2017 - 12:28.

With thanks to my Mom & Dad; who taught me to run free, but not run wild.

Please pray the Rosary daily. Thank You, St. Jude, for favors granted. :)

Grab life with both arms and give it a bear hug every day! :D

#3 Uncial

Uncial

    Donor Pen

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,118 posts
  • Flag:

Posted 30 May 2017 - 12:28

I can't help but wonder if the only two pen manufacturers that will remain will be Jinhao (and hopefully Lamy) and Mont Blanc.

 

That is precisely where I see it headed. Although I must say, I think Pelikan gets the balance right, despite a few recent blips in the road.



#4 jar

jar

    A Vintage Pen has to be older than me.

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 26,151 posts
  • Location:From Deep South Texas
  • Flag:

Posted 30 May 2017 - 12:55

Is there any case where that has happened in any other product area?


My Sister's website :  Rose Hill Studios

My Website


#5 Uncial

Uncial

    Donor Pen

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,118 posts
  • Flag:

Posted 30 May 2017 - 13:19

DeLorean.



#6 jar

jar

    A Vintage Pen has to be older than me.

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 26,151 posts
  • Location:From Deep South Texas
  • Flag:

Posted 30 May 2017 - 16:27

DeLorean.

HUH?

 

Delorean killed Delorean by building a really crappy car nor did that result in there only being two car makers.


My Sister's website :  Rose Hill Studios

My Website


#7 Dr Dan

Dr Dan

    Near Mint

  • Remembered Fondly
  • PipPipPip
  • 38 posts
  • Flag:

Posted 30 May 2017 - 18:05

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to review (I still do so, occasionally) a paper that dealt with the economics of the fountain pen market. It was quite remarkable to find someone writing on that particular subject in this day and age. Among the various concepts included was the claim that 95% of all new fountain pen sales are to existing fountain pen users. In subsequent conversations with friends at the FPH in NYC I found that figure may be a tad too high; they believe there has been a renaissance in fountain pen use. However, while 95% may be too high, 90% is most probably closer to the truth, though this comment of mine is subjective based on my perception rather than based on actual data. I have over the years given to my children, grand children, great grand children a fountain pen for their personal use and have noticed it usually ends up on their desk (at least that is where I see it when I visit). So 95% may be too high, but 90% seems safe. In order to facilitate "new" sales of fountain pens, companies, the paper proposed and, I will add I agree with, were led to create more unique, and ultimately, higher priced pens that would generate interest in the existing user. I have noticed the "active" enthusiasm of members of this forum with the release of a new version of an "existing" model. Case in the point the Renaissance Brown 800 from Pelikan. Mont Blanc 149 with rose gold or platinum trim. So there may be truth to your theory. Basic economics say if there is a market for a product someone will make it and if the market grows in interest there will be competition. The question becomes are there enough new users to warrant introductory inventories of fountain pens or will the market place end up being strictly for the existing user looking for more and different than that which they already posses.

 

Jar's question is an excellent one and perhaps for those of us who value the fountain pen, we should to other areas to see if similarities exist. For myself I am still pondering and cannot answer his question at this time. My hope is that the old adage, "we have met the enemy and it is us" does not hold true. My fear is that ultimately we will be "us" because of our buying practices.  In any case having utilized a fountain pen for my choice of a writing instrument over 80 years I hope "hope" wins.



#8 Uncial

Uncial

    Donor Pen

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,118 posts
  • Flag:

Posted 30 May 2017 - 18:17

HUH?

 

Delorean killed Delorean by building a really crappy car nor did that result in there only being two car makers.

 

 

Maybe I've lost the thread of your point, but I'm not sure why it has to result in two car makers? I chose DeLorean because they took a washing machine....no, they took a broken washing machine and put it in the frame of a luxury sports car and charged a price to match. Now if they had decided to run with a small runabout car with a slightly crappy engine (weren't all engines of all economy cars pretty much rubbish back then?) they might have seen it through the crash that would come. As a company they decided to aim squarely at the luxury market but it just didn't wash (is this a pun too many?) and the result was catastrophic for them.

I guess it was also pretty catastrophic if you bought one too.



#9 SenZen

SenZen

    Antique

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,896 posts

Posted 30 May 2017 - 18:31

The problem is that when you start down that road you can't roll it back if you realise it isn't washing with your customer base. 

 

A couple of things: the customer base can shift, for instance car makers and luxury brands have adapted to their new, huge,  growing, profitable market: China. No longer are things produced to (stagnating) US or European standards. For some products it means being even more traditional, for instance Chinese men haven a appetite for Vuitton bags, presumably as political gifts; they wouldn't dream of giving away a Chinese bag or knockoff, it would be an insult to the recipient. Such Chinese clients would buy expensive pens, which is synonymous to them of exclusivity, and effectively price the rest of us out.

 

There is a more positive point, which is that thanks to the internet sellers can profitably sell to massive niches; so selling to say Mexican fountain pen customers would be uneconomical, because there might not be enough of them; but gather all worldwide customers and you have the numbers. Whether brands actually understand this is another matter, it requires a change in mindset.


"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt."

B. Russell

#10 Uncial

Uncial

    Donor Pen

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,118 posts
  • Flag:

Posted 30 May 2017 - 19:24

posted by psuedo88:

A couple of things: the customer base can shift, for instance car makers and luxury brands have adapted to their new, huge,  growing, profitable market: China.

 

Good point. Thank you.



#11 Noihvo

Noihvo

    Antique

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,667 posts
  • Location:Eslöv, Southern Sweden
  • Flag:

Posted 30 May 2017 - 19:25

fpn_1496172281__img_3059.jpg

 

fpn_1496172296__img_3060.jpg


"We are one."

 

– G'Kar, The Declaration of Principles

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

 

Are you looking for a custom bound book? Check out my Etsy page.


#12 rwilsonedn

rwilsonedn

    Donor Pen

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,802 posts

Posted 30 May 2017 - 19:40

I think in the absence of trade controls, the supply of pens will tend to adapt to the demand. When companies like MB and Pelikan decided that they were making luxury goods instead of fountain pens--a decision that was probably forced upon them by German labor and operating costs at the time--other mid-range pen manufacturers benefited. Similarly, as the quality and consistency of Chinese pens improves, those companies have moved into a global market to fill the space abandoned years ago by the big Western manufacturers. Maybe there are no new high-quality, inexpensive Esterbrooks, Wearevers, or Sheaffer school pens any more, but there there are wonderful Jinhao, Baoer, and Hero pens. And Indian pen makers are starting to exploit the mid-range market in the US, UK, and Europe with some quite wonderful hand-crafted pens.

Suppliers adjust and endure, or fail to adjust and perish. But it is demand that shapes the market, unless regulations prevent it, or entry barriers are so high (as in cars) that it is nearly impossible for a new entrant to reach moderate volume. So if you follow just one manufacturer then yes, you may see it trap itself in the high end of the market or starve for margins at the low end. But if you look at the whole industry, it adapts.

ron



#13 Old Salt

Old Salt

    Old Salt

  • Premium - Emerald

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,049 posts
  • Location:Delaware
  • Flag:

Posted 30 May 2017 - 19:52

If some of these pen makers go under, it will be of their own doing. Greed and unequal distribution networks come to mind.
Fear not, Someone will clone the pens that are most in demand.
Sorry for sounding so dour, haven't had my second cup of coffee yet...hehehe:

#14 MHBru

MHBru

    Vintage

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 663 posts
  • Location:Southern CA
  • Flag:

Posted 30 May 2017 - 20:36

I think what we are seeing is a trend that is as old as products themselves.. pick a catagory... pens, paper and inks for this area of interest alone.... as well as leather good, eye glasses, cars, furniture... etc... a luxury line helps a company expand into new market segments and all of the above still manage to retain their standard line of products. I'm not worried and think there will always be products to fit everyone's tastes and budgets.

#15 Morphling27

Morphling27

    Vintage

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 428 posts

Posted 30 May 2017 - 20:44

In general, I don't think so.  Pilot makes the Varsity at $3 and rolls out loads of them, just as they do with a G2.  Heck, the G2 is considered premium in pens these days yet here we are, with loads of people using and loving them.  You can get cheap Bic sticks for $0.15 in bulk and even cheaper.  So, a $2 pen is lot.  

 

Same with FP.  There will be many makers still, all writing and stationary is shrinking but I think we'll be OK.  So many people don't wear watches anymore, but you can get a cheap one all the way up to a bespoke one for hundreds of thousands.  

 

I think you are worried as you pointed out - you can't get a coffee, roll, the morning paper, and a train ride for $0.10 anymore.  

 

Hi Uncial,

It's just your age. Stop being such an ornery curmudgeon. Now relax and don't worry about it. :D


But I think I know what you mean... just like the vanishing middle class; I can't help but wonder if the only two pen manufacturers that will remain will be Jinhao (and hopefully Lamy) and Mont Blanc. :D

- Anthony

Please Lord, not Lamy left.  They hate the American market anyway - the last two LE ink debacles and completely removing an EF nib option (I can't think of any pen maker doing that, especially one of their size) show they hate us.  

 

Can we keep Pilot?  Or any of the Japanese ones?  Anyone but Lamy please.

 

HUH?

 

Delorean killed Delorean by building a really crappy car nor did that result in there only being two car makers.

 

Delorean killed it because of his you know, money issues too.  It wasn't solely a crappy car.   If building a crappy car were reason to leave the market, why is Chrysler Fiat still a thing?  They are apparently and here we stand.  



#16 gerigo

gerigo

    Collectors Item

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 996 posts
  • Location:New York
  • Flag:

Posted 30 May 2017 - 21:11

While some of the initial questions and observations that Uncial brought reflect what's happening in the market, your postulations and hypothesis might be a little narrow. The crux to understanding where the market is going lies in whether the fountain pen is going to be a product with mass adoption, or a product that only has niche appeal.

 

Unfortunately we all know the mass adoption of the fountain pen as a tool of knowledge sharing has long past. So it is a product that is relegated to having a niche appeal. When a product has mass adoption and appeal, what the market can bear are products across a wide range of price points. IE from cheap $1 pens all the way to the Rolls Royce of fountain pens. The key here is the hidden cost of upfront R&D goes into each pen. If your pen is $1, it does not mean it will not write, have poor built tolerance, leak or is simply a piece of garbage. A $1 pen has it's purpose and function as would a $1000 pen. As others have pointed out, you will not give a $1 pen to a graduate to commemorate an important moment in their lives as you would to a business associate to celebrate a winning deal. Unfortunately because much of American, and China, which are the 2 largest global economies, no longer use fountain pens, there are very little pen manufacturers willing to invest in research, design and tooling for any pen that is cheaper, produced in large quantities and imparts a great writing experience. Which means that most of the pens you see in the market are largely hand made in very small quantities, which necessitates very high prices. For SOME companies like the one that uses a snow peak, their marketing prowess, together with savvy knowledge of their consumers give them the license to do what they are doing today. Pounding out limited editions every year to feed a very small market, primarily as a loss leader to tie back to their heritage. Informally, we know that their cash cow are watches, fragrance and leather. While others like the small Italian pen makers, they are not doing it because they have the savviness of said previous company. They are riding on their coat tails but REALLY, they are all very small houses of under 10 people, all hand making small batches of fountain pens. We know HOW Europeans pay their employees REALLY well:) Which again necessitates high prices.

 

Lets get back to the Italians. Many aren't in the market to be in the luxury segment. Some, like Montegrappa are continuing a family business and legacy. Others like Dante Del Vecchio are in the business because they are truly passionate about the product. But all of them have something in common. They understand the product they are making will need  to be marketed and sold in a different way than  20, 30, 40,  or even 50 years ago. IE  lots of new products in very small batches. Or  what we see as a constant stream of seeming limited editions.

 

Now WE as consumers have to be equally responsible as well. We invariably vote with our spending power too. We buy into the marketing hype of said Snowpeak company. Many of us salivate every year for the never ending stream of new product they put out. But yet why is there little support for a company like GVFC? They are truly a company that's not focused on luxury. Their aim is to make the best product out there to enable creativity. If you look  at their pen line,  they have the super cheap Ink,  and Loom all the way up to their $4500 pen of the years. Their products are VERY well designed, very unique, and all work flawlessly out of the box. ALL qualities that are so important in creating a superior functional and beautiful product. Why aren't we clamoring for more GVFC pens, and not supporting the other more "evil" companies???

 

The interesting thing about fountain pens is that there IS a bubble where fountain pens, writing and paper still is part of daily business. It's Japan. If you visit Japan, you can as easily get a disposable fountain pen as you would a $1000 gift fountain pen at any decent department or retail store. In Japan, all our theories are sort of a moot point, because there is a consistent stream of very innovative stationary products coming out of all the makers every year. Itoya themselves just introduced a very inexpensive pen, Itoya Blade. At the same time, they also have their super high end Romeo brand fountain pens.

 

What are are experiencing today is the democratization of choice. What we are seeing in the fountain pen world, you can also see a similar thing happening in many other products. Another example are  photographers into film photography. Many professionals would NEVER use film for their pro work. But in their leisure creative sessions, they all love film and the "slow" nature of shooting with film. When it comes to knowledge sharing, unfortunately we favor a tool that is now used as a "leisure" tool, primarily purchased to enjoy and keep. Not to conduct business or to work with. At least we still have options available!


Edited by gerigo, 30 May 2017 - 22:04.


#17 welch

welch

    Donor Pen

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,927 posts
  • Location:New York, NY
  • Flag:

Posted 30 May 2017 - 22:24

See Parker Collector / Parker Pens Penography on why Parker designed and released the Parker 75 about 1963:

 

 

 

Another reason was that even if the Parker "45" and the Jotter sold very well, they also sold for very little money, leaving Parker with a small margin. Kenneth Parker characterized the company as being "in the early stages of rigor mortis unless something is done to recapture the higher-priced, gift-oriented business". 

 

https://parkerpens.net/parker75.html

 

It is economics. A "luxury" pen costs only a little more to make, per unit, than a mass-market pen, and there is no mass market for fountain pens of any sort. Think of the unit-price of a BiC Crystal or the various types of new Papermate pens. 

 

Parker makes much of its profit, now, by selling high-end Duofolds. That was clear in a recent Newell/Rubbermaid annual report (2013 or 2014?), which made not special mention of Waterman, but had a feature on Parker "boutiques" that sell $2,000 Duofolds to Chinese businessmen, who also buy Sonnets for their staff. 


Washington Nationals 2019: the fight for .500; "stay in the fight"; WON the fight

#18 jar

jar

    A Vintage Pen has to be older than me.

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 26,151 posts
  • Location:From Deep South Texas
  • Flag:

Posted 31 May 2017 - 00:31

 

 

Maybe I've lost the thread of your point, but I'm not sure why it has to result in two car makers? I chose DeLorean because they took a washing machine....no, they took a broken washing machine and put it in the frame of a luxury sports car and charged a price to match. Now if they had decided to run with a small runabout car with a slightly crappy engine (weren't all engines of all economy cars pretty much rubbish back then?) they might have seen it through the crash that would come. As a company they decided to aim squarely at the luxury market but it just didn't wash (is this a pun too many?) and the result was catastrophic for them.

I guess it was also pretty catastrophic if you bought one too.

The engine was not a problem, it was the Volvo V-6 engine.  Hardly a washing machine.

 

And the topic is "Will The 'luxury' Market Kill The Fountain Pen Industry?"

 

Sorry I still don't see any evidence DeLorean had any ill effect on the automobile industry.


Edited by jar, 31 May 2017 - 00:33.

My Sister's website :  Rose Hill Studios

My Website


#19 lurcho

lurcho

    Collectors Item

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 878 posts
  • Location:Wales, Britain.
  • Flag:

Posted 31 May 2017 - 00:33

Here's my tuppence-worth, from a slighty different perspective.

 

Last year, I read somewhere that JoWo were not doing well, and that that's why their website was permanently "Under construction". So I asked around whether the company really were in danger. (I'm a JoWo fan.)

 

I had replies from several reliable sources (one of which was FPNibs of Spain) that not only was JoWo safe, it was struggling to keep up demand, and had had to increase its shifts.

 

I put it to you, stylophiles, that that is an extremely healthy sign indeed.



#20 flipper_gv

flipper_gv

    Vintage

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 708 posts
  • Flag:

Posted 31 May 2017 - 00:36

Fountain pen sales have been going up, not down.







Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: luxury, market, fountain pen



Sponsored Content




|