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

luxury market fountain pen

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59 replies to this topic

#21 ParkerDuofold

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 02:42

...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...



Hi Morphling,

I know what you mean, but I can't help myself. :blush: I have a soft spot for Lamy... they were my first pens and the ones that brought me into this cyclone.

Of course, Pilot can stay,too; I wouldn't have it any other way... they're my second favorite brand. :rolleyes:

- Anthony
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

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#22 Bluey

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 02:50

Fountain pen sales have been going up, not down.

 

Nope.

And definitely not in the western world - they've been going down, which I assume you were referring to. It's only in China and a few others that have increased, China massively so.

http://blog.euromoni...-challenge.html

Or maybe you were referring to sales value rather than unit volume, which has indeed increased.

 

"North America and Western Europe registered big slumps, with unit sales (between 2005 and 2015) falling 28% and 23%, respectively. This is evidence that fountain pens have been more adversely affected by the growth of digital communication platforms than their value performance would suggest.

...

The bottom line is that less people, not more, are buying fountain pens than they were a decade ago."

 

 

Another interesting quote:

"Indeed, perhaps the greatest achievement of the fountain pen – and ultimately the key to its endurance – has been its transformation from a workhorse of classrooms and offices into a luxury personal accessory."


Edited by Bluey, 31 May 2017 - 03:32.

Mediterranean blue, Asa Goa, China blue, Royal blue, Sapphire blue, Indigo, Washable Blue....the colours of the rainbow.

#23 ParkerDuofold

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 03:14

 
Nope.
And definitely not in the western world - they've been going down, which I assume you were referring to. It's only in China and a few others that have increased, China massively so.
http://blog.euromoni...-challenge.html
 
"North America and Western Europe registered big slumps, with unit sales (between 2005 and 2015) falling 28% and 23%, respectively. This is evidence that fountain pens have been more adversely affected by the growth of digital communication platforms than their value performance would suggest.
...
The bottom line is that less people, not more, are buying fountain pens than they were a decade ago."


This is why Lamy is pulling their EF nib sales out of the U.S.; those nibs are popular in the Pacific Rim. So, Lamy is catering to their priority customers... that's just good business... it's just unfortunate for those here that like those nibs, (fortunately for me, I don't).

- Anthony
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

#24 TheRealMikeDr

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 10:54

In the end it's all what the market will bear. I don't fault the companies who want to be branded as luxury items - it's nothing new under the sun and who wouldn't want to make $900 profit per pen as opposed to $20 profit?

 

I think the Internet has made the very niche fountain pen market more open to anyone today which (for me personally) is a great thing. We can buy old pens on ebay for reasonable sums or we can shop on any number of reputable online retail stores for a wide variety of pens, ranging from $15 metropolitans to $1,000 Montblancs. I don't think pricey MB's affect the majority of pen users who are purchasing pens for much much less. And if they want a MB the used market is filled with them at 50 - 70% discounts from MSRP. I also suspect that many pen users start small then over time purchase some of the so-called luxury brands, that was certainly the path for me.

 

If a pen company decides they want to move away from volume sales and aim for the higher end, well, its a risk/reward thing and even if they fail their pens will be available on Ebay and at pen shows for years and years to come.



#25 Sasha Royale

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 15:52

This keyboard, that I am using, is an efficient mode of communication.  I don't deny it.  Writing by hand has its value.  Writing with liquid ink has its value, as well.  Though greatly diminished in recent decades, there is a revival of fountain pen awareness.  Will it increase, or decline ?  I don't know.  

 

We are keepers of the flame, and I hope the flame will continue to burn for future generations. 

 

I don't enjoy jewelry.  A beautiful fountain pen is one that handles comfortably and writes well.  I can enjoy luxury, without boasting of it.  You cannot see that under the sauce is lobster ravioli, or that the beef in my delicious sandwich is a filet mignón.  I delight in my Pelikan M1000 because it feels and writes great.  It matters nothing whether anyone knows it.  

 

I do, however, understand the concern of a businessman, who has his livelihood invested in the industry.  I can only suggest that he remains flexible, adapts to the changes, fines or creates a market, and is blessed with good fortune.  Who imagined "Golden Arches" in Israel, or Americans buying water in half-liter bottles, or the Chinese love of Buicks ?  

 

I hope that people can enjoy fountain pens, as I do, fifty years from now.  If not, I will not be sad.  I will be dead.  

 

"Go thy way.  Eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart."  Nobody in Heaven cares about these things.  


Edited by Sasha Royale, 31 May 2017 - 16:39.

Auf freiem Grund mit freiem Volke stehn. 
Zum Augenblicke dürft ich sagen: 
Verweile doch, du bist so schön ! 


#26 pajaro

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 16:02

This keyboard, that I am using, is an efficient mode of communication.  I don't deny it.  Writing by hand has its value.  Writing with liquid ink has its value, as well.  Though greatly diminished in recent decades, there is a revival of fountain pen awareness.  Will it increase, or decline ?  I don't know.  

 

We are keepers of the flame, and I hope the flame will continue to burn for future generations. 

 

I don't enjoy jewelry.  A beautiful fountain pen is one that handles comfortably and writes well.  I can enjoy luxury, without boasting of it.  You cannot see that under the sauce is lobster ravioli, or that the beef in my delicious sandwich is a filet mignón.  I delight in my Pelikan M1000 because it feels and writes great.  It matters nothing whether anyone know it.  

 

I do, however, understand the concern of a businessman, who has his livelihood invested in the industry.  I can only suggest that he remains flexible, adapts to the changes, fines or creates a market, and is blessed with good fortune.  Who imagined "Golden Arches" in Israel, or Americans buying water in half-liter bottles, or the Chinese love of Buicks ?  

 

I hope that people can enjoy fountain pens, as I do, fifty years from now.  If not, I will not be sad. 

I will be dead.  

 

"Go thy way.  Eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart."  Nobody in Heaven cares about these things.  

Very well put.


"Don't hurry, don't worry. It's better to be late at the Golden Gate than to arrive in Hell on time."
--Sign in a bar and grill, Ormond Beach, Florida, 1960.

 

They took the blue from the skies and the pretty girls' eyes and a touch of Old Glory too . . .


#27 ParkerDuofold

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 16:04

Very well put.


Yes.

- Anthony
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

#28 Bookman

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 19:19

Amazon will completely swallow the new-made fountain pen sales and distribution networks within 10 years, I predict.  What happens after that—to FPs, to inks, to FP-friendly paper, etc.—who knows.


I love the smell of fountain pen ink in the morning.

 

 

 


#29 praxim

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 23:55

Amazon will completely swallow the new-made fountain pen sales and distribution networks within 10 years, I predict. 

 

So, there are no examples of luxury or niche items where specialist stores exist alongside or in place of Amazon?


"...all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service." Charles Darwin

#30 Bookman

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Posted 01 June 2017 - 00:17

Anything is possible.  Amazon could go bankrupt tomorrow.  I wouldn't bet on it.  I believe Amazon and perhaps one or two online competitors that haven't shown their faces yet will be selling 90% of the non-perishable goods in the US in 20 years or less.

 

Costco used to sell CDs.  They still could.  It's not illegal.  But why would they?  They can't compete with Amazon.  Costco gave up and moved on with its life.  Fewer jewelry stores in the US carry fountain pens than just five years ago.  Department stores and malls all across America are hurting because fundamental buying habits have changed.  Their seeming advantages aren't preventing Amazon from starting the long drive to drive them all out of business.  You can get anything from Amazon.  And it has proved that the things we thought we needed stores for—to try them out, to try them on, to get them today—are things more and more of us are more than willing to buy online if the shipping is free and the items can get to our doorsteps in two days or one day or the same day and returns are easy.  Could shops that sell luxury pens in 10-20 years exist alongside Amazon in a world where Amazon has cornered the market on so many goods, luxury and otherwise?  They could.  But I wouldn't bet on it.


I love the smell of fountain pen ink in the morning.

 

 

 


#31 MHBru

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Posted 01 June 2017 - 01:22

I suspect there will always be a place for both luxury and online and each will appeal to different buyers. The one thing that luxury buyers look for more than bargain hunters is service and Amazon won't be able to offer expertise, advise, nib replacements, etc. Smaller online retailers (compared to Amazon) like Goulet, Vanness, etc can still create a personal connection that many luxury buyers are looking for. The same thing is happening with eyeglasses, fine watches, etc. I suspect the higher you go on the luxury scale the less tenable online sales become. For my part, I enjoy the benefits associated with doing business with places like Goulet and Vanness and give them my business to support them as best I can so they remain the valuable resource that they are.

#32 ParkerDuofold

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Posted 01 June 2017 - 01:24

Hello all,

I did read an article somewhere that said it was Amazon that drove Sears, Penneys and K-Mart, (along with some destructive decisions from the broken stores themselves), into bankruptcy and I believe that to be the case; however, Amazon is a lot like the way A&P started at the turn of the last century... a no frills, no service, cut-case display grocery store that sold at a price.

However, A&P's existence didn't prevent higher-end grocery chains like Whole Foods from existing. I think the luxury market (and the fp community) are both too demanding for a price leader to take over.

But, I could be wrong... VW owns Rolls-Royce after they went bankrupt trying to develop an engine for the Concorde. However, by the same token, no pen company that I know of is trying to develop a new L2K or 51 that will put them into receivership.

So I really don't see Amazon owning or cornering the fp market... it's probably too small for them to waste their resources on, anyway.

- Anthony

Edited by ParkerDuofold, 01 June 2017 - 01:28.

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

#33 Mulrich

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Posted 01 June 2017 - 02:14

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.

 

What paper is this? I'm a business professor and would love to read about fountain pens from other perspectives. 



#34 Mulrich

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Posted 01 June 2017 - 02:33

I don't know of many products that go from mass consumption to largely extinct then back to wide consumption. If fountain pens could pull this off it would be pretty remarkable.  New pen makers have to find ways to convince people to buy their products when there are numerous options on the secondary market which generally offer similar features but better value. There aren't many opportunities for innovation, and even with innovation a company isn't likely to lure non-FP users to buy their product (I'm thinking of Conid). I imagine the future of fountain pens will remain a niche, generally luxury market, targeted towards existing users. I'll have to think about how declining industries can undergo a renaissance. 

 

I really enjoy my fountain pens but I have to actively look for ways to use them, and even then I struggle to find opportunities. 



#35 rwilsonedn

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Posted 01 June 2017 - 19:30

I don't know of many products that go from mass consumption to largely extinct then back to wide consumption. [snip]

 

I think quite a few products do this, simply by moving to a different geographic market. Often emerging consumer economies can develop huge appetites for products or brands that have run their course in the more affluent parts of the world. For instance, consider the VW Beetle and its long life in Mexico after marketing had ceased in the US. It is probably not a coincidence that many of the largest producers of fountain pens today are in China and India.

ron



#36 Bookman

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Posted 01 June 2017 - 20:39

Hello all,

I did read an article somewhere that said it was Amazon that drove Sears, Penneys and K-Mart, (along with some destructive decisions from the broken stores themselves), into bankruptcy and I believe that to be the case; however, Amazon is a lot like the way A&P started at the turn of the last century... a no frills, no service, cut-case display grocery store that sold at a price.

However, A&P's existence didn't prevent higher-end grocery chains like Whole Foods from existing. I think the luxury market (and the fp community) are both too demanding for a price leader to take over.

But, I could be wrong... VW owns Rolls-Royce after they went bankrupt trying to develop an engine for the Concorde. However, by the same token, no pen company that I know of is trying to develop a new L2K or 51 that will put them into receivership.

So I really don't see Amazon owning or cornering the fp market... it's probably too small for them to waste their resources on, anyway.

- Anthony

 

Keep in mind that Amazon doesn't have to target a particular product market and put it on a hit list.  It just needs to sell the products so much more cheaply than their competitors that the competitors have no economic choice but to abandon certain products within a line and then eventually abandon the entire line and move on.

 

Amazon might not be in the "luxury pen" market yet, although it does sell pens in the $500-1,000 range.  It also sells many more models below $500 from all the known penmakers, all the way down to disposables and semi-disposables and Chinese pens.  Not every FP that Amazon sells is less expensive that the pen dealer price.  But I think what's happening here is instructive and it follows the same pattern that drove Tower Books, Tower Records, Borders Books, and so many new-book stores out of business.

 

You could pay $840 for a Montblanc Meisterstück 149 from a big-name dealer or you could pay $789 from Amazon.  You could pay $609 for a Pelikan M800 or you could pay $484.  You could pay $419 for that cool retro Pelikan M120 or you could pay $215.  For a Platinum 3776, $150-176 or $64-80?  How many potential buyers—including FPNers who swear by buying from pen shops—will be able to resist the siren song of discounts like that?  $150 vs $64?  If this is a stare-down, let's see who blinks first.  Oh wait, the pen dealers already blinked.  Before Amazon came out with its priced-to-move Platinum 3776, pen dealers were selling that pen for $200.  Shortly after, the price went down to $160.  Now it's at $150 for most models.  At the same time, however, Amazon's initial price range for those pens was $72-85.  Pen dealers lowered their prices, and Amazon counterpunched with its own price drop.

 

I'm sure that well before retailers went out of business at Amazon's hands—when the threat was still hypothetical—many of them told themselves, well yes, but Amazon doesn't provide any service, and that's where we have the advantage.  Or: People aren't going to order [fill in the blank] online; they'll want to try it/them on first no matter how low Amazon's prices go.  Or: People aren't going to pay $[fill in the blank] for [fill in the blank] without getting their hands on it first and trying it out.


I love the smell of fountain pen ink in the morning.

 

 

 


#37 ParkerDuofold

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Posted 01 June 2017 - 21:37

Hi Bookman,

Hmmmmmm.....

I was going to counter your post with a dazzling argument interlaced with razor like wit and prophetic insight... but something you said kept preying on my mind while I was organizing my thoughts.

So, to clear my mind, I opted to buy a Century 3776 for $72, (and a bottle Cross violet ink for $15). I've been curious about this pen for a while, but feared it is too small for my hands, but if I post it, I think I'll be okay... and you can't beat the price.


So there. And let this be a lesson for you. I didn't want to cut you down like this, but it had to be said. :rolleyes:


That said, I think Amazon will continue to sell pens, but I ALSO think a few private dealers will continue to be around to sell them, too, (because I just placed an order with one of them, too). :D

Unless the New World Order takes control and we have to buy all of our Victory gin, razor blades and fountain pens from the same state-run store. :D

Be well. :)

- Anthony

Edited by ParkerDuofold, 01 June 2017 - 21:50.

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

#38 praxim

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Posted 01 June 2017 - 23:08

Bookshops are proliferating around these parts. They have changed their approach slightly, and their competition is as much e-books as Amazon or other on line discounters, yet their numbers seem no longer to be waning. They simply changed their market a little.


"...all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service." Charles Darwin

#39 Bookman

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Posted 02 June 2017 - 00:46

Hi Bookman,

Hmmmmmm.....

I was going to counter your post with a dazzling argument interlaced with razor like wit and prophetic insight... but something you said kept preying on my mind while I was organizing my thoughts.

So, to clear my mind, I opted to buy a Century 3776 for $72, (and a bottle Cross violet ink for $15). I've been curious about this pen for a while, but feared it is too small for my hands, but if I post it, I think I'll be okay... and you can't beat the price.


So there. And let this be a lesson for you. I didn't want to cut you down like this, but it had to be said. :rolleyes:


That said, I think Amazon will continue to sell pens, but I ALSO think a few private dealers will continue to be around to sell them, too, (because I just placed an order with one of them, too). :D

Unless the New World Order takes control and we have to buy all of our Victory gin, razor blades and fountain pens from the same state-run store. :D

Be well. :)

- Anthony

 

Don't get me wrong.  I'm concerned about the failure of market forces to reign Amazon in, and if any viable competitor ever appeared and took Amazon on head-to-head, I would consider that a good thing. In fact I'm rooting for it to happen.  Meanwhile I'm an Amazon Prime member, and I buy from and through Amazon frequently.


I love the smell of fountain pen ink in the morning.

 

 

 


#40 AltecGreen

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Posted 02 June 2017 - 01:38

I don't know of many products that go from mass consumption to largely extinct then back to wide consumption. If fountain pens could pull this off it would be pretty remarkable.  New pen makers have to find ways to convince people to buy their products when there are numerous options on the secondary market which generally offer similar features but better value. There aren't many opportunities for innovation, and even with innovation a company isn't likely to lure non-FP users to buy their product (I'm thinking of Conid). I imagine the future of fountain pens will remain a niche, generally luxury market, targeted towards existing users. I'll have to think about how declining industries can undergo a renaissance. 

 

I really enjoy my fountain pens but I have to actively look for ways to use them, and even then I struggle to find opportunities. 

The nearest example I can think of are turntables.  The introduction of CD and "Perfect Sound Forever" marked the death of vinyl and turntables as a mainstream product.  Turntables were kept alive by high end audio (aka "luxury") where they remained a force because CDs were actually not that perfect.  The one difference I see is that unlike fountain pens, turntables continued to be refined and improved.  This was possible because in high end audio, there is no such thing as overkill.  People were willing to pay very large sums of money for the latest technology like active suspensions, air bearing tone arms, carbon fiber arms, etc.  Modern turntables can cost $250K to $1 million for the exotics and $10K-30K turntables are quite numerous.   If fountain pen people were willing to pay $2K-5K for a new flex nib, I'm sure they would be made.

 

Somewhere in the last decade, people began to discover vinyl again especially kids who were born after vinyl had died the first time.  I suspect that games like Guitar Hero had kids playing songs of their parents generation.  Their parents told them they still had the album in the garage and kids went and rediscovered older music that just happened to be on vinyl.  So while turntables are not main stream, they have clawed back to the point that mass market stores like Best Buy began stocking cheaper turntables and vinyl again.  LP sales have been climbing for many many years as other formats of music have been in decline.


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