Jump to content

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






Photo

Should Cross Go More Upscale?


  • Please log in to reply
49 replies to this topic

#1 max dog

max dog

    Antique

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,915 posts
  • Location:British Columbia
  • Flag:

Posted 23 September 2017 - 21:27

I checked the Cross website recently and notice they have gone quite a bit more upscale lately, with their higher end pens in the $600 to $800 range or higher, with their top solid gold century fountain pen going for a mere $12,000 with the proud designation of "Each writing instrument is handmade in the USA"!  It appears Cross is trying to move their brand more upscale.  

 

Question is, is that the right direction for Cross?  I think so, but what are your thoughts?

 

I know back in the 80's and early 90's Cross were the high end pens that many corporate executive clipped to their shirt pocket proudly, more so than Montblanc, at least in North America.  Seems Cross is trying to get back on top again.  On a trip to Asia last year I saw a lot of Cross pens in the high end department stores alongside Montblanc, so the push seems to be happening in Asia, though I don't know yet with how much success.


Edited by max dog, 23 September 2017 - 21:32.


Sponsored Content

#2 Bluey

Bluey

    Somewhere between green and indigo

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,548 posts
  • Flag:

Posted 23 September 2017 - 22:11

Similarly to MB and Pelikan and others who saw the writing on the wall for the fountain pen, it seems like they're wanting to appeal to the fountain pen noob. The little old lady/gentleman who dodders into the boutique looking for a nice gift for son/daughter who is never going to use it except to write that diamond wedding anniversary card to Great Great Uncle Joe. Otherwise they wouldn't use "Each writing instrument is handmade in the USA", as if that's a selling point to anyone other than a hillbilly.

 

If it's made in the USA then there's hardly a burgeoning queue of people likely to be skilled in making a great writing instrument, nor when about 99.9% of their target market know the difference between a fountain pen and a frying pan.

 

Making items more expensive to make them seem higher quality is the oldest trick in the book.

 

 

There's another factor - Chinese and some other Asian consumers adore American stuff because they believe it to be better quality.

 

In other words, yup, I think it will work. Fountain pen sales in the Western world are declining rapidly in number but growing in value. So there is only one way to go.


Edited by Bluey, 23 September 2017 - 22:55.

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


#3 max dog

max dog

    Antique

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,915 posts
  • Location:British Columbia
  • Flag:

Posted 23 September 2017 - 23:39

Similarly to MB and Pelikan and others who saw the writing on the wall for the fountain pen, it seems like they're wanting to appeal to the fountain pen noob. The little old lady/gentleman who dodders into the boutique looking for a nice gift for son/daughter who is never going to use it except to write that diamond wedding anniversary card to Great Great Uncle Joe. Otherwise they wouldn't use "Each writing instrument is handmade in the USA", as if that's a selling point to anyone other than a hillbilly.

 

If it's made in the USA then there's hardly a burgeoning queue of people likely to be skilled in making a great writing instrument, nor when about 99.9% of their target market know the difference between a fountain pen and a frying pan.

 

Making items more expensive to make them seem higher quality is the oldest trick in the book.

 

 

There's another factor - Chinese and some other Asian consumers adore American stuff because they believe it to be better quality.

 

In other words, yup, I think it will work. Fountain pen sales in the Western world are declining rapidly in number but growing in value. So there is only one way to go.

I agree with you there that many western pen company's are today only a shadow of their former selves, including Cross, Parker, Sheaffer etc.  Whether they will ever return to creating those legendary fountain pens again, only time will tell, but if by going upscale, they can capture perceived value and increase sales of fountain pens and that niche market in the west, it is a good thing.

 

By the way, Cross Peerless 125 sports an excellent Sailor nib from what I hear, that I know you like.  Perhaps a Cross could be in your sights one day Bluey?  :)



#4 Bluey

Bluey

    Somewhere between green and indigo

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,548 posts
  • Flag:

Posted 24 September 2017 - 00:03

The fountain pen will likely never come back here because the future is digital. It won't and can't change in the Eastern world unless there is a radical change to their writing system, which is not going to happen anytime soon.

 

On the other hand, trends are sometimes unpredictable. The likes of the Beatles in the 60s and some bands in the mid-80s(remember when New Wave with the Human League, Soft Cell, Japan etc were the in-thing with everything being electronic, and the bass and the guitar were like brains in the White House) were dissed by record companies because "guitar bands are on their way out".

Never say never.

 

 

By the way, Cross Peerless 125 sports an excellent Sailor nib from what I hear, that I know you like.  Perhaps a Cross could be in your sights one day Bluey?  :)

 

I heard whispers about that but I have yet to try it. It needs to be done the Sailor way though and not merely made for a Western market(ie overly smoothed). On the other hand, I think I would prefer an actual Sailor because the price is probably less. Cheers for the heads up though :thumbup: .


Edited by Bluey, 24 September 2017 - 00:12.

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


#5 dadbar

dadbar

    Extremely Rare

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 226 posts
  • Flag:

Posted 26 September 2017 - 17:18

Going upscale is probably the only viable strategy for the fountain pen game. You don't need to sell as many pens to break even when you sell them for $300 instead of $30....and the incremental cost to make a $300 pen is small.

 

Parker figured that out back in the 1960's with the Parker 75.



#6 Mulrich

Mulrich

    Modern Vintage

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,011 posts

Posted 26 September 2017 - 21:18

I own a fair number of higher end fountain pens and have yet to find any Cross pen that interests me. It seems like Cross's higher end offerings are identical to their lower end models but with either higher gold content or Star Wars theming. I suppose that's a unique competitive niche so maybe that's an okay product strategy. As another poster said, I think that targets people who aren't really into fountain pens. But I'm biased since the basic Cross models (Peerless, Townsend, Century) have little to no appeal to me. I'm sure there are some fountain pen enthusiasts who really like these models who might be interested in more expensive versions of the same.

 

To me Cross pens are very generic (even if made entirely from 21k gold or Chewbacca hair–actually, a pen made from Chewbacca hair would be really interesting). I suppose a downside of having your more expensive pens just blinged-out versions of your less-expensive models is the expensive pen is at its core an entry level pen and not something unique. Would you rather have a $600 version of a pen (or $4000) that could be had for $150 or a pen that starts at $600? I suppose a lot of limited edition pens follow a similar strategy, but at least those have the feel of being exclusive (even if the limited edition run produces 2000 pens). 

 

To summarize, I think Cross could do okay with their upscale offerings but unless they do more than repackage their existing pens I'm not likely to buy one. If they start selling new and interesting designs I'll be happy to take a look.

 

My apologies to any Cross fanatics I may have offended. 



#7 SpecTP

SpecTP

    Vintage

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 406 posts
  • Flag:

Posted 26 September 2017 - 21:24

Vinyl is definitely making a comeback.

 

I didn't know that the Peerless uses a Sailor nib.

 

The fountain pen will likely never come back here because the future is digital. It won't and can't change in the Eastern world unless there is a radical change to their writing system, which is not going to happen anytime soon.

 

On the other hand, trends are sometimes unpredictable. The likes of the Beatles in the 60s and some bands in the mid-80s(remember when New Wave with the Human League, Soft Cell, Japan etc were the in-thing with everything being electronic, and the bass and the guitar were like brains in the White House) were dissed by record companies because "guitar bands are on their way out".

Never say never.

 

I heard whispers about that but I have yet to try it. It needs to be done the Sailor way though and not merely made for a Western market(ie overly smoothed). On the other hand, I think I would prefer an actual Sailor because the price is probably less. Cheers for the heads up though :thumbup: .



#8 Bluey

Bluey

    Somewhere between green and indigo

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,548 posts
  • Flag:

Posted 26 September 2017 - 21:50

Vinyl is definitely making a comeback.

 

 

 

I'm not so sure. There are 2 points worth noting:

1) the trend seems to be coming from millennials who have been fed a diet of digital and now want something of substance to represent their fave music

2) while sales are massively increasing, the vinyls aren't actually being played by them. To play their music they almost exclusively use streaming services.


Edited by Bluey, 26 September 2017 - 21:52.

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


#9 max dog

max dog

    Antique

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,915 posts
  • Location:British Columbia
  • Flag:

Posted 27 September 2017 - 05:00

I own a fair number of higher end fountain pens and have yet to find any Cross pen that interests me. It seems like Cross's higher end offerings are identical to their lower end models but with either higher gold content or Star Wars theming. I suppose that's a unique competitive niche so maybe that's an okay product strategy. As another poster said, I think that targets people who aren't really into fountain pens. But I'm biased since the basic Cross models (Peerless, Townsend, Century) have little to no appeal to me. I'm sure there are some fountain pen enthusiasts who really like these models who might be interested in more expensive versions of the same.

 

To me Cross pens are very generic (even if made entirely from 21k gold or Chewbacca hair–actually, a pen made from Chewbacca hair would be really interesting). I suppose a downside of having your more expensive pens just blinged-out versions of your less-expensive models is the expensive pen is at its core an entry level pen and not something unique. Would you rather have a $600 version of a pen (or $4000) that could be had for $150 or a pen that starts at $600? I suppose a lot of limited edition pens follow a similar strategy, but at least those have the feel of being exclusive (even if the limited edition run produces 2000 pens). 

 

To summarize, I think Cross could do okay with their upscale offerings but unless they do more than repackage their existing pens I'm not likely to buy one. If they start selling new and interesting designs I'll be happy to take a look.

 

My apologies to any Cross fanatics I may have offended. 

If you look at Pelikan Souveran, Montblanc Meisterstuck, Parker Duofold, Lamy 2000, Pilot Vanishing Point etc iconic and successful pens, the designs have stayed pretty much the same for decades.  Even Parker 51s, except for the internal conversion to the aerometric filling system, did not change much during it's span of several decades other than some minor cosmetic changes from basic pens with lustraloy caps to fancy more exotic finishes. Cross is doing the same with their iconic Century, Cenury II, and Townsend models.  Coming out with new and interesting designs every few year is not necessarily a model for success.  

 

Cross philosphy has always been to offer their popular models across a wide spectrum of price ranges for more people to be able to afford and enjoy, from the basic chrome versions with steel nibs to the more exotic finishes with 18K gold nibs.  By offering exceptional quality and performance they kept customers at both ends of the price range satisfied.  Perhaps they could introduce some more exclusive models with gold nibs only and that sell for over $500.  I think they did that in their current Peerless 125 line.  Time will tell how successful that will be.

 

I think where Cross shot themselves in the foot over the last decade were their big summer sales where they would slash prices across all their range right up to the top Townsend lines.  All this did was drive down the perceived value of their models and ultimately the brand image.   You don't take a $100K BMW M3 and do a summer blow out sale every year and slash prices down to $25K to sell off the stock. 

 

You do set the value of your product or service by how you price it.  


Edited by max dog, 27 September 2017 - 05:25.


#10 Bluey

Bluey

    Somewhere between green and indigo

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,548 posts
  • Flag:

Posted 27 September 2017 - 05:18

The Cross Century Medalist looks OK. It's got a pleasant collision of gold and silver colouring.

 

 

All this did was drive down the perceived value of their models and ultimately the brand image.

 

I agree. That was a bad business decision.

Can you imagine someone like Apple doing that? They would never ever do that, and neither would any other similar brand that likes to see themselves as 'premium' (in reality, Apple are an over rated steaming pile of doodah, but that's another story. But image is far more important than reality in the eyes of the consumer).  Apple have a better business sense than Cross and know full well that it cheapens the brand.

Even Apple have offered multi-tiered pricing, but they would still never slash their prices.


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


#11 max dog

max dog

    Antique

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,915 posts
  • Location:British Columbia
  • Flag:

Posted 27 September 2017 - 05:35

Yes, the Cross previous CEO David Whalen who took over the reigns at Cross from 1999 to 2014 came from Rayban Sunglasses and tried to run Cross like a sunglass company shutting down the manufacturing plant in Rhode Island and moving it all to China to address declining revenues year after year.  The days of selling pens as utilitarian writing instruments were drying up.  They introduced new fashion pen designs every few years to revitalize interest in pens, and whatever costs they cut, they probably ate up redesigning their pens so often.  His vision of introducing new fashion pen designs every few years fell flat on it's face.  They should have instead maintained manufacture in RI, introduced fewer new models and focused on their existing lines moving them more upscale.

 

Things seem more promising over there under the leadership of the new CEO Robert Baird who did indicate a desire to eventually bring Cross manufacturing back to the USA.  I misplaced that article. 


Edited by max dog, 27 September 2017 - 05:56.


#12 Mech-for-i

Mech-for-i

    Vintage

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 622 posts
  • Location:Hong Kong
  • Flag:

Posted 27 September 2017 - 11:41

I think Cross is doing both right and wrong at the same time. While up market their top end line surely work , they have not made a judgement to properly position their entry to mid / mid high end of pens. Say their good old Classic Century and Centure II, or for the fact the Botanica. They consistently priced these significantly higher than like peers on the market and this is reflected in the fact that they routinely and regularly had to do sales and stock clearance.



#13 PAKMAN

PAKMAN

    Say that again, I have a pen here somewhere...

  • FPN Super Moderators

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 23,529 posts
  • Location:Arkansas, USA
  • Flag:

Posted 27 September 2017 - 15:18

I've tried to like Cross pens, but have sold off every one that I purchased. I certainly won't be going back for more expensive versions of the same.


PAKMAN
 

minibanner.gif             fpn_1321906507__vanness_sign.jpg 

                  My Favorite Pen Restorer                            My favorite Brick and Mortar              

                                                                   now selling online!


#14 pajaro

pajaro

    Amblin along like I had good sense.

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 10,648 posts
  • Flag:

Posted 28 September 2017 - 23:48

I bought a few of the first Century fountain pens I saw around 1980.  I am still using them occasionally, and I am satisfied with them, not needing more.  They work quite well. n The Star Wars pens look like they are going upscale.  All the snob makers can have their snob (upscale) pens.  They do not fit my idea of a pen.  Pocket jewelry.  Why they bother to make accommodation for ink is bewildering. 


"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 . . .


#15 Sasha Royale

Sasha Royale

    Ancient Artifact

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 14,125 posts
  • Flag:

Posted 29 September 2017 - 18:40

" upscale " !     


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


#16 Biber

Biber

    ...but that was another lifetime

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,396 posts

Posted 29 September 2017 - 19:12

Sadly, I think Cross can go upscale to the moon and beyond but they'l never get past their High School graduation present pen image. I know they have a very dedicated following, myself included, but let's face it, that's what most people think when they hear Cross Pens. 


"What? What's that? WHAT?!!! SPEAK UP, I CAN'T HEAR YOU!!" - Ludwig van Beethoven.

#17 max dog

max dog

    Antique

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,915 posts
  • Location:British Columbia
  • Flag:

Posted 29 September 2017 - 21:20

Sadly, I think Cross can go upscale to the moon and beyond but they'l never get past their High School graduation present pen image. I know they have a very dedicated following, myself included, but let's face it, that's what most people think when they hear Cross Pens. 

That's true.  Who hasn't received a Cross Century ballpoint as a gift for graduation, thank you, or a congratulations.  My first nice pen was a Cross Century 14K GF that I received as a congratulation gift some 28 years ago when I landed my first job in my new career.  

 

The thing that stood out with that Cross pen is that every other nice pen that I came across felt flimsy compared to it.  The Cross was the creme de la creme of nice pens!  It wasn't until some 9 years ago I got into fountain pens and discovered all these other brands that people adored, that Cross is just not mentioned much in that circle.  What I see instead are the loyal Cross fans that buy a Cross ball point or fountain pen, and never look back and will use that pen for a lifetime.  They don't fuss with the niche market pens or talk about pens in forums.   They are in a different world.  

 

But as hand writing seems to be done less and less, and schools push the importance of keyboarding and computers ever more, Cross I think needs to tap into the pen aficionado niche market to survive versus relying on the utilitarian pen market which continues to shrink.   Cross needs to be able to gain market share in the high end pen market where Montblancs, Visconti's, and Japanese Urushi lacquer pens reside if they want to secure their future. 

 

Montblanc saw the writing on the wall in the 90s and adjusted their strategy accordingly, and look at where they are now.  #1 (carefully steps back)


Edited by max dog, 29 September 2017 - 21:32.


#18 Bluey

Bluey

    Somewhere between green and indigo

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,548 posts
  • Flag:

Posted 30 September 2017 - 00:47

Max, although the full report isn't provided (unless you want to pay the full whack of $1000!!), there is some very brief and tiny snippets of useful info here

 

http://www.businessw...hasis-Corporate

 

Also here

http://www.findmarke...ring-2016-2022/


Edited by Bluey, 30 September 2017 - 01:22.

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


#19 jekostas

jekostas

    Rare

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 158 posts

Posted 30 September 2017 - 05:03

Going upscale is probably the only viable strategy for the fountain pen game. You don't need to sell as many pens to break even when you sell them for $300 instead of $30....and the incremental cost to make a $300 pen is small.

 

Parker figured that out back in the 1960's with the Parker 75.

 

Yeah, ask the Italian pen manufacturers how that's working out.   Oh, and ask quick, because they're dropping like flies.



#20 max dog

max dog

    Antique

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,915 posts
  • Location:British Columbia
  • Flag:

Posted 30 September 2017 - 05:45

Max, although the full report isn't provided (unless you want to pay the full whack of $1000!!), there is some very brief and tiny snippets of useful info here

 

http://www.businessw...hasis-Corporate

 

Also here

http://www.findmarke...ring-2016-2022/

Thanks for the interesting articles.  Found the second one especially relevant here, supporting going upscale might be the right direction for Cross.

 

Luxury Pens Market to See Incredible Growth During 2016 – 2022

The growing e-communication among the corporates and other social class people around the world has become a threat for written communication. Due to the increasing brand awareness and high disposable income of people (especially among young adults), the luxury pens market is witnessing a decent growth. Likewise, luxury pens key players which are having brands such as Lamy, Aurora, Mont Blanc, Grayson and Parker are trying to encash the opportunities in this growing luxury pens market.......

 

 

 

http://www.findmarke...ring-2016-2022/


Edited by max dog, 30 September 2017 - 05:49.







Sponsored Content




|