January 21, 2012 § Leave a comment
In the days when apple and blackberry were generally accepted as types of fruit and mobile phone was almost an oxymoron, the Filofax was king. No self-respecting yuppie would be seen without their trusty organiser tucked under their arm. The bigger the Filofax the more self-important they were perceived as being.
Against this back-drop there were other brands of organiser offering a similar list of inserts but some had moved time management into a more sophisticated arena offering training courses to help managers optimise their time. The concept is relatively simple. Using either A5 or A4 sized organisers, you use the day per page with appointment times as your detail timings, the week to view as your bigger picture and your month to view as your project-planning format. Notes could be kept relating to each meeting attended and all of your contact details would be stored in the appropriate section. Key to the success of the process was to even book time for yourself and refuse to take phone calls at certain times of the day. In principle some fine ideas but in reality to take the concept at its full value you needed to plan in time to plan everyday and very few of us could afford to refuse to take an instruction from a customer or superior and not taking phone calls was open to misinterpretation. Negatives aside, the concept was at least thought-provoking with a significant number of ideas being incorporated into daily business life.
Jump forward 25 years and many of the concepts being promoted at that time are relevant today. Even with the development of the mobile phone with its PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) capabilities it is operated by a basic on-off principle. Digital equipment of any description doesn’t do ‘about’ or ‘nearly’ or ‘something like’ but humans do. Enter the 21st Century Filofax. Used in conjunction with a mobile phone, you can keep your diary with you all the time and working in pencil you keep a basic record of appointments giving you an overview. The detail can be transferred to your PDA with details of all participants, locations, and associated information. But making that first appointment in a room full of colleagues, a flick back and forth through several months of a diary is much more efficient than scrolling through screen after screen of minutiae. An exchange of business cards is a simple case of slipping it into your Filofax for safe keeping before transferring to the PDA in the peace of your office.
When planning a project, a few simple continuity lines linking days or notes in a margin can indicate that there is ongoing, long-term work as well as the day-to-day appointments. If it doesn’t happen for in whatever reason, you can simply extend the project line without creating a rigid framework that involves major redesigning of your plan. There can also be the added notes like, ‘don’t forget the wedding anniversary’ without the audible alert at 10 am on the day before that you simply turn-off and forget again!
There remains a great opportunity to be able to combine digital technology with traditional Filofax-like planning to get the best out of life.
Filofax products are now available on-line from PenFountain.com and in our retail concession PenFountain @ Beales of Worthing.
December 1, 2011 § Leave a comment
Having opened our new concession shop in Beales department store, Worthing, we continue to learn how different the environment is from our previous individual shop. The concession offers limited space but encourages creative thinking when it comes to finding room for new products.
We have also had the the privilege of being asked to provide a window display in the main shop frontage on South Street.
October 28, 2011 § Leave a comment
There is an increasing trend among fountain pen manufacturers to reduce nib options, even on their core pen products. This year has seen Cross discontinuing production of the broad nib option from their range, although stock remains available at the time of writing.
Lamy then followed suit announcing the demise of the extra fine nib across their range. They treated their customers rather differently, announcing the discontinuation after stocks had been exhausted preventing retailers from stock piling these niche nibs to prolong the availability a little longer.
At PenFountain.com, we pride ourselves in our nib range and believe that one of the great things about fountain pens is the joy of different writing experiences afforded by a change of nib or pen. It is a great disappointment when, presumably for production-cost reduction reasons, these nibs are discontinued. However, pens retailers in general are becoming more focused on the supply of medium, one-size-fits-all, nibs and are therefore contributing to the demise of the great variety fountain pen choices.
September 22, 2011 § Leave a comment
The art of fountain pen ink manufacture probably hasn’t really changed in the last 100 years or so. It was already a ‘green’ product before the term (and even possibly the colour) was widely used. If proof were needed of the retrospective aspect of ink production, on the Diamine inks website they acknowledge 1864 as their date of establishment and a subsequent move to a ‘state of the art’ manufacturing facility in Liverpool in 1925 but there is no suggestion of a later move from this site although they have moved production since.
On the positive side, Diamine produce a fabulous range of high quality inks which, with planned additions in the next 12 months, will extend to more than 100 different colours. As part of this expansion, 5 new colours have been added this summer which are: Wild Strawberry, Macassar (dark brown/black), Denim (dark blue), Meadow (rich pale green) and Eclipse (black/brown). In keeping with our track record, we have now added these to our offering at PenFountain.com and can be viewed on our Diamine colour chart or in our Cranleigh shop
August 19, 2011 § Leave a comment
Cranleigh, like many high streets in the current economic gloom, is extremely quiet. The tumbleweed almost rolls down the road some afternoons. However, Cranleigh is relatively quiet even when other high streets are heaving with shoppers preparing for a holiday. This is why the retail shop for PenFountain.com is in an ideal position. With the majority of our sales being online, for those prepared to make the journey, we are able to offer attentive, personal service that buying a quality pen deserves.
For those who have discovered the almost therapeutic pleasure derived from pen selection, many have travelled some distance. Recently a couple came over from Woking. This is not exactly the other end of the country excepting they came by bus requiring a change of route at Guildford just to visit the shop. 2 x buses x 2 and over an hour of travel each way. They seemed to enjoy their excursion and think it well worthwhile.
What is waiting for those who make the pilgrimage? A good range of pens, a selection of nibs and paper types, enthusiastic, informed opinion, and advice, with prices parallel to our online offering. Arguably, this offer could not be replicated in a bigger store elsewhere because our personal involvement cannot readily be scaled up to a busier shop. Our service is not just for the high-end pens, either. In many ways greater satisfaction comes from helping first-time fountain pen users, particularly left-handed ones!
Once in Cranleigh, we can recommend a selection of excellent refreshment stations and some other interesting independent retail experiences too. Walkers and cyclists are well catered for with open countryside all round us. So, why not make a day of your visit to PenFountain.com?
August 17, 2011 § Leave a comment
We love our fountain pens but, let’s be real, we need the computer in business life for producing letters, spreadsheets and the general bumf of commerce. To help things along and keep costs down, at PenFountain.com we have started selling JetTec printer cartridges online. Much is made of the unreliability of compatible cartridges but in our opinion, it’s like everything in life, ‘you pays your money and takes your choice’. There are cheaper compatibles and remanufactured cartridges on the market but they’re not much use if they don’t work. Or worse, stop working shortly after installation, usually in the middle of an important document and usually late into the evening!
The JetTec ranges are products that we have offered on the retail side in our Cranleigh shop for a number of years and have great confidence in their reliability with the Company making much of their 100% Guarantee claim. However, it’s not guarantees that you want, it’s the knowledge that you won’t need a guarantee to fall-back on – because it will work.
In our opinion, a stronger statement of success comes from the Queen’s Award for Innovation bestowed on the Company in 2004 for re-designing the Extra Life cartridge range for Epson and Canon printers. The re-designing of the two brands works on two levels, creating a differentiator for the JetTec products and avoiding conflict with the notoriously litigious OEMs. The redesign is such that JetTec have their own patents for their cartridges. The remanufactured inkjet and laser cartridges are produced using equally advanced, state of the art cleaning, re-progamming, and refilling processes.
At PenFountain.com we have been using JetTec cartridges in our Canon iX4000 inkjet printer since it was new. The only problem experienced with the printer was when, unknown to us, a machine screw fell off a shelf above the printer into the paper feed hopper and was pulled into the printer. A bit of deft work with the snipe-nosed pliers pulled it out without detriment to the print quality!
Next time you have a requirement to write a business letter, don’t be too ashamed of using your printer instead of your beloved fountain pen!
August 9, 2011 § 1 Comment
“Buy fountain pens now!” Sounds like a line from a ‘B’ movie about the commodity markets. But there is truth in it. We all love our pens and enjoy the privileges of writing with a choice of nibs, particularly those produced in gold with precious metal decoration. The pen manufacturers have been maintaining prices remarkably well but one has already broken cover with unscheduled, mid-year price increases of 14% for their gold nibbed fountain pens coming into force at the beginning of next month. We are sure that the others will have to follow suit, either with an unscheduled price revision, or with a massive hike at the next scheduled revision.
The background to this is the general economic upheaval and investors turning to precious metals including, gold, silver, rhodium and platinum, for security. We have looked into this and suggest viewing a US based coin website where the picture is very clearly laid-out: http://lynncoins.com/historical-gold-charts.htm
Cross have announced their price schedule for the European markets and, according to a customer in the Southern Hemisphere, are trying to lift prices even higher there. So, if you have a major birthday to buy for or just a treat for yourself for Christmas, we would suggest a purchase earlier rather than later!
August 1, 2011 § Leave a comment
We’ve just had a customer in our Cranleigh retail shop, PenFountain.com, to buy a LamyNexx for his son. However, his wife had advised not to buy the Lamy cartridges from us because they would be cheaper in the local WHS. How can we win? Smiths’ price is £4.99 (with the additional benefit of buy one get the second at half price!). Our price is £1.53.
The bigger picture is more worrying. At those prices young writers will be discouraged from buying a Lamy fountain pen because of the cost of refills. And yet, this is one of the best pens to encourage the joy of hand writing among young students. Whilst, on the flip-side, the perception appears to be that you get a better deal buying from our competitors.
You can draw your own conclusions as to which is the better deal!
July 7, 2011 § 3 Comments
At PenFountain.com we promote our retail business in Cranleigh and the surrounding towns by supplying a pen to The Challenger, a local free publication, as the prize for the best letter, poem or other piece of prose each month. Winner in the July issue of the magazine was Wendy Strohm of Dorking with her poem, Bookham Common.
Wendy was delighted to receive her prize of a Parker Urban Premium Matt Black fountain pen with a leather case and kindly wrote an email of thanks – in verse, of course.
A thank you note to Bob & Susan
Now just imagine my sheer delight
At returning home from work last night
A better note I have not read
Than the Challenger email that said –
My little poem was just the best
And had beaten all the rest!
And thanks to you – a prize to be had
Oh yes, I am, extremely glad!
Thank you very much indeed
This is the rewarding side of running a business like ours.
June 13, 2011 § Leave a comment
At PenFountain.com we thoroughly enjoy talking to our customers about their pens, our pens and inks, and are happy to allow a little ink-dip for nib comparison. But, what also fascinates us is where our customers come from. Today we had customer who had a 90 mile round-trip to see our Porsche Design range. He came to buy because he liked our prices but many come just to look and chat.
This has lead us to ask, ‘How far are you prepared to travel to find a pen shop and what constitutes a decent pen shop?