Between online selling and big box stores, many types of smaller businesses are feeling the pinch today. The independent stationery store is unfortunately a relic in many places. One exception may be New York City. (See these posts at Pocket Blonde. New York looks great!)
One way of fighting back is to move up the food chain and specialize in higher profit areas like custom stationery or fountain pens. Yet even that is getting tougher as online selling grows. I often read that the Lamy Safari is a great $20 fountain pen. But every retailer in Canada that I’m aware of charges between $42 and $46 for this pen. At $46 plus 13% sales tax, that is $C51.98 (or $US51.08 at today’s rate). So is it a great $51 pen? And just where is it sold for $20? Well, online. Yes, it might actually be $21 or $25 plus shipping, but that’s still nowhere near $51.
So you can see the challenge that a brick and mortar retailer might have. Now think about $200 vs $500 for a pen. (I think this ratio continues to hold up, from what I’ve observed.)
Laywine’s is a store in Toronto that I recently visited. I think they’ve found one good way of competing with online retailers – by comprehensively stocking a broad array of all these brands that we see promoted online. In fact they had many products that I’ve not previously heard of, despite my keeping up with several stationery websites and blogs.
I’m not mentioning looseleaf paper, agendas, fancy journals, or correspondence oriented stationery – and trust me, they have plenty of items in those categories as well.
So let me mention some of the notebook brands and items they have:
Clairefontaine and Rhodia – they’ve always stocked these brands, and comprehensively – the Rhodia pads from the tiny jotters to (my favourite) the mighty A3 sized No. 38. The ring-bound Clairings and Pollen paper and new tobacco-coloured (age bag) 9cm x 14cm formats were standouts for me.
Moleskine – This store was selling this brand when they had fuzzy faux animal print covers and we thought they were made in Italy. They still have a full line, including the new A3 and A4 formats.
Field Notes – Here it starts to get interesting. Laywine’s has this brand in regular and “special edition” formats. I bought an orange pack and three-colour pack. Much cheaper than mail order as well.
Doane Paper – another brand that I associated with online marketing. I learned of them from the reviews at the Pen Addict blog. I wasn’t aware that they had a retail presence. I walked away with several formats (and wish I had bought more).
Behance – we’ve looked at Behance in the past. Laywine’s again has the full range, as far as I could tell.
Letts – I was not aware of a new notebook line from this established name, and picked up a notebook in a very pleasing and unusual dimension. (172mm x 232mm).
Leuchtturm – there were even more formats here than I’ve seen for sale online (including thick/thin versions and dotted/lattice versions).
Canteo – the first time I’ve seen this fantastic Swiss brand at retail. (I love the 4mm grey squared paper.) The offerings were limited, but they said that more is on the way.
Whitelines – Apart from the many versions I’ve already seen, they had hardcover and glued pad formats that were new to me.
Miquelrius – I’m afraid this was my biggest disappointment. All the Miquelrius notebooks I saw (some in a pleasing composition book format) looked poorly finished, and I’ll have to wait to try out their line.
Apica – another line that Laywine’s has stocked for several years.
There are other Japanese brands they stock, but whose names I’m not sure I can accurately identify.
So by bringing all these brands together, this store is creating a powerful and compelling counterforce to online ordering. They’re benefitting from the online hype without selling online. And, what a great store it is! The photo shows some of my purchase.
I don’t think any single online source has such an array – Clairefontaine, Rhodia, Moleskine, Canteo, Leuchtturm, Apica, Rhodia, Field Notes, Doane Paper, Behance, Letts, Whitelines, Miquelrius, Apica, all side by side.
So if you happen to visit Toronto and like stationery, I do recommend a stop at Laywine’s. Maybe there is a great stationer in your locale that you’d like to recommend?