Review of the Year 2014

It’s been a big year for us. Along with all the usual busyness of business, we’ve launched a completely new website, including a new back-end system to track where all our pens are; we’ve operated on our spaniel (well, we didn’t do it ourselves, we found a good vet) and made him all happy and bouncy again; the company has grown; and we’ve found a whole load more wonderful pens for you!

January

When you’re an online retailer, January is mostly about recovering from Christmas! It tends to be a quiet month, as everyone gets over the rush they’ve been in for the last couple of months. It can also be quite busy itself, though - our customer service people were busy helping people out with their Christmas gifts, and a lot of people didn’t quite get the pens they wanted, but they did get money - so they come to us to get what they wished they’d got for Christmas.

We had some great news from just before Christmas, as our Pens for Kids campaign resulted in 21,000 pens being ready to send to children in Tanzania, to help them with their education.

We did manage to find the time to add a new brand - CDT, or Craft Design Technology - a range of uniquely styled Japanese products. We also started the new year with a new ink, adding Deep Dark Purple to our popular range of Cult Pens inks, developed and made by Diamine.

Our newsletter also had an interesting feature where we looked back on the previous year and what had happened in it. But we won’t talk about that, as we may all disappear into a never-ending hole.

February

February was a good month for Lamy fans. We got two new colours from them:

  • The beautiful blue/green AL-star. This has now mostly sold out, but we do still have the ballpoint available.
  • The 2009 Pink special edition safari was so popular that Lamy brought the colour back as a regular colour, making the safari Pretty in Pink again. Not only is this pink version still around, but there’s now another pink special edition - a different shade Lamy call Neon Coral, with bright pink ink in bottles or cartridges to match.

For our banner, artist iarXiv brought us a little love story between Piggy and Puggy, to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Other new products included the Frixion LX and the Maica, from Pilot, giving new stylish looks to their popular Frixion erasable pens and the super-fine G-Tec-C4 respectively.

The main feature for February’s newsletter was on Hybrid Ink - a category of pens that many people know little about. Smoother than ballpoints, and giving more solid lines, they dry faster than liquid ink, and vary their line with pressure in a way gel pens can’t.

March

With the launch of a new website and a new stock system looming, by the time March arrived, things were a bit swan-like. On the surface, all looked calm, without much going on. Underneath, though, was a lot of frantic splashing about, and we may have polluted the water a little.

We had some interesting new sharpeners - Sonic Rachetta - which sharpen pencils by just twisting back and forth.

April

April included National Stationery Week, so we celebrated by giving away some packs of prizes. It was also the 20th anniversary of Uni-ball Eye pens, so we had some special deals on those.

New arrivals included inkless pens from Axel Weinbrecht, including a very handy little keyring pen; and the wonderful Zero range of desk pens with interesting actions.

May

We had a few new Kaweco items, including the lovely Eco Wild Raw Leather pouches, and the AL Sport Stonewashed pens. Some new OHTO products arrived, including the wonderfully named ‘Dude’ rollerball.

We had a bit of good news when our shipment of 21,000 pens for the Pens for Kids project finally arrived in the hands of schoolchildren in Tanzania, and we received photos of some very happy kids!

Anything else? Oh, yes, we launched a completely new website, and switched to an all-new system for managing and tracking our stock. May have buried the lede a little there. The project had been going on for around a year, all told, with quite a few months of solid work from quite a few of us, but it all paid off when we sat and watched the first orders appear in our new system.

Now we can look back on it, the effort was all worthwhile. We now have a website and a system that can move forward and grow with us, giving us better control of what’s going on, and much more flexibility.

June

The big news for us was towards the end of June - we won The Customer Award at the Internet Retailing Awards. We were up against John Lewis, Ocado, ASOS and Lovehoney, all great companies with fantastic reputations for service. We had felt quite honoured just to be nominated along with them, and we were as surprised as anyone when we were announced as the winners at a big awards event in Mayfair. We may have been a little ahead of most of the other attendees, though - at least we had heard of us!

Penorama got a new look to fit in better with our new website, and we had a big giveaway with Faber-Castell to celebrate our re-launch. And to relax, we took a hiking trip into Haldon Forest, with its views out over Dartmoor and Exeter. That might not sound too relaxing, but we had off-road Segways with big chunky tyres to take the strain!

We still managed to sneak in one new arrival, too - Cult Pens Deep Dark Orange ink.

July

There always seems to be something to celebrate, and in July it was Rhodia’s 80th birthday. They used the occasion to launch the Rhodia Ice range, with white covers and pale grey lines. A new twist on an iconic product.

Kaweco brought us their new Skyline - a variation on the Classic Sport, with silver nibs and trim for a more modern look. They’re available in Black, Grey or an unusual pale green Mint.

In more nerve-wracking news, the Cult Pens Spaniel, Herbie, had an operation on his leg. He’d been struggling to get about, and something had to be done. When he was opened up, though, there was a nice surprise - he had a screw loose that hadn’t shown up in the X-rays, and was easily replaced. With a new sturdy titanium screw fitted in his leg, he was soon bounding about like an excited spaniel. Which is good, because that’s what he is.

August

We found out that Japan had something we didn’t, and we wanted it. Pilot had applied their wonderful Frixion technology to coloured pencils, making them easily and cleanly erasable, just like Frixion pens. We brought them to the UK, so now you can have erasable coloured pencils too.

Our biggest new addition for August, though, wasn’t a pen or pencil at all - it was mt tape. It’s masking tape, but so much more useful than the usual stuff. It’s made with thin but strong Japanese ‘washi’ paper, so it can cling to surfaces. Only a small amount of low-tack adhesive is needed to hold it, so it can also be removed cleanly, even after being left in place for quite a while.

It’s also available in a huge range of colours, patterns and designs, and we’ve found all sorts of uses for it since. It was a completely new type of product for us, but we’re glad we took a chance on it.

September

September brought us a much requested pen from Pilot - the Juice - ultra-fine 0.38mm gel pens in 24 colours. They’ve been really successful, so in the short time since these arrived we’ve added the 0.5mm and 0.7mm versions of the same pens.

We’d experienced Troika’s pens before, when we stocked their Andy Warhol limited editions. We loved them, and they all sold out. So, we had to pick up Troika’s pens in other finishes too. Now, they also make a screw-in nib unit that turns their rollerballs into fountain pens, and a capacitive stylus adapter than fits on the back so you can use the same pen with your phone or tablet. Even more exciting, though, was the range of desk toys - a helicopter with four different coloured pens for rotor blades, and a logging truck with pencils as logs, for example.

Diamine brought us two new colours: Tyrian Purple and Autumn Oak, which were both hugely well-received by ink fans everywhere. We’ve since learned that these were designed by the next generation of Diamine ink makers - 15 year old students on work experience - with guidance from a Diamine Ink Technician!

On top of all of that, we added a new brand of notebooks - Nuuna. They’re very proud of their paper, and the bold cover designs attract plenty of attention.

October

Another two major new brands arrived in October:

  • Manuscript are specialists in calligraphy, and have a long history of making and distributing nibs in the West Midlands, which was once a world centre for pen and nib production.
  • Cross, established in the USA in 1839, have produced many classic designs. The Cross Townsend is known as the Pen of Presidents, and our Queen is said to use a Cross Century. This long history has never stopped them from innovating, though, with many unusual designs and finishes alongside the original classics.

Kaweco fans had a good month in October too, with a new dark brown version of the Classic Sport, and a very limited production run of the Liliput, in blue. There was also news of stainless steel and copper versions of the Liliput on the horizon.

Other new additions included the Platinum #3776 Pur, a matt black version of the Faber-Castell Ondoro, a Kaweco Sport with a guilloche finish, and stub nibs for many of Kaweco’s pens.

November

November isn’t that long ago, so you might remember some of these things. Most keenly-awaited for us, and for many of you, was the arrival of our new Cult Pens Mini Fountain Pen - Back in Black. We also added Mouserug, FAF pads, and a whole lot of new Caran d’Ache art products.

2013’s Christmas Appeal had been a huge success, so we decided to support Pens for Kids again, sending as many pens as possible to children in Ghana this time. We had two big improvements for 2014. We had the help of the Blue Skies Foundation to get the pens to where they’re needed, saving the delay and expense of shipping. Because of that, we were able to get the cost down further, too, meaning the price of each pack is quite a bit lower than in 2013 - not many things get cheaper!

December

Ah, December. Remember December? It doesn’t seem like it was so long ago, does it? And that seems much funnier to me, writing this, in December, than it will to you, when you read it in January. Sorry.

Well, December was Christmas. Will be Christmas. Will have been Christmas? Anyway, we decided we had to respond to John Lewis and their penguins, with our own Christmas ad, featuring our very own Herbie the Spaniel.

We had our Christmas party, too, playing skittles, which will have been a lot of fun.

12 January 2015

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