2020 doesn’t seem like a year that’s going to get good reviews, on the whole. It’s not going to have a good rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Of the cyberpunk dystopias released this year, 2020 will probably have worse ratings than 2077, and the main thing saving both of them has been the inclusion of Keanu Reeves. At least that part was Most Excellent.
We’ve been very lucky compared to many others, really. We’ve had quite a lot of upheaval, and have had to change the way we work, but as a business, we haven’t had to lose any staff, and more people are shopping online, which is good for us, even when the reasons are not so good.
At the start of the year, we all worked in an office. We’d expanded to two floors, and we had nice desks and chairs upstairs, and lots of shelves for all the pens. *Lots* of shelves. We kept needing more shelves, as we kept getting more pens, and the shelves were gradually getting closer and closer to the desks. But, as with so many other businesses, each morning, we all came to the office, sat at those desks, and did our work.
Then things changed.
Suddenly that didn’t seem like such a good idea any more. We might make each other ill. Obviously, some jobs just can’t be done unless the person doing them is physically *there*. Pens have to be taken from those shelves and put in envelopes and boxes, or they won’t get to you. Boxes of pens have to be taken from our friendly courier drivers, and the pens in them have to go on the right shelves, or there soon won’t be any pens to put in the envelopes and boxes. So we did what we could to reduce the risk.
Sitting on a chair typing this, for example, can be done in a lot of different places. One of those places is my home. So it was for a lot of other jobs. The jobs that involve touching actual stock have to be done at the office - the rest can be done from peoples’ homes. People picked up their PCs and took them home. Chairs were spares and people took those home too. Since quite a few of the desks weren’t needed any more, they were replaced with shelves, and this became the new normal for us. Those of us who don’t *need* to, won’t be going back to the office now.
A few workarounds have had to be found - some people have to pop in to the office sometimes to take photos of new stock. And sometimes new pens have little holidays to someone’s house so we can write about them. The phone lines have been a bit of a problem, and we’re sorry if we’ve missed some calls. We’ve now got a clever new system that sends phone calls into Microsoft Teams, so we can take calls at our computers with our gaming headsets on, and pretend we’re streaming a game of No Man’s Sky. Or that might be just me.
Things have changed a lot for the people who *are* still working in the office too. We don’t think we were too unhygienic before, and we already had hand sanitiser stations attached to shelves in various places, but we’re doing a lot more of that now.
We split the ‘operations’ team into shifts, too, so there aren’t as many people in the office together, doing as much as they can to reduce contact between their small groups. One brave night-owl is even working overnight to reduce contact even further.
The result of all this is that we’ve still managed to keep adding lots of exciting new products, and while things aren’t moving quite as fast as they used to, we’re still getting orders out pretty quickly. At the busiest times, it might take us an extra day or two to catch up, but a lot of orders are still going out the same or next day.
The biggest new brand to us this year was one people have asked us about *so many* times over the years - Montblanc. Plenty of luxury brands also make pens, but Montblanc’s history is all about pens - they’re one of the innovative companies that have helped to create fountain pens as we know them over the years. We launched them as part of our Fine Writing site, where they sit alongside many of our other favourite luxury pens, pencils and other stationery.
And we’ve got a lot *more* exciting new stuff lined up for next year - including some that we know you’re going to love.
So, it’s been a trying year all round, and we count ourselves as lucky to be somewhere that’s had lower levels of Covid than most. It’s brought many changes, but some things haven’t changed - we’re still working hard to get your favourite pens and stationery to you, and to find your next favourite too!
6 January 2021