So, we finally did a pen show. After over 16 years of being Cult Pens, we had a stand at the London Pen Show on Sunday. How did it go? Did we meet lots of interesting people? Did people at the show know who we were? Did we sell lots of pens? Will we do it again? Wow, you have a lot of questions. And you're an imaginary person inside my head at this point, which is a bit weird.
We had almost attended once before, but it was just before the start of the first lockdown, so we put it off.
Let's start by saying it was quite the learning experience for us. We have a fairly good idea of how to sell pens online, but selling them face-to-face in a big hall is a very different kettle of fish. But we managed! We made up for our lack of experience in our usual way - with a lot of range and a shed-load of enthusiasm.
Our lack of experience bit us somewhat when we were still trying to set things up well after the doors had opened, but nobody seemed to mind. Or perhaps they were just too polite to say.
But yes, we did get to meet a lot of interesting people. Most people we spoke to knew Cult Pens already, and were already online customers, so it was great to meet them without an Internet between us. Sadly, we were kept so busy that we had very little chance to go and see other stalls, and meet the people behind them. Which was a shame, because we'd have loved a chance to chat to some of the vintage dealers, with tables covered in beautiful vintage Parker '51's and Sheaffers. In my brief circuit around the stands, I was quite tempted by the rare Japanese Pikachu edition of the LAMY Safari, but when a young boy appeared at our stall proudly clutching it later, it was good to see it had gone to someone who was clearly going to love it!
Fortunately, packing the cars up again for the return trip was a bit easier - we had a lot to bring back, but our load had lightened a lot too. Storms made the return journey a bit of a long trek, though, and Siri told us not long after we left London that the M5 had been closed, so we had to divert to avoid that. She found us a new route that only cost us a few minutes extra, though, and a podcast with James Acaster made the time go by entertainingly.
So, how did it go? Overall, it was good - it was a fun event, but very hard work. Did we meet lots of interesting people? Oh, yes, definitely. Pen geeks are a very diverse group, from young students and children, up to many older pen fans, with clearly many very different people from different backgrounds and places. But a fascination with these things that so many people overlook as 'just a pen' brought them all together.
And did the people at the show know who we were? Well, we expected most would, but they did to a much greater extent that we'd expected. Almost everyone we spoke to knew us and were already customers. And the other sellers all knew us too, and were a very friendly bunch. We were just too busy for much chat, but we did get to meet the lovely people at Write Now!, and had a good chat with Retro 51.
And did we sell lots of pens? I think it's fair to say we did. People loved the Monteverde Ritma, and there's clearly a lot to be said for being able to hold a pen and try it out before spending your money - the downside of online selling! While we tried to have a good variety of products with us, fountain pens were the main focus for the majority of people there, but notebooks were very popular too, especially Leuchtturm1917's new heavyweight paper, and our little book of ink swatches was almost constantly being examined.
So the final question is the one we can't really answer quite yet - will we do it again? We're certainly not ruling it out, and maybe could even say it's likely. But we'll have to have some discussions about it before we say for sure, and we'll have to work out what we can do to make the whole thing easier and better organised. Taking lots of pens and working it out on the day was not the best way, but was probably something we had to go through so we could see what other people were doing, and see better ways for the future.
If we saw you there, hello! It was great to meet you. If we didn't, and you're hoping to see us at a show in future, let's just say 'maybe', but please let us sleep for a few days first. We're very tired.
27 July 2021