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Stationery is hot…

…and writing’s cool as Chris looks back over a year of the Aussie invasion

WITH 2015 about to be written into history, London Stationery Show founder Chris Leonard-Morgan (pictured at this year's event) has been considering the prospects for stationery along with some of the year’s developments in the sector:

The UK stationery market is especially vibrant at the moment as writing and paper products continue to make the transition from a basic staple to lifestyle products – and very useful ones too – and is attracting attention from across the world. This year may have seen the demise of Blott, with Tinc taking over some stores, and Websters Pen Shops but it has also seen several Australian retailers strengthen their claim on the UK High Street.
Smiggle have opened more than 40 stores in the past two years and are aiming for many more. Swedish-inspired Kikki.K attracted large crowds when they opened their first two London stores in November at the start of a European-wide launch and, most recently, Australian stationery chain Typo, prompted by strong traffic on its global websites from UK consumers, have announced the formation of a dedicated UK online store, with a distribution centre and High Street shops to follow in 2016. The UK is considered to be a very sophisticated retail environment and not a territory to be entered into without considerable research and preparation beforehand.
However, the ever-increasing availability of stationery product online removes much of the guesswork, as retailers can gather a clear picture of what UK consumers are looking for long before they commit to physical stores. It is an indication of the strength of the market that brick-and-mortar stores are so high on their agenda, and being rolled out so quickly. It helps, of course, that stationery is such a universally loved product – who doesn’t like it! It’s ideally suited to impulse and online purchase and dispatch and, merchandised well, offers a perfect combination of fashionable, design-led, colourful practicality.
It’s the sort of adaptable retail offer that works well across the full gamut of sales channels – from garden centres and gift shops, to visitor attractions and department stores, to book sellers and stationery boutiques.
Paperchase have led the charge for a long time and WHSmith are at last rejuvenating their stationery offer while Oliver Bonas, Waterstones, Foyles, Scribbler and Hema are all expanding theirs. Retail stationery’s range of offer – from everyday to truly luxurious – and its ever-closer connections to the worlds of fashion and licensing, mean that stationery is a hard-working, always-changing, fun sector to be part of.
The overseas retail interest in the UK industry is being matched by the interest from overseas suppliers wanting to be part of the London Stationery Show in order to sell and find distribution in the UK, and visitors this year came from 36 countries. In a world of digital communication, the hand-written note is now even more firmly established as a truly personal, valued gesture – perhaps this is why a recent GfK report on Black Friday sales showed that many shoppers ‘added stationery products to their online baskets, with writing instruments seeing a growth of 109 per cent online year-on-year’. Stationery today is hot, and writing is cool – 2016 promises to be an exciting year with lots of new product development and the best London Stationery Show yet, and National Stationery Week rolling out the Writing Matters campaign through World Stationery Day.

Now in its sixth year, the London Stationery Show takes place during National Stationery Week which runs from April 25 to May 1, with the second World Stationery Day on Wednesday, April 27.
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