11 June 2018

Trends 2018

Following the news and the movements in the market of fountain pens I can identify the following trends:

1. The Chinese invasion.

Chinese pens are no longer low quality pens. The proliferation of Chinese copies of the popular Lamy Safari (::1::, ::2::) some years ago was a very interesting sign—Chinese makers were able to compete in quality and in price with Western –and Japanese—entry-level pens.


Later on, those same Chinese companies have created other interesting models with higher price, thus creating an actual competition to many mid-range models.


Chinese pens are no longer cheap. The well made Hero H718. Photo courtesy of Foro de estilográficas member Antolín.

The expansion and reach of all these Chinese pens is severely limited by the lack of distribution networks, which –worth to notice—would increase the actual cost of tehis pens. But, is it worth for, say, Sailor to produce the Sailor Procolor (a cartridge-converter, steel nib, plastic body, JPY 5000) when Penbbs is selling a decent copy for less than JPY 2000?

Pilot, Lamy, Pelikan, Sailor, Platinum… might need to analyze seriously their new positions the market.


A Penbbs 308 (in red) and a Sailor Procolor. Similar pens with similar construction quality. Photo courtesy of Pedro Haddock, author of the blog El pajarete orquidiado.


2. The luxury end.

Western and Japanese companies preserve their position in the high end of the market. however, these luxury pens rely more on the decoration and exotic materials than on the intrinsic quality of the pen as a pen.

This trend, consequently, opens the market to small manufacturers with limited production. Needless to say, this is not new as we all know operations like Edison, Namisu, Eboya, Conid… My contention, though, is that this trend will continue and we might see new small brands not bound by the necessity to mass produce in order to be profitable.


A luxury pen made by a small company: a Hakase made of buffalo horn. My thanks to Inquisitive Quill.


3. Small selection of nib points.

Nibs are becoming boring and predictable. Pens might look different and exciting, but under the cap we mostly find the same type of nib: rigid and with the very trite trio of F, N, and B points. And any variation on this is bound to result in additional costs.

The exception to this simplification are the big three Japanese makers, who offer a might wider selection (see, for instance, Pilot).


4. The ink inflation.

Ink maker have realized that people buy colors —many colors— instead of volume. On these Chronicles I have seen the cases of Sailor and Platinum, but this situation also affects to Caran d’Ache and Montblanc, at least.

Again, this is good news for small companies because these higher prices allow create some room for higher production costs. Now, is there a limit to this inflation of makers, colors and price?


Sailor's Ink Studio inks: inflation in colors and inflation in price. Is there a limit on this trend?


These are my reflections. And I could be very wrong.


Kubo, Momose and Iwase – Sailor Blue Iron

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, June 6th, 2018
labels: tinta, mercado

2 comments:

Saltire Turquoise said...

A fair assessment, especially about nibs. What are your thoughts on the trend for clipless pens?

Bruno Taut said...

Thanks. Saltire, for your words.

Re clipless pens, I think it is a trend present almost solely on small brand products. It seems to me a way to simplify the production and a way to avoid new suppliers. Now, some of those models are really interesting. I do not see the trend on major manufacturers.

Cheers,

BT

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