10 March 2018

Inks: Price and Variety

More reflections on ink prices in Japan.

On my previous Chronicle I mentioned the idea of how 50 ml inkwells might be too big for this time and age. Apparently, variation –i. e. large selection of colors— is a  lot more relevant than the price of the ink or than being able to replace that exact color we grew fond of.

The, commentator Brian suggested that most users do not really think in terms of price per milliliter but in price per ink or, I might add, price per inkwell regardless its actual size.

These two arguments seem key to understand the recent policy of Sailor to market the rebranded but traditional inks of the company (::1::, ::2::, ::3::, ::4::). But Sailor’s shrinkflating moves –preserving the nominal price while reducing the amount of product— is very detrimental to the consumer. The rest of makers will surely feel the temptation of copying the example of Sailor.

The following graph shows how Sailor’s are –in the Japanese market and among Japanese manufacturers— the most expensive inks. Hakase inks, those made of real squid ink, are not included on it because their presence in the market is marginal.

The graph shows how Sailor inks are, in general, more expensive than those by any other maker in Japan. There are some exceptions to this trend:
1-The 15 ml inkwells of the Pilot Iroshizuku ink at a cost of JPY 46.7/ml.

2-The soon-to-be-released (April 2018) presentation of 20 ml of Mix Free inks by Platinum at JPY 50/ml.
3-The basic triad of the old Jentle inks by Sailor (black, blue-black, and blue) for JPY 20/ml. This particular point in the graph is hidden under a Platinum point of the same coordinates: 3 inks at JPY 20/ml.
The number of inks of Nagasawa Kobe (69 on the graph) and of BunguBox (42 on the graph) is in actual terms subject to frequent changes.
All prices quoted are catalog prices (MRSP), in Japanese Yen (JPY) without taxes (8% in Japan).

On the graph we can see how the cheapest of the Sailor inks –the pigmented inks Kiwaguro and Seiboku— are more expensive than any other made by Pilot and Platinum save for the 15 ml inkwell presentation of the Pilot Iroshizuku Mini.

On par with the most expensive Sailor inks are those marketed by stationer BunguBox that are also made by Sailor. These original inks have a very limited distribution in Japan, although it is possible to buy them online. Its catalog comprises 42 different colors, albeit the shop often runs out of stock of some of them.

The fundamental paradox of the new pricing policy of Sailor is the fact that the current line of Kobe inks is now the cheaper Sailor ink in the Japanese market. Kobe inks, let us remember, are Sailor-made inks for Kobe-based Nagasawa shop. However, these inks are available in Tokyo by the hand of Itoya (at its headquarters in Ginza) and of Maruzen (at its Ikebukuro branch). As a consequence, the 69 inks of the Kobe lineup have become a lot more attractive to the user.

The question, now, is how long this paradox will last.

Ban-ei, wide ring with Henckel nib – Noodler’s Zhivago

Bruno Taut
Nakano, March 9th 2018
etiquetas: Sailor, mercado, tinta, Nagasawa, BunguBox, Japón, Pilot, Platinum

Post Scriptum (March 13th, 2018).

I have changed the graph I originally published on March 10th. The new version solved an inexcusable omission and has more data following some recent news.

These are the modifications:

i. Sailor does have three inexpensive (in relative terms) inks at JPY 20/ml. These are the basic triad of black, blue-black and blue in the old Jentle formulation. This is, obviously, the inexcusable omission.

ii. This coming month of April Platinum will market the Mix Free inks in a new presentation: smaller 20 ml inkwells. Needless to say, smaller inkwells mean higher specific prices: JPY 50/ml. (Thanks, Rafael).

iii. In April as well, Sailor will release a new pigmented ink NOT belonging to the Storia lineup. From April on, there will be three pigmented inks: Kiwa-guro, Sei-boku, and the new Sô-boku.

However, despite these additions, the basic picture remains the same: Sailor is the most expensive brand, although there exists an inexpensive option at JPY 20/ml.

Platinum, on its side, keeps on pushing its ink prices up. The decision of marketing a new and more expensive presentation of the Mix Free series is just consistent with this policy.

And Pilot, finally, is the most stable company regarding inks, although this company also made an inflationary move—the release of the Iroshizuku Mini presentation in January of 2015.

Platinum pocket, Yamada Seisakusho – KWZ Brown #2

Brunot Taut
Nakano, March 13th 2018
etiquetas: Sailor, mercado, tinta, Pilot, Platinum, Japón.


Michael E said...

There are lots of 50ml inks at 2000 Yen + tax - e.g. the LE inks of Sailor, Maruzen - just this week at the penshow. I am sure the makers have some information which prices are the limits above where nobody wants to buy. But they want to increase their profit, that only works by increasing the price or decreasing the contents.Price increase doesn't work. So, it has become the quantity.
Japanese companies do it a lot with other products. A product containing 1kg or 1L suddenly is at 900mL or 800g. The 10kg cat litter bag suddenly contains only 8kg - price is the same. The 1 piece of cake is much smaller now than some weeks ago while keeping the price. Allowed cheating.

If you want to change a maker, don't buy their products for a while.

Rafael R. P. said...

It seems Platinum will also offers their mixable line in smaller 20mL bottles at 1000 Yen.

Bruno Taut said...

Thanks for your comments, Michael and Rafael.

The shrinkflation practices are common in Japan lately, but Sailor took it to a new level--the size reduction is not a mere 10%, but a 60%!

I added the information on the small Mix Free inkwells in the post scriptum. Thanks!



Michael E said...

On further thoughts, I can understand why people start buying these small bottles despite high prices. My 50 ml bottles of non-blue inks do not get empty. I try my best, but ...
People trying many more colors than I have even bigger problems to finish.
Not everybody does like this guy: http://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/topic/333951-no-risk-no-fun/
The first earthquake solves his problem with ink.

Bruno Taut said...

Your point is indeed solid, Michael E. But does that mean that prices had to skyrocket? Keeping some perspective on the price per ml helps to protect ourselves from wild marketing strategies.

Thanks for passing by and commenting.


Post a Comment

Your comments are welcome and appreciated.