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Editorial blog

What’s hot in stationery?

02 May 2018

Henri Davis, Independent Retail Advisor, takes a look at the trends in the stationery market

As an independent retail advisor to businesses in the cards, gifts, stationery and heritage industries, I combine 30 years of retail experience with my knowledge of trends and consumer motivation to analyse markets and identify new opportunities. I have worked at Habitat, Next, WH Smith and the National Trust and I now work with many small and mediumsized businesses, including multi-site retailers, national and international manufacturers and suppliers and am currently the first retailer Chairman of the Giftware Association. For more information, visit www.henridavis.co.uk.

Every trade show you go to, industry magazine you pick up or website you read will tell you what is on trend but as retailers and suppliers our role is to decide which trends are relevant to our customers and how we can tap in to this to maximize the opportunity it presents for us to grow our businesses by satisfying our customers’ needs.

Many trade shows have displays set up to highlight products being exhibited at the show that are good examples of the emerging trends, others host seminars by relevant experts who will talk through the trends for the sector but not necessarily relate it to any products at the show; some do both.

There are two stationery focused shows I attend each year Paperworld in Frankfurt and the Stationery Show in London. A major draw at Paperworld is the Trend Area which is renown because it is well curated, and the printed material produced to support it is invaluable.

This year they identified three trends, the first called work and challenge, which they define as ‘an office trend which develops a relaxed atmosphere in which high tech and comfort are not mutually exclusive.’ The second is minimal and excellent, which they describe as ‘high-tech and craftsmanship combine to create a high quality, ultra-modern look.

The third is spirit and ambition which incorporates ‘a positive and very contemporary interpretation of current opportunities and future perspectives’.

For many of our customers these themes will feel extreme, the clever bit is how we use what we know about our shoppers to select products we know they will want to buy. For many of us, as retail buyers, we will need to bring our product selection back to a level that works for our customers. It may even mean we wait a while until these ideas become more ‘normal’.

For many retailers to stock products which reflect the latest colour palette or imagery may be too new for their customers and it may be that their customers need to see it around them for a season before they feel sufficiently familiar with the style to be comfortable enough with it to bring it into their home so understanding trends and finding ‘on trend’ products only becomes useful if you know who your customers are and that they will appreciate the relevance of a particular trend.

This acceptance of colour and imagery applies to stationery too, but the balance between being on trend and functionality is important for stationery users, the product must work not just look nice.

The British Retail Consortium figures for March show that overall retail spending was down -6 per cent in March. So with consumers spending less this emphasises further the importance of functionality, there is little room for gratuitous products that are being bought for the sake of it, but that doesn’t mean it has to be dull.

BUSY B are a well-known stationery brand renowned for creating innovative products that help us organise all aspects of our lives. They are always well thought through with great extra details and they look great too. A good example is their Perfect Planner Diary launched in 2017, it is week to view and has a notes section each week, it includes lots of features like faux leather cover, pen loop, storage pockets, stickers, extra notepad and perforated lists.

The uncertainty around Brexit, increasing inflation reducing disposable incomes and potential job insecurity are all fuelling the need for people to keep in touch, making sure they remember special occasions and generally stay connected and this is good news for those businesses offering social stationery, be they on the high street or on-line.

This type of communication is very personal and to make the recipient feel even more special the products are often made using lovely materials with extra details. At Spring Fair, I saw a perfect example of this from Dotty about Paper who were offering some lovely bags of invitations, presented in these organza bags makes them special and they were reasonably priced too.

Journaling continues to be very relevant for consumers this year and products linked to helping you to note down your thoughts, current goals, organisation and our use of time, all aimed at helping redress our work life balance. Retailer Kikki K has based the bulk of their product offer around this idea of life goals and organisation and there are many new ranges being offered by UK suppliers so that more retailers can offer these types of products.

Allsorted have an attractive range of journals from Eccolo, a growing American trend led stationery brand– inspired by Italian design - that seeks to rekindle the importance and pleasure of the handwritten word.

Another stationery format increasing in popularity are Bullet Journals, again, aimed at helping us to organise our lives tracking the past, keeping on top of the present and planning the future. Leuchtturrm bullet journals are the leader in this market and their sales are going from strength to strength.

Products that help you organise are certainly in big demand at the moment and Graphique offer the Franklin Covey system, it is an American system widely used as a management tool which has some useful features including daily, weekly and monthly planning pages as well as space for flexible scheduling, prioritising, important dates and notes, and monthly calendars for planning ahead.

In the 30 or so years I have worked in the stationery industry it has become more and more design-led and licensing popular designs from other industry sectors, particularly homewares and greetings cards, and this is still very evident in the stationery market this year. There is something for everyone on offer, including the stylized fun of I Love Birds from Artfile, the distinctive florals of the V and A offered by Museum and Galleries and the exotic Sara Miller range from Blueprint and Mini Moderns from Portico Designs all adding real breadth to the stationery ranges available for retailers to stock.

But it is not just licenses that are giving us great images for stationery we have fabulous on trend llamas from Mustard, to beautifully drawn wildlife and stunning florals from Laura Stoddart’s In Bloom range. While we are seeing some changes in emphasis in the stationery on offer now, humour, happiness and laughing still play an important part and the Wiffley Waffley range from Really Good will certainly brighten up many displays and have us laughing as we get tongue tied trying to say it.

In terms of finish, high shine glosses, metallics and glitters are very much in evidence and they will allow retailers to create some really strong displays that will WOW their customers. For the last few years new colours of foil have been used on greetings cards from bronzes through to rose gold and ice blues and, as often happens, these trends are now filtering through on to stationery. There are some stunning products being launched this year from a cross section of suppliers including Go Stationery Graphique and Helix! Metallic inks are being used in subtle and sophisticated ways too as shown in the Noir range from Otima, an experienced Brazilian manufacturing company which launched in the UK at the Stationery Show this year.

I have commented previously that there are strong links between the trends in greetings cards and stationery and this is a good example because for the last few years there have been a significant number of card ranges featuring calligraphy and hand lettering because the cards are featuring messages rather than images.

This design trend is very relevant on stationery too, both in terms of the graphics and messaging being used on products and the products being offered that are allowing consumers to write in these different styles. One of the main suppliers in to this sector is the UK Manuscript Pen Company who are launching their new Callicreative Switch Tips Range - a complete set offering a brush tip, a fineliner and two italic nibs that can be used in one single pen making it the perfect solution for creatives of all disciplines.

Because modern calligraphy continues to stay in vogue, Manuscript are adding an Oblique Calligraphy Set and a more comprehensive Modern Calligraphy Set to their Modern Calligraphy collection which are ideal for experts and beginners alike.

There is another important connection to make here; a lot of the journaling mentioned earlier relates to thoughtfulness; the creativity and skill of learning calligraphy encourages personal development, relaxation and ‘losing yourself’ so maybe for some modern calligraphy is taking over where colouring left off? There are some fabulous products on the market this year and plenty to get excited about.

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