As we approach Christmas, there is no denying that the internet makes it far easier to shop for the pens, ink and stationery we all love. There are some great internet retailers. But as days tick by and guaranteed delivery dates pass maybe we can spare a thought for our local brick & mortar pen and stationery retailers and consider buying something local. I know this isn’t always possible, even I have to travel sixty miles to my ‘local’, but it can be worth it…
Good local pen shops are now a rarity, and the independents even rarer but some still exist, and for them this festive season is vital. Christmas sales can account for between a third and nearly two-thirds of a retailer’s annual turnover. A bad Christmas can mark disaster for a small business. Sadly, it really is a case of ‘use it or lose it’.
And there are plenty of reasons why it is worth going local for your pens, inks an paper. Well today I though we’d look at some of the best …
1. Your spending will boost the local economy: Research on spending by local authorities shows that for every £1 (or dollar) spent with a small or medium-sized business 63% stayed in the local economy, High streets populated with thriving independent businesses boost the prices of nearby homes. Some research by American Express found that house prices near a prosperous town centre have risen more over the past decade than other properties.
2. Relationships: Why not try to get to know your pen shop owner. I’ve written about this before but it strikes me that most of the pen retailers I know aren’t going to be millionaires very soon, local shop owners want to make money sure but also do what they do out of a passion. You have to respect that.
3. Good advice: If you get to know your pen retailer you’ll find they’re often a mine of useful information, they should, and most will only be too happy to recommend products to you.
4. They sell quirky, one-off gifts: Brick & mortar shops often items which are made locally and aren’t available elsewhere. When it comes to those difficult to buy gifts, quirky one-off items are a major plus. Local shops also might stock items that an online seller won’t, he may specialise in vintage pens, inkwells or other paraphernalia, so you might be buying products absolutely unique to you.
5. You can help build communities: The great thing about the fountain pen community is that it is full of helpful enthusiasts. But we need more. I know it’s easy to connect with good folk online and there is much help to be gained from the virtual world. But there’s also a joy to be had in rubbing shoulders with other pen enthusiasts. If the businesses are not supported, the local enthusiasts tend to disappear too.
6. You might get a better deal: I know this isn’t always true merely in monetary terms, online retailer sometimes have an undefeatable edge here. But local retailers can use their discretion to reward regular customers, and it can mean you get discounts on the items you actually want to buy, rather than being tempted by other things.
7. You can try before you buy: Internet retailers often have the advantage of economies of scale and reduced overheads and can afford to cut prices and offer reduced costs. However, it’s easy to waste money on products you end up not actually liking. You can hardly pick a pen off the internet and do a quick test. At the very least when you visit your local pen emporium it’s easy to ask to sample a product. Try a pen, or nib, to see how they feel, or look at a swatch of ink in the daylight.