Sunday, April 05, 2009

Trends

I started thinking about the pencil industry. Here’s a couple of things that popped into my head.

It seems to me that one of the members of the pack is making a bid for the leadership, challenging to be top dog. The Alpha Gel, the Kuru Toga, the Shift, NanoDia leads - Mitsubishi Pencil and their Uni brand seem to be on the move these days, releasing new designs with interesting and innovative ideas, really taking it to the competition.

I personally feel that Faber-Castell seem to be concentrating on woodcase pencils, but Staedtler are showing signs of mechanical life with some of the 925 series of pencils and some new products appearing on their international website.

Agree, disagree, see some trends yourself?

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree about Mitsubishi - but everything I get from them is mail order online - thats the biggest change for a luddite like me. Again if you refuse to use Paypal like me then trying to obtain a Staedtler 925 series seems nigh on impossible. Pentel Graph1000 Limited Editions are another great marketing tool. Staedtler Europe and Faber-Castell and even Pilot are only making half hearted attempts at keeping pace but I must say Zebra are at least creative if not always successful.

2 1/2p

Gunther said...

Yes, I also think that Mitsubishi really steps on it but I wonder why they have choosen Faber-Castell as their distributor in Germany - in view of this I don't expect any of their graphite-related items to appear on the German market (which is a pity).

Schwan-STABILO is also very busy and I hope that their new products will be successful.

Besides that, I am very happy to see that STAEDTLER Germany has introduced quite a few very interesting mechanical pencils.

Anonymous said...

I never thought about the totality of their efforts, but you're right, if you consider all the many and varied high quality releases from Mitsubishi in the past several years (that is quite a list of excellent kit you've put together Dave) and add that to existing products like their absolutely outstanding lines of woodclinched pencils, it is hard to argue with your contention that Mitsu is making a serious bid to become alpha dog at least within the downscale segments of the market (the Count says he will see Mitsubishi's Fiftieth Anniversary Limited Edition Uni Pencil Holder and raise with F-C's diamond-encrusted precious metal Perfect Pencil, and this is just the first oddment Von Faber finds in his pocket).

My first thought is that Mitsubishi has not achieved anywhere near F-C's market penetration in the U.S., but even in the hinterlands where I live you can find Uni-Ball gel pens at Walmart with nary a F-C product in sight. If the Kuru Toga is released over here under the Sanford name, chances are good it will wind up in the stationery aisle at WalMart. Just down the road at the office big-box there is a limited overpriced selection of F-C artist materials and a vast assortment of overpriced Uni-Ball pens. So it would appear at brick and mortar retail the balance of share is shifting Mitsubishi's way. Where my first thought is perhaps not wrong is in the availability of Mitsu's premium woodcased pencils. These hardly have an online presence over here (there is JetPens in California, the only online seller in America I am aware of, and Bundoki in Japan), let alone brick and mortar retail, whilst the entire range of F-C 9000 pencils is available for inspection and immediate purchase if I wish to do a little driving. Over here, F-C's online presence in the artist supplies and luxury goods categories is extensive and I would wager they are well represented in well-to-do boutique brick and mortar venues as well.

Barrel Of A Pencil

Anonymous said...

By the way my comments above are related to the Australian market and this is a bigger issue down here than what pencil makers are producing - that is how to get hold of this product - why make it if no-one can buy it. Gunthers comments about Staedtler Germany are interesting but thats the frustration - lack of REAL availability. Barrels comments about Faber-Castell are interesting - they operate it seems on exclusivity arrangements here - selling in art shops etc, but they are more concerned with their image than giving customers real access to their product. Sorry if I have strayed off topic but The bee in my bonnet is staring to sting.

2 1/2p

Anonymous said...

Hey 2 1/2p, I absolutely respect your decision not to use PayPal, it took me nearly a decade to sign up myself, but I have noticed that with the liberal application of Bundoki (possible here in the U.S. only through PP unless you're wealthy), the swelling neath my bonnet has gone down. Have you ever surfed their site, they have great stuff ?! With you being in Australia the shipping would be more than reasonable. I'm not trying to be pushy, and I have no stake in Bundoki except as a satisfied customer, but when you get the yen for something virtually outside of commerce you'd be amazed how often it is available there.

Barrel Of A Pencil

Anonymous said...

You're right on my trail here Barrel - I am always looking in longing at Bundoki.com and I'm hoping against hope that they set up a merchant account so I can use Credit Card. I guess I've read too much negative comment with Paypal which I will have to overcome before signing up. By the way it seems Japanese people have the same difficulty as us in reverse with European products - Faber-Castell and Lamy is horrendously expensive at Bundoki. But those Staedtler 925's - I don't know how much longer I can hold out.

2 1/2p

kiwi-d said...

Some iteresting thoughts here. In particular though I'll pick up on Gunthers mention of Stabilo. Seemingly long dormant in the MP segment they do appear to be trying to get back some market share, albeit mostly with ordinary me-too sort of products. The 'stupidhorriblename pencil is an obvious exception though.

kiwi-d said...

Forgot to mention Zebra. Certainly worth a mention as pointed out by 2 1/2P.

Gunther said...

Regarding the "me-too" appeal of one or the other STABILO product: Their "EASYgraph" looks like a copy of the LYRA GROOVE but the design patent for the EASYgraph was granted in Oct. 2006 so I would consider the EASYgraph to be the first pencil with cut-outs (but I am not an expert in patent law).

Anonymous said...

Dave, I have sampled the NanoDia leads 'HB' (I think) which came with a Uni Shift 0.3 - it has a nice smooth feel similar to AIN but I believe its main claim to fame according to the packaging is it is a low wear lead embedded with Nano diamonds. This Nano technology may be/could be the next big thing in the industry. Again it just shows that Japanese pencil manufacturers are willing to be bold and tread where no pencil has gone before.

2 1/2p