Platinum Pen Ltd InterviewI recently made contact with Mr Osamu Fukuoka, International Marketing Manager of Platinum Pen Company of Japan, and he agreed to answer a few questions about Platinum and their products.
Dave - Platinum Pen aren’t particularly well known outside of Asia so some readers of this blog won’t be too familiar with your company. To start with, could you tell us a little about Platinum’s history?
Osamu - Platinum Pen Co was established in 1919 as manufacturer of fountain pen. During 1930’s, Platinum started manufacturing Maki-e fountain pen. Maki-e is the Japanese traditional hand crafting. Also Platinum is the first company to adopt the fountain pen cartridge system. Mechanical pencils were added to range in 1935, multi-pens in 1978.
Dave - And what about Platinum today?
Osamu - Platinum main office is in Tokyo, Japan, and we have two factories in Japan. We also have the factory in Shanghai (China), Shenzhen (China), Taiwan and Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam).
Japan’s factory is making the middle-high end writing instruments; other factories (China, Taiwan, and Vietnam) are making the low writing instrument & OEM products. In Japan we have 250 persons, overseas factory staff total 400.
Dave – I note that compared to many writing instrument companies Platinum seem to have a large selection of multi pens. What is Platinum’s speciality, your strongest product group?
Osamu - Platinum’s main product is fountain pen and multi-function pen. We have good sales of multi function pen in Japan market. Best sale is 3 action multi pen - black & red ball pen with mechanical pencil. Market price JPY 1000 - 3000 model is good sales.
There are lots of multi pen company in Japan. Platinum supply the standard multi pen, also we’re supplying the wood body, leather body, sterling silver body, modern maki-e multi pen etc. We have many multi function pen types, so for that reason we think that we are the leading brand of multi pen in Japan market.
Dave - What sells more in Japan – technical drafting style pencils like the Pro-Use, or general writing style pencils like MOL-500 and A-Pen MAQ-1000?
Osamu - Pencils like Pro-Use MSD series are suitable for drafting, however these item are specialised, our sales of general everyday writing pencils are better sales than MSD series.
Our biggest selling model of pencil is MSIQ-200 series; they are using the soft silicon grip. Price is JPY200, reasonable price. This model is good selling mechanical pencil in Japan market.
Dave – Can you give us some data on the sales ratio of pencils by lead size?
Osamu - We don’t have many mechanical pencils, so our pencils are 90% 0.5mm. The pencil’s standard lead is 0.5mm in Japan market, most everyday writing pencil is 0.5mm. Other size 0.7mm and 0.9mm are not so popular in Japan. This is the same for fountain pen. For example, Japanese prefer fountain pen nib of Fine or Medium size. However European or American market prefer Medium or Broad nib.
Dave - Which countries are your primary market?
Osamu - Platinum’s biggest market is Japan. Our main export market is USA, Korea and Taiwan. USA and Korea’s main exporting products are fountain pen. In Taiwan main exporting items are fountain pen and middle class products. For our pencil sales, 90% is Japan market. USA, Korea & Taiwan are not big.
Dave – Do you have plans to try and expand sales in Europe, America, etc?
Osamu - Our next trying market should be Europe. We think that there is the custom to use the fountain pen in EU market, so we’re trying to expand sales in Europe market.
Platinum main products are fountain pen or multi function pen. Last 20 years main item is multifunction pen instead of fountain pen. We would like to export the multi function pen to overseas market. However in USA or Europe market they are not so popular. We’re thinking how to promote the multi function pen in overseas market. Also regarding the pencils, we’ll try to promote them for overseas market.
Dave – Thanks very much Osamu. I wish you luck with expanding the Platinum brand around the world.