05 March 2012

City Organiser Under the Spotlight

Today we look behind the scenes at City Organiser. Our friend Andy Morse at City Organiser agreed to go under the Philofaxy spotlight and answer some questions. 

1. Which model of Filofax has been the most popular model/size in say the last 1-2 years?

If you ignore the individual colour variations then we’ve sold Finsburys the most (boring) with Maldens, Metropols and since the price reduction Finchleys. At the top end we’ve done well with the Osterleys and most of the croc print variations while the Enigma was, is and always will be something of an enigma (though not as catastrophic as the Swarwovski or the pocket zip-around hard clamshell special edition they brought out around five years ago – I’ve erased its name from my memory but I am sure a Philofaxy friend will remember; we ordered two of those and eventually gave the last one away in a competition to a man who said he was going to use it as an ashtray.



2. What size of Filofax is the most popular in the range?


Still Personal but closely followed by Pocket and A5 these days. Very little A4 and increasingly fewer Minis (or organisers for people with no friends as we call them). Deskfax diary sales are still quite strong and we have one packet of M2 inserts that I shall probably put away in the archive (ha ha – if only).

The M2 is an awkward subject for us as we know that Filofax brought it out to complement (i.e. steal) a piece of the Mulberry mini market (as they had successfully done a few years earlier with their Mini organisers); we sold Mulberry lines at the time and managed to get some ‘inside info’ from Mulberry that they had big plans for that size and we’re going to run a big, impressive PR campaign in support. We passed this information on to our Filofax friends only to find out subsequently that Mulberry had decided to change the ring mechanism, got cold feet and then ditched the product completely in true fashionista style. So there was no market to steal and the M2 was doomed before it launched!


3. I see you have been in business since 1987, how do today's customers compare to those of 25 years ago?


Most of our customers these days we only meet in cyberspace or at the end of a phone (and vice versa) but they’re younger, more feminine and in the shop we have many more sales where the customer spends their whole time on the mobile phone arranging their social life or babysitter problems while we try to interpret their semaphore gesticulations and hold their coffee for them.

All the traditional users of the Filofax when we started (military, church, teacher, film-maker) have fallen away as their specialist inserts have disappeared; we miss the heady days of the Target Grouping Range Card insert and the Lens Angles 16mm/35mm & Super 16mm Data laminated insert card. On the plus side, our customers have always had money to spend; a recession in the City is not people with less money it’s just less people with money. The customers in Bow Lane are either in a desperate hurry, squeezing everything into a lunch hour, or relaxed because they’re ‘away from their desk’ wandering around the City doing a bit of shopping – those are the most enjoyable parts of the day because you can have a chat and really try to give the kind of service that is helpful and informative.

I think there’s been a huge shift in the relationship between the customer and the retailer – the customer used to be nervous of the retailer but now the retailers are nervous of the customers – are they happy? what are they going to tell their 20,000 followers? how much of a discount are they going to ask for? when are they going to bring the item back? Generally, I think it’s a change for the better. I think good shops and bad shops are easier to spot – we decided last year to use our Amazon rating as our major reference because our customers are nowadays much more likely to trust another customers experience than any claims we make for ourselves!


4. What changes have you seen in that time?

The disappearance of cash (boo) and cheques (hurrah).

The increased importance of brands and their identity. We generally don’t take a risk on me-too products any more unless they are really offering something different.

The inexorable increase in costs (rent is up five times from the 80s and our annual rates bill is up almost ten times and to top it all we have to pay over £1 to get a bag of rubbish collected! grrr).

We are now surrounded by coffee shops and mobile phone shops – but can’t get a good signal.

We never see a policeman or an H&S Inspector or a VAT Inspector – we do get the occasional friendly visit from Trading Standards Authority and the man from the Performing Right Society hasn’t come and stood in the shop to make a note of the music that we play since Yaz was at number one!

Quality control has been passed by the suppliers to the retailer. You can barely make a carriage free order from a supplier for less than £400. We don’t see reps or get much interaction with most of our suppliers (Filofax are an honourable exception). We’re supposed to be living in more environmentally conscious times but some of the packaging waste on our major brands is getting more excessive to the point of criminality; look at the new Montblanc refill packaging and weep!

More positively, I would say that everyone is generally a bit friendlier when dealing face to face; there’s less of a class system in the City than there used to be and there’s more respect for some of the less-paid workers in honourable professions like retail ha ha!

People appreciate humour more – it’s needed more than ever to balance the madness.

We’ve had boom periods and more than our fair share of close-to-bust moments (thankfully not recently). I actually prefer trading in a recession as everyone’s expectations are more realistic and there’s generally a better and more supportive relationship between supplier and retailer; to balance some of my earlier Montblanc criticism I would say that their UK management has always been very supportive (not reducing terms when our business was reduced) and we consider ourselves to be in a proper mutually-beneficial partnership with Filofax and very lucky to have Lisa, Simon and Carole from the company as our friends and business colleagues.



5. Twenty five years in any industry is a long time, how do you keep yourself motivated?

Personally, and apart from the Bob Cratchett requirement to make enough money to provide some kind of a Christmas for my wife and three boys, I would say that I have an obsession for trying to find best solutions – the shop atmosphere that will make my staff and the customers comfortable, the products that will get them excited, the correct balance between investment and profit – when there is one. Retail is addictive because it’s a world of continuous and instant feedback – every sale feels like some sort of accreditation, each unsold item like a child of yours that nobody likes. There are weekly results, monthly patterns and there’s the cycle of the retail year…

January – Too busy to think about anything than selling everything we can to turn stock into money and back into the ‘right’ stock.

February – Trade shows mmm. We have the last shopping rush of the season in Valentine’s Day and then we’re scratching around for new lines and ideas to try and prise money out of fatigued customers.

March – Most of the bills have been paid from Xmas (VAT etc) – bank account and energy levels at a verrry low ebb. Start watching ‘The Only Way Is Essex’ and thinking about dusting off that old film script.

April – Enviously eyeing up the queues at the chocolate shops. New organisers dribble in from Filofax when we really need a big Spring promotion.

May – Is the air-conditioning going to survive the summer? Too many Bank Holidays draining away all the sales momentum. New autumn lines from Paul Smith & Vivienne Westwood – eek!

June – Most of the new organisers in now from Filofax – all the colour needs good weather to feel right. Stifling heat or persistent rain – retailers hate any extreme of weather; we love non-descript mild and cloudy days.

July – Closer to Xmas than not for the first time in the year – hope springs eternal. Start updating the Filofax diaries in the binders.

August – Seen most of the product ideas for Xmas – beginning to place some large orders. Extended credit order from Filofax (buy now, pay December). Seeds of hope beginning to sprout.

September – Bank Holiday generally wipes out the first week. Online action begins to hot up. Can we match Amazon prices? Normally some stock surprises from Filofax. Everyone back from their holidays. Pace of life increasing.

October – Last minute gambles on some fun gifts. Suppliers beginning to offer deals on unsold stock. Nervous laughter in our stock room as the boxes come in.

November – The most difficult month of the year; either the calm before the storm or the calm before the calm – whatever it’s quiet, too quiet. Normally we drag out our best online discount code to try and pull some Xmas spending forward and reduce the stock concerns.

December – Every day feels like a week, but every week rushes past in a blink. Generally we get a sense early in the month what the final result will be. Please God no snow! Then suddenly everyone is in the shop, everyone is on the phone, blink and there’s another ten or twenty orders. Madness. Crowds. Alcohol fuelled purchases. Goodwill to all men. Peace on earth. Who are these strangers? Ah yes, my family. Sleep Christmas Day. Enjoy Boxing Day and then back to work. Still crowds but slightly less goodwill…

The reality is that despite all the repetition from year to year you never quite end up where you were and lessons learned and technique sharpened can often be irrelevant or actually backfire on you; but the process itself can be wonderfully enjoyable and stimulating. As a small business owner I’ve found myself having to learn and understand a huge amount in a wide variety of areas and the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve shared are hugely stimulating and rewarding. Every day is different and the memory of working in environments where every day was the same still spurs me on some 25 years later!



6. Tell us about 5 unusual facts about City Organiser we might not know already.
  1. We sold (very) up-market sex toys for five years in the 1990s! It turned out that we were more desperate than our customers and so we removed the batteries and settled back into more conventional lines. I don’t miss it but I used to get a vicarious pleasure from going to the trade shows and having earnest conversations about revs per minute etc etc…
  2. One year our Filofax rep thought we would sell the unused diaries they had given us to update the binders (strictly forbidden for some unknown reason!) so he surprised us with an unexpected visit and spent the day cutting up the diaries with a dodgy pair of scissors. We didn’t offer him tea.
  3. When the Filofax shop first opened in Conduit St we were invited to a special opening event at which the MD of the time opened the ultra-expensive ‘animal-skins’ Filofax cabinet to show us what had been made from poor snakes, crocodiles, ostriches and the like. Our tour went on, the cabinet was left unlocked and all the binders were nicked!
  4. In the early years of the shop and before emails we had a visit from a Nigerian Bishop who asked whether he could leave a substantial sum of money ‘behind the counter’ as a line of credit against future purchases. We agreed. We never saw him again and to this day we have no idea whether he was genuine, whether he died or will still come back one day.
  5. We have one of the limited edition (200 or 500) Filofaxes made from reindeer skins recovered from the two hundred year old wreck of a Danish trading ship and sold in 1988 in support of the RNLI. It’s in a safety deposit box in a bank. Not because it’s especially valuable but because I can be pretty disorganised!
 

7. Where do you see Filofax in say 5-10 years’ time...

I think we’re seeing the beginnings of a major split in the Filofax offering – based on the declining sales of the current inserts. There will still be traditional ring mechanism organisers but a larger range of more traditional notebook covers and all the fills may be as basic as different colours of ruled notepaper (diaries, address sheets and everything else as an optional extra); I think they’d like to invade some of the Moleskine territory but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them fall out of bed with W H Smiths. They have the same ‘brand’ challenge as a pen company like Parker, trying to generate mass market sales while still retaining their aspirational identity. It’s a very difficult trick to pull off and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them split into different brand identities.

I think Filofax will continue with their move towards the fashion industry with smaller runs geared towards the two fashion seasons (Spring & Autumn) and more of the manufacturing will come out of the UK. I think will buy a second and larger pen company, give up on the briefcases and men generally, continue to flirt with the electronic market, have a few more stabs at the yoof market and generally move towards the arty community and away from the office.

I think the current management is more minded towards innovation and there could be some ‘out-of-the-blue’ products sooner rather than later (nudge, nudge etc). I hope they’re will be some grand follies (I still remember with affection the £99 hole puncher) but that we don’t stock too many!


8. What pens prove the most popular with Filofax users?

We’re still looking – any suggestions welcome! Twenty five years ago it really had to be a Cross but the fit was so tight that the cap of the pen used to come off as you tried to prise it out of the loop. With the elasticated loops (and we’re told that all the organisers are going to have these) there’s a lot more choice and my personal favourite would be a Lamy twin or tri pen (metal not plastic). We hoped for years that Montblanc would bring out a range that was compatible but when they did (the mini or Mozart) it was too small for most people to hold comfortably. We’re always surprised by how many of the Filofax own-brand pens we sell and it’s a shame that there aren’t more inserts suitable for fountain pen writing. Pen technology may eventually give us a good flat pen that will stand a bit of bending but we’re not holding our breath!

 The Times Friday 10 June 1988

Thank you Andy a great insight and also very amusing... never a dull moment!

Before we finished Andy asked me to remind you all of the discount code that runs until the end of April which is andy15  which will get you 15% of your order, put the promo code in at the check out when you visit the City Organiser website.

41 comments:

  1. Fascinating, thanks!!

    "With the elasticated loops (and we’re told that all the organisers are going to have these) there’s a lot more choice..."

    I wonder if this means, just elastic, or with that clever elasticated section, like the Kendal has?

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    1. Hi Shanananana (and now my brain is trying to work out the song reference and my reply at the same time). My understanding is that in the short term it's going to be that 'clever elasticated section' solution but, as that's a relatively complicated manufacturing process, the long term may revert to one piece of elastic material. Best wishes, Andy.

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    2. Lol reference is to Guns N'Roses "Welcome to the Jungle"...

      Thanks for the reply!

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    3. I'd love to see this in all binders. Some of us use proper-sized pens!

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  2. Really interesting! Will try and visit when i next venture up to central ;)

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  3. Awesome post! Very original to interview a seller instead of a customer. I really enjoyed reading that post and learning about CO. Thanks!

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  4. Brilliant post. Thank you.

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  5. Interesting thoughts about the future of Filofax. I guess the fashion/bright colours/feminine side of the market makes commercial sense to pursue, as does the cover-for-regular-notepads (I assume he's talking about Flex here?).

    I'm not sure about trying to take Moleskine's market will yield much results directly though - isn't one of Moleskine's USPs their high quality paper, which Filofax inserts aren't really renowned for? Anyone know if the paper in the Flex notepads are Moleskine quality?

    I think Filofax may be missing a fairly big trick though in giving up the male market (if that is what they are doing). They're never going to regain the 'executive toy' status that they had in the 1980s, but I get the impression that amongst us geeks generally there are quite a few who like to adopt time management systems (GTD, Covey, GSD, etc) using a pen-and-paper solution, and a loose-leaf binder is much more flexible than a bound pad like Moleskine.

    Perhaps they should look at licensing deals with David Allen Co or Franklin Covey or the like?

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    1. Daniel - I think they would need to go further than Moleskin on the paper stakes. Most moleskins won't take a fountain pen which is a pain and there are a lot of other really lovely note pad options - see here:http://tiny.cc/vfm2i

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    2. Daniel, I agree that Filofax may be missing a trick with regard to a possible abandonment of the male customer, in favour of the undoubtably profitable "fashion accessory" lines. Personally, after many years of filofax use, I feel embarrassed to be seen carrying what is generally being perceived as a female item, and so my collection of binders stays at home, and I have become very much a Moleskine user about town, but with a difference. My pocket Moleskine has the spine replaced with the pocket sized Filofax mechanism, and is filled with a combination of the ubiquitous 72gsm Moleskine paper if you don't use a fountain pen), fountain pen friendly "Optik" paper (if you do), and a couple of clear plastic Filofax wallets to hold a note pad and loose items.
      Just google "filofax moleskine hack" and let me know what you think.

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    3. Hi Daniel, Alison & Neil
      I agree with you and it is possible that Filofax are throwing up a smokescreen in seeming to be so ambivalent about their male market. Sometimes when manufacturers do this it's to disguise the upcoming launch of the product that they are hoping will break open a lost market.
      We know there was a new 'concept' originally planned for a 2012 launch which has been delayed by unexpected focus group results. As I understand it the focus group weren't negative about the product but suggested strongly that the 'contents' were mis-targeted. Since I gave Steve my Philofaxy thoughts my feeling is that this new concept is both a pocket product and ring mechanism based...

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  6. I really enjoyed reading this and Andy sounds like great fun to chat to. I've bought several things from them as their customer service is superb. Also some interesting insights about where things are going with FF and the history.

    I hope they don't give up on their better inserts (particularly their A5 time management ones) as I love them. I was at a training conference/networking event on Friday and several people talked about time management and how to get a grip in it. I told them about my current system and they were very keen and interested. Now, I know that because FF have sold out of these inserts, they can no longer buy them - so they have missed a trick there! I just wonder if FF aren't doing enough to market some of the benefits of FF because I'm meeting a lot of people who are mightily interested (smaller business owners) when I talk about them.

    Also interesting points about the pens. I am currently running a black A5 amazona (which I love). I can get my black Mont Blanc Meisterstuck 146 ball point in one of the loops but not the other which is annoying. I can also get my Waterman fountain pen in one loop. I would welcome elasticated loops - even if they were totally elasticated!

    It would be fun if FF decided to hold some sort of focus group meeting where we could contribute our thoughts because I feel we have a lot of great ideas they could use.

    Anyway - brilliant post Andy and Steve - I'm sure with City Organiser's great customer service it will be here for a long time to come!

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    1. Alison - as an aside, I spotted some Filofax A5 TM inserts in Staples the other week, so it's definitely still worth looking for them

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  7. PS - I also have the Mont Blanc Mozart range that Andy is talking about. I love using mine and they are brilliant in the pocket size. However the loops on all the larger binders (at least the ones I have) are too large and I am frightened they will fall out. I have other pens (the Lamy Safari and All Stars are too big for the loops) and my precious ones are only carried in their own leather pen cases - I wouldn't dream of putting them anywhere near a binder loop! I mostly use my A5 binder at home as that is where I work so this is not a great problem to me. If I want to take my binder out I take a lesser value pen to use.

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  8. Great post - thank you Andy. I was a regular at Bow Lane and also Canary Wharf (now gone) when I lived in London (until 2004), and CO's customer service is brilliant - highly recommended.

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  9. A very detailed post, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading...... but..... the Finsburys.... boring....???? I beg to differ.I love all 3 of mine. Raspberry, aqua and black. They are in a price range which is affordable,not all of us earn huge bucks,the A5 design works with it's big rings and a large zipper pocket and even the black one, which I use a lot is practical.... looks professional and takes a lot of wear and tear with daily use. I don't have to be precious about its care. I would like a purple A5 Malden when it comes out, but don't think I'll be buying it at City Organiser if I am one of those BORING Finsbury type customers.

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    1. Hi Butanben
      Before we never talk again I should make clear that we don't think the Finsbury itself is boring - a retailer would never say that about anything that is so popular (personally I have used a couple!). I meant 'boring' in the sense that it is every retailers top seller (and Filofax's too) so the fact that it is our top seller too is not very interesting! But don't get me started on the Bond, Aston or the Classic...

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    2. Ahhhh, thanks for clearing that one up Andy!!! I am sighing with relief here. It is clearly a predictable product to sell, which is actually an endorsement of it. Glad you have used a few Finsburys yourself too. I am not surprised that they sell well, as they are just so hard wearing and functional.I am terribly fond of mine. I bet that the purple A5 Malden will be top of the best sellers when it comes out too. .... at one of the next Philofaxy London Meet ups..... a purple Malden chez City Organiser is now going to the TOP of my shopping list after all.... Now have to get that job of my dreams and save on up. I really do look forward to meeting you in person and to seeing inside the shop. What a lovely address it has, Bow Lane. I'll need to look up the history behind the street name. Feel as if I should know that fact already..... as in the Bow bells maybe.So I'll go Google.Sending warmest wishes to all at City Organiser.

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  10. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post, and I have to say I have ordered from CO many times over the years and the service has always been impeccable.

    I do want to know, though ... do you still have the Nigerian Bishop's money and what are you going to do with it if he never comes back?!

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    1. Hi Babs
      We took an executive decision about ten years ago and gave half to UNICEF and the other half towards a Xmas party. We thought this would inevitably trigger his immediate return to the shop but he's never returned. We did try to Google him at the time but nothing came up and although I can just about picture him my visual interpretation has mutated into a version of Desmond Tutu (sadly not well). If Desmond came into the shop then we would probably feel impelled to fall to our knees, beg forgiveness and open our wallets.

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  11. Thanks for this fascinating and entertaining insight behind the scenes of your business! I especially liked the year timeline, very interesting what goes on and when.

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  12. Lets hope the Filofax strategy is more consistent, in that by attempting to attract discerning customers from the quality end of the market they would focus on both quality leather and quality paper.

    Filofax don’t have decent briefcases and I find it hard to source good briefcases at reasonable prices, as for mens Filofaxes just where are the dark blue, British racing green and dark claret organisers in A5 and A4 that look professional and would match the boardroom (ie no zips!)? Has Filofax not already given up on men, and with the time inserts….left many professional people in the lurch.

    After seeing a Jeff Banks organiser on ebay and seeing that such things are sold, together with many other brands, at Debenhams I will be paying them a visit soon and checking their quality. Perhaps they will at least use thick leather without plasticky coatings.

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    1. I'm female and dress quite girly, but also hate the flowers, butterflies, pixies, whatever theme on the newer Faxes - I don't think they make a business-like statement or a good impression, no matter who you are. I'd love more navy & racing green binders, far more professional looking IMO.

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    2. Debenhams are knocking out the Jeff Banks leather organiser sets for £7.50 at the moment, Scoot. Maybe they're dropping the line.

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  13. Wow! What a history you've had with your shop.

    Regarding 6.1, in the States shops that sell "special" toys have a private room that is curtained off for adults only. Please tell me you had those things in a proper case with fancy lighting! Bwah ha ha!

    *Picturing the Temperley line next to, ahem, well, you know...*

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    1. Hi Sandra, our 6.1 products (as I shall always think of them from now on) were very tastefully sold from a cabinet; we couldn't have them on open display as the shock of a customer picking up one and inadvertantly switching it on might have caused heart murmurs and expensive legal action.
      Our display was so tasteful that it led a few customers to ask what they were, normally at the busiest time of the day and in a very loud voice. We didn't offer demonstrations and gently turned down the customer who bought one and then tried to return it as it had turned out not to be suitable for their 'needs'...

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  14. Hi there,
    as a regular lurker on this great blog/site I just wanted to recommend Parker Jotter ballpoint or Caran d'Ache Ecridor fp/bp which work great in the loops of my pocket Cavendish and Malden.

    Oh, and as an introduction I use: pocket Malden as brain central command, slimline Cuban as work planner and mini Malden as master plastic card holder. And will introduce the Singaporean made GrandLuxe A5 binder (FF compatible) for private projects. Have a vintage personal Winchester on the way which will become my Commonplace Book.


    All the best to you all /M

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  15. I loved the Mulberry story! Thank you for sharing!

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  16. Andy, thanks so much for this interview/post. I had to laugh out loud several times...!
    So, what Filofax are YOU using yourself? The ochre one in the picture?

    Also, loved that newspaper clip: if their theory is right, I'm a large, fat, yet unstuffed woman. Kinda hard to believe if you know I'm only 1.61 m ... (and using an A5 Adelphi). LOL!

    Pity, I won't be at the next meetup, cos I would've loved to meet you IRL. I hope you'll be there again in one of the future meetups aswell ...!

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    1. Hi Jotje
      I still use the Filofax in the picture but only at home for thoughts, jottings and incedentals. It was something I picked up on a visit to Filofax in 1988. I chose it because it was such an odd colour; it might have even been a substandard manufacturing return because I've never seen the colour again. It has the internal pockets of the classic Winchester except that it doesn’t have the internal window pocket.
      As for the Times article, I was far too well brought up to ever mention anyone's size in those terms so I think that my comment that Filofaxes tended to resemble their owners may have been expanded into something more eye-catching by Joe Joseph - the sort of creative journalism that probably has given him a long career in Murdochland...
      Best wishes, Andy

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  17. Thanks for a great post, Andy! That's a great looking (Winchester?) Filofax you use, and the gold embossing looks great. It's also really interesting to see the old catalogues. Thanks again.

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  18. Great post Andy, and my congratulations on your survival over many years.
    But why don't you have a word with those nice Filofax people and suggest the following:
    1. Decent leather - none of this stuff that's really thin and bonded to a man made substrate. It's a bit like laminate flooring - you think it looks impressive but deep down you would have preferred the real thing.
    2. Decent paper that is at least 90gsm, so that all your posh customers can use their posh fountain pens. Skimping on the paper quality to marginally increase profits, and it probably is very marginal because I can buy a 200 page fountain friendly A5 pad in Costco right now for just £1.10, is like a burger van vendor using cheap coffee to save an extra penny on a 70p cup and not realising that he's alienating half his potential customer base. It's just plain daft when you look at the profile of the average Filofax customer and consider how many of us are printing and punching their own templates. If you had fountian frinedly personal sized paper, I'd buy it. But you don't so I make my own arrangements.
    3. Why oh why don't Filofax offer "print on demand" for not just their current templates, but all previous ones and all new designs added by customers too (to encourage customer participation, if you like). Your posher customers will lap it up, popping in for a coffee and their regular supplies of their favourite (possibly personalised) inserts while they fall in love with yet another binder. You could be quids in - get them to consider these 3 points, Andy.
    That is all.

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    1. Hi Neil
      I have a product meeting with Filofax towards the end of this month as a result of some suggestions that we made at the 2012 preview and that I had collated from customers and previous posts on these pages. Paper and leather quality is high on the agenda and I particularly agree with you on Point 3. I think it should be a free online resource with (as you say) historical designs and opportunites for everyone to post their own suggestions. Exactly this kind of interaction and innovation would stimulate the whole insert side of the business and relieve Filofax of what they obviously perceive as a burden of having too many insert SKUs.
      I'll let Philofaxy know how I get on at the meeting. If they don't satisfactorily cover Point 3 then maybe Philofaxy would consider extending their own range with a DIY Design Day...

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    2. Thanks for your reply, Andy. I'm really pleased to learn that leather quality is being discussed. Leather (and I mean real, amazing, tactile, gorgeous, supple, "last-a-lifetime" leather) is big business for american craftsmen supplying covers for Moleskine users, so I'm sure that there would be a demand from your loyal customer base, for upmarket binders. After all, if Alice Temperley can hit a 400 quid price point then I'm sure there would be room for a 200 quid binder made of the very best hide, perhaps with customisation options to add value (the owner's initials tooled into the leather, maybe?) I'd definitely buy at that price point if the quality was top notch. Food for thought, perhaps?
      With regards to point 3, just imagine the following scenario. Your customer either selects on-line, or choose in-house (over coffee), their preferred (that means fountain pen friendly) blank paper stock, which which is then printed in your shop using any of the Filofax templates which you would hold on disc, maybe even printing templates that are created by the likes of Ray and Steve, or even the customer themselves, and then do a custom fill of their new binder, which itself may be customised as previously outlined. And, of course, their 12 month diary inserts could start on any day of the year they like with print on demand facilities, so helping to even out the peaks and troughs of your yearly business cycle.
      Even car manufacturers now understand the value of adding an element of customisation to what is an otherwise production line product, and I just don't understand why Filofax, with the particular customer base they have, haven't realised this.
      If they don't wish to explore these posibilities, Andy, maybe you could do so yourself, with the undoubted position and ability you appear to have.
      Doesn't this sound like the sort of service that will have customers literally flocking to your store?
      It wouldn't be the first time that one person gave the Filofax brand some much needed impetus now would it?
      If you can get those nice people at Folofax to open their eyes, and this turns your operation into an earner, you can buy me a pint.
      Regards, Neil.

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    3. Andy, just an extra thought.
      When you have your meeting with Filofax, you can point out that many paper and notebook suppliers have actuaslly changed their paper in response to customer feedback, and that the ARC planners that are now being sold in the UK as a direct alternative to the Filofax system have also changed their inserts from 80gsm to 100gsm. And of course, once companies make the change to fountain friendly paper, they obviously aren't slow to use this as a selling point. Maybe Filofax could do the same thing, ie listen to their customers.

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  19. What a delightful post! Thank you so much!

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  20. Thank you for a wonderful post. It was fun an informative.

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  21. This is great! Seeing as I'm in the US, I won't be getting to City Organizer any time soon, but rest assured that WHEN I get to London, it will be one of my stops. I wish there were more Filofax retailers here and that they were more interested in meeting with and discussing the products with their customers. While there are retailers, they are few and far between and the sellers aren't necessarily users and so don't know the products all that well (in my experience). Sadly, Filofax US doesn't give much feedback on anything, in addition to new products not being available here in the US until well after (meaning several months in many cases) their launch in the UK.

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  22. I've just read though this fascinating and fun post - and all the comments - and Andy we must talk again soon :)!

    Dodo Pad has been producing Filofax compatible diary inserts for the past few years - initially A5, then Personal and, for 2012/13 mid year & 2013, an A4/US Letter compatible version (UNIVERSAL) will make its debut. Happily sales are going from strength to strength. One of the comments we consistently hear back (apart from our customers’ enjoyment of the Dodo Pad grid design and humour!) is how much the quality of our paper is appreciated.

    At 100gsm it is identical to that of our original desk diary that will soon celebrate its 50th anniversary (so we must be doing something right). We test the paper thoroughly every year with a variety of ink, fountain, ball point, roller ball and felt pens and even alcohol based marker pens to ensure no or minimal show through.

    Yes, it does mean a bulkier diary insert but you can always put just half the year’s pages in (which is what I do with my A5 Domino) to avoid that problem.

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