03 December 2012

Filofax/Philofaxy Meeting - 26 November 2012 - Meeting Notes

You might recall a few weeks ago, I announced that I would be attending a meeting with Filofax UK at their London store. Unfortunately David couldn't attend the meeting due to pressing business commitments, but I was joined in London by Anita and Tracy.

Following that announcement I was contacted by quite a few of our readers, expressing their views etc. Kate TPS, created a summary document of all of your comments that were posted on the blog over a three week period... not a simple task, so thank you to Kate for taking the time to do that.

Here are the notes of the meeting, please feel free to ask any questions in the comments and I will do my best to answer them.

FILOFAX AND PHILOFAXY MEETING  Monday 26th November 2012 at 14:00 held at Filofax Pen & Paper, Conduit Street, London

SG  Head of Marketing Services
JL  NPD Director
LK  Marketing Executive

Steve Morton (SM)  Philofaxy Contributor and blogger
Anita Lim (AL)  Philofaxy Contributor and blogger
Tracey Lannigan (TL)  Blogger ‘Rapunzel’s World’

  • SM gave an update on Philofaxy.com background.
    Worth noting the blog platform works on US time zones so content and comments from the UK will not go live instantly.  The website traffic shows clear trends throughout the year and benefits from organic optimisation through linking and sharing content from other bloggers.  Philofaxy has grown into a search engine of sorts that allows bloggers to find content quickly.  The blog has a small amount of advertising and any commission after overhead costs goes to the charity Chimwemwe in Malawi.

Philofaxy Community
  • SM gave an insight into the Philofaxy social community where they regularly have face to face meet ups in different cities around the world where the network has been established through the site (London, New York, Chicago, and Rotterdam).   Bloggers and Filofax enthusiasts can exchange and review each other’s products over lunch and store visit (e.g. Filofax Pen & Paper or City Organiser).  SM has set up Skype where they can talk remotely and spends his time devising ways to serve the Philofaxy community better.  They are keen to think of new ideas for paper inserts.  SM has already designed and prints inserts.

  • SM outlined his idea for user convention and due to the amount of planning involved it would be 2014.   He hoped Filofax would be able to participate – SG/JL felt sure that this would be possible and they should discuss further when SM’s plans are more established.

Open question session with SG and JL
  • Q: TL asked the question, ‘What went wrong with Slam PR?’ 
  • A: SG explained the findings from recent research which set out to profile current Filofax users and identify new, target consumers.  Filofax users are predominantly female (75%), well educated and affluent, and use is primarily personal rather than business.  They are interested in the functionality as well as the aesthetics of a Filofax organiser – the product helps them feel in control and organised.    The survey found that the most likely new consumer is female and motivated to buy more for emotional reasons – ie because something looks good.   They have a need and desire to use paper but the aesthetics are highly important – they are impulsive shoppers.   The Alice Temperley partnership was one strategy in the overall communications plan to target these new consumers.  The partnership was highly visible due to the huge success of the media campaign.  The strategy to align the brand with a British fashion designer was to appeal to these new consumers.   Slam PR has been very successful in answering the brief on this project.
  • SG noted the confusion amongst the Philofaxy community following the interview carried out by the MD of Slam PR.  This was a promotional opportunity for the agency with a trade newswire and was not intended to be a consumer facing interview.   The interview focused specifically on the fashion/Temperley strategy rather than the holistic PR strategy.  SG and JL reiterated that Filofax is not a fashion brand.
  • SG explained the Temperley partnership was coming to a natural end.  Slam PR were appointed to fulfil a specific brief for which they are specialists in their field.  Next year a new PR agency will be appointed to run a broader PR campaign, although the fashion credentials built up will remain an important part of the communications mix.    SG will introduce SM to new agency at the appropriate time.
  • TL highlighted she’d asked Slam PR for a Temperley Violet to review on her blog and was ignored.  She did not receive a reply.   SM also highlighted he’d asked Slam PR for press releases and had been ignored also. 
  • Q:  We’ve found on some of the Finsbury and Chameleon product the colour rubs off.
  • A:  This was noted and JL explained the colour dying process and how these products are tipped by hand to create the two tone appearance.
  • Q:  Leather quality (e.g: Filofax Classic and Malden) – we’ve seen quite a lot of these that have a coating that bubbles and cracks.
  • A:  This was noted and JL explained that these are very successful lines with huge volumes being produced.  Filofax Classic in particular has been around for many years and several thousand products are in the market.   On a small proportion of some colours (e.g: Cherry), a coating is applied to the leather and this may have rubbed off.  
  • Q:  The plastic hole punch is unusable and the metal version price is too high.
  • A:  There are two versions of the hole punch, a plastic and a metal desk version.  The plastic version is designed to be used to punch a couple of papers at a time and is not suitable for large volume of papers for which the desk version is designed.  The desk version is a more robust and elaborate item and is therefore more expensive to manufacture with a higher RRP.
  • Q:  Why are certain ranges discontinued when loads of people still desire them?
  • A:  JL explained that there may be an internal decision to stop producing or buying certain lines but it is not policy to communicate this to consumers as often the lines remain in the range for several months or years afterwards.   In recent past, some consumer blogs have announced discontinued lines when in reality they will still be available for a long time.   It is important to keep refreshing the range year on year with new innovation and designs.  It would only be the high trend lines that we stop buying after one year.
Paper Quality
  • SG explained that there has been no change to the paper specification for many years – there are several specification metrics such as grammage, burst, opacity etc. and there is a small acceptance +/- tolerance level for each.   She explained that the company sourced a percentage of its paper from a Japanese paper mill prior to the Japanese tsunami 18 months ago.  That paper mill was destroyed and the company was forced to move all paper production to another source (who they had been buying paper from for many years).    The previously used Japanese paper is no longer available and the slight variations will be a result of the change in supplier rather than a change in specification.  Filofax specifies an ‘off-white’ tinted paper because this has a more premium appearance than a bright white paper.  Filofax will continue to review the paper spec as part of the product development process.
  • SM highlighted the main issues within the community seem to be the bleed through when using fountain pens and that many pen bloggers had been reviewing this.  JL suggested absorption may be better in some whiter papers than coloured paper due to the heavier coverage of ink applied to achieve the wash of colour on coloured paper. 
New Product Development
  • JL explained the new product development process.  The company has around 40 markets around the world with at least 80 key contributors from these markets contributing new product ideas from trade and end users.   These ideas are reviewed centrally by a commercial process and those that are viable go into the development cycle.  The potential scale and number of ideas is therefore enormous.
Ring Mechs
  • SM said the ring mechanism quality seemed to have deteriorated in the last year.  SM put forward his theory as to why he thought this might be that the ring mechs are of sound quality at purchase but then after some given time, through wear and tear, they lose their elasticity.  JL explained that the ring mechs are produced from various different manufacturers in different countries and so maintaining a consistent level of skill when assembling them has proved difficult.  Millions of ring mechs are manufactured each year and the rejection rate has gone up by half a percent recently and overall it is still only a very small percentage. 
  • SM said the particular issues with the ring mechs were misalignment and physical gaps.  The quality in older organisers is much better and there is a feeling in the community that we should go back to that.
  • JL explained the number of QA staff has recently been increased and quality control (QC) process is 100% checking.
New Product Ideas

SM highlighted that the community had some useful product ideas and suggestions for existing product designs:
  • Slimmer ring mechs for A5s (20mm).  JL advised that the Pennybridge A5 has incorporated this.
  • Personal ring mech sizes to be bigger (30mm).  JL advised that due to consumer demand the standard ring mech, 23mm is specified for this product.
  • Can some organisers have two pen loops.  JL advised this depends on the range and design of the organiser as to whether this could actually be physically incorporated, but request is noted.
  • Customised binders e.g. colour, ring size and pen loops
  • At the moment the monthly inserts are printed back to back which doesn’t allow people to archive easily because, for instance, on the right hand page of January, you have the left hand page of February.  More importantly, it is difficult to interweave monthly and weekly or monthly and daily pages.  Suggestion is to have the Jan daily pages, then Jan monthly, Feb daily then Feb monthly.
  • Monthly pages are tabbed for Personal and A5 only and not for Pocket and Mini.  Also would  be more useful to have a notes page on the reverse.
  • ‘Flatability’ of the organiser covers.  JL suggested that the user can manipulate the leather (depending on the range and design) so that over time the organiser because more supple.  JL also suggested a You Tube video might be good for users to see the effectiveness.
SG suggested that rather than receiving ad hoc ideas throughout the year, it would be more useful to collate and have one input at the relevant time in the NPD process.  She would get back to SM to discuss how and when this could be implemented.

Filofax Enthusiasts Collection
  • JL explained the concept of an Enthusiasts collection, giving Filofax enthusiasts the opportunity to design special inserts.   Three designs would be selected each year (voted on by Filofax users) and these would be produced and sold on the Filofax website.  
  • The mechanics of this are still in discussion but the idea is to launch this process in 2013.  Philofaxy would be kept in the loop on this.

Filofax Website
  • SM highlighted the fact that the Filofax website is dysfunctional in many areas such as errors on pages, some pages that haven’t been updated for years (bank holiday dates) and products difficult to find – e.g. Time Management inserts and Compact sized organisers.  The point being if these areas were corrected, customers would be more aware of the products and purchase more.
  • SG acknowledged the issues with the current website and explained that a new site was currently in development for launch in the Spring of 2013.    In the meantime there would be limited opportunity to make significant changes to the current site.  However, the new site would be a much improved environment and shopping experience.  SG  suggested that the Philofaxy community might be able to assist with consumer testing of the new site in a test environment .   SG/SM to liaise at appropriate time.


Filofax would like a more open dialogue with Philofaxy in future and SG would liaise with SM to confirm contact points.

Samples for blog reviews and marketing communications

Filofax will establish a more proactive outreach of product samples via the new PR agency for blog reviews in the future.

The meeting was drawn to a close at  16:30


I would like to thank Filofax for hosting the meeting and for taking time to listen to our views, concerns and ideas. Also thank you to Anita, Tracy, David, Kate and anyone else who sent in their ideas.

I will be reporting back to you in the coming months as things develop, I am sure you will support me in my work with Filofax to improve things for all of us.


  1. Sounds like it went well and I'm glad they seem to be willing to work with everyone!

  2. This seems to be a productive meeting. I am looking forward to seeing the website and new products in 2013.

  3. So much stuff here that it's impossible to comment point by point right now. Steve, I'll send you my detailed comments in due course. However, sounds like it was a positive meeting, although I suspect we'll find out if the various points are to be taken forward or 'buried' in the way they have been in the past, in due course!

  4. Sound like it all went well, let's see what happens in the new year.

  5. Thank you for taking the time to meet the manufacturer.
    Let's hope they act on something.

  6. Hmmm... They don't seem to actually provide answers of substance. The questions about the leather peeling and the hole punch for example, they just rephrased the question and answered it as a statement without giving proper reasoning. This happens all the time within the business I work; No real apologies or answers. The plastic hole punch is incredibly useless and can barley punch one paper, never mind a few. The leather peeling, yes I get there is a coating applied, but why was this not properly tested for durability?

  7. Many thanks to Steve and others for making this meeting happen.

    If the QC is 100% checking, then they need checkers to check the checkers. But they could solve all the QC nonsense by just taking a look at an older ring mechanism through a magnifying glass (coming up in a forthcoming video on my blog by the way) and realise that the newer mechansims just don't cut it for long term use. Sure, many filofaxes nowadays are bought as fashion accessories, and won't be subject to a hard life, but surely the difference in the factory gate cost of a decent mechanism, when compared to the type they're using now, must be a very small amount.

    1. Unfortunately this amounts to a restatement of the time-honoured 'it's not made like it used to be' gambit. This is universally true - things are *not* made like they used to be because they used to be made to last, whereas now they (things generally) are made to wear out. It's called built-in obsolescence, and it's one of the ways in which our glorious Government, in cahoots with immoral retailers, ensure repeat consumption (fuelled by ever-increasingly-hyped aspirations)to fuel their goal of ever-increasing growth in GDP. The fact that this is impossible hasn't dawned on them as yet, but until it does, built-in obsolescence, and a world economic system built on debt, are here to stay......sorry.

    2. Hi David,

      I agree with everything you say, but iconic brand leaders (and Filofax has the potential to be one of them) don't necessarily have to dumb down their products' quality to stay afloat.

      Take Brooks leather bicycles, for example. They are now owned by Selle Royal, who have raised prices sufficiently to maintain the traditional manufacturing base in the UK. Prices have risen considerably, but the business is profitable, provides employent for UK workers, and boosts the UK's image abroad.

      If you look at the Brooks website, they are very clever in creating the desire to "buy in" to an iconic brand, even extending to arranging for the public to visit their factory, and they're very keen on both listening and even promoting customers' opinions, that influence the business to a considerable extent. When you compare their site to the Filofax site, it's easy to understand what is so very wrong, particularly when Filofax acknowledge that their customer base is affluent, and more likely to absorb higher prices through impulse purchases driven by the sort of brand desire than many companies can only dream of.

      It's like decent shoes, a nice watch, the right smartphone, or even a leather bicycle saddle - there are certain brands that don't have to dumb down their manufacturing in order to survive, and Filofax is one of those brands.

      If I were dropped in to shake things up, I'd start a "heritage" range, manufactured in England, peferably London, with the best leather, custom tooling, a choice of rings and pockets, a custom fill, a choice of pen loop size, and webcam coverage so the customer can see the binder being made. I'd knock em out at 400 quid and I'd have a waiting list within days, from all over the world, especially Japan and the States. The Far Eastern filofaxes should be made out of good quality man made materials and the "pleather" should be phased out. The "heritage" leather and functional ranges would create an easy distintion, commercially. I'd keep the current, thinner paper, but emphasise the benefits of being able to get more pages into a binder, perhaps for travelling, and immediately acknowledge the quality issue by offering 90gsm Clairefontaine paper in all formats.

      Continuous global prosperity based on growth is now mathematically impossible as we enter an era of increasingly scarce and expensive energy, but iconic brands will still do well. Why? Because as we inevitably end up buying less "stuff", the desire to buy in to "quality", and the urge to "display" affluence through the items we own, particularly with items that we use on a daily basis, will inevitably increase for those that can afford it.

      Filofax are missing out.

    3. Gosh Neil -I'm with you on this. Great ideas.

    4. Gosh Neil -I'm with you on this. Great ideas.

    5. Thanks for the kind comment, Alison. I've got another 50 ideas that could make Filofax, their customers, and UK tax payers, very happy indeed, but if they want to know how to create the sort of business that generates midnight queues outside stores they'd have to buy me a couple of beers, lol.

  8. Just a quick comment about their answer to the paper issue, if I may.

    Telling us that their paper quality hasn't changed for years is something we know already. That's why many of us want it changed. If I had been at the meeting, I could have whipped out a number of examples of paper from rival manufacturers and ask them why they seem to think that rubbish paper is acceptable when just about everyone else knows it isn't. They buy in their paper, so surely it isn't beyond the realms of possibility to just buy it in from a manufacturer who supplies nice paper.

    It's like the owner of the burger van down the road, who charges a quid for a coffee, but insists on using the cheapest brand of coffee powder, just to squeeze an extra penny profit per cup, without realising that half his customers have now switched to the better coffee served by a different vendor.

    1. Just to clarify, when I mean "rubbish" I mean rubbish if you're using a fountain pen. Filofax paper is fine for most other types of pen.

      What gets me is all this nonsense about absorption. The paper just isn't suitable for fountain pen ink, even the 90gsm cottom cream. It's not just the paper weight, because there's plenty of paper at 90gsm, or even down to 80gsm, that is fine with fountain pen ink. Filofax will probably be aware that there's a huge amount of discussion on this topic and they must be losing a fortune in sales as people use the power of the internet to share their home grown paper exploits, that completely avoid buying any paper from Filofax at all, so why didn't they answer the "fountain pen" question properly?

      I use a lot of Filofax paper, perhaps 2,000 sheets per year, because I don't want to faff around with cutting and hole punching and my Filofaxes are only used as aids to getting things done (I use Rhodia notebooks and a fountain pen to record things for posterity), but there must be many Filofax users who'd really like to be able to use fountain pen ink who simply won't be satisfied with vague references to paper absorption. If anyone from Filofax reads this, as I'm sure they will, just sort it out, or carry on watching as more and more users make their own arrangements, by cutting their own paper and printing their own templates! If Filofax don't really want to promote their paper products, and would rather sell an endless stream of "chique" binders to followers of the fickle fashion market, then fair enough, but relatively high price of Filofax paper should be enough to cater for customers who want to use their fountain pens.

    2. My, you've really got the Ornery Bug today haven't you :)

    3. David, you're right.

      I was rather hoping to learn that there might be a nod towards printing on demand, perhaps some clarification about the rumour a return to manufacturing in the UK, an opening up of the insert archives, maybe a resolution to the ring mechanism problems, and perhaps even fountain friendly paper. And, since their market research shows that 75% of their customers are women,they must also realise that 25% of their customers are men, so I was hoping for some news about some products aimed at us blokes.

      Clearly Daivid, despite everyone's admirable efforts, I was expecting too much, lol.

    4. I don't think you're expecting too much at all - like you I think print-on-demand has clearly been shown to be the way to go. Also, like you, I'd like to see t least some attempt to satisfy the male element in their customer base - but they seem to have bought into the female-oriented strategy even more than the fashion strategy itself.

      We have to also bear in mind that after the Company is sold next year, all the lines of communication we've opened might come to an end - or not. If Clarefontaine take the whole thing over to France, we will be looking at a whole new ball game, either for better or for worse....who knows which it may be?

      All in all I think the best strategy (out of a not very wide range of options)is to try to build bridges rather than burn them, certainly until we know the future of the relationships that have begun to be forged. I do know FF are watching the community here and *trying* to respond - sometimes, as we all know, corporate culture is harder to bend than individual willingness to help will allow for - but i think they deserve a) a chance, and b) to be carefully watched for real, substantive responses. None of us expected everything to change as from the date of last week's meeting, but maybe over a period of time, with sustained effort, we can effect something better than what we have now......

    5. David, I totally agree with everything you say.

      I certainly don't want to contribute to the burning of bridges. Filofax seems to have a good relationship with this site, and I was tempted to have my rant on my own blog instead of on here, but I'm passionate enough about the Filofax brand and the usefullness of its products to justify owning several of them. And I've always found Filofax staff to be very helpful, and their warranty service to be excellent.

      I'm just guessing that many people agree with what I'm saying, even if not everyone has the testicular fortitude to make such comments public, and I'm hoping that these comments will be seen as constructive. I'm sure that Filofax, if they read this, will appreciate that my views are my own personal opinions are just that - personal opinions.

    6. Hi Neil

      I'm sure they will appreciate that now that you've said it!

      However, I don't think it's that helpful to suggest that anyone who doesn't express the views you've stated is suffering from a lack of spine :) There may be those who genuinely want to go about this another way.....just a thought....

      As a group we are trying to effect some change here, on a corporate entity which we have no stake in other than as customers. It's going to take time, but if we stick at it I'm confident we can get there :)

    7. David, I take your point and I appreciate and respect the views of others. I certainly didn't want to incinuate that people were spineless, I merely pointed out that, as in most situations, there is often someone who is willing to make a strong point, and this is certainly not a critisism of anyone who chooses to remain silent.

      I don't agree, however, about having no stake apart from as customers, and I'll use the "Brooks" example if I may.

      The pressure from customers and commentators convinced Selle Royal to go upmarket, allowing manufacturing to be carried out in the UK, not only helping our balance of payments but also giving the UK some extra kudos in the international market. So, as a UK tax payer, I'd say that means that the success or demise of Filofax as a brand, with it's close traditional associations with the UK, has an impact on both me and everyone else here in the UK in some small, but not cumulatively insignificant, way over time. We all have an interest, or stake, in businesses, even if we're not directly the customers of those business.

      The important thing, in my humble opinion, is that if there is mutual benefit, between the commercial interests of a company, the company's customers and, equally importantantly, society as a whole, then that company ought to be keen to consider all opinions coming their way, no matter how radical. Because, ultimately, just one radical suggestion could make the difference between success and failure for certain businesses that are struggling stay afloat in a dwindling market.

    8. You're absolutely right, of course. Let's hope Filofax, either present or future, are open to this input, because the world truly is flat now, with social media being what it is, and they're going to have to co-operate with their customers to succeed.....

  9. I agree on the difficulty of finding Compact organisers - lots of the European websites have Compact on the drop-down menu for sizes when browsing (not specific organiser pages)

  10. If people will forgive me for posting three times in one morning, I'd just like to comment about the response from Filofax to the thorny issue of "flatability".

    I know the reason why at least one, possibly most, modern filofaxes have problems with lying flat, because I've dissected one to find out what's under the leather. What appears to be several layers of cardboard, or something looking very similar to cardboard, is, in my opinion, unlikely to respond to "manipulation" in the way that a single piece of leather can.

    Last year, out of curiosity, I soaked a Finsbury in Nivea for several days (a time honoured method for softening leather) and employed some extremley drastic methods to try and get this modern binder to open as flat as my English binders made before 1991.

    Alas, my efforts were superficially successful, through bending the binder back on itself and weighting it down overnight, but I had to repeat the process regularly.

    In my opinion, the only way to achieve effective flatability is to simply return to the use of materials and construction methods employed when filofaxes were made in England, perhaps increasing the retail price by a small amount to allow for the slightly increased production costs.

    I'm eagerly awaiting the proposed Youtube video, that may show us how we get a modern Filofax to lay as flat as Filofaxes of yesteryear.

    Despite David's open letter, Steve's efforts to arrange a meeting with Filofax, and the opinions and suggestions of Philofaxy readers, I'm dissappointed that Filofax appears to have successfully avoided addressing most of the questions put to them. I'm not surprised, because that is part of what modern PR is all about, but I've been looking forward learning the outcome of this meeting and now feel that the only way things are going to change is if Filofax ends up with new owners, who recognise the value of such an iconic brand, and start listening to their customers opinions, rather than skillfully deflecting them.

    1. Well done Neil - your last paragraphs sums it up very well.

      I suspect that, whilst the new owners may launch a "heritage" range and improve quality generally, it will also drastically cull the range and prune the different sizes. Personally, I think that would be a good thing if it results in a focus of minds. Others may disagree.

      I'm sure we all also say thanks to those who have given their time (and expense) to secure and attend this meeting.

    2. Thanks Tim - I don't post very often, but I've obviously felt the urge to say some very forthright things today.

      I agree that thanks need to go to everyone who contributed to making this meeting happen, including the Filofax representatives themselves. They were under no obligation to hold a meeting, so fair play to them for playing along, even if they did manage, at least from what I've read, from answering many of the questions put to them.

    3. To be honest, I also completely agree with Neil's last paragraph. I find the summary of the meeting sounds rather disappointing. For example, about the paper quality: how comes, Germany, Scandinavia and France are able to find a decent paper supplier, but UK isn't? May I suggest that Filofax UK uses the Scandinavian paper supplier? I find their regular off-white paper is fountain pen friendly, as long as you stay away from extremely wet inks ...!

      Also disappointed by the lack of response to the (in my opionion very big) lack of tabbed months option, that would let us interleave weekly pages. Almost all the supplier can do this?!

      And on Flatability: there's no way you can teach every stiff organiser to lay flat. Like the Personal Classic or Finsbury. Never Ever!

      I appreciate that Filofax took the time to have a meeting with Philofaxy. Now let's just wait and see if things will indeed change for the better.

    4. Jotje - your information about paper from Scandanavia is really interesting. I didn't realise the Filofax paper came from different paper mills, depending on what country customers are in.

      Maybe a Filofax dealer in this country could import Scandinavian paper as a bulk shipment, and then use their normal mail order channels to distribute this fountain pen friendly paper to customers in the UK.

    5. Well... I was very confused why people talked about "bad paper quality" back when I was just using the standard "[insert year] bundle"-pack bought here in Sweden. Then I ordered some new inserts from the UK site because I was sick of "only" being able to buy lined paper in the stores. That's right: the only blank paper one can buy in stores is the really white one (crap quality). MAN was there a difference! I've been grumbling about bad paper quality ever since.

      I use the cotton cream diary inserts because they are unlined, but seriously: the pens bleed through the paper/lots of show through and I can't use any highlighter except for the yellow one. On Swedish/Danish/Norwegian standard paper I can use whatever color I want - even purple! And I can use whichever fountain pen ink I want. I'm not saying the paper is perfect, because it's not. But I don't have to worry about which pen to use in my Filofax. If only the design wasn't so ugly... *sigh*

      /end rant

      Sorry. I know I've ranted about this before. >.<;

    6. In fairness to Filofax, they recently kindly supplied me with cotton cream samples in a variety of sizes, for test purposes, and I posted a video on Youtube that showed only a small amount of show-through, and virtually no bleed-through, using a Lamy medium nib and Skrip ink (which was a fair test of the paper). I also demonstrated that the Filofax paper appeared to be visually more consistent in it's construction than paper used by Moleskine, another leading brand whose paper quality has been discussed at length, by users wishing to use fountain pen ink.

      I also argued the point that one of the benefits of using a fairly lightweight grade of paper was the fact that more sheets could be fitted into each binder, enhancing the portability of what is, after all, a portable system, and that one can't have it all one's way.

      However, given the very reasonable assumption that a significant percentage of filofax users may be keen to find a source of paper that is compatible with fountain pen use, and the possibility that Filofax may already be supplying such paper, albeit to countries other than the UK, I would certainly be keen to have this issue clarified if at all possible.

      I'm sure that meeting the needs of fountain pen users would be of mutual benefit to both Filofax and many of their customers, as has apparently been the case with a number of manufacturers of notebook systems in recent years, where certain companies have taken active steps to meet the needs of those who like to use fountain pens, and now appear to have more of a cult following than perhaps some other companies who appear to have no interest in catering for fountain pen users.

    7. Neil
      I'm not a regular fountain pen user these days. But what brands of paper would you recommend that work to an acceptable level with typical fountain pen/ink combination that represents in paper terms good value for money too?

      If we can come up with some brands and tests, we can show Filofax exactly what we are after when compared to what they are offering at the moment either their white (or slightly off white now) paper, and cotton cream paper.


    8. Steve, there are a number of paper brands that are actively targeting fountain pen users, but Clairefontaine 90gsm velum paper would blow most filofax users' breath away, and they've been milling it in France for over 70 years. It has an off-white colour that's very similar to cotton cream. It's the paper that's used in the Rhodia webnotebooks (virtually identical to Moleskine notebooks) and shouldn't be confused with the 80gsm paper found in Rhodia notepads (although their 80gsm paper is fountain pen friendly too).

      I have no financial link but, if anyone reading this wants to find out what this paper is all about, there is a fantastic company called Bureau Direct in London who have been supplying me for some time. If you use a Moleskine for journaling, then the Rhodia equivalent will simply blow you away, for roughly the same price.

      My suggestion to Filofax would be to retain the existing paper supply network, to control costs,and market the travelling (ie lightweight) benefits of the current product, but introduce premium Clairefontaine lines to capitalise on the potentially powerful marketing link between filofax and fountain pen use. They already have a connection with Yard O Lead and they should exploit that potential synergy.

      It's important to emphasise that the current Filofax paper is very good, but not designed for fountain pen use so, in my opinion, they should stop trying to suggest that some inks and nibs may or may not be ok, and just get a move on and introduce a range of paper that is actually designed to be fountain pen friendly from the outset.

      As a footnote, Steve, I quike like the paper found in "Oxford" notebooks, and the fantastic paper used in the ARC repositional notebook system, but the Clairefontaine 90gsm velum paper is the "no brainer" choice if Filofax want to do the business, in my opinion.

      Steve, I do hope that Filofax will see my views as constructive, I obviously have a passion for the brand, but I remember reading once about how Messers Marks and Spencer, just starting out with their market stall, kept looking at their wares from the front (ie the customers' side of the stall), to see how they could constantly improve their ability to attract customers.

      I'd like to think that Filofax were taking a look occasionally from our side of their "stall".

    9. Interesting comments about Scandinavia - they have some really good inserts here all in nice cream paper, even for the A5s. I have posted three sets of inserts to different countries now - all users who are willing to put up with the Swedish just to get a good layout and useful inserts.

      Also in Sweden there is a dedicated Filofax for teachers with fantastic refill packs. I could not function without it. Why can't the UK do something like that? There is demand for it, surely?

    10. What is in the teacher refill? Could you post pictures, perhaps?

    11. What sort of pages do the Swedish teacher refill packs contain? I'd love to see pictures - I print my own teacher inserts and I'm always looking for ideas.

  11. If I may say so, I don't really like their reply to the question of the hole punchers. I have a plastic hole puncher that has proven to be a nightmare when punching even a single sheet of bond paper. You must press it down too hard and often the punching mechanism doesn't cut clean but stretches the paper around it, so you end up with a really ragged look. It works wonderful on scrapbooking paper or any thicker paper you may use to make dividers, but it's terrible on regular paper.

    The price is rather steep, and makes you consider seriously a one-hole puncher and two paper clips for a tenth of the price to do the job.

  12. After reading the comments, I must say I find some of them a little harsh. Obviously this is just a brief round up of what was discussed at the meeting, and I think people should give Filofax time now to go over things and make their changes.

    1. I think that's what we are all working and hoping for. You won't ever get someone you've offended to help you out.....fact.

  13. I find it nearly impossible to use the steel hole punch made for A5 filofaxes. You have to press SO HARD to punch the series of holes in just one or two sheets of paper that there's a danger of breaking both wrists. I have to stand up to press down on the punch. think I paid £30 or so for this so I'm really disappointed. I no longer have a receipt for it but it came from City Organiser so I might take it back and ask them if I'm doing something wrong...

    1. I thought I was just special in my shocking inability to punch holes with one of those, there does seem to be a technique to master :o)

  14. It sounds like the meeting went well. Just a comment on including Philofaxy in further testing/comments/etc. I hope they include countries outside of the UK for this as well. In the US, we don't hear anything from Filofax US. They used to have their own Facebook page but it was never updated, then they merged (as far as I can tell) with the UK page. While I've always had positive experiences with Filofax US customer service (when needing to return or exchange something), the US branch of the company doesn't reach out to their customers in any other way. I'd love to see more of a presence here from the company. I don't know if its like that in other countries, but in the US, we pretty much piggy back on the UK branch, which is fine, seeing as its a UK company. But I'd love it if they would reach out to the US more. Just my option, of course. :-)

  15. Oh the irony, I just tried to use the contact us form on the Filofax UK site to complain about my ring issues & discoloration to the leather of my Finsbury & the website goes down as soon as I hit send!

  16. If I was to wade in here ... I totally understand where David P is coming from - most progress will come from collaboration, and this is difficult if one party feels attacked or under pressure. However I also feel that Neil has a point and some of the issues SEEMED to have been brushed off with platitudes. Having said that, minutes of meetings rarely convey feelings and emotion so it is hard for us to understand the intent behind the words. I think it would be fair to give this some time (say six months) then revisit to see if progress has been made in terms of relationships. We can't expect Filofax to take on board all our ideas and suggestions - it is after all their business - but it would be nice to see our feelings and ideas being considered. Many of us using Filofax products either run our own businesses or work in a senior capacity in one, so we understand business pressures, but we also know that customers are our life blood. It takes a lot of hard work to gain a customer and a moment to loose them. Filofax are lucky that their customers are often for life, so I trust they will factor this into their deliberations. I'm guessing the meeting has given them plenty to think about as well.

  17. Hello All
    Thank you for all your comments today, I've not been keeping a low profile on purpose, I've been out some the day dealing with the French admin system to sort out my continued health cover here!

    Can I just add to your observations, we did not present the document that Kate prepared to Filofax before the meeting. If you think their answers seem very prepared then I suspect they have been following the blog closely in the weeks after the Open Letter was published in various places.... well wouldn't you?

    I don't have an issue with this, we are an open site after all and I welcome everyone to come and take a look and to contribute too.

    Whilst they appear to have 'deflected' some of our observations/complaints I wasn't expecting a complete answer to everything we presented them with on the day. The document after all ran to 3 pages.

    It's not however over on that first visit through it. We will be revisiting the document and expanding on some of the points to make them better understood, with examples for instance.

    I will be calling for your help on this in due course. An example is the 'peeling Classics' May be they are now given a different coating. But I'm sure I've seen a blog posting which we have linked to that showed clear evidence of a plastic clear coating. But this one might have been several years old. The Classic has been around at least 10 years.

    I'm sure some of our quality observations come down to 'they aren't designed like that'.... "no but what we are sometimes seeing in customers hands varies with the design"

    I've experienced this myself with my infamous 25mm A5 Malden... the catalogue showed 30mm, I thought it was printing error at first, but no a whole batch of them had been fitted with 25mm rings not 30mm rings. FF UK were very gracious and exchanged it for me.

    Nothing will change over night... because of the lead times on the production of things the new 2013 range will be announced soon... the 2014 range is just being finished off in design terms so this could be quite a long haul, but I'm a patient guy I don't mind sticking with it, working with you all to collect your ideas and wishes together and translating these in to some sort of formulated plan to pass to Filofax.

    We have established some good contacts in the customer service department as well as the marketing and design department. The CEO is also aware of our existence. So they are listening that is for sure.

    Please be patient folks with Christmas just around the corner as well, we are entering the usual 'silly season' when people aren't always at their desks etc etc.

    Please don't stop the comments coming.


  18. It sounds like you established some good contacts and that the meeting went well. I am also aware that these meeting notes cannot possibly have covered all of the meeting (and so - as some have noted - some of the answers give the impression that the Philofaxy community was "brushed off"), so I will wait a few months before I comment any further on this. ^_^

  19. Right, I agree that it's difficult to read the full impact of what was said from a written minutes. But I also assume that the folks at Filofax approved the publication of these minutes, so they are essentially conveying what Filofax wants us to know.

    I would like to highlight my appreciation for Steve, Anita, and Tracy for their time and travel and for acting as our ambassadors.

    In many ways, the summary above does make one angry. It seems entirely that Filofax has largely brushed us off or simply failed to answer the questions. As pointed out by Neil, this is not unexpected but is exasperating. While I realize that Filofax does not have the most expensive ring binders and inserts available, at the price they charge there should be expectation of something sturdy and reliable. Even if the product is no longer designed to last for decades, one should be able to get a year or two before ring mechanisms fail or finishes rub off or whatever.

    I think it's rather sad that Filofax has chosen to not properly embrace this as a watershed moment when they can look to seriously rethink some of their strategy. Instead, it seems that they intend to continue full speed ahead on their predetermined brand strategy.

    If things got so bad at my work that a group of my loyal customers demanded to have a meeting with decision makers, heads would roll!

  20. Some good points, Josh.
    I think one of the key points that Filofax may wish to consider, is not to be afraid of making binders that are of good enough quality to past a lifetime. There are plenty of brands that make "lifetime" products, who find that buyers just keep on buying.

  21. Some good points, Josh.
    I think one of the key points that Filofax may wish to consider, is not to be afraid of making binders that are of good enough quality to past a lifetime. There are plenty of brands that make "lifetime" products, who find that buyers just keep on buying.

    1. As an example, just because I like to ride a bicycle of a quality good enough to last a lifetime, doesn't mean that I don't want to buy another bike.

      The realility is... i've got 73!

  22. Thanks for arranging and going to the meeting on behalf of the whole group, it sounds like they´re listening - obviously it´ll take time, but we´re heading in the right direction.

    One minor point though regarding the answers that were given, a bit picky maybe, but when it comes to items that I spend a fair amount on I feel I have the right to be a bit picky... the A5 Pennybridge doesn´t cut it as a slimline A5 filofax despite the 20mm rings. It is an FF/iPad combi. I may feel the need to get one at some point (possibly for work), but I wouldn´t be using it as a traditional filofax as it would simply not be that practical. Can you imagine travelling to work on the train with the intention of doing some planning on the way... now can you imagine the feelings of the person in the seat next to you as he/she basically has to have ypur iPad on his/her lap so you can write anything. It´s probably great to use at your desk, or to get your things from A to B, but for planning on the move... really? Real A5 filofaxes with 20mm rings would be perfect please Filofax :o)


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