18 December 2012

Update on the co-operation between Filofax and Philofaxy

1.    In the few weeks since the meeting held in November, Filofax and myself have been able to establish good lines of communication between the Marketing Department and Philofaxy with additional input in to the New Product Development Team as well. 

However, it is very early days yet as we have been discovering more and more about each other beyond the very quick overviews we gave at the meeting. Since then we have been looking in detail about the various aspects of the blog and all the other places we both exist in.

Additionally we are waiting for the new PR company to come on stream and I’m told they are looking forward to working with us at Philofaxy on product sampling/reviews and blog outreach.  I believe too that we will be added to the media press release list so will automatically receive announcements at the same time as the media.  I think this is very encouraging.

2.    I have given some small hints and tips to help Filofax with their presence on Facebook, so they can now respond to readers and Filofax users in a more corporate manner and hopefully this will improve relations with our readers as well I’m sure.

3.    One of the requests presented to Filofax at the meeting was for the tabbed monthly inserts to be changed so that the months were not printed back to back. As you will know if you have used these inserts, with them printed back-to-back you are unable to separate the months to be able to archive them or to interleave them with weekly or daily inserts.

I have sent Filofax some mocked up prototype inserts in a design that would solve this issue and allow people to separate the months in their organisers. These prototypes have helped the team at Filofax to better understand the issues with the current inserts and how the proposed changes improve on the use of this particular set of inserts.

Filofax are now putting these new inserts through their formal product assessment process to see if they could become part of the range or not. The change to the inserts has an obvious increase in production costs, so like any other change it has to go through a process to validate the impact on costs and the retail price of the product. 

4.    As a direct result of Philofaxy posts and comments, Filofax have also commenced an internal review of paper quality. As part of this they are looking at other paper on the market for consumers.  I have been informed this is an internal business process review and not a study that will be made public.  It is encouraging that they have heard the comparisons being made and are investigating.

5.    I have been told that the 2014 diary inserts are already in production, many already printed.  Filofax is a global business, producing diaries for 40 plus markets around the world and as such they work with considerably long production lead times. So any new paper will not be incorporated widely for some time. However, the Filofax Enthusiasts range that will be launched in 2013, which was spoken about at the meeting, could be printed on different paper stock, hopefully paper of higher quality.  We will be told about this new range in the New Year.

The production of all of their products and the distribution of them is spread through out the year so there isn’t a huge peak in the demand on their distribution channels at the beginning of each year.

6.    Whilst Filofax acknowledged the problems with the existing website at the meeting. We were told about a new improved website that will be launched in 2013. From discussions between Filofax and myself, I have put forward a couple of ideas to improve the descriptions of the organiser products on the website and these suggestions have been very well received by the team.

I’m hoping to meet up with the team at Burgess Hill when I’m over in UK in March, but a date has yet to be arranged/confirmed.

I hope you are happy with this update, I can’t promise to have updates on a very frequent basis, but I will try to up date you when there is something of significance to report.  What I would also like to add is that I am very grateful for the time and effort that Filofax have put in to be able to respond to my calls and emails in the last few weeks – all of which have been responded to same day.

Any questions?

Steve
18 December 2012

32 comments:

  1. Wow! You've been on a mission!

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  2. It all sounds really positive - well done :o)

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  3. Hear, hear!!!! Sounds like an improvement is on its way!

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  4. Excellent, thank you Steve!

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  5. This all sounds very positive - you have done so well in such a short period of time! I know this is a long shot, but has anything been mentioned about the Time Management refills, specifically the Day on 2 Pages - I think Filofax were planning to discontinue this. It is my favourite refill, and I have been investigating other refills that spread a day over two pages.
    The Enthusiasts' range sounds intriguing.....

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    Replies
    1. Hamish,
      I'm finding out for you.
      Steve

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    2. Hamish
      There is a still a technical problem with the website. It shows the header but not the actual articles!

      Filofax UK advise that it's best to use their Mail Order dept:

      Mail Order – 08705 143 702 or email filofaxstore@letts.co.uk

      Steve

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    3. I'm also interested in the day on 2 page spread but I think that's for A5 size only right? Is the address above to inquire about those particular inserts? Thanks.

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  6. Very impressed, Steve. Excellent news. I'm sure that Filofax will come to see Philofaxy as a valuable source of feedback from many of their customers.

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  7. Excellent news Steve. I think Filofax's willingness to work with Philofaxy and involve you in the ways described is a very good start. I'm quite excited to hear about the Filofax Enthusiasts range (I'm pretty sure this is the first I've heard about it) - very promising. I know when it comes down to it we can print our own inserts, but how nice it would be to not have to do that and just be able to order them.

    I've also noticed a vast improvement in their interaction on Facebook - it's nice to get a 'human' chirpy response!

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  8. Great news, thank you, Steve!

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  9. Do you know whether they have any jobs available in their Marketing Department?

    Never hurts to ask :p

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    1. I have seen them advertise from time to time... the adverts pop up in my Filofax web searches... I was even tempted to apply myself to one that was advertised a couple of years ago, but it's a difficult commute from France!

      Staff discount would be attractive no doubt!!!

      Steve

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  10. Steve, regarding your item 5:

    Filofax is a make to stock operation, like, for instance, Apple (!!). Meaning you run a sales forecast, and calculate what you need to manufacture, based on sales, manufacturing lead times, delivery lead times, inventory levels required to keep customers happy (!), etc.

    Perhaps you can suggest to them to start planning for the "new paper", for example, tomorrow (...). You can rest assured that, provided their Excel spreadsheets are correct, they will have the "new 2014 paper inserts" available to sell by August/September, on a global scale.

    Paper is an abundant commodity, all over the globe, and the volume Filofax buys is very, very small. It is quite easy to negotiate the required adjustments with the paper suppliers. One can also factor in that paper mills and their sales channels are eager to do business, given well known economic reasons ...

    The printing side of the process requires simple adjustments, obviously.

    How about that?

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    1. Thanks for your comment I will pass it on, but I'm not sure about the assumptions you have made regarding how they operate or the volume of paper they use etc.

      Regards
      Steve

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    2. @ gdigesu - Not sure where Filofax buy their paper from but the less paper you buy from a paper mill the more it costs to manufacture. E.G. they cannot afford to make a very small run of non standard paper without passing on the costs to the customer and it wasn't clear whether Filofax actually buy direct from a mill or through a broker. So any costs involved in manufacture would be passed directly onto the customer and some Filofax enthusiasts may not be willing to pay the extra costs involved.

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  11. Steve, thanks for "passing it on".
    I thought that wasn't necessary, 'cause they would be reading Philofaxy daily.

    Anyway, don't take my word for it. I suggest you estimate their paper consumption, and check with the paper industry whether their volume is big, medium, small, or very, very small.

    It is actually very easy to estimate how much paper they use. You can start with the following data:

    Annual Sales: 50 million pounds
    Average binder price: make it 35 pound
    Average insert price: make it 5 pounds
    Paper sizes: you know them ...

    Build a simple Excel spreadsheet, run some scenarios, and you'll see that the paper volume they buy is very, very, very small.

    Additionally, if you are interested, there are several websites where you can obtain additional information regarding the paper industry, where you'll confirm that their volume is really small.

    Now, think about this. How is it that Apple (!!!) makes their *new* products available globally, every six months, with thousands of components, and an infinitely more complex supply chain? As it is well known, they do not know which exact components they will need 12 to 18 months in advance. Curious, is it not?

    Anyway, let's wait and see what Filofax brings to us in August/September.
    This is what matters, is it not?

    Thanks for your kind reply.

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    1. They do read us daily, but to make sure they see your comments I will be forwarding them on for comment.

      Is the £50million for UK sales? Because I think they also produce for the rest of the world as well.

      Apple aren't selling diaries, so I don't think the comparison is valid, but of course you are entitled to your own opinion. May be you should apply for the CEO job should it become vacant.... ;-)

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    2. Interesting comments about paper. But if I were in charge, I'd have my quality paper operation set up almost overnight. If they're serious about this, or maybe even just curious, I could show them exactly how to do make it happen, without it affecting their core business.

      I'm assuming that they'll be reading this at some point.

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    3. Published on Friday 2 November 2012 00:00

      "LETTS Filofax, the Dalkeith-based diary maker that has been in talks with potential buyers, saw profits halved during the 12 months to January amid the third consecutive year of “very tough trading” for the business.

      FLB Group, parent company of Letts Filofax global operations, turned in a pre-tax profit of £2.1 million, down from £4.2m previously. Sales slipped by 5 per cent to £52.9m."

      Source: http://www.scotsman.com/business/industry/letts-profits-halved-as-diary-maker-admits-tough-trading-will-continue-1-2610862

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    4. We buy paper - on a much, much smaller scale than Filofax and we are able to negotiate with the printers/paper mills for quality as well as quality. Ultimately it is a question of will.

      I agree in global terms their paper requirements will be relatively small but they are massively bigger than Dodo Pad's paper requirements. Into any costing matrix needs to go cost of transport and storage too - if you move from a 60gsm or 80gsm paper to a 100gsm paper you are increasing the weight and bulk (albeit to a lesser extent) by a significant % and this will have a bearing on the overall costs too. But ultimately it is both economics and the will to deliver what customers want. And funnily enough one tends to influence the other. It just depends on where you are coming from - as in most things in life.

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  12. Thanks for the update & it's definitely great news that good communication is going on :)

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  13. Wow great job Steve! Number 3 makes me particularly happy!

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  14. This all looks very promising, Steve! Thank you for taking the time to meet with them. It sounds like you had some rational, reasonable conversations.

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  15. I agree with Cheryl about number 3... would love this for A5. Also a Filofax enthusiasts'section. WOW, WOW, WOW, this sounds just marvellous!! Can't wait to see what they are going to introduce there. Sounds very exciting and promising. Thanks Steve for all your hard work... just think this all sounds like huge positive steps forward... and well done Filofax for beginning to listen and take action.

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  16. PS I am yearning for a new A5 Malden.... any tip offs about new colours from Filofax for next year's Malden range would be gratefully received. Rumour has it that there is a certain John Le Carre character who frequents French Bistros and is someimes given a catalogue in a little brown paper parcel..... Allo, Allo style, but all very secret and hush hush at the highest level of clearance you know.The code word should anyone be able to reveal the new colours to agent Morton, undertaking mission A5, is Malden, Jane Malden, as in a born in Essex gal!! Shhhhh!!

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  17. Great news, Steve. Thanks for reporting on this!

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  18. Wow, this is all sounding very promising!

    Did anyone mention ring problems?

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  19. Thank you for the update Steve, and sorry to be late commenting (again) - I've been travelling since last Friday and yesterday was my first day back in the office.

    Although it remains to be seen what substantive changes (if any) will be forthcoming, I appreciate all your hard work on this.

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