1. Where are you based?
Group-4P is located in Affligem, Belgium, near the E40 route from Brussels to Ghent. We are the exclusive distributor for Filofax, Letts of London & Yard-O-Led for Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg. We are a relatively small company of 8 people.
2. Do you have a shop? And if you do where is it located?
We do not have a shop, we distribute today to approximately 400 shops in de Benelux. We have got a showroom that is open for our (potential) customers and for interested groups. We do sell to individual customers through our webshop www.agendasshop.com and on Ebay under the name "Bouteia".
3. How long have you been in business.
Group 4P, as a distributor of Filofax, already existed for more than 20 years. We, as a couple, are very new in the business. My husband Christophe took over the company in February of 2013, after a career as marketing director of a large Belgian bank. I joined a couple of months later after a career of bank branch manager.
4. As well as the Filofax brand of organisers what other brands do you stock?
Besides Filofax (and Letts of Londen, YOL), we distribute 6 other brands.
Our goal is to only distribute brands that are "authentic" or stand out: because they were the first ones to distribute the product, they invented the product or they have got an extraordinary design.
Today this led us to the following brands:
- Graf von Faber Castell : the company was founded in 1761 in Germany as a manufacturer of wooden pencils (the first one to commercialise "the pencil" as we know it today). Today they combine the timeless design and modern technology to produce the Graf von Faber Castell collection: Pencils, fountain pens, ball pens, roller pens and fine-writers on one side and a very luxury leather collection on the other hand.
- Pinetti: the company was founded in 1983 in Bergamo (Italy) . Their mission statement is to produce craftsmanship, made in Italy. They only use top quality materials, respecting the environment. Our focus within their offer are the notebooks, guest books and desk accessories.
- Ögon Designs: the company was founded in 1994 in France. They were the first one to introduce the aluminum wallet, that was RFID- proof. Besides the aluminum wallet, that holds 7 credit cards, they also produce a coin holder, a wallet and from beginning of march a one-touch business card holder and a lady bag in different colours.
- Bombata: the company was founded in 1994 in Italy. Bombata is a colorful collection of briefcases, wallets, laptop and tablet cases. They produce very functional and original cases with an incredible price/quality ratio. Again from March on they launch a new product range including some "Chubbies" (small suitcases as hand luggage and backpacks)
- El Casco: the company was founded in 1920 to produce revolvers in Spain ! During the great depression the owners were forced to diversify and they began to produce desktop accessories (the best known is the stapler that still reflects the design of a riffle in it). The production process is still 100% manual.
- Rubinato: the company started in the 50's as a shop in the center of Treviso for stationary items. Even though they produce a whole range of magnificent writing instruments we only distribute the "Nothing More" products: the more modern writing instruments and accessories.
5. Which brands/models/sizes do you find are the most popular?
Filofax is still very popular in the Benelux and particularly in Belgium & Luxembourg. This year our top sellers were the Saffiano's, the Originals, the Finsburys and the Fusions. Strangely there is little appetite for the Malden series.
What strikes for Filofax is that besides the organizers as everybody knows them the folders are doing very well
6. Which model/size do you prefer to use yourself?
An: I started without using a Filofax (shame on me) and today I use three of them and one Flex. I use an Original – Green A5 as a diary which I like VERY much: I love the colour and my organiser has to lie flat.
I use a Pocket Malden vintage pink as a wallet and a Calipso A5 – Pink to follow up my cliënts.
Don't know why but I prefer big organisers. For my iPad I use a Flex Smooth which works very good for me.
Christophe: In the past I used an A5 Classic cherry. Now I use 3: a brown slim Amazona as diary, a black A4 Finsbury to manage projects, etc & a brown leather tan Flex iPad holder.
7. What trends do you think we will see in future years in the paper planner market?
Definitely products that combine the use of tablets and paper.
8. Which model of Filofax do you think should be reinvented as a Heritage model?
Without no doubt: the Portland or Cavendish (if not for the beautiful , classy design then for the rings)
9. What other information about your company do you think would be of interest to our readers?
I would like to inverse the question: if a reader has a good idea what other brand would fit our current range and would be interesting to distribute in the Benelux, we would surely appreciate the tips!
10. What is your favourite pen?
If I have to choose (I like a lot of pens) I pick the Graf von Faber Castell (what did you think?) Classic Grenadilla.
On the one side because the barrel is sheathed in wood and for this is very close to the "core" of the company (wooden pencils), on the other side I prefer the dark Grendilla over the lighter Pernambucco-wood.
11. Away from the office how do you relax?
Even we haven't got very much time away from the office today we like to spend time with our three kids and we never say no to a good glass of wine.
Thank you An and Christophe, I think we need to talk about a potential visit to your showroom at some time in the future.