On the up Fred Heritage · 24 August 2016
Coles Pens: Traditional British stationary for discerning consumers
The UK stationary market has witnessed a significant resurgence in the last few years. Stationary sales jumped 10 per cent in 2014, with a five per cent year-on-year increase since then. Lifestyle brands are learning to tap into consumer sentiment for more traditional ways to write and communicate, perhaps as a response to an increasingly fast-paced, multi-platform digital era. One such brand is Coles Pens, a small distributor of hand-crafted, top quality bespoke pens and writing tools. With just a handful of staff, company founder Keith Coles has managed to use his modest savings to create a growing business with an annual turnover now eclipsing 1m. Business Advice spoke to Coles to find out more about his firm. (1) Who are you and what’s your business? Im Keith Coles, founder of Coles Pens a unique distributor specialising in hard-to-find niche pens. Our aim is to corner the market with top quality writing implements and cutting-edge designs those which reflect our rich heritage and tradition, but with a modern twist. We value natural and quality raw materials, such as sterling silver, pewter and supple leather. We aim to offer traditional products to discerning customers, offering good value and high quality. (2)?How long have you been around for?? With a background in business and fit-for-purpose design, I established Coles Pens in 2003. (3) How do you make money?? Our mission is to add value, and we work as a team recognising that we must offer the best possible service, without compromise. At work we never seek to be one sided, but to generate good working relationships with our suppliers and customers. We also realise that we need to stand out from the crowd in order to thrive in the business. We do this by offering a diverse product range, securing exclusive distribution with brands that reflect who we are and staying professional. (4) What makes you different and why should people take notice?? Our reputation for integrity and honesty make us stand out. I would say that our carefully selected, beautiful products generate loyalty from customers, and this speaks for itself. We have fantastic exclusive brands such as Otto Hutt, Platinum and Worther which definitely helps us stay ahead of competitors. Our traditional writing implements, such as our quills, are expertly made something that really makes a difference in today’s market. Our customers demand value without compromise on product quality so that is what we pride ourselves on. (5) What was key in terms of getting started?? I saw a gap in the market for writing instruments and related products and my own market research added confirmation that I should invest my savings. So, I would definitely say that thorough research, knowing your competitors and market reach was key for us. I think that can be applied to almost every new business you have to be up to speed on what else is out there and what you can offer that is unique and different. (6) What’s your biggest achievement to date?? Building Coles Pens intoa market leader is such a big achievement for us, as it proves our success. We provide a quality service to the UK’s leading tourist attractions and museums which is a great achievement in itself and as it turns out, this has proven to be one of our biggest target markets. (7) What setbacks have you had along the way?
ABOUT THE EXPERTFred Heritage
Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.