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Monday, June 9, 2014

Changes with Lamy and Pilot at GouletPens.com


 This is an old video, and there are no longer any discounts available as mentioned.(January 2016)

On June 25th, we're going to be streamlining the availability of the nibs that come on several of our Lamy and Pilot pens.

 

The background story:


When we first started out carrying fountain pens (thinking back to when we landed Pilot and Lamy about three years ago), we really didn't have a lot of cash to be able to greatly expand our inventory. We wanted to be able to keep as much in stock as possible, but didn't have the means to carry multiples of every color and size combination.

So we got a bit creative and resourceful.... for any pen that had a replaceable nib, we pulled it off and inventoried it as a separate item. This allowed us to carry fewer pen bodies, with multiple spare nib sizes to put back on it at the time of sale. Less on hand, more options to choose from. This allowed us to offer combinations that our manufacturers typically didn't provide, like a 1.1mm stub italic on a Lamy Safari, or a rhodium-plated 18kt nib on a Pilot Vanishing Point with gold trim.

What has happened slowly over time was something we didn't really foresee. Because we can only purchase the pen from our distributors with specific standard sizes (i.e. fine/medium/broad), and then we sell them with other options from nibs purchased separately (i.e. an italic), we end up with a massive overstock of the standard nib sizes. As we reorder the pen body, the stock levels of these standard nib sizes keep increasing. As our volume has grown, this problem has only gotten worse, and we find ourselves in an uphill battle trying to keep all options in stock, without having massive amounts of inventory sitting on the shelf. And to compound the issue, we spend a lot of time de-nibbing and re-nibbing all of these pens, without charging any more for this service. The situation isn't getting better as we grow.

Several years of nib inventory-on-hand versus nib sales. You can clearly see the stock quantities far exceed the sales.


 
Long story short, we've decided to streamline our nib offerings to provide only the options that our manufacturers/distributors provide to us. This has been a difficult decision to make. But we really believe this change is going to help keep GPC healthiest in the long run. :)

 

 

What this means for you:


Generally you won't see any changes at all, but for some pen models you might see a few less nib size or color options. We'll be making all the changes on our site on Wednesday, June 25th (during our quarterly physical inventory when the site goes down), so you'll have until then to take advantage of our current offerings before they are streamlined.

The good news is, this change will enable us to do a few things for you:
  1. We'll have full website functionality enabled on these products, including email-me-when-back-in-stock notifications that previously weren't an option.
  2. We'll be able to much more quickly inventory these pens, which means they'll be faster to restock and faster to fulfill your orders. We'll be keeping all stickers on the pen boxes so the aesthetics will improve (i.e. no more Lamy pen boxes with damage from the stickers torn off).
  3. We'll offer some discounts on spare nibs with pen purchase after the changeover! We'd rather see these nibs be put to use in a loving home instead of just sitting for months on our warehouse shelves. (deal expired in 2014)
  4. We'll be able to free up some cash which we're going to invest into other cool stuff, like continuing to expand our offerings into other brands and models. 

 

What's actually changing:


Here's a quick rundown of the future options for all affected pen models:
Lamy Joy pens will only be available in italics.
Most other Lamy steel nib pens will generally only be available in EF, F, M, B, with a few small exceptions.

Monteverde pens that accept #6 nibs (which is everything except the Artista Crystal, Poquito, and Tool Pen) will only be available in nib color matching the trim.

Pilot Vanishing Point pens will only be available in color matching the trim. EF nibs will only be available on select models, though we're working with Pilot USA to see if we can expand that. The high-end Radens will only be offered in a medium nib.
We'll continue to sell the other nib colors and sizes as separate replacement nibs after the switchover, so you'll still be able to get your ideal combination after swapping the nibs yourself. Check out our video on how to swap a Lamy nib.



So in the meantime, feel free to head on over to GouletPens.com to take advantage of our custom nib configurations while they're still available. After June 25th, the options will reflect the descriptions outlined above. If you have any questions, just leave a comment below.

36 comments:

  1. So interesting! This was very insightful and I completely support your choice though it sucks a little as an EF girl that was looking for my first VP this fall. Good business choice!

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  2. This is probably the right move for the customer. I often found the black nibs were out whenever I wanted them. Ok, I don't get to put a black nib on a white pen, got it. But when you're out of black nibs for a black pen, that is kind of frustrating-er.

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  3. I confess to not making it all the way through this video. Such angst over such a small matter! :) I actually laughed, eventually, but then the first comment I see is Tim's taking it quite seriously, so maybe I was wrong to. I didn't catch any mitigation strategies you might be considering to salvage some of the competitive advantage you might be giving up, but you could offer an add-on nib at a discount when purchased with the pen, maybe install it for free (but shipping both nibs, of course).

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  4. This is the right move to make. Although I love the choices sometimes I know that I get into choice comma and am not able to make that final decision. To stay debt free as a company you need to review where your costs lie and inventory is a lot of kinetic money that does not transfer until you get the order. Keep up the great work. Your post got me to order tonight, although my order would not have been impacted.

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  5. Am I correct in assuming that the option to order a VP with no nib will also disappear?

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  6. Rachel, Brian, I had no idea that offering non-standard pen/nib options had such ramifications with your nib stock, manpower for switching and matching labels, etc. You went longer offering this custom pen service than anybody else would (at no extra charge)! No one else was offering these non-standard combinations I'm aware of. You made the situation very clear, there is no other alternative. But, when Rachel is excited over what is coming, wow, I'm sure excited. Thanks for the heads up, great explanation guys.

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  7. Hi Joe, that's unfortunately correct. That was something Pilot was never that crazy about us doing, so that option will no longer be offered.

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  8. I totally hear you, and that was one of the reasons we held off doing it so long - we knew this might be one of our competitive advantages that we'd be giving up. I do believe this is the right move in the long run, but no doubt we'll probably lose some sales or customers over this. I wish we could have kept it up... it does suck! :)

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  9. Definitely. I think there are certain nibs that have ongoing supply issues, and by doing what we were doing, we were only exacerbating the issue. Hopefully this will straighten things out for everybody! :)

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  10. Thanks, and absolutely! I'm working on the programming for that now, as well as discounted bulk nib package sets.

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  11. I hear you. We'll still have the EF nib available for quite a few colors of VPs, and we are working to try to get more available in the future too. Have you decided what VP color you're going to get?

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  12. Absolutely, that makes total sense. As part of making this decision, we pulled all historic sales for the affected models, and saw that at least 60-90% of the time (depending on model), folks chose what traditionally comes on the pen, yourself included. That helps give us a little piece of mind to know that the majority of the time, things won't change, but there still is that remaining differential. Some folks will probably substitute to traditional offerings and maybe take advantage of a discounted spare nib with purchase, but I'm sure we'll lose some folks too. I haven't seen anyone else mix & match, but yeah if all things are equal, price is tough. we'll always sell as low as our manufacturers would like us to, and hopefully our service can help make up any difference between us and anyone else not honoring the pricing policies or selling from outside the US. We'll continue to watch our sales after the changeover (as well as monitoring all requests!) to see what we can influence at the manufacturer level going forward. The more options they give us, the more we can offer to you the customer.

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  13. That's exactly what we're planning on! :)

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  14. Thank you so much! We're pretty debt-averse, both in our business and in our personal lives. Inventory can really be a killer, I've seen other businesses go under because of not having that under control (and not getting to deduct the expense until it sells). So I do think this is the right move, and I agree - sometimes too many choices can be paralyzing! At least we'll still be offering all of the nibs separately.

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  15. thanks for being transparent about this. although, to be be sure, i didn't expect anything less from gpc. on an unrelated note - have you looked into carrying faber-castell pens?

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  16. You're right, there is so much cool stuff in the works! ;)

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  17. You're welcome! We actually haven't really looked into Faber-Castell pens yet, although you're not the first to ask, so I guess I should look into it. :) Any particular models you're interested in? Do you have any experience with their pens? I'll admit, I've never tried one!

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  18. The ondoro oak wood has been on my wish list for a while, i already have a resin one. I don't have an e-motion but I know sbrebrown loves his. as does dan smith, of fountain pen geeks. some of the pens are little heavier than i'd personally i like but i know some people love that. the nibs are smoooth! like seriously. i believe they are just standard bock nibs but they are so much smoother than other brands it seems. the price points of their pens i think are decent too $40-$160 or so depending on the model.

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  19. Bummer, but as always, full support goes out to Goulet Pens, who know exactly how to make each and every customer happy.
    Also, since I saw someone else post a suggestion, I wouldn't complain if I saw some Sailor pens on the site. No experience with them, but I've heard a lot of good things about them and would love to give them a try from a reputable company like GP.

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  20. Thank you! And thumbs up for cool stuff! ;)

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  21. Oh, Sailor.... that's another bummer story. We carried Sailor for a while, but suddenly got dropped by the distributor without warning because we didn't carry their full line of pens (which was never communicated to us as a requirement). Lovely inks, though. Really wish we could have worked out the relationship, despite our best efforts. So, sadly, I don't think we'll be carrying Sailor anytime soon. I would recommend nibs.com or Anderson Pens if you're in the market for one.

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  22. oh, perhaps you could sell packs of nibs at a discount? like the lamy stubs in a set (I thought the Joys came that way , but I guess I was wrong)

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  23. Waski_the_SquirrelJune 10, 2014 at 12:45 PM

    You have to look after your business. This is totally understandable.


    I don't mind buying an extra nib. It actually increases the versatility of the pen.

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  24. Definitely going to be doing that! :)

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  25. Thanks! And that is true, one of the things I love most about these pens. I adore the 1.1mm, but it's not ideal for all situations.

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  26. Ummm... I'm going to be honest here. This is the way this comes across to me:

    So you let your inventory get out of line with customer demand, and your best solution is to limit buyer choice in response?

    Let's take the Lamy nibs for example. The brand is long-lived, the nibs should be relatively stable and predictable run-rate sale items. The tiny nibs are durable inventory with minimal cost to carry, especially if you consider (as you should) your over-stock mistake as a sunken cost. The Lamy stubs are unique and are an attractor of other sale items in the same shipment.

    I would not limit my customer choice over an over-stock glitch - I would manage my stock better moving forward and for over-stock items with relatively high carry costs (likely NOT low-cost nibs), pare-down with a sale.

    I love the gang at GP. So I take the time to write this. I hope I'm not reading this situation wrong.

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  27. well, i think that would work only if you could order lamy pens without nibs. so for example, say you have 5 lamy safari fine-nib pens and 2 sell with italics instead. Now you have 2 separate fine-nibs and no stock of lamy safaris. so you reorder lamy safaris (which come with standard nibs) and then those previous nibs just lay around and over time the pile of those nibs gets bigger and bigger. rachael or brian could correct if i misunderstood something, but i think i've got it right.

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  28. Mike is right on the dot. It isn't really an issue of a one-time overstock, it's a perpetual cycle. As we purchase pens with standard nibs and sell them with non-standard nibs, we're left with a standard nib. Repeat, repeat. As our volume grows, it's a situation that doesn't reverse itself. We have tried putting these standard nibs on sale before, but it hasn't made much of a dent. So unfortunately that's where we're at, having to make the tough decision. Other than this unforeseen issue, we're pretty darn conservative when it comes to inventory management (especially since we're so debt-averse) and it's been a learning curve as we've grown to try to up our quantities.

    Fortunately we will still be able to offer the Lamy italic nibs as a separate purchase, just not on every pen model. So they're not going away completely, just being offered in a limited configuration capacity. I hope that helps explain it better!

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  29. Awesome. I put out an inquiry to them, we'll see how it goes from there. I do like their styling!

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  30. I appreciate your explanation and I appreciate you letting us all know in advance. This change makes sense and I'm fine with buying an extra nib.

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  31. I have a pear wood e-motion and the nib is indeed as stunning as everybody says. The e-motions have great heft, too, if you like a more substantial pen. Haven't used any of their other products but my experience so far has been terrific. With regard to the Lamy/Pilot decision, go for it! I sing your praises everywhere and this is why, love how customer-focused you are in everything you do.

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  32. Makes total sense guys. Part of growing is growing pains. You'll survive ONLY by changing when change is needed. The BIG picture is you'll be there for years to come, for all of us. I appreciate your candor and transparency, no need to feel apologetic. Keep up the great work!

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  33. Thanks for your support, Becky! :)

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  34. I really like the Graf von Faber Castell inks (at least the green and red), so that's something I'd like to see. My ex-GF loves her Faber Castell - one of the small wood ones.

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  35. I had this image of you de-nibbing and nibbing, while hunched over a work bench. Oh, No! I like your graph, for added emphasis of explanation. Keep providing your usual good service and all will work out well. Now to order my next Lamy Safari!

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