Cult Pens are one of the best-known names in fountain pen retail (and various other goodies) in the UK – and, as it happens, one of the earliest supporters of this site, although we were all customers already. So when we decided to broaden the format of the United Inkdom to include the occasional company profile piece, they were a natural choice to get us started with that too. We caught up with one of the company’s founders, Simon Walker, for a very light grilling.
How did it all get started, and how has it changed?
Well that’s been pretty well covered elsewhere, but it was the classic evolution from a small shop to early e-merchandise, and on to today. Getting the software to work well is a lot easier these days, and it’s grown from a couple to eighteen people – and a dog, of course!
What brands have been the big hits – whether or not they were expected to be?
Kaweco stand out as fellow stationery fans, and they’ve been great to work with – their success has really come from listening to customers and shaping their offer accordingly, which fits well with works for us too. The other big brand that stands out is Platinum; they too have really listened to customer feedback and put time and effort into understanding what writers are looking for – when you see the chief executive of international big name like that making it all the way to Devon to meet us, you know they’re serious!
How is the humble fountain pen holding up against its competitors?
The biggest competitor these days isn’t really another writing device, but the smart phone and the tablet. It sometimes seems like hand-writing implements as a whole are a declining market, so enthusiast markets are the key. That’s fine by us though – the enthusiasts are really nice people to work with, and it all drives innovation.
So, what should we look out for next?
Oh, now there’s a trade secret! Actually the big new releases should be starting to crystallise fairly soon; it’s the big trade show coming up soon in Frankfurt where the latest models and designs start to get shared. We’re hearing rumours about some significant new products from some very well-known names, but ‘watch this space’, as they say.
What do you write with every day?
Honestly, I’m more of a mechanical pencil obsessive! But the rest of the team are all keen on putting the latest opens through their paces; the Decimo is putting in some miles at the moment, for instance.
How is your Cult Pens ‘own brand’ line developing?
The Deep Dark inks are going very well – Diamine did a really great job there, and the feedback has been very positive too; they sell almost as fast as the Shimmertastic range! The CP mini fountain pen has been a very successful project, designed for us by Kaweco and filling a need we saw for a small, affordable pocket pen. We’ll be interested to hear United Inkdom’s ideas for a ‘maxi’ pen but you haven’t quite persuaded us yet! Our own mechanical pencil is doing well too – I gather Ian was suitably impressed…
We had to leave Simon to get back to running the ship at this point, but not before setting up exactly the follow-on you’d expect – so look out next week for a United Inkdom meta-review of the Cult Pens mini fountain pen.