It’s now over nine months (!!!) since we launched Pocket Notebooks, and something Dan and I are keen on doing is introducing and maintaining openness and transparency on how we operate the business.
Every three months we will offer an insight into what’s happened, the challenges we’ve faced along the way and our plans for the next quarter. Simply put, it’s our warts-and-all behind Pocket Notebooks as a way of building a connection with you, our customers, friends and fellow stationery geeks.
Past Three Months
After the excitement of September through to December 2015 selling Hobonichi, Black Friday and our first Festive period, we knew we had to start 2016 by re-focusing on what we exist for - 3.5” x 5.5” pocket notebooks.
We knew we had to maintain and increase our house brands such as Field Notes and Word., but we wanted to use this quarter to introduce some exciting new brands. We are quite close to the Facebook communities of Field Nuts and The Erasables, and have made good connections with a few Friends from America who were speaking volumes of a number of brands such as WritePads, Story Supply and Public Supply.
We first came across Story Supply over on the Field Nuts Facebook Group at the time they were preparing to launch their own pocket notebook range. We took a conservative approach to import 15 notebooks from their Lined, Graph and Plain range and have been encouraged with how well they’ve been received, through both our normal sales and subscriptions alike.
Similar to Story Supply Co, we are the first European distributer of the WritePads Notebooks. Made in Baltimore, US, they are a skilled team of craftsmen making these wonderful notebooks.
Unlike Field Notes or Word, these two brands are relatively unknown on our shores, but it’s encouraging to see both business owners committed to having an impact in the UK and are very pro-active, creative and socially involved with us to make this happen. A great example of this is WritePads’ commitment to their UK and European admirers by allowing us to supply their limited edition Lenore.
Furthermore, we have made developments this quarter to exist beyond the digital world by selling notebooks in the physical retail space. Working with Whosit & Whatsit, you can now find the Word. Notebooks range in their unique setup that sells products created solely by independent designers and illustrators from their Grade II listed building on the historic Newcastle upon Tyne quayside. It’s been a great eye-opener working with this setup and hopefully this model will grow and expand in other shops throughout the UK.
What’s more, we’ve proudly enjoyed some pleasing PR reviews lately, especially well received was the support from the online publisher of UK regional business news, BDaily, who featured Pocket Notebooks.
We are quickly learning that sometimes PR gets generated completely beyond your control, something we experienced last month, where unbeknown to us, the Field Notes brand was part of a series in GQ magazine of the 10 products you need in your life. The Kraft Notebook range directed GQ visitors to our website, which as you can imagine coming from the popular men’s fashion and lifestyle magazine, helped generate a lot of traffic and attention.
For the first time in our short business, our subscription boxes are now outselling our normal notebook orders. Plus, not only are these becoming popular in the UK, but we have also welcomed customers from Europe, and even a handful in the US.
Whilst this is great, something we are keen to improve on is how we manage and operate the subscriptions. This will include improvements to the packaging, fulfilment dates and notebook choices.
We are currently signed up to receive some of the finest subscription services including Razors from Cornerstone and a monthly beauty subscription from Birchbox (much to the surprise / delight to my wife) to help us better understand what makes the perfect subscription box.
When we first started Pocket Notebooks in the summer of 2015, it was never with the objection to offer, yet alone become, a subscription service, so we really need to give the process a lot of thought to make sure we are offering value for money.
We’re a big believer in Pocket Notebooks being more than just a website that sells notebooks, but to also position ourselves as the go-to place for insight, knowledge and thought leadership into the notebooks we supply.
To make this happen we will be increasing our effort with the content we create, delivering more purposeful blog content, including the very popular ‘Getting To Know’ series, notebook reviews, brand insights and a new feature that identifies all fountain pen friendly notebooks, something that pen fanatic and all-round great guy Robbie Ross is managing for us.
It would be short sighted of us to not use these quarterly posts without discussing finances and whilst we’ll stop short of jumping on the startup bandwagon by sharing our turnover and profit, we do want to use this first post as an opportunity to inform you of a price change.
Back in January, we were informed by the likes of Field Notes and Word. Notebooks that their courier partner, USPS, introduced an increase to their International Shipping options, with average increases of 11% being implemented. We’ve seen a hit to the import costs over the past three months as a result, and unfortunately it’s become too unsustainable and as such, we need to revise some of our product costs.
Due to the shipping increase, we have had to reconsider our prices and will soon be increasing notebooks that are currently listed as £7.95 to now cost £8.95.
Since we launched in July 2015, we have been keen to be the go-to place for your pocket notebooks and believe this is achieved by supplying a comprehensive product range, provide added value customer service and remain competitively priced. We are confident we will remain the cheapest online store and all of our products will continue to receive free 1st Class delivery.
Later this month, I will be attending the National Stationery Show in London for two days, representing both Pocket Notebooks and our parent company StudioAlt. I know a few of our blogger friends will be attending and I’d really welcome the opportunity to grab a coffee with you, chat about all things stationery, and I’ll be sure to have a few our latest notebooks with me!
We hope you have enjoyed our first quarterly review and that you’ll be back for more in the summer. Dan and I would like to sign-off by thanking you all for your continued support, whether that’s buying from us or chatting with us over on Twitter.
Remember, forget the App, there’s a Pocket Notebook for that…
Thanks, Tony & Dan