Transaction costs

We’ve had a lot of economics lately and I had hoped to do a history post for today, but that one hasn’t panned out (yet). Instead, today I thought we could talk about transaction costs: the barriers in the market that get in the way of trade. I think these are a powerful force in our marketplace: the key driver of the revival in FPs, the reason we have an online community, and even the success of Goulet Pens. It is a topic that is well worth exploring.

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Congratulations to Brian Anderson!

Brian announced on his podcast this week that he has resigned from his day job and will soon be working in his store at Anderson Pens full time! This is something he has been working towards since opening the store in 2013, and I'm really excited that Brian and Lisa have finally made it happen. Congratulations! 

As Brad said on this week's Pen Addict podcast, Brian is one of the really good guys of the pen community. He devotes a huge amount of time towards building the community through his podcast, moderating the Esterbrook forum on FPN, and providing top-notch advice on reddit. For years now, he's been working full-time, managing the store on the side, and travelling to virtually every pen show in the US, and it's exciting to see this shift happening.

I think there are a lot of people in the community who love this idea: being able to quit their job and make a living entirely from their passion. But we all know that it's a tough choice to make. Even if you've got a good thing on the side, selling products or grinding nibs, making the jump from a secure job with regular pay involves risk and takes some guts. (Of course, Brian being Brian, I'm sure that he's put a lot of time into minimising that risk!) 

So it's exciting but risky, and I'm sure we all hope that Brian is able to make a successful transition. Guys like him are blazing trails for the rest of us to hopefully follow someday. 

Congratulations again, Brian, and all the best for the future!

Update: Brian has published a blog post about 'ripping off the band aid'. Great stuff!

Retailer Analysis: Wonder Pens

This week, I thought it would be interesting to have a look at a relatively new FP retailer, Wonder Pens in Toronto. They came onto my radar around 6-12 months ago and I’ve been following their blog with interest ever since. If you haven’t read any of their posts, I’d encourage you to have a look; it’s not the usual list of product and store announcements that you get from most other retailers but an insightful and very human look at the business and their travails. Wonder Pens is one of the most interesting small retailers in the market, not just because of the blog but because of their unique approach to the business. 

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Six months in...

Today marks six months since this site went live and I formally joined the blogging community — and what a six months it has been! In that time, I’ve met some really interesting people, had some great discussions, and been fortunate enough to enjoy insights from people that I would never have met without the blog. It’s quite a thrill to get an email from a brand or a retailer and have them bounce ideas off you or share some of an insider’s perspective on the market. While I have a policy of maintaining the anonymity of contributors and won’t name them, I am truly grateful for everyone who has taken the time to email me and share their thoughts and ideas. 

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Going Premium

Every now and then, I’ll see a conversation online about a successful brand or retailer where a commenter will say something about how excited they are to see when the firm goes premium: offering more expensive products, like gold-nibbed or high-end pens. It’s almost always expressed as an inevitability, like a star athlete moving up to the big leagues, and yet it almost never happens in reality. In fact, the opposite seems to occur more frequently: brands that were once premium like Parker and Waterman barely compete in the upmarket space anymore. In today’s post, I thought it would be interesting to explore why firms aren’t always so eager to make the move upmarket, and look at Goulet Pens and Twsbi as two case studies.

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