Taxonomy Update

Around six months ago, I published a series called Taxonomy in which I tried to map out the competitive landscape for FPs and identify which brands were offering users the most value for money. Some things have changed in the meantime and today, we’ll update the list and have a look at who is doing what in the market.

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An Opportunity in the Pen Market

I’ve been thinking about the economics of the FP retail market for a good year or so, and one of the things that stood out in the beginning was the gaping hole between US$200-400. There just didn’t seem to be many good FP options for users who were ready to step up from their Lamy 2000s and Pilot VPs but weren’t yet ready for a premium pen. As a believer in (relatively) efficient markets, I assumed that the brands were aware of the gap and that some were probably developing products to fill it. But twelve months on, there hasn’t been a lot of change and the market continues to be underserved.

For today’s post, I thought it would be interesting to go through the first two steps of product development: identifying a gap in the market and working out what sort of product users would want to buy. I’ll also discuss which companies I think are positioned to be successful in this space.

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Convergence and Distribution

By and large, people don’t really like middlemen. There’s a popular view that middlemen contribute very little but inflate prices to create profits for themselves. But to an economist, a middleman needs to be contributing something valuable, or they will be cut out of the process. This is certainly true of FP distributors: they set prices, promote products, work with retailers, handle imports, hold inventory, ship product to retailers, and take care of servicing, repairs and returns. These guys contribute enormously to the market – often for a fairly paltry return – and I suspect that convergence is going to make a life a lot harder for them, at least for the ones that survive. In today’s post, we’ll look at why distributors exist in the first place and how convergence threatens that

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