Stationery Stores

Stationery Shopping in Amsterdam.

Last month I was fortunate to visit Amsterdam for a very brief trip. Whenever I visit a new city I like to see if there are any interesting stationery shops that I should carve out some time to visit. (Small helpful hint: check out All Things Stationery’s handy map.) My recent trip to Amsterdam was no different and I found an afternoon to visit two stationery shops, my thoughts on which are shared below.

Like Stationery.

My first stop was at Like Stationery, a short walk from Amsterdam Central station. I wasn’t overly familiar with this shop before my trip but their website looked really nice and their instagram well shot, so I was hoping this would be a little gem. But when I arrived it was quiet, and dare I say a little unwelcoming. There were also quite a few notices asking for no photography.

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Like Stationery had a good range of brands in store displayed and presented really well. A long central table held lots of different notebook brands such as Life Stationery, there were tall glasses filled with Blackwing pencils and a display of correspondence cards. The selection that Like had was pretty good and everything was laid out allowing you to see what was on offer. The one downside was a lack of testing pads alongside the pencil and pen displays, and when combined with notices of no photography it creates an atmosphere of no play.

I didn't buy anything from the store for some of the aforementioned reasons, but also because there was nothing there that really grabbed my attention.

Misc-Store.

My second visit of the day and the shop I was really looking forward to visiting was Misc. It was a little bit of a walk out of the city and even in the cold and wet weather I wasn’t deterred.

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Misc has lots of treasures displayed in a manner which made them easy to look at and in some cases test and play with. There was a small Travelers Company section in the store which I was immediately drawn towards. Misc had some beautifully worn TN’s on display to give you an idea of how the weather wears and ages, to show how they can be set up and used. It’s such a great idea to include them in this manner because part of the allure is how these notebooks change with use. There were also some Travelers Company stamps with an ink pad, that I happily played with and added into my own TN.

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Another brand I was keen to see in Misc was their range of Classiky items. I haven’t noticed too many online stores in Europe where you can find Classiky and I had only seen some in person at Present and Correct in London. Misc had a great selection including the small dishes, the wooden first aid boxes and some of the papers and pads too.

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Misc did have a pen testing area in one section of their shop. An array of pens and fountain pens from brands such as Lamy and Y Studio were displayed with testing pads encouraging you to try them out. I did have a little play in this section too, in particular with the Y Studio pens as I hadn’t seen these in flesh.

I spent quite a bit of my time exploring the different stationery items that Misc offered and chatting to the staff. I came away with a small selection of items including an Olive TN, a set of the Midori pencils and a Le Typographe Porte-Mine mechanical pencil. I bought this mechanical pencil after testing it out and because I was surprised by how comfortable it was to use and how nice the graphite appeared on the page. Letting customers play and test definitely helps them to buy - no question.

Overall thoughts.

Misc lived up to my expectations and I really could have spent a lot of money there. I think on another trip to Amsterdam I would definitely take the time to visit again. As a customer you’re encouraged to try and test things out, which was very different from my experience at Life Stationery.

As usual I thoroughly enjoyed visiting some of the stationery shops during my trip. It’s a great way to find new products you may not normally be interested in, or exposed to. With a bit of good fortune I should be able to get back out to Amsterdam this year and will take the time to visit other stores too.

One last thing before you go…below was my short break stationery toolkit. Far too much as always, but it included the things I thought I needed. This needs a lot of refinement and is something I have to work on but I thought I would share it with you.

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Stationery Shop Visits in London

I recently spent a very cold but very sunny Saturday visiting some beautiful stationery shops in London with Priya from The London Parchment. Our priority for the day was visiting Present and Correct which I have wanted to visit for a very long time. I wanted to share some thoughts on the shops we visited and also share the items I bought.

Stop 1: Present and Correct.

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Present and Correct is located on a small side street in Angel and is kind of hidden away. The shop name is very subtle shown only on the window and easily missed.

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We jostled for space among other visitors and spent quite a long time closely looking through the contents of the shop and deliberating (not so much Priya) about what to buy.

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I really liked the presentation of everything in Present and Correct. There were low table tops with the stationery placed in an aesthetically pleasing manner.

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Shelves also showed off some of the smaller items, notebooks and envelops.

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Washi tapes were displayed on long hooks by colour.

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There was an old style vending machine with small stationery items such as clips, erasers and sharpeners. It's such a good use of an old fashioned vending machine.

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I came away with a few items. One pair of gold Hay scissors, light yellow washi tape that reminded me of Spring, a composition notebook and a pack of 32mm Tools to Live By binder clips. I had been wanting some new scissors and the binder clips for some time. The composition notebook was not what I had expected, I remember this being a Kickstarter campaign but I never backed it. It's pretty pricey at £20 but the paper inside felt really nice in the flesh and I think probably works well with a lot of different writing tools. I also liked the slightly larger than A5 size. I'm really looking forward to playing around with this notebook.

I love the little peach library card

I love the little peach library card

Stop 2: Quill.

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The second stop was at Quill. Quill is a completely different to Present and Correct, Priya described it well as workshop space with a number of stationery things too.

I really loved Quill. There were so many nice little things focused around the art of writing and calligraphy. They had a great selection of correspondence papers and envelopes some which could be bought in packs of 10, others which were more of a mix and match situation. The colours and styles were all lovely. Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures, I was far too distracted.

I came away with an Appointed notebook with the grey cover and a graph ruling. This notebook looked a lot like the insides of the Mnemosyne notebook and I really wanted to test out this paper. Again it's a little larger than the traditional A5 and could be a really good notebook for being creative and playing around with ink and fountain pens.

I also bought a round series 60 ProArte Masterstoke paintbrush. Quill recommend this for brush lettering but I think its handy to just have another paintbrush around.

Overall thoughts.

Present and Correct was really nice with an interesting range of products. The layout of the shop made it easy to browse and look around with a nice mix of the standard items, such as Kaweco fountain pens and the more unusual such as the Classiky wooden storage boxes and vintage items.

Quill was lovely and I really liked the range of items they had in there. They are all linked in some way to lettering and calligraphy from wax seals, paper, ink and writing paper. Quill is more aligned to the way I am using my stationery items at the moment.

Thoughts on the WHSmith and Cult Pens Merger.

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This isn’t my normal sort of post here on The Finer Point. I normally focus on reviews, posts on how I use my stationery and load outs. But I felt I needed to write this editorial piece to share my thoughts on the merger of WHSmith and Cult Pens.

WHSmith is a British high street staple. Most British stationery addicts have a story of buying their back to school stationery from Smiths, deliberating for hours on end on the right pencil case, what pencils they needed, what the right eraser would be. I am no different. I used to love Smiths, spending a lot of my pocket money there and being excited when I saw something new. But Smiths is nothing but nostalgic. Now a trip to Smiths is rare and chaotic. Shelves are stacked high with clutter, navigation is hard work, staff are unhelpful and on each occasion my clarity is left at the door. The stationery section is uninspiring with the standard brands and products that they have always offered. There is nothing new and nothing that opens up the stationery world the consumer.

I had assumed that Smiths were living on their history, still part of the high street but not active. The British public don’t like Smiths and haven’t done for eight years. The acquisition of Cult Pens is a declaration of their commitment to the stationery portion of their business but I am struggling to make sense of this move. I haven’t seen any indication of Smiths commitment to stationery in any way, either in store or online. I haven’t seen them branch out into new areas, offer new product lines that have a proven success. I haven’t found any reason in my three years of running this blog to visit Smiths for a single stationery item. I can therefore assume from my personal experience and active interest in this hobby and community that Smiths haven’t done any of this.

It’s because of this that I am surprised by the Smiths acquisition of Cult Pens. Smiths have done very well out of this, they have acquired the biggest British online stationery retailer. They’ve acquired skills and expertise that they don’t seem to own themselves. But this could all be to the detriment to the consumer, the enthusiast and potentially Cult Pens. We could see them swallowed into the corporate machine and hampered by politics and processes. I have worked in several large corporate companies where ideas are impossible to achieve because the system doesn’t support or allow it. And I don’t seem to be the only person with these concerns, Twitter responses seem to mirror my own, there is a full on Reddit thread and a FP Geeks thread most of which highlight concern.

I hope Cult Pens aren’t stymied by this merger, I hope they are left alone to continue their business in the same vein. I hope that how they work, their helpful and friendly staff, their knowledge of the market, their product offering, I hope that this rubs off on Smiths and the high street brand benefits from this and the consumer notices a change. This seems like a best case scenario which the cynic in me doesn’t think is achievable.

All of this depends on the company’s structure, the position of the Cult Pens staff within Smiths’ organisation. It’s not easy to change an old company, get the buy-in from their existing staff at a corporate level and in-stores. All of this will be a long, slow process full of resistance.

It’s no surprise by my tone and questions throughout this post that I am concerned. I am a fan of Cult Pens and I like that there is a UK company that offers such a broad range of products. I have had nothing but positive experiences with Cult Pens. I think the lure of WHSmiths brand, of marketing support and the promise of growth may have accelerated this acquisition. I am sure there are ideas and plans to grow both businesses, I just hope Cult Pens isn’t absorbed and lost in the corporate world at Smiths and that we lose a well loved small business.