Ross Adams has two excellent online stores, based in the UK but delivering all over the world. Pelikan Pens has been selling Pelikan pens for nine years. Pure Pens has a wider range of all kinds of pens. Pure Pens is just about the only place in the UK where you can find Noodler’s Inks. Ross very kindly spared some of his precious time to talk about what it’s like to run an online pen store. This is a really interesting interview with some jealousy inducing photos of the Pelikan/Pure Pens stockroom. Read to the end for an excellent giveaway, too.
1. What drew you to pens and why did you decide to start selling them?
I learnt to write with a fountain pen at school and I have always used one ever since. Back then it was normally a Parker, but as a gift for passing my exams my parents bought me a more expensive pen. It was made by a famous German brand… whose name I won’t mention. We were actually quite disappointed with the quality – especially given the price of it! After a little research online on forums, we discovered that we actually should have bought a different German brand – Pelikan.
At the time, around 2003-2004 there were only a few places locally to buy a Pelikan from. We had to travel over the Severn Bridge into a whole different country(!) into Bristol to have a look at some models, the choice there was very limited and the nib choice was M or nothing. It was even claimed that the nibs could not be exchanged, without being sent back to the Pelikan factory in Hanover. We know they can be unscrewed from the pen and exchanged easily. One short email to Pelikan later, we had an account set up and set up a basic website to sell – pelikanpens.co.uk.
Nine years down the line, we are proud to say that the UK sales of Pelikan have grown about threefold and we believe we sell around half of the UK’s Pelikan. We have built up a real knowledge of Pelikan and their products, past and current. We have even been mentioned at a European Pelikan marketing meeting as Pelikan experts, which is quite humbling.
We also run another website, purepens.co.uk. This was set up in 2011, after being asked by many of our customers if we could get hold of other pens for them too – brands such as Parker, Waterman, Faber-Castell and so on. We decided that the best thing to do would be to keep our Pelikan website separate and launch a new one, so as not to confuse things – our domain name is very specialist after all! Pure Pens has grown and grown since, and we now sell over 40 different brands.
2. Which pens do you use yourself, day to day?
As you’d expect I’m always trying out new ones – it’s hard not to when you work in a room filled with them! The ones I use most though are my Pelikan M800 Brown Tortoiseshell, with a nib that I custom ground myself, as well as my Porsche Tec-flex P3110 and Visconti Homo Sapiens fountain pen, which is made with Lava from Mount Etna – a great talking point! My trusty TWSBI Diamond 540 also still gets a lot of use, and I have a Caran D’Ache Ecridor ball pen for quick notes.
3.What is your favourite pen (and ink)?
It would have to be my M800 Tortoiseshell, filled with Noodler’s Bulletproof Black.
4. What are the greatest pleasures you gain from running your company?
We pride ourselves on offering old fashioned customer service in the modern age. Building a rapport with our customers is something we really enjoy and is one of the most rewarding things about our business. We have made some great friends over the years, and although we do sell to people without any contact, many of them come back to us and let us know how they’re getting on, what they’re planning on ordering next or ask us for advice. Modern channels like twitter make this easier too, and we love hearing from our customers and other pen lovers. Sharing and tweeting photos is great too – we feel like we’re part of a very friendly and warm community.
5. What are some of the challenges you, and the online pen business in general, face?
There are those who will tell you that writing is a dying art and that stationery sales should be falling, with everyone sending emails instead of letters, and technology making the pen redundant… but I disagree. Our sales have grown 30% over the past year, and we’re continuing to see growth month on month. Our challenges will be to continue stocking products that our customers want and maintaining our high level of customer service as we get busier.
6. Finally, what makes your business different?
Our customers tell us that it’s our service – we always make the effort to go the extra mile, and we have built up an unrivalled knowledge of our products. We are probably best known for being Europe’s only Noodler’s stockist, helping everyone this side of the pond to get hold of their great products while avoiding hefty postage charges and import duty. We also offer custom nib grinding and engraving services to make sure that your pen is exactly how you want it, or to add a real personal touch to a gift.
Thank you so much to Ross for sparing the time to give this great interview! And what fantastic photos too. Those drawers of Pelikans make my mouth water. (Best not take that out of context.)
All you need to win is tell me, as a comment on this post, about a great pen, pencil or art-related website. Give me (and everyone else) something new to read.
The giveaway closes at 9am GMT on Saturday 14th June and is open worldwide. The winner will be picked randomly.