Mark Knibbs of Pilot took time to reply to my questions about pricing before I published my article and it’s a shame it was filtered out as spam. I apologise once again to Mark and to everyone who drew the wrong conclusions about Pilot as a consequence. I appreciate him taking the time to reply so thoroughly. This wasn’t a boilerplate response, it was an email from a real person who took the time to respond to my questions in a thoughtful and considered way.
Pilot’s explanation about what to sell or to not sell in the UK is interesting and convincing. There is clearly a not insignificant investment to be made and any company needs to be sure that it will recoup that investment. The explanation about trademarks and liability makes sense and I understand why Pilot would ask retailers to stop importing items unofficially. I do not understand why they are not doing the same with Amazon or the retailers that sell through Amazon.
I do feel Pilot would be onto a winner if they introduced the Juice here (whatever it ends up being called) and I think they’re missing something if they don’t introduce the Kakuno. Both would sell very well in the high street, where Pilot products already have a significant presence and where, presumably, most of their profit comes from.
Pilot can structure their company any way they like.
Pilot can charge whatever wholesale price they want.
Pilot, Platinum and Sailor fountain pens are a lot more expensive in the USA and UK than they are in Japan.
Platinum and Sailor fountain pens cost roughly the same in the UK and USA.
Pilot fountain pens cost a lot more in the UK than in the USA.
Either Pilot have arranged their company in such a way that they have to charge high UK wholesale prices to make a worthwhile profit or they are choosing to charge high wholesale prices because that’s what they calculate is best for them.
By high, I mean compared to Platinum and Sailor when comparing like for like with the USA. (The retailer markup argument doesn’t wash unless you think retailers mark up Pilot pens much more than Sailor or Platinum. I don’t know whether or not they do but it seems unlikely. Therefore I’m concluding that it’s Pilot’s wholesale prices not big retail markups.)
Either way the result is that consumers who want to buy Pilot pens are drawn to Amazon or Japanese-based online retailers. This is not good for UK retailers and not what Pilot UK want (if they are serious about stopping unsanctioned imports).
If we buy from the UK we are faced with pens that do not represent good value for money. The Custom 74 (review pending!), good though it is, is not a £185 ($260) pen.
This has been an interesting debate and I’ve learned a lot from it. Thank you to everyone who’s contributed in such a thoughtful way. Please do continue to share your thoughts with me and each other either here, on Facebook or on Twitter.
I wrote the original post out of frustration but also out of affection. Pilot make great pens and I wish they were able to sell them here for a reasonable price.
I’ll now get back to my reviews and drawings.