My Thoughts on Pilot UK’s Reply About Availability and Pricing

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.

If you haven’t already, you need to read the original article and Mark’s reply for this to make any sense.


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.


Some facts

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.

Some thoughts

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.


  1. Great point well made, comparing princes across the big 3 Japanese fountain pen manufacturers. Although these businesses and their operations will always be some kind of a black box to an outside observer, one would think that the same forces in the same markets would lead to comparable results. Pilot being an outlier raises suspicion in the consumer and enthusiast, and I have to say that I found Pilots response on the issue evasive. Maybe we couldn’t expect more of an honest answer or a direct comparison with their competitors, but we have to go from the information we have / they provide, and I understand anybody who is not satisfied with this.

    Very interesting story, well done!

  2. A very obvious case in point is the Custom 74 which you mentioned. It’s less than a third of the price you mention on Amazon just now! I’m seriously considering it, because I have just bought a con-70 and it doesn’t fit my Kakuno.

  3. One of the issues I have with such varying prices for the same product depending on which market it being sold in is this:

    Clearly if these products are all manufactured in the same place. The manufacturing costs will be the same. Distributing these products to different markets will vary a little, but clearly as you have seen this would affect other manufacturers as well.

    What appears to differ is profit margins in different markets… I call it price fixing myself.

    With such varying prices for the same item and the freedom we all have to buy from what ever source we can access although we will incur duty and shipping costs, you can’t compare Pilot products based on price at all.

    This whole lesson in global pen economy has put me off purchasing any more Pilot products at all.

  4. Y’all could come move here to the United States. It’s a great place to live: the Pilot pens are cheap, the fries are French, and it’s a place where anyone, even Donald Trump, could be President.

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