Leena Shrestha Menon runs the Fountain Pen Oasis www.penboutique.com which is to the fountain pen community today, what Milan was to trade industry and commerce during the renaissance. A hard-core fountain pen fanatic, Leena is highly regarded not only by her customers and the brands that she represents, but also by the connoisseurs, the aficionados and the collectors for her knowledge, accessibility and willingness to address every issue, to ensure that every query is replied to. A prime mover in the e-commerce space, her entity is up and running, braving every obstacle that has come up thanks to the pandemic and the community will do well to take heed of her words of wisdom, which she has shared exclusively with Inked Happiness. Stay put, for at the end is a link to a video she has made where she introduces the latest from Montblanc – Le Petit Prince and the Planet, 2020. Excerpts:
Inked Happiness: How are you coping with these difficult times? While social media is awash with people posting pictures of their writing / sketching / doodling skills, it is translating into sales?
Leena, Pen Boutique: The increased social media presence of writing and drawing has translated into an increase in online orders for us because it reminds people of the products we carry and inspires some to get the materials to try writing or drawing as a hobby while they’re stuck inside.
It is not easy. We have not seen anything in the past at this level. Each day is a new learning period.
Inked Happiness: What has been the impact of Covid-19 on fountain pen and accessories business? How are you trying to beat the lock-down and address the demand?
Leena, Pen Boutique: For us, the lock-down has made it much more complicated to ship online orders as we can’t staff our warehouse as fully as we normally would. However, this is the time we see that everyone is operating at a different level. My staff is minimal but they have risen to the occasion and we are shipping orders at almost the same level of speed as before. We are doing some quick sales to our email customers, use Instagram and Facebook stories to announce items. We also give some extra stimulus and freebies to improve customers decision making.
However, while overall sales are down, demand has been increasing for small items like bottles of ink as people have more time to shop, so we’re not complaining.
Inked Happiness: How can the greater fountain pen community can come together in these trying times? Do you feel fountain pen lovers should buy more pens / inks / accessories – even when they know that the shipment will be delayed – to help small dedicated businesses to remain afloat?
Leena, Pen Boutique: We definitely appreciate any business our customers are willing to send our way, especially when we’re dealing with this pandemic. If any of our customers have items they’ve been on the fence about buying, we would recommend this as a time to buy, as you’ll have something to look forward to when you’re stuck inside and plenty of time to enjoy your item during quarantine once you receive it. This is the time to come together and as I always address the readers in my e-mailer as “pen family” – this is the time for families to unite and strengthen each other.
Inked Happiness: How does the post Corona fountain pen world look from where you stand? Do you see a demand crash as the world will feel the pinch following the economic slowdown that looms ominously? Or do you see a quick recovery with the pent-up demand fuelling a steep upswing in the graph?
Leena, Pen Boutique: Based on the lessons learned from the 2008 recession, we’re not wholly pessimistic about the outlook for business after the economic slowdown. There will definitely be some reduction in business as people react to economic uncertainty and incomes are threatened, but we expect that like 2008, we’ll still have enough business to stay afloat. It is not an easy time. We have never seen such an incident. Our basic freedoms is snatched away. But I think people are discovering that shopping online and doing other things is not that hard.
Inked Happiness: Can fountain pen lovers look forward to a period that will be marked by huge discounts as the dealers try to push sales and get stocks moving? Or is it a pipe dream?
Leena, Pen Boutique: We are actually having a shortage of various items due to many factories in Europe closing or having minimal employees to produce. Having said that retailers, especially those who have physical stores closed are going through some tough time. The wallets are tight for customers as it is period of uncertainty. We are having flash sales time to time. You have to be our email subscriber or social media like Facebook , Instagram subscriber to be notified. We are also creating stimulus buying opportunity like Free ink bottles with purchase etc.
Inked Happiness: What are your plans for the future?
Leena, Pen Boutique: Pen Boutique is going to keep providing pens, paper, and accessories to our customers as long as they continue to support us, and giving back to our community by supporting local charities and others, while we’re at it. We are planning to add more unique lines like Schon DSGN and more. We are also adding new ink lines. Also, we are coming out with exclusives which will certainly make jaws drop. Again, you have to be tuned to our e-mailer or our YouTube channel or Instagram or Facebook as we announce.
Inked Happiness: Anything that you would like to communicate to our readers.
Leena, Pen Boutique: I would like to say that pen world is now united and more and more people are turning to analogue way of expressing thoughts. We should continue encouraging writing and the use of pens. The world needs to KEEP WRITING.
Check out the latest video from Leena, Pen Boutique: