AUTUMN//WINTER 2018 53 52 AUTUMN//WINTER 2018 AS I write this, it’s the first week of the school holidays and day 34 of the summer heatwave. Oxford Street is the quietest I’ve seen in years, yet the newly opened two-storey Smiggle flagship is filled with the heady fragrance of scented rubbers and buzzes with the sound of its 6- to 12- year-old female clientele. Smiggle – “where a smile meets a giggle” – is an Australian retailer of kids’ stationery which launched 15 years ago and now operates in five countries. It has grown at an unprecedented rate in the UK. Having first opened here in 2014, there are now over 125 of these slightly overwhelming temples to bright, glittery stationery in high streets across the country. There are stated plans to grow to 200 stores by 2020, which could represent well over £100m in sales. British brand Tinc appeals to a similar market, billing itself as “a colourful, creative world of extraordinary stationery, gadgets, clothing and accessories.” With 11 standalone stores and distribution through John Lewis, the brand recently signed a deal with Morrisons to give it nationwide coverage across 330 stores, as well as expanding internationally. Tinc continues to reach new customers CHILD’S PLAY: THE MARKET FOR KIDS’ STATIONERY MANY RETAILERS AIMED AT GROWN- UP CUSTOMERS COULD LEARN FROM SUCCESSFUL BRANDS SUCH AS SMIGGLE... Mel Taylor, founder of award- winning children’s creative writing workshops Little Star Writing, explains that her workshops “focus on boosting confidence, encouraging original thoughts and freedom of expression, and where we see the most reluctant of writers eager to share their writing and coming back week after week.” It is easy to dismiss funky pens and notebooks as a bit of fun, yet the role stationery can play in promoting creativity and a love of writing is a serious one. A stationery lover herself, Taylor continues: “I encourage children to bring their own pens and pencils, share them with the class and write in any way they choose. They can doodle, add stickers to their work, use different colours for different paragraphs and experiment in whichever way brings them the most enjoyment.” Chris Leonard-Morgan, stationery enthusiast and founder of the London Stationery Show, agrees that enjoyment and creativity are important drivers of sales, stating that “children’s natural desire to express and discover themselves on paper will always underpin the market.” Freedom from constraints of school can also help promote this emotional connection with drawing and writing. Taylor highlights “there’s a real sense of achievement when children receive their pen licenses at school, but when we allow children to write, draw, colour, plan and doodle with any pen, pencil or crayon… the excitement  is plain to see. They take pride in how their work looks, they put more effort in, they feel more creative and enjoy the process of putting pen to paper more than they normally would.”  This illustrates the breadth of range that a retailer can put together, encompassing co-ordinating items across writing implements, desk accessories, stickers and backpacks – fantastically giftable items at accessible price points. At Tinc, “bestselling product categories are our Pick and Mix pens and pencils, water bottles, gift sets and gadgets” says Holmes. General stationery retailers also have assortments that appeal to this younger age group, spanning Paperchase’s unicorns, WHSmith’s range by social media influencer Zoella and the ubiquitous glitter at Typo. Leonard-Morgan continues: “Innovative and fashionable products like Papier’s Disney collaboration and Smiggle’s pencil cases help put real fun and excitement into the category.” Fun and excitement are also important for delivering the right store experience for these discerning young customers. Making the physical shop environment appealing to children enables them to touch and try the products, spend longer in the store and have some fun on a shopping trip. Observing the array of products and the excited customers from Smiggle’s rainbow-coloured staircase, I see a colouring table strewn with pens and half-finished drawings. Providing this kind of experience encourages children to pressure parents to stay longer, increase basket size and return more frequently. This is not only fun and interesting to see on the shop floor, it is also a shrewd business strategy. Many retailers aimed at grown-up customers could learn from successful brands such as Smiggle and Tinc as they explore what a modern customer experience means in today’s high street environment. through pop ups (currently outside John Lewis in Canary Wharf) and a “Tinc on Tour” van. Managing director Alison Holmes explains Tinc’s success: “The children’s stationery market has undergone a product transformation over the last few years, with exciting, colourful, unique products making stationery a desirable and affordable purchase for children. Pens, pencil cases, and even backpacks have all seen huge steps in product innovation, in terms of design, material and personality, that allows children to engage with the product more.” She believes there is a continued opportunity to outperform versus the rest of the high street, stating “the children’s stationery market appears to be holding up reasonably well compared to the current difficult times in retail.” As someone who spent a lot of pocket money on pens, folders and pencil cases, it’s with excitement that I see children’s stationery making a comeback on the high street. Hopefully this heralds a new era in which parents are mindful around their children’s screen time and choose to introduce imaginative activities to their children, benefiting creativity and confidence alike. STATIONERY BIZ Tinc’s Salcombe shop Smiggle’s new flagship on Oxford Street The colouring table at Smiggle’s new flagship on Oxford Street Tinc’s rocket range of stationery Children’s stationery is making a comeback on the high street. Retail expert REBECCA SAUNDERS explains why sales are soaring in this growing sector