Lamy’s Managing Director (International Sales) Thomas Trapp talks about connecting the brand’s analog origins with the digital future.
Despite the world moving towards digitisation in every sphere, sales of premium writing instruments across the world are on the rise. It is not only a status symbol. A study undertaken by Indiana University reveals that the action of writing with pen on paper helps develop motor skills and stimulates the brain in creative ways. There are also reports to show that millennials prefer using traditional writing tools to think creatively about their tasks.
Lamy, a premium writing instrument brand tied up with Dilip Doshi’s Ambiar Group in 2018 to launch Lamy concept stores in India. So far they have opened stores in 4 cities (Mumbai, Pune, Surat and Chennai) and plan to expand to Delhi, Hyderabad and Kolkata in the coming year.
Lamy, a German writing instrument brand believes that India has the potential to become one of its top 10 markets in the coming years. In 2018, they tied with Dilip Doshi’s Ambiar Group to exclusively launch Lamy concept stores in India. So far, they have opened stores in 4 cities (Mumbai, Pune, Surat and Chennai) and plan to expand to Delhi, Hyderabad and Kolkata in the coming year.
Luxebook caught up with Thomas Trapp, Managing Director (International Sales) at Lamy, who was in Mumbai for their internal global conference to talk about their plans for India and the world.
How has 2019 been for Lamy?
2019 can be seen as a year of consolidation because we have had massive growth across the globe in the last few years. Our turnover has tripled in the last 10 years. Our current aim is to focus on further building the brand in a high quality and sustainable manner by bringing in perfection, both on the physical retail side and the digital retail side.
Which are the top consuming markets?
Our home country, Germany is the largest market for Lamy; followed by China, Japan, Korea and the US. At the moment, India ranks in our top 20 list, but it certainly has the potential to become one of the top 10 markets for us within the next few years.
Have you seen a shift in sales from physical stores to online platforms?
There is most certainly a shift in purchases from physical stores to digital platforms (the brand has a digital presence in 12 countries currently). We firmly believe that physical and e-commerce retail are important channels. We are slowly increasing our online presence in a qualitative manner.
We are aware of the danger the two most popular global e-commerce players are posing. We have learnt from the mistakes our competitor brands have made. They rose very quickly, just to fall even faster. We are not looking for the fast dollar. We are looking for quality. That’s why we work very selectively with our distributors in order to build our brand in a sustainable manner. We are taking a step by step approach we are going at a speed which can be digested by the markets and our partner distributors and us as manufacturers.
Another important point is that the company is owned by the Lamy family. We want the brand to be successful for decades, not just for quarters.
What are Lamy’s expansion plans for the coming year?
In terms of products, we will continue our strategy of premiumisation. We will be opening Lamy concept stores across the globe. We are also looking at new markets such as the Balkans in Eastern Europe, the Baltics region in Northern Europe as well as Peru and Ecuador in South America.
When we look at regions, the decisive factor is to find distribution partners, who truly understand our values and our vision.
We also look at educational levels because we want to contribute and enable people to raise education levels, to learn better. In Germany, it is recommended by state institutions to learn writing with a fountain pen. It is a proven fact that writing with a fountain pen helps you memorise letters, words, sentences and the meaning so much better—rather than if you use another pen—because of writing in a conscious, controlled and slow manner.
In Germany, 70% of schoolchildren learn to handwrite with a Lamy fountain pen. In a way, we help make this world a tiny bit better. That is one of the reasons why we took on our first distributor in Africa. It is always more than just about making money.
How does the brand differentiate itself from others in such a competitive market?
The year 1966 is a crucial date for us because it was the year, Dr Manfred Lamy took the initiative to launch the Lamy 2000. Ever since then, it has defined the Lamy design corridor, which is inspired by the Bauhaus design philosophy – where form follows function. We avoid all unnecessary ornaments and we reduce the design to pure function. This also defined the materials, form and colour. Each Lamy instrument has a timeless modern design and this makes us different from all the ornated, traditional, and you might even call them old-fashioned competitor brands. We are a timelessly modern alternative.
What are the market challenges?
One of the challenges we are facing, but are looking at it as a big opportunity, is to connect our analogue origins with the digital future.
Currently, people write with ink on paper. In the future, the function of ink may be performed by a software and the function of a paper being performed by a device – smart phone, digital tablet, we don’t know. Those are the topics we are thinking about.
We are already investing a significant amount of money in this digital opportunity and our ambition is to play a leading role in transforming this category. Just a few weeks ago, we have made our first step in the digital market writing instruments space the LAMY Safari S pen (made with EMR technology) for Samsung in South Korea.
That being said, our company will always produce analogue writing instruments. We strongly believe that there will always be people who will write with pen and ink.
Is digitisation impacting sales?
In China, numbers indicate that there are twice as many smartphones as there are inhabitants. Nevertheless, it is are our second biggest market and is growing substantially in writing instrument sales. We believe these two markets – analogue and digital writing – are totally different segments.
Our ink and refill sales are going up year-on-year, which shows that people are really using it and not just buying it as a status symbol. In an ever more digitalised world, we are realising that a handwritten letter or greeting card rises in value.