Although it is among the smallest personal luxury categories in both retail value and retail volume terms, luxury writing instruments and stationery fared best among personal luxury categories amid the COVID-19 pandemic thanks in large part to their more essential nature and usefulness during quarantines. However, the category will still register its steepest sales decline in recent history, as travel restrictions, store closures, economic constraints, and a reprioritisation of consumer values worked to depress demand for luxury writing instruments.
A leading contributor to weakened sales for luxury writing instruments and stationery in 2020 were the efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 that forced the closure of, or contributed to reduced foot traffic to, the category’s largest store-based retail channels throughout much of the year. With lockdowns lasting from mid-March until at least May or June in many states, the closure of stationery stores, classified as non-grocery specialist retailers, as well as department stores, classified as mixed retailers, prevented consumers from purchasing writing instruments in stores during this time, while increased hygiene and social distancing protocols in stores, as well as boarded-up storefronts during periods of civil unrest, led to a reduction in foot traffic to stores throughout the remainder of the year.
With many offices and other white-collar workplaces across the US having closed in mid-March and remained as such throughout the year, luxury writing instruments and stationery has been buoyed by workers spending company payments or their personal funds to set up workplaces inside of their own homes where they can be both comfortable and productive. While the majority have done so by purchasing monitors, desks, chairs, and other furniture, others sought luxury writing instruments and stationery from brands including 2019 leader Montblanc in order to feel a stronger sense of being part of a professional organisation while working from home.
Demand for luxury writing instruments and stationery has fallen in recent years as consumers have become increasingly dependent on digital devices for both work and play. While ball point and fountain pens from luxury brands, especially Richemont’s Montblanc, still remain popular among professionals for both work and gifting, many, especially younger consumers, lack both knowledge of and interest in writing with luxury writing instruments.
The future performance of luxury writing instruments and stationery will be greatly impacted by the pace at which students, especially wealthy international students, and business professionals return to in-person schooling and work. While some did purchase luxury writing instruments and stationery products amid the pandemic in order to use while learning or working remotely, cushioning the category from registering steeper declines in 2020, very few more are likely to do so if remote learning and working is continued or expanded, which would result in further declines for the category over the forecast period.
With consumers largely preferring to shop for and purchase luxury writing instruments in stores thanks to the ability to hold and test the products themselves, as well as to solicit the advice and recommendations of knowledgeable store employees, the category has seen slower e-commerce growth than many other personal luxury product categories. While overall category sales suffered as a result of store closures and other limitations to in-store shopping amid the pandemic, e-commerce registered strong growth in both actual sales and its percentage share of the overall category, as necessity led many consumers to shop for luxury writing instruments online for the very first time.
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