(Main Image: Rob & Mary Wright of Spotlight Stationery)
Despite the onset of the digital age stationery, and all the joy of its aesthetic appeal and potential creativity, is having a comeback. Spotlight Stationery is run by Mary and Rob Wright from Cheltenham in Gloucestershire. They sell themed collections of themed stationery to subscribers across the globe and having launched in 2015, they are seeing a surge in stationery sales.
Spotlight Stationery box contents change each month and include premium notebooks, quality pens and pencils and postcards with illustrations by recent graduates and young artists. The company’s customers include stationery-lovers in over 14 countries including the USA, Canada, Japan, Israel, Finland, Malaysia and India.
Mary describes how the company came about: “During some idle trawling through Twitter I stumbled upon a UK company offering a stationery subscription box. I had never heard of such a thing and was surprised to find quite a lot of other businesses doing a similar thing, offering everything from a few greetings cards and some stickers to premium notebook brands. I (briefly) signed up to a few and decided it might be fun to try it for myself.“
Spotlight Stationery launched in early December 2015 and the first boxes were sent out on 23rd January 2016. Mary, 53, and Rob, 58, haven’t looked back since.
Working as a husband and wife team is the key to success for Spotlight. Mary says: “When I told Rob about my idea for Spotlight, he was so enthusiastic that I immediately suggested we should run it together. Rob handles all the bookkeeping, I look after the social media and marketing, and we collaborate on everything else from choosing the themes and products and market research. We visit stationers, and trade show together and pack all the boxes. We are a real team!“
Mary’s inspiration for the Spotlight Stationery boxes is the combination of her life-long obsession with pencils and paper and her design background. She explains: “When I ‘discovered’ stationery sub-boxes it was a bit of a light-bulb moment; a fun opportunity to indulge an obsession that would complement my design business really well.“
All of their boxes have proved to be very popular, particularly their second box, “In Your Pocket“, which is a collection of pocket-sized notebooks and pens. More recently a box containing products from a single brand, Rhodia, sold out very quickly and got a lot of attention from bullet journallers.
Rob says the interest has been phenomenal and stationery is definitely still popular despite the onset of online communications. He comments: “We may live in a digital world but the desire for some analogue down-time is increasing, particularly for people looking for an outlet for their creativity. The rise in popularity of keeping a journal, and bullet journalling in particular, is taking the stationery world by storm and the internet is full of examples which are works of art in themselves.
I believe another reason why stationery is so popular is that it reconnects us with our childhood; everyone remembers the inevitable trip to WH Smith at the end of the summer holiday to get supplies for the new school year. And, if it doesn’t sound too fanciful, there’s something about opening a new notebook for the first time. Who knows what you’ll fill it with? The possibilities are endless.
Our customers range from crafts enthusiasts to committed stationery hoarders! We make an effort to vary the contents as much as possible; the last thing we want is a customer who’s bored by receiving too much of the same thing. We’ve deliberately positioned Spotlight at the more expensive end of the sub box range and try to live up to expectations by only including premium brands and specialist artisan producers, who we’re very keen to support. Some stationery addicts go mad for sheets of shiny stickers, decorated shopping lists and amusingly shaped post-it notes. That’s absolutely fine, but they won’t find them in our boxes.“
Mary and Rob choose their illustrators by collecting business cards from university summer shows. Mary says: ‘I contact the students by email to ask them if they’re interested and the response we’ve had has been terrific. One of our illustrators is going to spend a day with us next month on our “boxing day” so she can learn more about how Spotlight works.
When it comes to choosing their suppliers, the criteria is the same whether it’s an international premium brand or a small artisan producer; it all comes down to the quality of the product and the integrity of the company. Plus, if there’s a story behind the product or the producer, that’s a bonus. Mary and Rob prefer to meet the sales manager and it’s very important to see for themselves the products before they order them.
As Spotlight Stationery goes from strength to strength, Mary and Rob are using feedback from customers to keep their product special and different. They say: ‘We go out of our way to find products that you would not commonly find on the high street, and our customers appreciate being presented with items they might never have seen before, or are difficult to get where they live.
“From the beginning we wanted to differentiate Spotlight from our competitors. Apart from the quality of the products, the two main differences are our promotion of young illustrators and our support for a local charity. Our customers love this; they often comment on it on social media and the feedback is very positive.
We announced on Twitter that in our August box the postcards would show paintings made by students at the National Star College, a college for students with disabilities in Cheltenham. The reaction to this box was phenomenal.”
The subscription benefits for customers are that the service is totally flexible. There’s a choice of monthly or bi-monthly subscriptions, which customers can switch between, there’s no minimum contract so customers can cancel at any time or skip a month or two if their stationery stash is getting out of hand. Spotlight are about to add three and six month pre-paid options, which will give a saving on the monthly cost.
Proving that success is based on passion and teamwork, Mary and Rob are about to launch the B2B side of the business, which is corporate stationery gifts. Rob comments: “We’re hoping to persuade business owners to consider a beautiful box of stationery as a Christmas gift for their clients as an alternative to a bottle of wine or hamper. If they want a premium diary we can do that too and bespoke branding is also available. This is not just for Christmas; they could be staff rewards, a gift for a new client, or a free gift to workshop participants. There is so much joy for people when they open a Spotlight Stationery box – we want to share that with everyone!”
Stationery addicts can find about more about signing up for a monthly or bi-monthly box of stationery at www.spotlightstationery.co.uk.