• Rifle Paper Co 2020 planners


    Our popular Rifle Paper Co 2020 planners are now in stock! The diaries come in three different designs and in two size formats, the smaller handbag-sized planner with covered spiral binding and a larger format planner with exposed spiral binding. Both planners lie flat and have features such as end pockets, fun planner stickers and gold metallic details.

    Rifle Paper Co 2020 planners

    Handbag planners come in these three designs:

    - Rifle Paper Co 2020 palette planner

    - Rifle Paper Co 2020 garden party planner

    - Rifle Paper Co 2020 wild rose planner

    Rifle Paper Co 2020 wild rose large planner

    The larger format planners comes in two of the same patterns:

    - Rifle Paper Co 2020 wild rose large planner

    - Rifle Paper Co 2020 garden party large planner

    These planners run for 17 months from August 2019 - December 2020, so they're great as an academic year diary - or if you're looking for ideas of why to use a 17-month diary, you might like my blog from last year on why I use a mid-year diary.

    We'll have the 12 month hardcover diaries in stock later in the year.

  • 10 reasons to send a card today


    Real, hold-it-in-your-hand, smell-the-paper post may be in decline, but we still all love to receive a tangible card. Or letter. No matter how rare they’ve become. A colourful, hand-addressed envelope landing on your doormat will always deliver more of a thrill than its email equivalent, especially when glinting in pink or green from within a pile of dull, white bills. So, why not take the occasion of no occasion in particular, and make up a reason to send a card to someone who would appreciate it? Here are ten - deliciously random - reasons to send a card today...just to get you started.

    1. Your friend finally passed her driving test on the eighth attempt, so you want to congratulate her on it only taking a decade...and call shotgun for the first seaside road trip.

    Rifle Paper Co you rock card

    {Rifle Paper Co you rock card}

    2. It’s popped up in your Facebook feed that an old flame has just got engaged, and you think that if Chelsy Davy can turn up at the royal wedding to witness Harry marry Meghan, then you can be the bigger person and send your best wishes to the happy couple. It may be through gritted teeth, but you can’t read tone in a card anyway.

    Rifle Paper Co love is in the air card

    {Rifle Paper Co love is in the air card}

    3. Through the hometown grapevine you’ve discovered that your favourite childhood teacher is about to retire, so you want to carpe diem your chance to let Mrs Haggarty know what an enormous impact she had on your young life. And not just for introducing you to Judy Blume.

    You're the bees knees card

    {Rifle Paper Co You're the bees knees card}

    4. Your sister’s dumped that rubbish bloke from Tinder who kept accidentally calling her by the wrong name. And turning up an hour late to every date. You decide a card will let her know that you, most assuredly, approve of her decision. There are many more fish in the proverbial sea, and none of them as annoying as Danny.

    5. Now your friends are having babies, you have a burning desire to let your mum know how much you appreciate her, realising what she actually endured to bring you onto the planet. And raise you into the fabulous, card-sending individual you’ve become.

    super mom card


    {Rifle Paper Co super mom card}

    6. You feel that it’s your duty, as their most loyal and ardent customer, to thank your local pizzeria for making every Friday night a great one. And to remind them, since it’s been nearly a week since you last mentioned it, to pretty please never take that caramelised onion and gorgonzola number off the menu.

    Rifle Paper Co you're out of this world card

    {Rifle Paper Co you're out of this world card}

    7. You want to thank your favourite hairdresser for always keeping you looking the right side of sassy, and for understanding that whenever you say “just an inch off please”, you really mean JUST AN INCH.

    thanks a bunch card

    {Rifle Paper Co thanks a bunch card}

    8. It’s always good to let your granny know you’re thinking of her. And that you love her timeless style. You wore the vintage earrings she gave you to a party and got five compliments.

    9. Your cousin completed his Duke of Edinburgh gold and you’re - frankly - bloody impressed. You only managed to get as far as the bronze level. And failed that.

    your future looks bright card

    {Rifle Paper Co your future looks bright card}

    10. Your teacher friend has caught nits from her class (for the third time this academic year), and you want to encourage her to keep on keeping on. The temporary scalp-residents may be bugging her, but she’s shaping the young minds of the future. And there’ll be a truck-load of wine and chocolates come the end of term.

    Rifle Paper Co you got this card

    {Rifle Paper Co You got this card}

    Take five minutes to show those you love, you love them. Send a card today.

    Sarah Clarke


    You might also like:

    - Stationery stories: childhood stationery

    - Galentine's Day ideas

    Rifle Paper Co planners

  • Lavender gift wrap


    Last weekend I took a trip to Mayfield Lavender Farm in South London (heaving with swarms of bees and people), which was a fun morning despite the crowds. I bought a big bunch of lavender which I've dried out, and tried a couple of easy gift wrapping ideas with.

    lavender field

    dried lavender

    magazine pages

    I love wrapping small parcels with pages from magazines, which I'm always cutting out and keeping. My favourite magazines for this are Plant (beautiful botanical photos and illustrations) and N. Ireland's Freckle magazine, which has lots of scenic landscape photos. If you find magazines with matte pages rather than glossy paper, it will give a really sophisticated finish to your gift.

    Lavender gift wrap ideas

    For the above gift, I wrapped it with a band of hessian jute (bought from a pound shop - I weaved the lavender through to keep it secure) and gold leather string.

    lavender gift wrap

    In the second one I just used a strip of gold washi tape to tape down the lavender sprigs and one of these gold gift tags.

    Your gift recipient may not thank you for bits of lavender all over the floor, but I love the natural look and the scent!


    You might also like:

    - Vintage printable gift tags

    - Kraft vintage postcards

    - How to make personalised ribbon

  • Rifle Paper Co 2019 planners


    We've got these Rifle Paper Co 2018 2019 planners in stock now. Running from August 2018 - December 2019, these high-quality 17-month planners include monthly and weekly pages, inspirational quotes, and new, this year, fun colourful stickers for marking memorable dates!


    Rifle Paper Co 2018 2019 planners

    We have 5 planner designs in stock. The larger, spiral-bound planner comes in two styles:

    - Rifle Paper Co 2019 Juliet rose spiral planner

    - Rifle Paper Co 2019 bouquet spiral planner

    The smaller planners (still spiral-bound, but with a covered binding) come in three designs:

    - Rifle Paper Co 2019 Juliet rose planner

    - Rifle Paper Co 2019 bouquet planner

    - Rifle Paper Co 2019 wildwood planner

    We will have some of the 12 month styles in stock later this year, including a few new different formats.


    You might also like:

    - Why I use a mid-year diary

  • Stationery stories: childhood stationery


    I've loved stationery and all types of design ever since I was a child but looking back I don't understand all my choices. We spent summer holidays in Scotland and one of the highlights was getting my hands on the John Menzies summer catalogue. We didn't have John Menzies in N. Ireland and so buying back-to-school stationery from somewhere as exotic as Edinburgh was a real treat.

    One year I went crazy with buying Fido Dido stationery - why? I had strong fashion interests even as a pre-teen and made excellent sartorial choices (when leather ties were all the rage I stepped it up a notch with a white leather bow tie ;)) But yet I bought matching stationery emblazened with a character from the 7UP adverts?


    I thought it would be fun to share other people's childhood stationery stories here and asked friends and customers on Instagram to share their favourite passions and anecdotes. Where they've got public profiles I've linked them below, in case you want to pop over and bond over fluffy pencil cases!

    There were definite recurring themes. Like me, back-to-school stationery shopping was definitely a high-priority task:

    Audrey from Love Audrey:

    "I remember spending hours in French supermarkets on summer hols buying stationery, especially cute pencil cases.  I also remember trying to buy a rubber (erasers for you Americans) in a small shop and struggling with the French word. My mum was terrified they'd think I was asking for something else (the Americans will understand - Lynne) if I kept saying rubber."


    "My favourite part of going back to school in Sept was going stationery shopping with my dad (also a stationery addict.)"


    "The best day in the school year was the weekend before the new September term with a trip to WH Smiths or Menzies to get your new stationery stuff."

    When people shared their general stationery passions I definitely noticed a generational difference as I've never heard of most of these brands and characters. Who do you identify with?

    DebFabulous Places:

    "I was and still am a stationery addict! I remember having several fluffy pencil cases, tins too and also one in the shape of a packet of crisps! Magic colour-changing felt tips, novelty rubbers (I had more than I could have ever needed in a lifetime), Stabilo highlighters in every colour and the Fun Fax! At age 6 my daughter is showing all the signs of becoming a dedicated stationery addict too."

    KatieBenourished blog:

    "I was absolutely obsessed with Lisa Frank. So much fluorescent-pink-covered-in-unicorns writing paper. It's very much influenced my adult personal style. Also, I loved my Trapper Keeper. I went through a Keroppi phase (the frog friend of Hello Kitty.) It was even my AOL username."


    "Naff Naff note pads in French supermarkets. Loved those little squares!"


    "Growing up in the Far East in the 70s was the start of my stationery addiction, rubbers mainly. Then France in the 80s with Pierrot and Beautiful Sunday notelets and pads."


    "I used to have a Bang on the Door pencil case, and a Take That pencil tin. So good, I used to etch 'Ruth for Mark' on it using my compass. Oh, and those jumbo pencils with the tassel on them from museum gift shops - they were like 30 cm long!"

    Jo(who must be my age as I share many of these! - Lynne)

    "In the late 70s and early 80s I had a treasured ET stationery set, a green turtle cardboard folder and also Strawberry Shortcake scented rubber, pencil, paper and envelopes to match. 

    In my teen years I would go and buy individual different coloured paper and envelopes, that came in bright rainbow colours and then pastels. Also loved a fountain pen."

    midori fountain pen

    {our Midori fountain pen}

    Scented items, stickers and rubbers were definitely the front-runners! Did anyone actually ever use their rubbers? Rubber-collectors in particular also seem to have hoarding tendencies - who else still has their collection?

    I love that the selection below is so of its time (with cassette tapes) and honestly, I'd love to know, whoever thought to themselves, let's make a washing powder scented rubber? (which must have been a commercial success as everyone had one!) 

    Karen, Karen Bird Design

    "I remember scratch and sniff stickers that I had on my bed headboard - I’m convinced if I still had the ‘bunch of bananas’ sticker it would smell even now! 

    I also had a fabulous collection of 1980s rubbers, one in a sweet jar and the other in an ice cream tub - which I recently rediscovered. I'm thinking of selling the collection on eBay - nice to look at but...haven’t got that much to rub out!"

     {photo from Karen's collection}


    "I collected scented erasers and filled an old Roses tin with them. I never used any of them."


    "I had so many of those lipstick rubbers when I was little, they twisted up and everything! I was obsessed!"


    "Still have all my old rubbers hidden away in a basket in my old bedroom."

    Emily Emily Dawe

    "I had a happy group eraser collection, my favourite was a Swiss roll that smelt sweet. And so many stickers! Furry ones were the best. Shiny stickers too, and scratch and sniff. I even went as far as to steal the stickers from fruit in the supermarket. Melons had the best ones as they were large and colourful!"

    {some more of Karen's collection}

    And there were a few pen fans out there too....


    "It was smelly gel pens! Loved them."


    "My first fountain pen (a red Lamy pen for children learning to write) was a very special one and I was very sad when it broke. I still love fountain pens though and don't write nearly enough with them."


    "Coloured gel pens for sure! And my pride and joy was one of those pens that you could select and then click and select another colour."

    4 colour pen

    {our modern 4-colour pen}

     And my favourite responses were these cute stories of stationery rebellion:

    Maureen: "In primary 4 I got one of those novelty giant pencils and took it into school. My teacher wasn't too impressed and asked me to use another pencil. I genuinely didn't have another other than the tiny miniature one which came with the giant I started using that. However, my teacher took this as a defiant act of rebellion and gave me a detention. The only one I ever had...for stationery!"

    India: "When I was 5 my school had a book fair and my mum gave me £3 and strict instructions to buy a book and not any stationery. But she was busy with my newborn brother so I bought a pencil and rubber with my money, my dad collected me from school completely unaware, all was fine until my mum asked to see the book I bought...she was not happy!"

    Do you have any stories you'd like to add? If rubbers were your passion also - did you spot one you owned in the photos above? I'd love to know in the comments. If you have any photos of your collection you'd be happy to share I'd love to add them in!

  • Do you think subscription blogs can work?


    My friend, Chelsea Fuss, has just moved her Frolic blog to Patreon, a platform for subscription-based blogs. For a small fee ($1 per month plus tax) you can access her blog content, which showcases her relaxed floral style. I've been reading Frolic and following Chelsea's travels since 2004, and she's been creating consistently great content ever since.

    Chelsea Fuss

    Chelsea says: "I was very excited recently to come across Patreon, as it turns the ad-generated internet upside down, and instead runs content on subscriptions. The Internet is my livelihood and my blank creative canvas but I've become disappointed in the intrusion into personal data and the focus on consumerism. I welcome an opportunity to run my business in a new way, through subscriptions."

    Posts already up include 'How to source flowers','How to make wildflowers last as long as possible' and top recommendations of places to visit in Lisbon, where Chelsea is currently living. Future posts will include flower tutorials and tips for becoming a floral designer. 

    I worked at The Times when they first launched their digital subscription (a model they're still using 10 years on), so the concept of paying for online content isn't new - I'm interested to know, do you think this model can work for bloggers?

    While I'm reluctant to sign up for more paid services, I have no problem spending £5 a day on coffee or lunch I could make at home, and any number of other impulse purchases. Over the years I've literally handed over thousands of pounds of my hard-earned money to Pret A Manger! 

    Although I don't object to bloggers publishing sponsored content (I've collaborated with some blogs myself), I think it's made blog content less interesting. Paying a small subscription fee seems like an easy way to support a few content creators who add particular value in education, resources and entertainment, and even just because they have a talent I think deserves recognition and a little reward 'tip' from me. So I've signed up to Frolic and look forward to what Chelsea creates.


    I've definitely noted how many of my real-life friends have purchased from my shop over the years (only a small number, but I've mentally bookmarked them and send them appreciative vibes) so in this case it's important to me also to support a friend. 

    Would you pay for a blog subscription? Or you do you think blogs and social media are an area where we just expect to consume for free? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

    Patreon has over 50,000 creators sharing video content and audio shows, DIY tutorials and covers all kinds of themes and content. Check out Frolic blog here.

    All photos © Chelsea Fuss


  • 10 best things to do in Bali


    There’s nowhere quite like Bali. Whether you’re a dedicated sun worshipper, culture seeker, sorry-for-party-rocking rocker or aspiring yogi, vibrant Bali - one of over 17,000 islands that make up Indonesia - offers enough to satisfy every taste. The list of ‘Best Things to do in Bali’ could go into the thousands, but here is your starter for ten...

    Rifle Paper Co Bali print

    {Rifle Paper Co Bali print.}

    1. Achieve enlightenment*

    Feeling jet-lagged? Exhausted? Heartbroken? There’s nothing quite like a downward dog to turn that frown upside down...and you’ve come to the right place. Bali, and - in particular - Ubud in the foothills of the Gianyar region, is famous for its yoga retreats and mystical culture. If, back home, you’re accustomed to practicing yoga in a stuffy gym studio then prepare your eyes - and soul - for holding a cobra pose up among the palms fronds at The Yoga Barn. With over a dozen varieties of yoga taught each day, and the courtyard Juice Bar serving up fresh Vegan Goji Smoothies and Tropical Blasts, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Namaste.

    The Yoga Barn Bali

    The Yoga Barn Bali

    {Photos © disastersofathirtysomething}

    *enlightenment not guaranteed

    2. Monkey around

    Although definitely not recommended if you suffer pithecophobia (fear of monkeys), for other nature lovers and adventure seekers Ubud’s Monkey Forest is a thrilling opportunity to get up close and personal with the cheeky local primates. Although, be duly warned, ‘cheeky’ is the operative word: the Forest’s 700 branch-swinging, moped-chasing residents are so adept at pickpocketing and food-pinching they wouldn’t go amiss in Fagin’s Dickensian gang.

    Monkey Forest Ubud

    {Photo © disastersofathirtysomething}

    3. Dine under the stars

    From the very first step onto La Laguna’s cobbled pathways, you’ll be enchanted by the vintage gypsy caravans that line the walk, the strings of lights twinkling from the trees overhead and the sultry music beckoning you onwards. A world-renowned destination bar and restaurant, you may wish to book to ensure you secure one of the al fresco tables dotted through the tropical garden. Then relax, and let the bohemian magic wash over you as waves crash the sandbank.

    La Laguna Bali

    {Photo © lalagunabali}

    4. Get the Midas touch

    Hoping to discover the perfect pedi or most magnificent massage? Situated in the heart of hipster Canggu, Goldust Beauty Lounge is a luxury salon that - considering you’re paying in Rupiah - won’t break the bank. If you’re feeling truly decadent, plump for their signature 24k gold facial. Just remember your phone - you won’t want to miss the chance for a golden selfie.

    5. Make a splash

    If the sun is beating down and you fancy forgoing culture for larking about, then get your holiday gang down to Waterbom Bali, voted Asia’s number one waterpark. The park spans almost four hectares, with rides dotted among the landscaped gardens, refreshment kiosks and pools. True thrill-seekers should make their way to The Climax, Asia’s steepest slide, while passive paddlers can enjoy a drink in the shade. For discounted tickets look out for reputable vendors along Kuta’s main street.

    Waterbom Bali

    {Photo © Waterbombali}

    6. Be one of the beautiful people

    Bali bursts at the seams with dazzlingly attractive people; you can’t swing that proverbial cat without hitting a bikini model, and it can be somewhat unnerving. But, as the saying goes, if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em. And if you really want to join the beautiful bunch, head down any weekend to Sippy Sundays, where you’ll find it’s not just the party-goers who are gorgeous - the chic, bleached decor, signature dishes and buy-one-get-one-free frozen strawberry daiquiris are pretty damn gorgeous too. Boasting Bali’s largest lagoon-style saltwater pool, Mrs Sippy is a haven of sunbeds and palm trees, where - with hot music pumping from the decks and swimwear-clad revellers peacocking off the sky-high diving board - the entertainment continues long into the evening.

    7. Get your praise hands up

    Whether you’re a regular church-goer or just looking for a pop of peace amid the partying, Australian megachurch Hillsong recently launched a venue in Bali’s bustling Kuta. Drop by for any of three different Sunday services, savour a tasty espresso and croissant fix from the coffee shop and meet friendly locals, expats and other holiday-makers.

    8. Catch a wave

    If you’ve never tried surfing but you’ve always fancied it, Bali has no shortage of enthusiastic local instructors and is renowned for its racy, clean waves. Plenty of beaches around the island have some kind of surf action, but one of the best places to grab a last-minute lesson is down at Canggu. And, if you’re hankering for an ice-cold beer after getting pummelled in the Indian Ocean, you’ll find every surfer worth their board wax flocks to Old Man’s beachfront beer garden at 5pm for happy hour. 

    Old Mans Canggu Bali

    {Photo © disastersofathirtysomething}

    9. Hike to heaven

    Are you the type who likes to work for a reward? One of Bali’s least visited beaches, Nyang Nyang manages to remain a relatively unspoilt, hidden stretch of stunning coastline, thanks to the steep, half hour hike it takes to wind your way down. Wear non-slip shoes (trainers rather than flip-flops), pack drinks, snacks and sun cream (there are very few vendors on the beach) and anticipate the glistening vista that awaits you at the bottom. Look out too for the graffiti-adorned shipwrecks that dot the sand...although at 20ft high they’re hard to miss.

    10. Escape the mainland 

    Off the northwest corner of Lombok sit the trio of exotic Gili islands, a short boat ride from mainland Lombok or a longer (often choppy) ferry ride from Bali. Depending on your taste, Gili Trawangan is widely known as the party island, Gili Meno is more tranquil, and Gili Air - for many - is Goldilocks’ perfect porridge: plenty of bars and eateries, but with a chilled-out vibe. Spend the day snorkelling with turtles right off the beach, top up your energy levels with a sumptuous vegetarian spread at Pachamama, then end your perfect island day with a sunset cocktail (or three) on a bean bag at Mowie’s beach bar.

    Gili Air Sunset

    {Photo © disastersofathirtysomething}

    Sarah Clarke spent an adult gap year travelling with her husband in 2017, and loved Bali so much that they went back three times during the year. She documents her travels and daily adventures on Instagram @disastersofathirtysomething.

  • Pinterest tips for business


    At some point I'm planning a series of blog posts about how I've used Pinterest as a business, as it's a significant source of traffic to my site. However I wanted to share a couple of very easy points first which you might want to keep in mind if you're frantically trying to figure out how to make it work for your brand.

    3 things to remember when using Pinterest for business

    1. Always keep in mind your end goal

    The internet is full of e-courses on how to use Pinterest to maximise traffic, and how it will give you transformative results! Last year I quadrupled my Pinterest following and increased referral traffic to my site but not without significant effort on my part. I implemented different strategies and tips and switched up the strategy regularly to compare the impact. I bought one of those e-courses, scheduled my pins for optimum times and only pinned portrait images. I spent almost one full day working on it each week. As I could clearly see the growth I didn't stop to consider the most obvious factor. It was Stef from Makelight who pointed it out - is it converting to sales? As an e-commerce shop this is my main metric, but yours might be something different.

    Last year I only had 12 sales in total which came via Pinterest, totalling around £400. Was this worth the time I could have spent on any number of more successful marketing ideas? I'll answer that for you - NO! And who knows whether those 12 sales may have come from existing customers pinning their wishlist to a board as a Christmas prompt for their partner or friends?

    Your brand could have higher potential - because most Pinterest users are still in the US, the majority of my Pinterest traffic comes from there. As I'm selling some brands readily available in the US, AND my postage rate to the US is high (on purpose due to one American customer too many not reading the delivery instructions) I'm less likely to generate sales this way. If you're a North American brand, a unique designer maker, or someone not selling a physical product, your Pinterest traffic may convert to sales at a higher rate.

    leather pencilcase

    (Image © House Doctor | leather pencil case)

    2. Clicks not followers

    Hopefully you've got the memo about social media that it's engagement that matters, not the following. Pinterest makes it easy for you to see how many actual clicks to your website you're getting from Pinterest activity.

    If you have a business account, you can find the detail here:

    - Analytics (top left corner of the page) / Website / Clicks

    Clicks is the most important statistic to analyse. If you scroll down to the page the analytics show you the most popular pins which have been driving traffic to your site recently. You might find it's not even your own pins, or even your most recent pins which are the top referral sources. Two of my highest referring pins are of old calendar pages from 2015 - by no means the most beautiful images out there - and pinned by other people. 

    Still, this can be an encouraging statistic to monitor. Back in the early days of Pinterest, they asked people to be featured pinners - I recognise some pinners with over a million followers from this time. I know this to be true, because they asked me to be one, but by the time I replied they'd changed their criteria and I had missed the boat! These pinners don't have a million followers because they pinned all the live-long day or implemented some brilliant strategy so there's no point comparing yourself to them. You definitely can improve the number of clicks to your website with a bit of effort.

    plywood inspiration wall

    (Image © House Doctor | House Doctor desk accessories)

    3. Pinterest is seasonal

    One of my most popular boards is my gift wrapping board, which has lots of Christmas images, so it's no surprise that it has more repins in the run up to the holiday season - there's no point comparing the number of clicks or growth in those months of high activity to other times of year. Even If I look through old blog posts which I've been pinning, most of the original gift wrapping images I created myself feature Christmas gift wrap. If you're primarily a wedding business, you might find your busiest months for activity are in the run up to summer.

    blue gift wrap

    (Image © House Doctor | House Doctor gift wrap)

    I'm still pinning, and still testing strategies - hoping that some day one of my pins will go viral! I did have a very brief chat with an acquaintance who works at Pinterest who told me the only thing that really matters is how good the actual individual pin itself is! I don't think she was revealing any massive trade secret there but I think she meant that all the time you could spend cleaning up boards etc doesn't really matter as much as just having a great pin! I'm still pinning away though and testing variables - albeit slightly less earnestly and more infrequently than before.

    House Doctor range stocked at Papermash here.

    Have any questions about Pinterest? Pop them in the comments and I'll try and answer them there or in a future blog post.

  • New Rifle Paper Co cards for 2018


    Rifle Paper Co has some pretty new floral designs for spring 2018, as well as having added to their range of encouragement cards! Having seen the Greatest Showman twice, I'm a particular fan of their 'You got this' trapeze design. Once upon a time I even took a circus skills class (had no talent in this area but it was great fun!) Check out the rest of our new Rifle Paper Co items here

    Rifle Paper Co new cards for 2018

    From top left:

    - Prairie birthday card

    - You got this card

    - Bouquet thanks postcards

    - Heart eyes card

    - You rock card

    - Wildwood congratulations card


    You might also like:

    - Vintage printable gift tags

    - Behind the scenes at Papermash HQ

    - How to make personalised ribbon

  • Stationery shop vs. stationary shop


    Are you guilty of this common spelling error? My research (using various keyword tools) suggests that over 40% people mix up stationery shop with stationary shop. Here I’m sharing a few easy ways to remember the difference, as well as the story of my own London stationery shop.

    Stationery vs. stationary

    stationery shop UK

    STATIONERY definition: office supplies and writing equipment.

    To spell it correctly every time, remember this:

    1. ERASER – E is for Eraser and stationery. Think of your favourite childhood stationery essentials (did anyone else have a collection of scented rubbers?) and you’ll remember that stationery, the type you can fit in your pencil case, should be spelled with an E.
    2. PAPER – alternatively you might want to visualise that pretty writing paper you keep for special occasions, or quirky greetings cards you've stocked up on and remember that paper and stationery are spelled the same!
    3. It seems that there are a plethora of things stationery to help you out here - you can also remember that LETTERS, written on your favourite stationery, also have an er

    There are no excuses for getting it wrong, right?

    stationery stationary

    STATIONARY definition: not moving.

    I’ve been trying to think of a suitable acronym or illustration for this one though for some reason the only things which come to mind are marching commands such as “About turn” and “At ease” even though both include being on the move….so I’d stick with remembering PapER = StationERy. StAnding still (bit tenuous) is the other! If you have something better to suggest please let me know!

    Why did you open a stationery shop?

    dark grey leather pencil case

    I go to a lot of networking events and I get asked this often, so I’m used to recalling some of the details (you’ll be glad to know I’ll give you the much abbreviated version in person!) But if you’re interested, here’s a little bit more of my not particularly strategic back story…

    Although I worked as an accountant previously (which I loved) I wanted to do my own thing as I was bored of working long hours and just wanted more flexibility. I couldn’t easily make evening commitments for most of my twenties and I still warn young graduates about the 'dark years'. I tried in more than one job to reduce my hours to a four day week so I could pursue other interests and it was always a no go. I didn’t resent that but I started to look around at other options. I was never going to be a Finance Director but I loved the projections and I’m also an ideas person so I thought that would be a good combination for running my own business. I’d had many entrepreneurial ideas and money-making schemes as a child so it felt like a natural progression. Back in the day I did a Masters in Museum Studies and although that might not seem particularly relevant I did have some skill in curating a collection and pulling together relevant information. Accountancy used those skills too though!

    Originally I wanted to set up a fashion label mainly because I’d had a specific idea (despite having no fashion background or contacts), so I took a brilliant short course on setting up your own fashion label at London College of Fashion. Although the course was excellent, it seemed like the barriers to entry were very high – high costs of fashion shows, for example. I wanted my brand to use fair trade and organic cotton, which at the time was incredibly difficult to source, and as I had no fashion network and needed to start small it was very difficult to find a manufacturer. I didn’t have much savings or anyone to support me with paying my domestic bills so I parked that idea! I recently met Charlotte from Know The Origin – a great ethical brand - who was a student at LCF and backpacked round India for months visiting factories and doing research for her dissertation on sustainable design. She is tenacious and determined and hugely passionate about a transparent supply chain - these are the people who can and deserve to make these things happen!

    I would say that although I didn’t have the drive, contacts or money to launch a fashion brand, I did work for a while in a co-working space with businesses who have set up successful sunglasses (think Meghan Markle), sock and shirt brands – none of whom had a design background. I am full of admiration for them and how they pulled it off. Similarly, two friends are (separately) launching their own range of watches later this year. When they’re flying off to Basel and Hong Kong for meetings I’m hugely impressed. Any idea where you find a watch designer? Me neither. I've still not seen my original idea replicated but I still have no idea how I'd even start!

    Of course there are huge risks and costs involved (fashion PR for example is super expensive), as well as the difficulty of seasonality - but I think there’s a much bigger slice of the population who’ll rush out and buy sunglasses because they’ve seen them in a magazine, on a celebrity, or on Instagram, rather than a notebook! I have at least 4 pairs of shoes I bought on a whim because I saw them on Instagram. If you are a person who’d make a rash purchase of stationery after seeing it online, I think we need to become acquainted! The higher price points and greater margin on manufacturing your own products make these fashion brands a potentially much more lucrative business.

    stationery shop

    Anyway I abandoned that idea, but I still wanted to set up my own business. Not long afterwards, in 2008, I took a career break and spent 3 months living the dream in New York’s West Village. I wanted to experience New York living like a local, so I spent a lot of time pretending to be working on my laptop in various coffee shops. This time was my first introduction to American design blogs such as Design is Mine, Design Sponge, and Oh Joy. My favourite was Creature Comforts, and through Ez’s curation I discovered many now ubiquitous items such as striped paper straws (hard to imagine those were once a NEW.BIG.THING), washi tape, letterpress stationery, and not that long afterwards – a new Florida-based stationery brand, Rifle Paper Co. I hadn’t seen any of these items I loved in the UK. This was a time when I really discovered the talents of independent designers (Etsy was also new to me) and so I decided to set up a stationery shop, mainly to bring many of these US brands and trends to the UK.

    At the time there weren’t many online shops, and the only other stationery shop I knew of had a well-deserved niche so I didn’t even think of them as competition. I did very little other research, spent £2,500 on a website and on my first stock; American letterpress stationery, cute Korean stationery and metallic notebooks from Oh Joy. While I had been living in New York, I had started a UK-based design blog, Tea for Joy, which had a good readership because there weren’t many similar blogs at the time. So about a year after my sabbatical, I launched my shop, promoted it through my blog, and off I went!

    Would you like to have a stationary shop?

    The only type of stationary shop is a bricks-and-mortar shop (in that it is not on the move) and whether this is something I'm considering is also a question I’m asked often. The easy answer to that is NO! You won’t find Papermash on your local high street any time soon, and here's a few reasons why:

    giant safety pin


    I went to a marketing talk a while ago which mentioned that the type of marketing activities you enjoy as a business owner depend on your personality. Extroverts like sponsorships, pop-up shops, fairs and workshops whereas introverts are more comfortable with online marketing, blogging, Google Adwords etc. As a definite introvert, I’ve no problem saying I’m more comfortable with the latter – I’d rather work behind the screen. I’ve had many shop jobs in my life so I could do it but given the choice, I’d rather invest my time in online activities and strategies. I can be quite sociable and enjoy networking. But standing in a shop all day? Not for me, not for now.


    House Doctor wire baskets

    If I don’t want to play shopkeeper all the livelong day, then I’d have to pay someone else to do it – that, combined with rent, rates and overheads – and the commitment of a lease - means there is quite a lot of financial risk involved. Of course, I wouldn't take on a shop without projecting that additional sales would cover the extra costs - but really, who knows, and for how long? A local independent gift shop recently went out of business, I think partly because a well-known stationery chain with great lines opened right across the street. The footfall in my local Cafe Nero has massively decreased since a massive Costa with a shiny shopfit opened directly opposite.

    There’s a small chance that someday if I find a studio (which I already cover the cost of) with a shop front for not a huge incremental cost I might look into it - but the cost of London’s commercial property makes that unlikely to be in London.

    Of course having a shop can work, for some businesses, even those with low price-point items. Near to where I live there is a busy card shop with a great selection of stock. I’ve spoken to the owner who told me that they sell 1,000 cards per day (1000!) and that the rent isn’t too expensive because it’s one of those tiny spaces which couldn’t have too many other retail uses. Even a larger shop space can help cover its overheads and raise its profile by running in-store workshops.

    When I go to trade fairs such as Top Drawer I always see lots of lovely cards from designers I’d like to support but won’t stock online because I don’t think that many people (including myself) go online to buy cards, so curating a physical shop collection would be something I’d enjoy. There are some lovely things in my shop that I think would sell much better in real life!

    gold desk set

    However, at this point (after nearly 10 years in business) – if in the unlikely scenario I find myself with money in the bank and nothing to do with it – I’m much more likely to invest in another business than expand into a bricks and mortar shop. I might just fancy diversifying, because doesn't that make life more interesting, and I think a lot of e-commerce skills and experience is transferable. Haven’t you known design-based businesses which have closed down just because they’ve gotten a bit bored of doing the same thing? I know one person who’s retraining in healthcare. Another friend took a full-time job because she wants to get a mortgage – to her surprise she’s loved how a regular paycheque has eliminated a lot of stress and this has allowed her to be more creative in her freelance work at weekends. I still have lots of ideas for Papermash but expanding (at a great cost) to do more of the same is probably not a direction I want to go in.

    I’m part of an entrepreneur’s network with regular fundraising pitching events. I find them a bit frustrating because there is so much emphasis on raising hundreds of thousands of pounds, as if this is the holy grail or an indicator of having a successful business. If you've big expansion plans which require a lot of funds, are happy to give away a share of your business, or sell the business in a few years - because the venture capitalist will make you - then of course that's the way to go. But there's a lack of acknowledgement that for some people, staying small, paying yourself enough of a salary and paying your taxes is still a happy and honourable way to live your life!

    Nevertheless, some of the businesses their founders are pitching for are inspiring, in areas I would never have thought of - lots are a better idea than mine, some have great potential and some are already performing well in their first year of trading.

    Unless you produce your own lines (I'm not ruling that out), the margins on retail are not great, especially when competitors (including Amazon and Ebay) are selling the same low-value items. My friend who’s launching a mid-price watch brand also sells second hand watches on Ebay and sometimes makes more profit in one sale than I might make in a week! Why not find something with a better return on investment?

    grey leather string


    While I work hard with my little team and definitely work full-time hours – the main reason I don’t want to have a shop is that I love the ability to work flexibly. It’s why I set up my business in the first place. It was the major trade-off for giving up a career I actually enjoyed, with talented colleagues and challenging work. Usually I have the opportunity to work back in my professional job for a few weeks a year and I’d rather do that to make some extra money than be restricted to standing in a shop at weekends. I go away for long weekends quite often but don’t mind working evenings and other weekends to catch up. I often exercise during the day and have some voluntary commitments which all happen in daytime hours.

    Recently I’ve even been thinking of finding a part-time job a few days a week in a completely different area to keep things fresh. I do miss getting dressed up for work and think it might be good to have some routine. Of course you could say I’d find the same routine and could smarten up my appearance if I opened a shop but I’d like to use my brain in a different way. I’m interested in lots of different things apart from design and a lot of shopkeeping is repetitive admin. I do believe that it’s hard to expand a business unless you are working on it full-time but working just a few days a week would allow me to outsource more jobs so that I could concentrate on shop tasks I enjoy most (that’s styling not shopkeeping!) The freelancers I already work with are reliable but most are still establishing their careers and I like to encourage them on their journey too and to give them work if I can.

    I’d love to know what you think:

    • Have you taken a big risk to expand your business which has paid off?
    • Have you stayed small by choice and are happy with it?
    • Have you given up self-employment or closed down a product-based brand and are happier (or not) for it?
    • Or anything else you’d like to add or you'd like to see discussed in a future blog article!

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