I haven’t yet had a chance to officially wish all of you reading the blog a Happy New Year! If you blinked, you may have missed it but a mailer from Fahrney’s Pens at the end of last year alluded to a price increase for some of Pelikan’s products in 2021. The actual header read, “Certain models increase in price effective January 1.” The United States has seen a steady rise in prices for Pelikan’s fine writing instruments and inks over the last several years. Some of that is to be expected due to inflation, fluctuations in manufacturing costs, and the numerous other factors that play into market pricing. Still, the United Sates remains home to some of the highest prices for Pelikan’s products anywhere around the globe. Increases this year may be more justified than years past due to the economic realities brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. It’s without dispute that every step of the manufacturing process has been impacted. Raw materials are harder to source and production costs have risen. For the most part, ink pricing has remained stable and some pen pricing is relatively flat. On the one hand, we see some notable increases for models within the Classic series and on the other, some small reductions in Souverän pricing. Across the board, effective January 1st, 2021, there was what looks to be an average increase of nearly 5% in the company’s MSRP across all product lines for the United States’ market. Read on to get a sense of which of your preferred products may have been affected.
Since I like my dessert first, I’ll start with the biggest winners of 2021 and that is anyone in the market for one of the standard Souveräns. For uniformity, I’m comparing the Green/Black striped Souveräns which does not take into account pricing for special edition releases. Also, some other standard lines such as the Stresemann have higher list prices which aren’t included here. Most of Pelikan’s higher end models have seen a near 5% reduction in prices and all now have a list price that is less than 2019. We will use 2019 as the benchmark for comparison because that was the last time that we saw price increases in the United States. Make no mistake, these are still expensive items and the reductions do nothing to change that. While it is a step in the right direction, much work still needs to be done to achieve some sort of parity with the European market. The biggest price drops are attributed to the M600 and M800 which now enjoy 7.3% and 6.7% reductions in MSRP respectively. Even the flagship M1000 is down 2.4% when compared with 2019. Don’t let the percentages fool you though. The ups and downs only amount to roughly $20 to $25 in either direction with a few notable outliers.
The losers of 2o21 are those who enjoy Pelikan’s Classic series. All of those models have seen price increases for 2021. The M200 is now 7.9% more expensive. The M150 has an 8.5% higher list and the M205 has jumped 11.8%. These price increases take pens meant to be lower tier introductory models and puts them out of reach for many consumers. It could certainly be argued that the current list price is quite high for pens equipped with stainless steel nibs. It really brings into question the Classic series’ value for the dollar which seems to be shrinking with each passing year. The Pelikano and Pelikano Jr. lines also saw decent jumps and all of your Pelikan inks will now carry a slightly higher list in the US with MSRP increases of 5.6% to 8%. We can still anticipate vendors offering their fountain pens at the customary 20% off list pricing but the disparity means that consumers will continue to find better prices from overseas vendors for the time being.
I think the pricing differences for 2021 are an overall wash with little here to dissuade or incentivize those who were already in the market to purchase a new pen. I’m actually surprised that the increases weren’t greater and, at the end of the day, I don’t think there is much to see here. Obviously higher pricing in the US market will continue to hamper US vendors but I’m hopeful that the small declines we see with the Souveräns are a first attempt at a market correction that could allow the US to eventually be more competitive with foreign vendors. Only time will tell though it is hard to be optimistic given the complicated economics that factor into product pricing. Price increase are always a bitter pill to swallow for the consumer but there are things that a company can do to make the medicine go down more easily. Things that neither Pelikan nor Chartpak do well are advanced notice and/or transparency. I think consumers should be made aware of changing prices ahead of their planned increase rather than finding out about it after the fact. This allows customers to come to terms with increases, reconsider their budget, and perhaps make that one last purchase under the old pricing scheme before the increases go into effect. We all know Pelikan is a manufacturer of quality products and price increases are often necessary in order to match higher operating costs, meet changes in staffing needs, and to deal with increases in the price of materials. Nobody would want to see quality suffer for the sake of maintaining a certain price point. Consumers have largely become inured to the rising cost of goods. Provided that a company keeps up the value inherent within its products, increases in price will generally be accepted. Pelikan and Chartpak would do well to remind consumers of the value that their products offer.