Is Analogue The New Digital? Papier Pursues $200 Billion Global Stationery Market

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With many customers, including a younger demographic, looking for more balance in their lives … [+] between their online and offline activies, U.K. startup Papier eyes expansion in the U.S.

With the intention of creating “a global category defining stationery brand,” British personalised paper-goods start-up Papier have raised $50 million in Round C funding to expand their product range and fuel expansion into the U.S.

The fast-growth business, which has doubled in size every year since its launch in 2015, already sells into the U.S, but will use this funding to boost their operations and focus on capturing an American audience who are increasingly looking for a more analogue life.

Founder Taymoor Atighetchi, speaking via video call, explains how this expansion will mark a “step change” in how much attention and focus the business will be giving to the American “paper people” (the company’s term for their enthusiastic customer fan base), with a new office in New York and more teams based in America.

Analogue gathers pace

Atighetchi notes that “the trend towards analogue has been gathering pace for a while” and is now “accelerating and becoming quite mainstream”. He sees that in the U.S., a big push towards a more offline lifestyle is coming from “a whole range of consumers, but younger consumers in particular.”

“They are looking to limit the amount of digital they consume,” he explains. “They try and balance that digital consumption with analogue pursuits, with the aim of living a more rounded lifestyle.”

He also highlights the “growing awareness of the psychological behavioural impacts of our consumption of digital.”

“Our exposure to digital is something that people readily talk about. The pandemic and the move towards more remote working is making people acutely aware that actually there comes a point where you don’t want to be engaged and plugged in the whole time.”

Although quick to point out that Papier is in no way “anti-digital”, Atighetchi stresses that the goal is to encourage a balance, and to help tap into the “benefits that analogue has on your mental health”.

Collaborations As The Key For Growth

While Papier already sell into the U.S., the move to focus more intentionally on the American market requires tailoring the company’s approach. The business is heavily design-driven, and focuses on collaborating with many different artists and designers.

“Papier has always been about partnering and enabling creativity through collaborations. We’ve always loved being able to bring two different creatives together and seeing what comes out of that,” explains Atighetchi. Citing collaborations as both a key customer acquisition and a customer retention strategy, they are a core part of Papier’s strategy.

“By using these these partnerships, we’re able to get in front of audiences that maybe haven’t thought about us or maybe even haven’t thought about stationery as a category. From a retention perspective, it means that we can always be coming up with and producing new things for our customer base. We can actually show them designers that maybe they hadn’t considered before. And in that respect, we’re always at the forefront of stationary design overall.”

A U.S.-Centric approach

With the move into the vast U.S. stationery market, the focus is still firmly on design, but with a tailored approach by state.

“The U.S. has local flavours, whether it’s certain colours that trend, or certain prints and patterns that trend in different parts of the country,” Atighetchi explains.

Luckily for Papier, learning about these nuances is easy, thanks to an entirely “on demand” model. As well as offering agility and personalisation, it also enables Papier to minimise waste and only produce what the customer wants.

He elabourates: “test and learn is part of any start-up’s DNA. In the world of stock, test and learn is hard because if you purchase one thousand items, and they sell really well it’s too late to place another order, or you have to wait another six months for them to arrive.

With our model we have, in any given category, over 100 different designs and prints and those have effectively unlimited stock. We’re not having to place a bet on what’s going to sell or what’s not going to sell. We can let the consumer dictate that and the operation can scale accordingly.”

What’s Ahead?

With an increasingly analogue customer, an agile supply chain and a firm focus on design, Papier’s plans for U.S. expansion are well under way. Top of the list for further growth is broadening the product range in the summer to embrace a wider offering.

“To be category defining, we need to be a destination that serves all stationery needs, whether that’s the highlighter pen, the sticky note, the pen, all of those wonderful things that a stationery addict like me cannot live without.”