All About the Stationery Scene in Singapore
The stationery scene in Singapore may not enjoy the same level of hype as that of Japan but the local pen and paper industry is still moving forward. This despite the ragging popularity of the digital world which has seen typing outstrip writing.
We look into the pages of the industry to trace its development and look at its major contributors.
Singapore’s Stationery Past
A generation ago in the 1980s, the hub of Singapore’s stationery scene was Bras Basah Complex. In those pre-Internet days, writing with pen and paper was a major part of school and work life, and the complex of two towers of flats atop four- and five-storey offices and shopping podium was the one-stop destination for all those stationery needs. Dubbed the City of Books, it was a hive of bookstores and stationery shops. Whether it was novels, educational and assessment books, school, office or art supplies, Bras Basah Complex had it all.
Its location was a major reason for its popularity. Nestled in what was arguably a book lover’s enclave, Bras Basah Complex had the National Library as a neighbour as well as several schools surrounding it – Raffles Institution, Raffles Girls’ School, St Joseph’s Institution and St Anthony’s Convent. The emergence of art colleges like LASALLE College of the Arts and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in the area and the addition of Raffles Design Institute further contributed to its bustling business.
The jewel of Bras Basah Complex then was Popular bookstore. At the time of its opening there in 1980, it was the largest bookstore in Southeast Asia. While there were other large bookstores then, namely MPH, Popular distinguished itself by specialising in education and assessment books, and school supplies instead of just books. It was customary for students to make a pilgrimage to Popular before the start of each school year.
If Popular met the scholastic needs of students, Art Friend, another tenant of Bras Basah Complex, met their art stationery needs. The art supplies store, filled with all the material artists would want for their work, drew another segment of the stationery market to the mixed development.
The other stationery trend from that era was the fountain pen. Students were given penmanship classes and taught to use the fountain pen. In fact, owning fountain pens and luxury pens from brands like Cross, Sheaffer and Parker was considered a rite of passage for many a youth of the 80s.
Japanese stationery under labels such as Sanrio were popular. Stores dedicated to them, however, were few. Instead, the products were carried by larger stationery stores.
In those days, the demand for physical writing and drawing fuelled the stationery industry. The congregation of stationery retailers in a single location made shopping easier and also bolstered the business.
Major Players in the Stationery Scene
Although the world has now embraced typing as a favoured means of writing and digital art has risen to the fore, the stationery industry in Singapore has managed to survive, even thrive. Part of that has been because of the emergence of stores that have turned stationery from functional to fun. Another part of that has been because of the creation of specialty segments whether it is paper for scrapbook-making or designer notebooks, planners and journals.
The stationery landscape of Singapore today has become more vibrant. Popular bookstore has built on its earlier success. It now has 187 outlets across Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. In 2015, it noted that more than 50% of its annual turnover came from stationery sales. Three years later, its CEO Chou Cheng Ngok stated that the company would be devoting 80% of its business to non-books. True to his word, the brand has since diversified into IT, gadgets and gifts, securing a stronger place in the local stationery industry.
Another contributor to the stationery scene is Singapore art supplies store Art Friend. Few other retailers have as comprehensive a stock as this one which has served fine art and graphic artists, hobbyists, students and companies in design since 1981.
This sector has been an enduring part of the stationery scene. As a prime destination for businesses and regularly named by the World Bank as the world’s best place to do business among 189 economies, Singapore has no shortage of demand for office supplies.
Major players here include Stationery World which has been in business for over 30 years and offers, beyond stationery, office equipment and IT products as well. Evergreen Stationery has been providing stationery and general office supplies for nearly 50 years. Home N Office has the conventional office stationery that includes copier paper, computer accessories, toners, and ink cartridges but they also sell gifts. Many of these companies are wholesalers and online retailers, too, making it easier for companies to purchase from them in bulk.
Among the earliest Japanese stationery brands to open a store in Singapore was NBC Stationery & Gifts which started as an in-store stationery corner in Books Kinokuniya. Although it now has seven outlets offering stationery, gifts, craft materials and lifestyle products, it has not quite attained the same level of popularity as the later entrants.
The more recent players are not solely stationery stores although they do offer a very respectable selection of Japanese stationery. Daiso paved the way in 2001. MUJI and Tokyu Hands followed suit in 2003 and 2014, respectively. In 2015, Miniso came onto the scene.
In the 2010s, a new player entered the Singapore market to make stationery trendy, hip and the most sought-after gifts for children and tweens. Australian stationery brand Smiggle set up its first shop in the Republic at Plaza Singapura. In a flash, their brightly coloured merchandise – pens, pencils, erasers, notebooks, pencil boxes, school bags, gadgets and gifts – became must-have fashion statements instead of need-to-have items for students.
Following Smiggle’s success, Australia’s largest global retailer, Cotton On, added its stationery store Typo to its chain of stores in Singapore. There are now 15 Typo outlets island-wide. While Smiggle appeals to the younger set, Typo’s fashion-forward mix of stationery, gifts, homeware and even decorations targets older teens and young adults. Typo stores look to be the perfect place for trendy bookworms to buy presents and items to dress up their rooms.
Multilabel gift store Klosh may be Singapore’s answer to Typo. Bursting onto the local scene in the mid-2010s, there are now seven Klosh stores. They specialise in stationery, gifts, home décor as well as lifestyle products and have added personalising of merchandise to their offerings.
PaperMarket are the go-to people if you want to buy supplies to make your own cards or paper crafts. Apart from standard stationery, they specialise in paper crafting supplies.
Global Swedish design and stationery store kikki.K is the supplier of journals, notebooks, planners, diaries, stationery, paper and gifts. In true Swedish style, all their products boast clean lines, and sophisticated simplicity.
Specialty Stationery Stores
The major players in the stationery market are by no means the only ones on the scene. Despite the advancement of the virtual world, Singapore appears to have an appetite for stationery still and several smaller retailers have risen to create a niche for themselves.
From notebooks and journals to cards, material for scrapbooks, paper for letters and wrapping paper, there are a number of stationery stores in Singapore that specialise in paper products, encouraged by the rising demand from hobbyists and those who still value writing. Actseed Co is a design studio that creates their own gorgeous prints that are made into postcards, wrapping paper and inspirational sayings that make exquisite gifts. xHundredFold’s selection of notebooks feature nature designs. Moleskine attracts the executives with their notebooks, journals, planners and writing sets that exude classic beauty in the tradition of artists and thinkers like Van Gogh, Picasso and Hemingway.
The Paper Bunny offers paper in all forms and is very similar to PaperMarket. Overjoyed call themselves an art, craft, design, stationery, material and pen store. They are where you go if you enjoy arts and crafts. Think of them as a more exclusive Art Friend. Finally, there is Cat Socrates, an indie lifestyle store with quirky stationery and kitschy collectibles.
Gifts stores that feature, among other things, Singapore-design stationery have found their place in the industry, too. Naiise may have possibly started the trend. This lifestyle store has a range of notebooks, postcards and stationery that feature Singapore icons like HDB (Housing Development Board) flats, local foods and local landmarks. Naiise, however, is not the only one. The Farm Store, wheniwasfour, and Youniverse Design & Co are other stores where you can get Singapore-inspired stationery. Think otak-shaped (grilled fish cake) pencil cases, Merlion print cards and journals with patterns reminiscent of colourful Peranakan tiles.
Fun & Unique Stationery Items You Can Buy as Gifts
There are a few tips to picking the perfect gift. It has to be something that can be used again and again. Yet it cannot be so practical that it lacks the wow factor. Finally, though this is not an exact Science, if it is something you think is too nice to give away, then it is likely to make great present.
With the emergence of more and more stationery stores offering novel designs, bespoke products and quality goods, stationery is increasingly ticking all these boxes. If you are shopping, here are some fun and unique stationery items you can buy as gifts for those you love of any age.
Matching stationery sets
Matching stationery sets – school bag, pencil case, pencil, pen, eraser, ruler, notebook – is what you can get for any school-going child. At Smiggle, there are sets designed for girls – unicorns, candy, hearts – as well as for boys – cars, video games, sports, planets. You can even complete the look with matching water bottles.
If Smiggle products have become too common, there is always UrbanWrite, the craft and gifts arm of Popular bookstore. They have pencils, pencil cases and school bags with Disney and Sanrio characters as well as animal and mermaid motifs.
NBC Stationery & Gifts is where you go for matching Sumikkogurashi stationery. From notebooks to pens and pencil cases, you can get them all decorated with the chubby corner-living characters.
Which child does not love stickers? At least, which little girl does not? Overjoyed has animal, floral, pastry and fun fair themed stickers for your child to personalise her (or his) belongings.
For the Trendy
If you are shopping for teens and young adults, xhundredfold’s #buildabag series make for ideal gifts. Each set comes in fun designs that feature rainbows, mountains or flowers, and consists of a matching drawstring bag, stationery case, notebook, colour pencil set and stationery set complete with pencils, eraser, ruler and sharpener.
Notebooks, diaries & journals
For notebooks, diaries and journals with funky prints, try Typo, kikki.K or Moleskine. They carry an assortment of designs from geometric patterns to cute but not overly childish designs. Typo also has Marvel, Disney and Friends-themed items while Moleskine has limited edition designs featuring Star Wars, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Dragon Ball and Gundam.
Klosh has the cutest, most imaginative bookmarks ever. They are the very things you covet but do not want to splurge on yourself. They have bookmarks shaped like the spout of a submarine and others that look like study lamps with beams of light. Millennials might just abandon their Kindle just to use these bookmarks.
Stickers are not just for kids. Adults can personalise their laptops, handphones, luggage, journals and notebooks with stickers, too. Cityluxe has a few types including ocean-themed, Paris and New York ones.
For the Sophisticated
You can perk up the desk of any busy executive with carefully chosen desk accessories and stationery. Here are what you can buy.
This one is for the woman with impeccable taste. Riffle Paper Co. has floral writing sets – writing pads with matching envelopes – as well as note paper you can use to pen your own messages to family and friends.
Pens and pencils
Riffle Paper Co. also has pens and pencils you can buy to match those writing sets. Meanwhile, at Overjoyed, there is a fine selection of ballpoint and fountain pens you can get. The ONLINE series, in particular, is lovely. Metallic mocha with discreet swirls, and those using bamboo or Wawa wood are some of the designs offered. Cityluxe’s collection of pens is mind-boggling. Ball, fountain, calligraphy, clutch, brush, multi-functional – the range is quite wide.
In case your friend is the sort who loves things in sets, Riffle Paper Co. is where you can buy clipboards, folders and even binder clips with the same floral themes as those on their writing sets.
Journals & planners
The classic Moleskine series of notebooks and journals are stunning in their simplicity and comes in a range of solid colours.
For the Practical
For your fix of all things Japanese, you can go to Melo!. They are the latest to bring in products from Japan that are not to be available in Singapore. Here is also where you can shop for that friend with loves to organise. Their ombre organiser are folders that come in shades of green or orange that can be hung on the wall. They let you save space, file your papers and decorate your office all at once.
In case that is not enough, go to Klosh and get their wooden To Do pegs. With a peg for each day, you can clip your to-do list so all your tasks are organised for easy reference.
Scrapbooking caught on in Singapore a few years ago and the trend has yet to die down. For the friend or family who loves paper craft, there are a few places to get resources for that. PaperMarket is the obvious choice. Klosh stocks a fair share of items. If you are on a budget, browse the shelves of Daiso for washi tapes, stickers and labels.
Sometimes, you just want a little slice of that dream destination you visited, or a token from your country to give away to friends. Stationery are the ideal choice because they are small yet functional.
We introduce some stationery with designs reminiscent of icons from some countries.
Few things shout “Japan” as loudly as sushi. At Melo!, there is a ballpoint pen so charming you cannot help but snap it up. The pen is adorned with exquisitely crafted clay miniature sushi sets and is a true charmer. The handmade sushi replicas, small enough to fit on your fingernail, are so carefully created that you can see every fine detail. If sushi does not quite whet your appetite, try their onigiri and miso soup version of the pen.
If you want a piece of Singapore to give away or if you love the cultural references, there are plenty of stationery that have Singapore-inspired designs. You can get a kueh tutu-shaped (rice flour cake filled with palm sugar) eraser from Naiise that looks real enough to eat. How about an otak-shaped (spicy fish cake wrapped in banana leaf) pencil case?
Or if Singapore architecture is more your thing, there are erasers or memo pads shaped like HDB (Housing Development Board) flats as well as wooden pencil holders that look like local shophouses. For a bit of whimsy, there are also paper clips moulded to look like Singapore landmarks such as the Supertrees of Gardens by the Bay and the Merlion.
The Farm Store carries notebooks with Singapore locations on the front cover. You can get one with landmarks of hipster enclave Tiong Bahru or tourist spot Little India. As an ode to Singapore’s local food scene, sample their food-themed notebooks. Laksa (rice noodles in a spicy coconut broth) or Singapore’s number one hawker food, chicken rice, are some of the designs that might put a smile on your face.
If you have a penchant for the quirky, wheniwasfour’s collection of notebooks would be your pick. They feature fun Singapore phrases like orh orh (sleep), pom pom (bathe) and Singlish slang lah.
To complete your gift, wrap it with gift wraps from Singapore-based design studio Actseed Co.. Their wrapping paper in pastel washes, bold prints and nature-inspired motifs are double-sided with complimentary patterns on each side. This lets you get two designs for the price of one and gives you more options to create different patterns when you wrap your gifts.
5 Ways to Keep the Stationery Industry Moving in the Digital Age
The pen is mightier than the sword but is it mightier than the laptop? Long before a child of this generation grasps a pencil or a crayon, he would have held a handphone or a tablet. Swiping and taping are fast becoming more intuitive than writing.
So, what does this mean for the stationery industry? Will it have a future? We have five ways to help stationery keep moving in the digital age.
Just like how we feared television would kill radio but the two have managed to co-exist, writing is unlikely to be phased out even if handphones, laptops and tablets rule the world. Global youth literacy rate is on the rise, reaching over 90%. Startups are also popping up at breathtaking speeds. The global startup economy is estimated to be worth US$3 trillion, a 20% increase from 2017. This means schools and offices will continue and, with that, the demand for stationery will remain, if not rise.
What stationery brands need to do to stay ahead, then, is to remain relevant. To complement electronic gadgets, stationery companies have moved into complementary products like computer stationery - stylus pens and digital pens. Keep this up and they can keep going.
In addition, stationery companies can use order data to predict when offices run out of paper or ink to pre-empt their needs. This will make life easier for customers and the order processing time more efficient for the company. Apart from pre-empting needs, smart technology can be used to predict and promote new products. In the future, your printer might be able to order ink cartridges for you well before the old ones run out of ink.
Another way to stay with the times is to go online. Japan’s oldest stationery brand Itoya, for example, may have a century-long history but it is not stuck in the past. The company has an online store. Going into e-business will allow stationery companies to reach beyond their borders, widening their customer pool. It will also make managing inventory easier.
If you cannot increase demand, then create desire. What has helped the stationery industry has been the inclusion of stationery in general stores. You have lifestyle stores like MUJI, Daiso and Naiise offering stationery. This creates opportunities for customers to be exposed to the products. They may not enter the store to buy stationery but if they are attracted by the products, they might walk away with stationery.
Another way desire has been created has been through interest in something that requires stationery. In Singapore, an interest in scrapbooking a decade ago gave rise to the emergence of stores selling paper products to support the hobby. In recent times, the resurgence of calligraphy has bolstered the sale of calligraphy pens. Likewise, a growing interest in fountain pens has made these writing instruments desirable once more. The Singapore Fountain Pen Lovers Facebook group has some 5,500 members. Their monthly meetings draw as many as 100 people. This interest is not limited to Singapore. The US and China have also seen a growth in the demand for fountain pens. According to market research company Technavio, the luxury pen market is expected to be worth US$2.8 billion by 2021.
Finally, there are stationery brands that create desire by offering aesthetically pleasing products. Sugar Paper, for example, thrives on their sweet and simple designs. Today, they count celebrities like Jennifer Garner, Gwyneth Paltrow, Zac Efron and Reese Witherspoon among their customers. What started out as a small store selling high-end letterpress stationery has turned into a company selling notebooks, notepads, calendars, phone cases, pens and desk accessories that can be found in 800 stores around the world including Harrods.
Sell on premium
This is something brands like Montblanc have mastered. No one buys a Montblanc merely to have a pen to write with when there are cheaper and just as efficient options around. Owning a Montblanc is more a status symbol than anything else. People collect Montblanc pens and the brand knows this. So, they create special edition themed pens like their John Lennon pen series to celebrate the year of his birth – 1940.
Innovate or die. Customers need more than better products, they need new experiences. Henry Ford was thought to have said that if he had given what his customers wanted, he would have made faster horses. Instead, he gave them a new experience – cars. The rest is the stuff of legends.
Japanese stationery brands are particularly good at innovating. Staples-less staplers, pencil sharpeners that return the pencils when they are sharpened, mechanical pencils with rotating lead that remain sharp – they are always keeping a step ahead of customers’ needs.
Play on authenticity
The digital age has made communication more efficient and easier but it has also stripped away personality and identity. Where once you could tell a lot about a person from his handwriting, these days correspondences are typed with no necessity for even a signature.
As a result, there has been a rise in demand for personalising, customisation and authenticity. The interests in journaling, sketching, handwritten notes on personal letterheads for special occasions have meant that companies like Smiggle and kikki.K, and Japanese stores selling traditional handmade washi paper have become in vogue. According to Global Industry Analysts, the global market for stationery products is expected to exceed US$234 billion by 2024 with the very millennials who live by their handphones driving the demand for personal stationery and notebooks as a reaction to the digital age.
Where to Buy Functional, Fun & Fashionable Japanese Stationery in Singapore
Like many of Japan’s products, Japanese stationery are well-loved worldwide and why not? They embody the best of Japan – precise, excellent quality but with enough imagination and whimsy to bring a smile. No wonder, then, that its stationery and office supplies market size amounted to more than US$5.5 billion in 2018.
In Singapore, Japanese stationery are quite the staple. Whether it is supplies for school-goers, novelty gifts for loved ones, or writing accessories for the executive, Singaporeans are using Japanese products and loving it.
Here are where you can satiate your appetite for Japanese stationery in Singapore.
Functional staples school-goers swear by
Check the pencil case of any school-going child or teen and you are likely to find Japanese brand pens. Pilot, Pentel, Zebra and Uni Mitsubishi Pencil top the list. For other stationery products like pencils, erasers, correction tape and highlighters, Pilot and Pentel still reign but BiC products are also rising to the fore. When it comes to crayons, most children in Singapore would have grown up with a Sakura set or two.
So ubiquitous are Japanese writing instruments that most in Singapore use them without even a second thought. Many are not even aware they come from Japan. They are simply picked because of their functionality, quality and affordability.
Every stationery store in the country probably carries at least one Japanese brand stationery product. But if you want larger selections, then the major bookstores would be it - Popular Bookstore, NBC Stationery & Gifts and Books Kinokuniya.
Fun novelty items & collectibles trendsetters love
One of the other things that make Japanese stationery so beloved in Singapore is their cuteness quotient. Erasers in the shape of vehicles, animals and food; stickers for all ages; colourful pens, markers and highlighters in a variety of designs; notebooks, journals and diaries with gorgeous patterns and prints, stationery with popular Japanese cartoon characters – lovers of all things kawaii (cute) are spoilt for choice.
New lifestyle shop Melo! is a multi-label store which carries all sorts of Japanese products that have not been brought into the country before. Funky functionality is their trademark. Apart from an ombre folder-organiser that can be hung on the wall, saving space and allowing it to double up as office decoration, they also have pens filled with tiny handmade clay sushi replicas that show off masterful craftsmanship. They even conduct craft classes to help people learn how to use their UV Bondy plastic liquid. Participants can use the UV Bondy sticks to decorate their own calendar with coloured beads.
For those in search of a bargain, Daiso is a natural choice. The one-stop Japanese budget shop stocks their fair share of fun stationery items. They have a decent collection of writing paper and matching envelopes including those with Disney characters as well as origami paper and greeting cards.
Daiso is not the only Japanese budget store to stock up on stationery. Tokutokuya is another $2 shop, less well known but just as fun. Their stationery section is not as large but they have a couple of really cute items like their sushi-shaped magnets which will make putting up schedules and notes on any whiteboard fun. Mijyi joined Singapore’s $2-store scene in 2017. They stock titbits, lifestyle products and stationery from Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. One of the best buys is their wrapping paper that comes in various designs including fruits and geometric shapes.
Beyond the budget shops, mid-price trendy stores have taken the Republic by storm as well. MUJI is the most popular among them. Their sleek pencil cases, folders, notebooks and organiser in black, white or brown would lend zen to any desk.
Tokyu Hands’ shelves of stationery offer myriad choices. One of the cutest finds is their sets of sticky tabs featuring cute animals, floral designs or patterns. They are great for marking pages on textbooks and are guaranteed to brighten any study session. Rivalling them is Overjoyed which sells index clips featuring cartoon cats and dogs in sweet pastels.
Fashionable luxury stationery fit for every executive
Apart from curios, Japanese stationery brands also offer luxury items. MUJI has a line of fountain pens with a silver finish. Their clean lines and classic beauty make them perfect on the desk of any professional.
Cityluxe carries stationery from Midori, Japan’s premier stationery designer. The brand is known for their Traveller’s Notebook with goat skin covers and metallic D-clips shaped like cats, cars or planes.
Elephant & Coral is where you go to get Namiki pens. The Japanese brand owned by Pilot Corporation is famous for their lacquered fountain pens adorned with intricate artwork.
7 Reasons Why We Love Japanese Stationery
Japanese stationery are loved and sought after the world around. In fact, the top stationery stores in the country – LoFT, Itoya, Kyukyodo, Sekaido, MUJI and Tokyu Hands – are major tourist attractions in their own rights.
Part of the reason is because the Japanese devote so much attention and effort to stationery. The nation has long had a tradition of calligraphy. In their third year in school, Japanese children are taught calligraphic writing using a brush. Many also go for penmanship or calligraphy enrichment courses. Japanese calligraphy requires its own specialised writing material to create the subtle strokes needed. Little wonder, then, the demand in the country for fine writing instruments and the appreciation of penmanship.
Japan is also the birthplace of origami. The intricate art of paper-folding has elevated the country’s paper industry to great heights and led to the production of quality paper to further boost the stationery industry.
Here is a country that not only loves its stationery but has also shared that love with the rest of us. But it is not for nothing that we love Japanese stationery. Here are the reasons why we love them as much as the Japanese do.
They’re so cute
Few other countries in the world has created quite as many cute cartoon characters that are as beloved as has Japan. America has Disney, for sure; and the United Kingdom has the odd character or two like Peppa Pig and Timmy. But Japan outstrips them all in sheer number and cuteness quotient.
Totalling 807, Pokemon characters alone already outnumber Disney ones. We have not even considered Sanrio characters, citizens of the Super Mario Bros universe, iconic figures like Doraemon and manga creations. All these make for great merchandising opportunities. Add to that the Japanese passion for all things kawaii or cute and you have plenty of inspiration for stationery designs.
Particularly fun are their erasers shaped like food such as sushi, vegetables and fruits; and those inspired by animals – otters, dogs, cats, porcupines. Sticky notes, sticky tabs and stickers depicting Japanese icons from sumos to Mt Fuji that let you literally take a piece of the country home are just as fun. Then, there are the to-die-for writing paper and notebook in sweet pastels, those inspired by Nature or bordered by cartoon celebrities. Their cuteness factor is why people snap up tonnes of Japanese stationery every chance they get even if they never get to use them all.
They’re so creative
The Japanese are known for their innovation and this has extended to their stationery as well, making them cutting-edge. They are the people who came up with staples-less staplers. They also came up with the Sonic Toga Return, a sharpener that draws the pencil in to be sharpened then gives it back to you when it is done. No more over- or under- sharpening so your pencil will last longer. The sharpener is the winner of the 2017 ISOT Grand Prize in the Functionality Category. How about tea-scented pens that come in 10 different flavours including Apple and Caramel or the Kurutoga, a mechanical pencil with lead that keeps turning so it remains sharp at all times.
They’re so stylish
Japanese style is clean, balanced and natural. A lot of their stationery embody that same spirit of Zen. Stationery Love’s Japanese Style Pencil Erasers is a fine example of this. Each eraser comes in either black or white and is encased in see-through plastic shaped like tube. They are easy to hold and use, and their minimalist design sit well on the desk of any professional.
The erasers complement perfectly the drawing pads and notebooks from Ito Bindery. The Japanese stationery brand is famous for their minimalist style and their products all come in clean black, white or kraft.
The leaf and flower memo pad at Miyoshi Store are style personified as well. Each sheet looks like a perfectly form leaf or flower petal. Paper thin and in lovely shades of pink, yellow, green and blue, using them is like holding Nature in your hands.
Their quality is outstanding
Japanese products are known for their quality and this is evident in their stationery, too. The MD Notebook Diary Thin, for example, uses only washi (Japanese paper) that has gone through rigorous quality control and tested for ease of writing. Prestigious stationery brand Kunisawa produces writing paper using a special process so their paper is silky smooth and provides great ink absorption. Of course, there is Mitsubishi, a brand renowned for precision motors. They make stationery as well and bring to their writing instruments the same quality and sophistication found in their vehicles.
They’re so practical
Japanese stationery not only look good, they work wonderful as well. Velos bind clips are a class above others because their handles fold flat to the side. This allows you to flip through the clipped pages easily. The Pilot FriXion Light Erasable Highlighter is what its name suggests. It comes fitted with a rubber eraser in case you change your mind about which text you want to emphasise. MART FIT PuniLabo pen cases can stand upright by making their bases flat. This lets you use your pencil case as a pencil holder and makes reaching for your stationery so easy.
They embody tradition
Many of Japan’s best stationery brands come with years of history. One of them is Itoya which was founded in 1904. After more than a century, the brand has built itself into one of the country’s largest paper stores with eight multi-level shops in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto as well as six specialty stores in Japan and the US.
Japanese fountain pens also have strong traditions. Japanese penmakers craft their nibs inhouse so that the premium quality is consistent. In fact, many liken the process to the way Japanese swordsmiths forge their weapons. The result is tips that are finer than others making them smoother than those made in the West.
They pay attention to details
The Japanese knack for making an old concept better means they pay attention to detail. Take the humble hole puncher. The Alisys hole puncher uses two levers so very little force is needed to make holes in thick stacks of paper. It won the grand prize in the Function category at the International Stationery and Office Products Fair in Tokyo, the biggest event of its kind in Asia. The OLEeNU mechanical pencil has springs inside so that the lead does not break even when you press down on it.
14 Online Stores for All Your Stationery Needs
With online shopping, there is never a fear of not finding what you want. You can get just about anything from anywhere. The only limits are the size of your wallet and your search abilities.
We cannot help you with the former but we can certainly assist you with the latter. These, then, are some online stores to satisfy your every stationery need.
For Japanese stationery
Japanese stationery are legendary and few can visit the country without returning with bagsful of pens, erasers, notebooks and stickers all too pretty and cute to use or part with. But if you cannot get to the Mecca of stationery, the stationery can still get to you. Just buy them from online stores dedicated to Japanese stationery.
Tokyo Pen Shop is everything its name promises and more. They sell pens of all sorts from Japan but they do not stop there. They have stickers, washi tapes, notebooks, planners, pencil cases and cards.
If you want pens with Japanese characters, this is your online shop. Pokemon, Sailor Moon, My Melody, Sumikko Gurashi, Pompompurin, Hello Kitty – they have them all. They also have specialty pens like brush and lettering pens for calligraphy as well as custom multi-pens that allow you to customise your pen with different colours, tip sizes and even ink types.
Kawaii Pen Shop fulfils the penchant for kawaii (cute) stationery. Among their prettiest offerings are golden paper clips adorned with tiny glass balls filled with colourful glittery shapes that look like miniature Christmas baubles. Planners with delicate sakura blossoms, pens topped with everything from cats to donuts and animal sticky notes are just some of the other cute stationery for sale.
Notebook Therapy specialises in stationery from Japan and Korea. Naturally, notebooks form an impressive bulk of their stock and what lovely notebooks they are. Glow-in-the-dark ones stand out from the lot as do their nightscape series with the same design printed on the pages inside.
The site also has other stationery – pens, pencil cases, stickers, sticky notes and desk accessories. Everything they offer is super cute. Memo pads shaped like cartons of Japanese drinks, cloud-shaped correction tape in pastels to match equally pastel desk organisers, paper clips topped with mini pom pom balls, pencil cases that can be made to stand upright like a pencil holder, stickers featuring an assortment of Japanese beverages – the list is endless.
For stationery from around the world
Inchiostro and Paper, their name means “ink” in Italian, is based, naturally in Italy. They have branded themselves as “ethical, minimal, inspirational” and promise 100% Italian products. Their signature product is journals which, unlike usual planners, have neither boxes nor set schedules to be filled. Instead, each month is mapped out differently and the pages are crafted to inspire you to fill them as you wish, living up to their minimalist mantra.
Oh, Squirrel was named one of the United Kingdom’s best stationery stores by Tatler. Handmade stationery, and bespoke homeware and party supplies inspired by vintage photographs, botanical motifs and retro fabrics are what they offer. Their personalised pencil cases with names in glittery lettering are reminiscent of the roaring 20s and are perfect for their pencils in black, white and gold with bold declarations like “I am bloody brilliant”, “I am flipping fantastic” and “I am actually amazing”.
CW Pencil is a New York brand that focuses on pencils, which is a refreshing difference from the multitude of shops that concentrate primarily on pens. Pencils of different designs, hardness, sizes and types (mechanical versus traditional) as well as tools for pencil-users such as erasers, sharpeners, pencil cases and paper make up their stockpile.
Milligram is an Australian online stationery and lifestyle store. They have 6,000 stationery, office and lifestyle accessories such as notebooks, pens, diaries, inks and custom wax seals from their own brand as well as more than 90 other brands including Moleskine, Delfonics, LAMY, Palomino, Kaweco, Midori and Rhoda. This year, you can get their 2020 Milligram Studio diaries that make use of abstract patterns to evoke a sense of calm, ideal for practicing mindfulness.
The Farm Store is a Singapore online store that is unafraid to fly the Singapore flag. There are notebooks decorated with local landmarks, pencil cases with local food name puns and document boxes painted with Singapore shophouses. Singapore icons has never looked this fun and funky.
General online stores
You can also go to general online stores to stock up on stationery. Etsy has plenty of sophisticated and stylish stationery as well as cutesy items. You can get cosmic gel pens that look like you are holding the galaxy in your hands or gel pens that look like reindeer from ThePensnicketyCo , miniature alphabet stamps to personalise your items from StompStamp or personalised notecards and Thank You cards from IDesignThat.
Shopee’s stationery are for the budget conscious because items can go for as low as under a dollar. Their range is wide and you can get lost in the thousands of items on sale. There are over 75.000 types of pens alone.
If you are looking for stationery gift sets or stationery to stock up goodie bags for children’s parties, Carousell and Amazon are the places to go.
Stationery make great corporate gifts and Happybird has pretty stylist stuff. Their bamboo desk organiser with compartments and a phone holder, metallic multi-functional pens and golden staplers would do any company proud. For the multi-tasking go-getter, there is the 7-in-1 multi-function stationery which is a stapler, scissors, carton opener, hole puncher, sharpener, ring and measuring tape all rolled in one.
Gift Market has a phone holder that is also a pen set complete with two pens, a highlighter as well as a torchlight. They also let you design your own bookmarks to give away.