U.S. stationery firm sees strong Thai sales in digital age

The regional director of Newell Brands, a United States-based stationery and consumer goods company, said his firm is seeing strong sales growth in Thailand for stationery and writing products despite the advent of the online and digital age, and the firm is banking on Southeast Asia as an important region for the future.

Newell Brands is the maker of Sharpie markers, Paper Mate pens and pencils, Prismacolor art supplies, Elmer’s glue, X-Acto knives, higher-quality writing instruments from Parker and Waterman, as well as owning non-stationery brands such as Rubbermaid, Sunbeam Oster and Mr. Coffee. Founded in 1903, its net income in 2016 was listed as $527.8 million.

“Many people incorrectly believe that mobile devices and computers are killing the stationery business,” said George Hartel, regional director of Newell Brands at a press conference in Bangkok last week. “In reality, our writing business has never been stronger in [Southeast Asia] and the rest of the world. We see consumption rates up, we see consumers trading up in the category, and we observe consumers gravitating toward new ideas and responding to innovation.”

Hartel said that the sales were growing much faster in the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) than in many other markets, and the company sees ASEAN as a key driver of its future sales growth in Asia. Consumers in the region are just becoming familiar with some of the firm’s brands and products, and finding new uses for them.

“Historically Thai consumers mostly used lower priced ball-point pens, but with innovations such as Paper Mate InkJoy quick-dry gel pens, they are now trading up to higher quality, higher performance products which write smoother and leave your notes brighter on the paper. This trade-up by consumers across ASEAN is driving category growth for retailers,” Hartel said.

A research report by Ken Research of India said that in Thailand “the market for luxury writing instruments and stationary showed exceptional performance in the year 2015 when there was huge penetration of high-priced writing instruments while demand became more sophisticated. In the years that have followed, this growth has been positive owing to a growing economy.”

Newell Brands is also investing in Thailand as its regional hub for ASEAN, devoting funds to develop more advanced logistics, warehousing and manufacturing capabilities to meet the demands of consumers in Thailand and across the entire Southeast Asian region.

“The company’s business is growing at the fastest pace in our history in ASEAN and well beyond our peer set in the region. Our operating model of driving innovation, great marketing, and the right partnerships with customers is a winning formula for success in Thailand and ASEAN,” Hartel said.