Article: School market remains buoyant for Safetool
| 11 September, 2015
The Twist n’Safe compass offers a completely new design with a patented cap to allow circles to be drawn using just one hand. It is available throughout Europe.
Where did the name Safetool originate?
As the owner of the Locau brands, I acquired Safetool back in 2007. We decided to use this name for the merged business as ‘safe’ and ‘tool’ sum up what we offer in one word, including our range of Reskal safes. Safetool is active in three distinct product categories: office and school, warehouse tools such as trolleys, and security products including safes. This wide portfolio of products makes us distinct in the European market and allows us to meet the multiple requirements of our customers.
Which category is performing strongest?
The school market is doing well for Safetool, which is probably the case for many companies in France and Europe. At the recent UFIPA conference of French stationery producers and resellers, the outlook for school and office was presented like a weather forecast: school had two suns and office had just one with a cloud!
The office market continues to be challenging because companies are targeting costs in order to maintain profitability. This has resulted in many of them laying off white-collar workers and tightening budgets, including expenditure on office supplies. On the other hand, the school market has resisted much better, both for selling directly to schools and back-to-school sales to households.
Why are school products still performing strongly?
There are several reasons, one of which is that there continues to be a lot of product innovation. Of course, there is price pressure and customers are budget conscious, but schools are still interested in buying the best products to assist them in the education process. Parents are also willing to spend on their children. We listen to their needs and develop products that offer new solutions and attractive designs.
What are the current demands or trends you are responding to?
Comfort of use is an important topic for handheld stationery such as scissors. This has led us to include soft material like rubber in the handle to enable children to have a better feel when they use them. Colour is also an important trend because children are attracted to trendy and vibrant colours rather than just plain and functional designs.
How did you come to include the Twist n’Safe compass?
Twist n’Safe was developed in Japan and I discovered it during a visit to Tokyo. We were so impressed by how much easier it is for children to use compared to a traditional compass that we entered into an agreement to become the exclusive distributor in Europe. The innovation is in the patented cap of the compass which acts to protect the point and also attaches to the handle to enable circles to be drawn easily with one hand. We came up with the name Twist and Safe to emphasize the security of the design. It generated a lot of interest from visitors to the Safetool stand during Paperworld and schools have been very enthusiastic. We will now see how it performs during the BTS season. It is probably the most innovative product that Safetool has launched and fits our concept perfectly.
What other new products are you launching?
We have just launched a new cutting instrument for kids called ‘Biki’. It is ergonomic and fits into the hand of children to allow them to cut paper or fine plastic creatively. It is both designed and made in France, and as it is very safe for young users, it is a true Safetool product.
I see from your catalogue that you sell several niche products, such as those designed for left-handers. Do they sell well?
I don’t think that products for left-handers are the niche market they were 10 years ago. Firstly, in Europe, we do not insist or even encourage left-handed children to use their right hands like we did previously. Locau was the first company in France to develop scissors for left-handers 30 years ago and since that time the market has developed. Schools and parents are now more aware of the advantages of stationery specifically adapted to meet the needs of left-handed children.
What are the major issues facing Safetool in the current market?
I believe that despite the current economic situation in Europe that school products will continue to perform well as long as we continue to innovate. Our core products such as scissors will always be needed, so the question becomes how to get the best quality to price ratio. The current drop in the euro could also see more manufacturing being relocated back from China to Europe. Safetool, like most other brands, moved a lot of our manufacturing to China over the last number of years in order to remain competitive. However, we kept our machines in storage in France. Today we are using them again for our ‘Made in France’ products. This is a very new development that we did not consider until very recently. A couple of years back, producing the Biki in France would not have been an option due to the strong euro and the cost difference between producing in Europe and China.