Paperchase embracing digital as international footprint grows

A new French language website and the launch of a UK-wide loyalty card scheme are among the new initiatives currently occupying stationery and cards retailer Paperchase, as the business continues to seek a buyer.

This Monday marked the official unveiling of, a dedicated French language website for the company's burgeoning customer base in France, and chief financial and operating officer David Bateman hasn't ruled out launching further country-specific websites in the future.

"The opportunity is there and the web is a great way of testing [our offering]," Bateman explained to delegates at the London Stationery Show 2015, which took place this week at the Business Design Centre in Islington.

He added that the company "wouldn't be successful" if it did not embrace a global multichannel strategy.

International expansion has been a key part of the Paperchase approach in recent months, with the retailer's wholesale arm establishing a presence in office product giant Staples' stores in the US last year. In addition, the business has continued to grow its concessions in high profile retailers Lafayette (France), Karstadt (Germany) and Arnotts (Republic of Ireland).

In 2014 it was confirmed that Paperchase's private equity owner Primary Capital, which bought the business in 2010 after the collapse of parent firm Borders, had hired PricewaterhouseCoopers and Financo to undertake a strategic review of the business ahead of a potential sale.

Bateman told Essential Retail that the process is still ongoing, and he explained Paperchase will continue looking to expand its portfolio with 15 stores set to be opened this year. Online retailing is growing in importance for the retailer, too, with sales over the Christmas 2014 period up 26% year on year, while pre-tax profits for the last full financial year also edged up.

Operating in an industry that has been significantly challenged by the digital revolution, Paperchase has modernised by launching new categories that compliment a tech lifestyle, such as tablet and e-book cases, and it has been able to embrace digital to bring wider company benefits.

"Digital hasn't negatively impacted sales, it has been a positive," explained Bateman, who added that Paperchase will continue to evolve with the times.

"Our database has around 0.5 million people on it – just to have that number of people who tick 'yes' [to receive email updates each week] is fantastic."

Bateman, who was previously head of finance at Arcadia Group, said around 150,000 people visit the Paperchase website every week. The business also compiles and distributes an internal weekly social media report that details all of the activity and mentions it has received on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other similar sites.

According to the retail exec, Paperchase will soon be using the customer data it has to personalise email messages based on previous purchase history. The process of  better understanding its shoppers will be aided by the imminent UK launch of a loyalty scheme called 'Treat Me', which Bateman said has been successfully trialled in Scotland over recent months.