January 7, 2015 • Sarah Schwartz
Right on Target
A luxe brand travels from niche to mass and back again
Fourth quarter is an exciting time for the industry, but 2014’s was especially exhilarating for Chelsea Shukov and Jamie Grobecker, co-founders and creative directors of Sugar Paper Los Angeles. During those months their clientele drastically expanded from those who shop in exclusive, high-end boutiques to big-box shoppers.
But it wasn’t just any big box, it was Target — especially ideal since Target is famed for its affordable yet high-design collaborations with luxury brands from Isaac Mizrahi to Missoni, John Derian to Jason Wu.
It was also ideal since it allowed Sugar Paper to fulfill a long-standing dream to design an agenda. “(We’d) always wanted to, but any printer will tell you dated materials can be risky for small business,” Shukov recalled. “Each page is unique and only in volume (can) you get the costing right.”
The 2014 Sugar Paper Los Angeles/Target collection sat on shelves for the 12 weeks following Oct. 28. The 31 SKUs focused on classic stationery with an enticing range also encompassing desk blotters and wall calendars, each priced under $15 retail. The collaboration also enabled Shukov and Grobecker to take the wisdom garnered during this adventure back to their more exclusive flagship line. Stationery Trends interviewed them to learn more.
ST: How did this Target collaboration came about?
CS: We were approached at National Stationery Show. The idea of designing an entire collection of agendas seemed fun to us so we took the meeting.
ST: What do the SKUs include?
JG: We designed full- and pocket-size agendas, desk blotters and wall calendars. The look and feel is very utilitarian with a touch of personality.
ST: How long did development take?
CS: To give you an idea, we’re already working on the 2016 collection. The development process takes a full year and there is a lot of back and forth between buyers at Target and manufacturing partners. Next October will be the final calendar and agenda collection for Target.
ST: Since Target is mass, and Sugar Paper is the opposite — an exclusive, upscale brand — what did you learn about the mass market while creating this range?
JG: We have learned a lot. Being a small, boutique business we have the luxury of choosing colors and materials that appeal to us. We design based on inspiration rather than data. When working with big box retailers, the data is very important. A lot of the materials we used were required materials based on sell-through data. For us, that was the hardest part.
ST: What did you take from this experience that you will use in creating your Sugar Paper line?
CS: In many ways, this experience has reaffirmed our commitment to using high-quality materials in the products we make for the Sugar Paper line. We take great pride in making specialty, handcrafted items. Our boutique customer comes to us for that. Working on an affordable line for Target has been fun because it has engaged a new customer base and the response to the brand and the product has been delightful. The new audience (and even current clients) who have purchased the planners have been really pleased with the product and that feels good.
ST: What do you tell those retailers who carry your line — and feel that may be minimized by your Target range?
TK: We are fiercely protective of the boutique market because we are part of that community. We understand what it’s like to run a small business and any time we are approached to collaborate, we take time to think it through. Sugar Paper’s success can be heavily attributed to our boutique retail partners, and we make sure that we make choices to support them. For example, with the Target dated line, we felt that this product would please the big box consumer while also shining a spotlight on paper being valuable and important. The datebook collection is only available for a limited time, so new fans of Sugar Paper will, in turn, need to purchase our items through our boutique retailers. We think about the long game. In the long run it’s win-win.
ST: What are your 2015 introductions for Sugar Paper
TK: Right now, it’s all about the desk. We’re making some really special items that we simply cannot find in the market. We’re focusing on heirloom-type items that our mothers had on their desks when we were growing up. We’re putting a fresh spin on traditional, functional items. I don’t want to reveal too much because we’re still in development, but I have a feeling these items will be a big hit. We always know we have something good when everyone in the office wants to have one.
ST: Is there anything else you would like to share with Stationery Trends readers?
TK: Maybe just say thank you. Anyone reading this magazine knows how truly difficult it is to run a stationery business. It looks so sweet and civilized from the outside, but stationery gals are tough. We roll up our sleeves and do hard work. We have been given so much support through the years by other stationers being generous and by storeowners who support the products we make by choosing to buy them. We’re proud to be part of this community. Thank you.
— By Sarah Schwartz, editor