Pencil boss out to prove a point

JUNE-2012 – Faber-Castell boss puts his pencils to the ultimate consumer test Dapper pencil baron Count Anton Wolfgang von Faber-Castell wanted to prove a point. So he climbed the 69 stone steps to the top of his castle in Stein, Germany, threw open the window and hurled 500 of his classic, green pencils to the ground. As they cascaded to the cobbled street, the Count bounded back down and challenged Shoptalk to select a handful of pencils for the ultimate consumer test. Slicing the pine casing open with a penknife, he beamed at the contents – the lead was intact. The Count, boss of the Faber-Castell pencil empire, said: “See, it didn’t break – that’s why we make the best pencils in the world. The lead in a cheap pencil would be in pieces.” While the Faber-Castell brand has been built on quality and innovation, it comes at a price. A pack of six Faber-Castell Grip Pencils costs £4.50 from John Lewis, while a set of 12 HB pencils with erasers is £1.04 at Tesco, which sells 10 Value pencils for 28p. With parents tightening the purse strings, do they really care if their child’s schoolbag has Faber-Castell or a budget brand of pencil? The Count shakes his head and sighs. “Buy a cheap brand and it will let you down. We will not compromise on quality or the safety of our children’s products. “That’s why we will not produce a budget version of the pencil. We can’t stint on the 10 coats of paint that go on to every pencil or the glue we use to bond the lead to the wood so the lead never breaks.” He added: “A pencil is a piece of precision engineering with one for every need. “A student sitting GCSEs with multiple choice needs a decent 2B pencil that quickly marks the answers and won’t break half way through. “Anyone taking an art exam will need a softer lead that flows across the paper, while an architect needs a harder lead.” The 250-year-old family firm has 15 per cent of the global market, making two billion pencils a year in 120 colours with wood from its own sustainable pine forests in Brazil. While it has conquered Latin America, Asia, China and Indonesia, Faber-Castell has yet to break into the British market. It’s partly because we won’t pay over the odds for a product we think belongs in a school pencil case. But the Count reckons parents will buy into the Faber-Castell emphasis on safety. All the pencils have non-toxic paint so they are safe for chewers. And to demonstrate how safe the felt-tip pens are, the Faber-Castell boss became Count Drink-ula. Picking up a glass of red ink, he swigged it back and, with red-stained lips, said: “See, that’s how safe it is. Just a mixture of food dye and water.” The Faber-Castell range also includes scissors which cut paper but don’t cut flesh and magical crayons which leave marks that can be removed from walls just with an eraser. The Count said: “We are more than just a pencil maker, we are a centre for creativity. “Children are growing up in a hi-tech world, but there will always be a place for pencils and paper in their toy box.”
Thursday, February 28, 2013
Global News