No, you have a notebook problem

I stopped at Staples on the way home from work today to pick up some printer paper for work, and I found a new notebook in their Circa/Rolla Arc series.

New Circa/Rolla notebook from Staples

The covers have a sort of coarse tweed look with leather accents. Nice look, and it feels good in your hands. They also have some brightly colored leather ones, but the leather is padded underneath and feels too puffy. The tweedy one was the clear winner.

I’m not sure what Staples plan is for this product line, and I have a sense that they aren’t sure, either. This is, I think, Staples’ third or fourth go-around with Circa/Rolla notebooks. Every time, the pattern has been

  1. Come out with new designs in Letter and Junior sizes.
  2. Provide tabbed dividers and other accessories but only one style of lined paper refills—no calendar, diary, address book, or graph paper refills.
  3. Withdraw the notebooks from stores some months later.
  4. Wait a year or more and return to Step 1.

Now as it happens, Staples does have calendar, to-do, graph, and planner refills, but I’ve never seen them in stock in the two or three stores I visit.

I don’t get it. Staples’ notebooks are nice enough and are way more affordable than the ones at Levenger, but they haven’t figured out that the hook, the thing that drives continuing sales, is a variety of refills, especially ones that match the popular productivity systems. It’s no good having an attractive display with your new line if you don’t show your customers all that can be done with it. Hell, people have to open the damned notebooks up to learn that the paper is repositionable.

Instructions inside

I, of course, know how the Circa/Rolla system works, but I’m hardly their ideal customer, because I make my own refills. But people like me—and Dr. Bunsen, who has some ideas I need to steal—are rare. Most people who get themselves into a DayRunner or FranklinCovey planner come back year after year to buy updated packets of very nice, but expensive, pre-printed paper. Staples ought to be able to undercut them and still make a decent profit.

So, if Staples wants to take a meeting with me, I’m available. In the meantime, I have another nice notebook.