I was all ready to turn off my laptop and take a much-needed 7-day siesta when an extremely urgent bit of news crossed my desk. So here goes…
Paper Source, the Chicago-based stationery shop goliath, has faced its fair share of challenges during the pandemic. Paper Source closed 11 stores in the past year.
However, many small stationery makers (card creators, printers, designers) have recently received unprecedented orders from Paper Source in the last three months. Some makers were surprised by the large orders but, in the wake of slow sales in 2020 due to the pandemic, they were inclined to believe that the large orders were a sign that the economy was improving so they rushed to fill the orders. Many of those orders came with requests to urgently ship product to the Forest Park, IL distribution facility as recently as two weeks ago.
Then, Paper Source filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Sitting in their warehouse is all this newly acquired inventory and what most expect is absolutely no intention of making good on the outstanding invoices.
A search on Instagram or Facebook for mention of “Paper Source bankruptcy” and dozens of small makers and manufacturers can be found commiserating and regaling the sleazy way that Paper Source has chosen to essentially rip-off these small, struggling businesses in order to fund their bankruptcy. We found references to outstanding invoices from several small stationery creators to the tune of $10-20K each that Paper Source owes them. For a business like ours (Well-Appointed Desk or Skylab) this would mean we would have produced 1000s of units which would have cost us in time, materials, labor costs and more. I am sure it is the same for all the other card makers and stationery product creators who fulfilled orders for Paper Source with their “net 60” payment schedule only to realize now that the money will never come. If I were out $10K in merchandise to a wholesaler, I would be close to financial ruin. (We have not sold any product to Paper Source but if we did, this would suck big time! And it has for many of our friends.)
All of these underhanded dealings look like they were clearly set-up to cook the books for an impending equity buyout in the next 90 days that is supposed to create a “more productive store base and more liquidity to support the brand’s omnichannel growth strategy.” Omnichannel? FU, Paper Source, you money grubbing shits.
Why am I telling you about this?
- To convince you to no longer spend even a cent at Paper Source. Ever again. Makers are very unlikely to see even a penny or cents-on-the-dollar for the outstanding invoices so as much as our instinct is to buy goods from Paper Source so they make good on their debts, it’s unlikely that they will actually pass any profits on to the makers.
- To encourage you to support small, local stationery shops (like CW Pencil Enterprise, Wonder Fair, Baum Kuchen, Little Otsu, Yoseka Stationery, Omoi Zakka, Greer Chicago, etc, etc.) and small online shops (see sidebar for some of our favorites).
- If you found something you genuinely loved at Paper Source, continue to support those makers by buying direct from their Etsy or online shops.
- Write an email or letter (Paper Source 125 South Clark St. Chicago, IL 60603) telling them what you think of their business practices. Tell them if they can’t pay their bills they should return the merchandise to the makers. “Liquidating assets” you never paid for is stealing.
- Pass the links in this post on to others so that no one will unknowingly spend money with Paper Source.
I realize that stationery and paper goods are not the most important thing in the world but for many (myself included) this is their livelihood. So many small businesses have been adversely affected by the pandemic, many owned and operated by women, POC and minorities, and stationery makers are no different. Large corporations continue to thrive or find ways to “beat the system” which only widens the gap. The only weapon we have available to us is our wallets. Use it wisely.
For more information, check out the posts below that provide more nuanced coverage and not an opinionated rant.
(Side note: Apologies for the plethora of Instagram links. I wanted to connect my lovely readers directly with some of the posts from makers who were directly affected by Paper Source and be sure that the posts were properly linked and credited. If they show up as empty boxes, I apologize. Instagram does not always show images from people if you are not already following them.)