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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

November 4th Philofaxy meetup at Letts/ Filofax!!!

I was absolutely thrilled to visit the Filofax/ Letts office and factory in Dalkeith, Scotland last Monday, November 4th!! Steve did an excellent post on the visit on Philofaxy, so I’ll try not to duplicate what he has already written and add my own perspective.

It was wonderful to see Steve, Margaret Rennie (of WriteAtHome.co.uk) and Natalie (of TheYarnYard.co.uk) again, I met Margaret and Natalie last year at the Edinburgh meetup and have met with Steve several times now. I also got to meet Margaret-Ann for the first time, which was very nice. And, I was especially thrilled to finally get to meet Nan of Philofaxy, who had flown all the way over from the US!! I got to thank her in person for inviting me to be a contributing writer on Philofaxy after I had been a longtime fan and commenter!

I had no idea what to expect at the Letts office so imagine my thrilled surprise when we got to meet the Group Chief Executive himself, Gordon Presly! He spent a lot of time with us telling us about the company and its history, which was great to learn about. Steve covered this meeting in detail in his post so I won't duplicate it here.

After our meeting with Gordon Presly we had an excellent factory tour, guided by Scott the production manager. First he took us to the room where it all begins: gathering the data for holidays and special dates all over the world. It's a high-pressure job because you don't want to get any information wrong in the dated products! We also got to see the aluminum plates the diary pages are printed from.

When Scott led us into the production area and I saw all the pallets stacked with planners, I wanted to go skipping through the place! It was a diary dream come true!

Steve took more photos than I did, but here are the ones I managed to snap when I wasn’t busy asking questions and yapping about planners:

Planners as far as the eye can see!!!!

Machine that prints diary pages

Bound diary pages are printed on size A0 paper and cut

Uncut diary pages

Filofax pages are printed on rolls of paper

Rolls of printed paper, heat-fixing the ink

Filofax diary pages

Filofax diary pages

The machine that punches the holes in personal size Filofax pages!

Our tour guide and production manager, Scott
I was too busy gawking and asking questions but now I wish I'd taken photos of the page guilding process. Rolls of actual silver and gold leaf are heat-fixed to the page edges and the result is beautiful!

Also, Steve got a photo of the stacks of leather for covers. The leather is cut, prepared and stitched right there, and fixed to the bound diary pages. I really wanted one of those leather-cover diaries!

I didn't get any photos of Alan, the quality control guy but we had an excellent conversation with him about Filofax standards. He was very nice and answered all of our questions. Filofax has very strict quality control standards and random samples are checked, and if they are outside of specifications for any reason they are rejected!

The tour moved onward where we got to see finished diaries being readied for shipping:
A diary in English and Arabic!

Something else I wish I'd taken a photo of is the name-embossing of custom diaries. Letts makes custom diaries for loads of companies, with personal touches like custom maps, names embossed on the covers, and specialty pages. They were beautiful!

This is the photo I was taking when Steve took his photo of me taking a photo of diaries! I really liked the colors and smooth covers of these diaries.
These diaries really caught my eye!
I took a photo of the product code on the back hoping I could find these on the Letts website and order one, but I can't find it anywhere. :(

Our tour ended at the warehouse, where orders are held briefly before being shipped all over the world!
The warehouse!

An order being prepared for shipment

After our excellent tour we went back into the conference room where Gordon Presly met us again, along with Charles Letts, sales and marketing director of Letts diaries and 7th generation in the Letts family business! It was great to meet with him as well, and I’m afraid I interrogated them a little bit about their marketing strategies and products. I didn’t know before that Letts makes Paperchase and WH Smith brand diary products, which I found very interesting. I enjoyed hearing about emerging markets like Russia and the Middle East. (See photo above of the diary in Arabic, very exciting!) I want to apologize to my fellow Philofaxy folks for dominating the conversation at that point!

Natalie asked the questions everyone wanted to know: what do these two diary VIPs use themselves? Gordon Presley told us he has used an A5 Filofax (a Regency right now) for years. He described his planning system: monthly pages for the overview, each week he schedules his week, then he uses daily pages to focus on each day. He saves all his diary pages and has archives back for years and years! Charles Letts keeps things simple and portable with a mini week diary, changing the cover color every year.

Huge enormous thanks to Gordon Presley, Charles Letts, Scott, Alan and the entire staff at Letts/ Filofax for being so accommodating! We all had a wonderful time and learned a lot!

I really enjoyed seeing my Philofaxy friends and I wish we'd had more time together to chat and share. Next time!

Here is a parting shot for you:

Nan and Steve in front of the Welcome Philofaxy sign!


  1. Are Steve and I being silly? Never!

  2. I don't suppose you managed to stuff a diary in your pocket? I wonder how much organizational skills are personality related? Interesting that two executives at the same company have diaries as diverse as A5 Filofax and bound mini week.

  3. I Love the line about skipping down the aisles. Sounds like it was very tempting.

  4. This was fascinating! Great to see photos of the processes and very interesting to hear how Gordon uses his planner!
    Laurie, I PMed you on FB a wee while ago. It'll be in your 'Other' folder. :) Just a wee 'Hi!' message from another planner addict in Scotland! :)


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