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The designer that found her niche in Surry Hills

Surry Hills’ Crown Street is known among trendy Sydneysiders as the city’s foremost restaurant strip, something Margaret Rockliff counted on when she opened her now thriving stationary shop there five years ago. The Paper2 owner is sharing how enveloping herself in the local culture kept her niche business alive, even in tough economic times.

“Whenever I’ve looked for a shop, I’ve always looked next door to a busy café,” Rockliff told Dynamic Business, who’s theory is that any business will benefit from a high flow of pedestrian traffic.

Rockliff, a former interior designer, opened her first stationary shop in Manly 12 years ago, while she was retraining as a graphic designer. Following her passion for quality paper and stationary to Surry Hills in 2008, she continues to attract customers with her ever-changing blend of every day items and custom made products.

“I treat my shop the way that I like to shop. If I go into a shop and it just has the same product all the time I’ll only go there when I definitely know I need that product,”

“Whereas if it’s constantly changing I think, ‘Oh, I’ll go and see if they’ve got something new.’”

This approach has served her well, even in an economically challenging climate. “I hate saying this, but our figures are actually better now than they were before the GFC,” she said.

Rockliff also credits her success to a low price point. “Its not as if people are going to spend $5,000 on a couch or a piece of jewellery or something – It’s actually affordable.”

“When I go to other shops like mine I find that it gives me a bit of a lift, I can spend $20 and come out with something that I really like,” she said.

Keeping it fresh, online

Far from limiting herself to greeting cards and coloured pens, Rockliff and her small team of graphic designers design and print an original range of stationary and personalised invitations.

“We’re lucky that we can produce things ourselves. The invitation business is a flow on from the shop, it generates a lot of work for us.

On top of the walk-in clientele, Rockliff has a regular group of customers, some of whom she’s been looking after since she opened.

“Some are businesses I’ve been supplying to since I first launched here,” she said. These include companies as diverse as an art gallery and local real estate agents.

Looking toward the future Rockliff, plans to expand her line of Paper2 products into other stationary shops.

“I’m trying to produce more of our own goods so we can be more competitive. I find now that people come into the shop, get on their phone and start taking down the website to see if they can get the products elsewhere.”

“If I can have more of our own product and start more wholesaling then I can therefore cover that end of it,” she added.

Rockliff is soon heading over to the National Stationary Show in New York, “Its my treat. I source products and just try to get ideas.”

“Americans are so good at stationary, they send a card for everything and they do more letter pressing, you can kind of judge what the trends are.”

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Rachel White

Rachel White

Rachel White is an intern at Dynamic Business and is currently studying a Bachelor of Media (communications and journalism) at UNSW. She enjoys photography, reading and just hanging out with friends and family.

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