Prices for catalog paper increased again on August 1. Paper price increases have continued over the past several months. Printers are now being allocated paper by the mills, which means printers aren't able to get all the paper they've ordered.
As a result of this supply chain backlog, printers are sold out of press time for the upcoming months. Printers are now having to reject work from even long-standing catalog customers because they're at the limits of their printing and bindery capacity.
What should catalogers do? Here are a few steps to take:
- Confirm with their printer their paper orders.
- Confirm printing and bindery schedules, co-mail schedules and costs, and in-home dates with your printer.
- Offer to supply pre-press artwork early if your printer needs the flexibility to go on press early to meet your schedules.
- Make sure your management team understands that paper prices continue to rise, and the prices will almost certainly be higher than your quoted costs. No paper costs should be considered firm until the paper mills actually invoice your paper order.
- Talk with your printer about paper alternatives to make sure you get either the paper you’ve specified or an acceptable alternative.
- If you haven’t committed to all your Q4 printing, it may be too late. Commit now if you hope to have press time before the end of the year.
The paper shortage and cost crunch and now the shortage of press time for catalogs are different and more severe than any other time in memory. Why? Mills have cut paper-making capacity and catalogers and retailers are bullish coming out of the pandemic and increasing planned press runs. Printers are having staffing issues, especially for staffing bindery lines. The combination of paper allocation and sold-out press time is causing a shortage and a crisis. Catalogers need to understand that it's a crisis for getting paper and press time, and communicate with their printers. Communication is the key to getting your catalogs in-home, on time, on plan, and on budget.
Related story: Managing Pandemic Catalog Buyers