Catalogers Need to Partner Even More Closely With Their Printer
The catalog printing world is in crisis. Paper prices continue to increase. Paper supplies are limited and catalogers often aren’t getting enough paper shipped to their printer to meet their press run requirements. Printers are “sold out” for the holiday 2022 season. Costs continue to increase for paper, postage, ink, and freight and fuel. Bindery workers are in short supply, leaving printers unable to bind catalogs.
What can catalogers do to make sure their catalogs get printed and their costs managed? Here are several steps they can take:
- Get a “proforma” invoice from your printer showing the expected costs for the next round of printing vs. the legacy costs for the catalogs printed last season. This will show the full scope of the price increases. Knowing your costs is the first step in reviewing and trimming your overall circulation.
- Work with your printer on the weight and grade of paper you’ll be using. Paper mills are consolidating the papers they manufacture and the paper you typically use may simply be no longer available. Have flexibility on paper grades, basis weights and finishes to allow for multiple papers to be used to execute printing events.
- Know that paper costs and fuel surcharges may increase between the time of your printing contract and when your job is printed. Your actual costs may end up higher than your “contracted” pricing, especially when it comes to paper. Paper price increases have been unrelenting.
- Ask your printer for updates on paper increases promptly so you can understand their impact on budgets.
- Consider adjustments in page counts. Get estimates of what savings can be achieved if page counts were to be reduced by eight, 12 or 16 pages.
- Print plants are increasingly sold out for the second half of the year. If you have print time under contract, get your artwork in early to give your printer the maximum flexibility.
- Second and third tier printers may seem to be your best, or only, option. Check postage costs. Co-mail programs are keeping down the cost of postage. However, co-mail may not be an option with an alternative printer. Will your alternative printer quote and guarantee your co-mail and postage costs and your catalog’s in-home dates?
- Bindery time has emerged as a pain point. Printers are having a difficult time hiring bindery workers for seasonal work in this tight job market. Ask your printer how it's managing its bindery staffing.
- Communicate with your printer about the status of your job. Know that the printers are having a difficult time even getting their contracted allocations of paper. You may have to trim your press runs at the last moment. Understand you need to be flexible. Consider weekly or bi-weekly calls with your printer to stay ahead of pricing changes, review adjustments to schedules that may be necessary, and explore options to navigate the paper pricing and delivery landscape.
- Mills and paper merchants are sending out notices that paper shipments are delayed or shipments are short of the needed paper tonnage. Schedules may need to be adjusted to minimize any impact on planned in-home dates. Communicate with your printer and remain flexible about your schedules.
- Consider cutting circulation to reduce your printing and marketing costs. If your costs are coming in at unacceptable levels, trim the less productive parts of your mailing and save money by printing less.
- Take advantage of the USPS' “Informed Delivery” promotion and take 4 percent off your postage. Your printer will do most of the work!
There are new business rules being dictated by the paper companies amid the shortage of paper. Work with your printer to manage your way through this crisis. Close cooperation with your printer will help you navigate your catalog marketing through the rest of 2022.
Jim Coogan is the founder and president of Catalog Marketing Economics, a consulting firm focused on catalog circulation planning.