Special Report: Paper
Some catalogers choose to target only specific pages within their books to reduce basis weights. For instance, many catalogers once used uncoated, 50-lb, white, offset free sheets for order forms. One way to cut the weight of that order form is with a hybrid sheet, which features a blend of kraft pulp and mechanical pulp.
Same Feel, Less Paper
Jim Colwell, vice president of national accounts at AbitibiBowater, which manufactures a hybrid sheet, explains that the kraft pulp gives strength and brightness to the paper, while the mechanical pulp yields more fiber from a tree and thus uses less fiber to make the same amount of paper.
Colwell says the paper’s feel doesn’t change between 50-lb and 45-lb, but you use less paper. A 1,000-ton job, for instance, would use 10 percent less paper — or 900 tons. Beyond order forms, some catalogers mail sales supplements at lower grades, but they’re still bound into their traditional books.
Customer response to lighter grades of catalog paper has been mixed. Wilson says some catalogers “seem to be clever enough — or their customer base isn’t as sensitive — that they can lower their basis weight, the brightness of their grade, and essentially reduce the overall quality of the paper without materially impacting their response rates.”
Some catalogers have tested the waters by using different paper grades for different geographical markets, points out Wallace. Catalogs sent to New York addresses, for example, may be printed on coated mechanical, while those distributed in rural regions are printed on SC-A.
Though customers may not notice a difference in quality, catalogers still might not get the same results if they downgrade. A 40-lb #5, for example, isn't going to deliver the same brightness and surface characteristics as a 45-lb #3. This requires catalogers to work with their printers to determine how to achieve the best image quality possible.