Attention catalogers who have changed the shape of your books or are considering doing so within the next year: Beware! Changing your catalog shape to qualify for automation letter postage rates may save money in the short term, but it can cost more in the long term.
That’s because the U.S. Postal Service is in the process of conducting tests on a variety of design characteristics. Within the next year, its rules will change significantly and may wipe out the slim-jim savings. And it’s not just about the shape. The USPS also is looking into changing rules concerning mailing materials, thickness, tabbing requirements and more.
Catalogers began to aggressively explore letter-size designs more than a year ago when the postage for flat-size catalogs experienced a significant increase. Under the current rates, going from an automation flat postage rate to an automation letter rate results in postage decreases ranging from 48 percent to 90 percent.
In addition to potentially significant postage savings, catalogers face rising paper costs and environmental/sustainability pressures that also drive them to look at smaller catalog designs.
The overall dimensions for letter-size catalogs (aka slim jims) to qualify for letter automation rates are at least 5 inches long and 31⁄2 inches high, but not more than 111⁄2 inches long or 61⁄8 inches high. Thickness requirements range from at least .007 inches for smaller pieces to 1⁄4 inch maximum. There are a host of additional USPS design requirements for booklet style and folded self-mailer, letter-size pieces, so review all the requirements if you’re exploring these options.
Why the Rule Change?
The USPS began looking more closely at small catalogs and other designs more than a year ago when catalogers began exploring smaller sizes as a way to combat the significant postage increases for regular-size (flats) catalogs. As the volume of these types of pieces began to grow, the USPS noticed that many of the pieces were causing its automated letter processing equipment to jam. It then began to look more closely at the existing design rules for such catalogs — rules developed more than a decade ago based on equipment capabilities at that time.