Last year was another rough year for paper. The supply chain issues from the COVID-19 pandemic, such as raw material shortages and shipping (trucking especially), were still affecting all kinds of industries.
Direct response marketing was smack in the crosshairs. Not being able to readily get paper caused huge problems for direct mail production — direct mail is crucial to many DMW clients’ acquisition campaigns.
Paper stock was hard to come by year-round in 2022, let alone getting any kind of custom request filled — converted envelopes were difficult to plan on. However, off-the-shelf envelopes were available albeit with limits to choices in design (bleeds, colors), quantities, paper stock (typically just 24#), and window size and placement.
This year’s outlook is better. But, planning and lead time will be your keys to success.
In the New Year, we face the same old supply chain problems. As 2023 unfolds, DMW is seeing some improvement on the paper and envelope front. Here’s an update recently received from our trusted partners and suppliers …
Stabilized paper market.
The paper market has stabilized over the past two to three months. Paper mills are still on allocation, but printers are not using their entire supply. Which means paper is more readily available.
This situation is expected to continue through Q1 and Q2 of 2023. But unfortunately, a shift is being predicted by many mills for Q3 and paper markets may be tighter later in the year.
However, none of our marketing partners are predicting it will be as bad as it has been.
Coated paper continues to be more challenging than uncoated stocks. Web orders for coated stocks will take roughly two months — this includes cover-weight stocks, which DMW typically uses for postcards and self-mailers.
Shortages in truck drivers.
Unfortunately, our partners and suppliers are predicting continued driver shortages in the trucking industry for 2023. Although expectations are that the shortages should not be as bad as 2022, and nowhere near peak pandemic levels.
Slower price increases.
For 2023, print production dollars should go a bit further than the past two years. Price increases are expected. However, like we’re seeing in the broader economy, any increases should be at a slower rate.
As with any direct mail production, paper is not the only cost. There are costs for ink, coatings, and cartons. And unfortunately, our marketing partners are continuing to see increases in those components of a print job as well.
Long lead times for converted envelopes.
So far this year, envelope conversions are still seeing slowdowns and longer lead times. But, things are improving and not predicted to be as bad as 2022.
Oversize envelopes — like the DMW Touch 1 workhorse, 9 x 12 — are seeing the longest lead times, which is typical even in normal conditions.
Your 2023 keys to success: planning, lead time, and DMW.
Yes, supply chain issues are still causing headaches. The good news is that over the last two years, we’ve developed strategies on how to deal with it — and assure we deliver quality direct response creative, on time and on budget.
Experiencing success requires you to be smart and swift:
• Kick off projects earlier, especially for campaigns with defined timing, such as Medicare’s AEP.
• Solidify creative plans sooner.
• Get DM concept specs to your Production Team pronto!
That way, Production can get cracking, with quote requests, awarding projects, and securing paper and converted envelopes.
Questions or concerns? Talk with DMW. We’ll listen to your marketing challenges, and provide ideas on how to overcome them. No matter what.