Should You Buy Paper Direct?

If you are considering buying paper directly from a paper manufacturer or merchant instead of through your printer, consider the following:

Cost savings
Printers usually mark up paper 2-20% -- the higher the print volume, the lower the percentage markup. Printers charge these fees to cover financing costs, inventory of paper, handling charges, resolving paper problems, etc. Depending on your specific situation, you may or may not save money by buying direct (see below).

Paper allocation
If there is a shortage of paper in the marketplace, a good working relationship with a mill can ensure the buying power needed to be covered during these peak demand times. Catalogers, publishers, and large direct mail purchasers who print substantial volumes regularly are usually the most concerned about this issue.

Are you a candidate to buy direct?
There's a lot to consider before you decide to buy direct. Carefully consider the following questions:

  1. Do you have enough volume to make it worthwhile? It's not only a matter of your overall print quantities, but also the brands and types of paper you order. The more you standardize your paper specifications, the more realistic it is to buy direct.

  2. How many printers do you work with? If you switch printers often, then you will incur considerable costs in accounting for and shipping paper that's left over. Printers may have different core sizes on their web rolls. So, what fits one printer, may not fit another. The fewer printers you work with, the better.

  3. How much paper knowledge will you need? Buying paper direct will require more expertise and time. Do you have the staff and skills to handle this?

  4. What shipping and inventory issues do you need to consider? What are the costs? How will the paper be shipped to your printers? How and where will any paper left over from a press run be stored?

  5. Who will take responsibility for any paper problems once the job is on press? What happens if there is a problem with the paper during the press run? Who will resolve those issues?

In reality, it doesn't make sense for most companies to buy direct. But, if you are a buyer of any significant volume, you will benefit from having a relationship with your paper manufacturer or merchant. Before making a decision, we suggest that you discuss the above issues with your printers, merchant, and paper manufacturer.
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