As we move from the pandemic to the endemic phase of COVID-19, the U.S. economy has been surprisingly resilient. Sales have rebounded, and businesses and consumers are spending. But the supply chain hasn’t recovered as quickly as demand, and shoppers often find limited supplies of everything from consumer electronics to toys. These disruptions have affected the paper industry, too.
As the pandemic began to subside and the U.S. economy roared back, the demand for paper outpaced supply. Paper mills that had shut down or reduced capacity are taking time to fire back up again. Demand for all types of fiber-based materials is high, and the paper industry is competing with other forest products industries, including construction, for raw materials. With the challenges facing international shipping, paper coming in from overseas is taking longer and is more expensive. What paper is available costs more.
The impact is being felt not just by our clients but by businesses all over the country. It is impacting the cost and supply of office papers and substrates for paperboard and packaging, wide-format and signage, marketing collateral, and direct mail. Businesses’ favorite papers are not always available, and to get that project out, they have to switch to a different stock than they usually use.
This is a shared experience for all businesses, nonprofits, and brands right now. We are all in the same boat!
How do we get through it?
1. Be flexible. If your favorite stock isn’t available, consider accepting a stock of another weight, finish, or hue. The situation is fluid — be patient. Your HBP team can provide suggestions that will help you identify new options.
2. Be understanding. We’re working hard on your behalf to mitigate the limited availability and cost increases dictated by paper mills and distributors. HBP is exhausting all options to creatively source materials at the best possible rates for you.
3. Be multichannel. Use multiple channels to stay in front of your customers and “right-size” your marketing mix. If you want to promote a spring sale, for example, start with email. Wait for responses to come in, then mail to the people who haven’t responded to the digital communication. This gives you maximum results while lowering the amount of paper you must use.
We are hopeful that the supply chain issues will begin to improve but do expect challenges to remain throughout 2022 based on feedback from industry experts. Let’s hang in there together, and with a bit of patience and flexibility, your printed materials, direct mail, and multichannel campaigns will continue without a hitch.