The Cassandra Guide to Paper and Catalogue Printing

In his latest blog on the latest topics surrounding catalogue printing and brochure production, our correspondent Roland Mann sifts through the truth, myths, fibs and outright lies that are currently swirling around the thorny issue of paper supply.

The current paper supply situation, particularly for those marketeers who utilize the services of a large format web offset printer, is probably at its most perplexing since any time in the mid nineties when tonne rates soared to between £800 and £900 per tonne.

For just about as long as fleas have been attracted to stray dogs, print salesman have roamed the marketing hinterland, assuring buyers that unless they confirm their catalogue printing order half an hour ago they will be lucky to receive their planned job in the next millennium.

Some times this is true, more often than not it isn’t. So perhaps now is a good time to examine the current supply crisis and the factors that are driving it through the eyes of two women, one mythical the other fictional.

Firstly, from Greek mythology, I give you Cassandra, daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy.

The story goes that a rather unpleasant cove called Apollo was intent on trying to seduce Cassandra. To this end he bestowed on her the power of prophesy. Now Cassandra was nothing if not chaste and upon declining his offer of a quick trip round the Parthenon in his Ford Chariot GTI, in caddish fashion he spat in her mouth to ensure that nobody would believe her even though she spoke the truth.

Our second Cassandra comes from an altogether different kind of royalty, comedy royalty, from Peckham. Cassandra was the wife of Rodney Trotter in ‘Only Fools and Horses’ and gullibly consumed and disseminated information gleaned from the eternally slippery Del Boy and Rodney.

So, let us explore some of the causes and consequences and commonly held views of the current paper conundrum and give them a ‘Cassandra’ grade if true and a ‘Cassandra Trotter’ grade if they are either disingenuous or utter bunkum.

On paper Lead times

Cassandra Trotter: ‘You need to know exactly what you are going to require in six months time and order it now or you won’t get the paper’

Cassandra: ‘You need to try and plan as to roughly how much paper you are going to require for the second half of the year. You can then place a ‘not free to manufacture’ order. This is a definitive non- retractable order but you can amend it up or down until the paper cut off date is reached. This is usually four to six weeks prior to the print production’

On current paper pricing

Cassandra Totter: ‘Prices are going up all the time to keep the Finn’s in cheap vodka’

Cassandra: ‘The cost of pulp has risen by over thirty percent in the previous two years. This combined with the weak Pound, a reduction in manufactured tonnage and Brexit makes the UK a less appealing trading partner than the US and China where greater returns can be achieved. Therefore, allocation is being diverted to these markets thus creating a supply shortfall and price spikes in the UK and to a slightly lesser extent, continental Europe.

On future paper pricing

Cassandra Trotter: ‘Hopefully it will come down after Brexit’

Cassandra: ‘Paper prices are normally set in January and June and are dependent on the rate at the time of delivery to the printer, not at the point of order. However, it is usually possible to get an agreed short term rate and in some instances of larger orders they can in be agreed on for the year BUT you will need written confirmation from the mill at the time of the order’

On paper quality

Cassandra Trotter: ‘I can save you £100 per tonne on this similar grade, nobody would know the difference’

Cassandra: ’Because of the reduction in the number of potential paper supply partners, there is a certain uniformity to pricing across similar or like for like stocks. Printer A may get a slightly better price than Printer B from say UPM but Printer B may get a better price than Printer A from say Sappi. This will be down to the respective volumes they place with each mill. If you are being offered a vast discount to use a certain paper you haven’t specified, check it and then check it again. If it seems too good to be true, it usually is’

Is this a real crisis or is it a fictional one?

Cassandra: ’Yes it is and it will almost certainly get worse before it gets better’

So, what should I do to avoid any issues with the delivery of my key marketing material?

Cassandra Trotter: ‘Don’t worry about anything, I am sure I can sort it out once the time comes………….for a price’

Cassandra: ‘Planning is the key. Talk to your supply partners, get them to supply quotes with run ons and run backs so that you have a clear picture on your potential spend. Book both press and paper capacity early and don’t listen to Cassandra Trotter!’

If you would like any help with your planning process the team at Callimedia are here to help you with free, impartial advice. Please contact us on 01206322211 and just say Cassandra sent you.


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