Questions? Call Us!

(781) 961-1800

Pushing the Envelope Beyond Ordinary

New Years Ruminations & Some Good News for Mailers

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jan 24, 2017 10:05:23 AM

First of all, Happy New Year to all those who follow and read my blog. I wish everyone the best for success and happiness in 2017.  Despite the fact that I write this in a cold weather climate (Boston) and the days are short, there’s always a certain positive energy associated with a new year at least to me. It’s a clean slate; time to refresh the screen and figure out what’s possible.  Of course the figuring-out part is a lot easier than the executing part.  I think that’s where a lot of people get stuck in the mud. Oh well, it’s always worth a try! 

I always wonder how far into January you go before you stop wishing people happy new year. I write this on January 22nd. This will definitely be the last week where I’m extending those wishes.  Don’t ask me why. It just seems about the right time to end it.

Of course before we know it, everyone will be saying, “I can’t believe it’s March/April/May already”.  So the moral is, make the most of 2017 because it will be over before you realize what happened.

One last thing on New Year’s and good intentions; one of the hardy perennial new year’s resolutions is to be more organized. With the amount of raw data most of us are bombarded with each day, I think it’s more important than ever to be able to sort through the never-ending amount of digital messages we receive and still have time to be productive.  My friend Lorena Prime has a very successful company called “Clearly Organized”.  Her website has lots of useful information and Lorena does seminars and consulting for business and individuals.  Lorena’s great and I encourage anyone who has that problem or runs a business where it’s a problem with staff to contact her.

So, as we know everything in life involves trade-offs. The information overload and fatigue it can cause is one side of the coin. The other side is how much great information is out there literally at our fingertips which can help us and save us time and money. 

I happened to come across a great article by Adam Lewenberg of Postal Advocate in Wayland, MA.  Adam writes for Mailing Systems Technology magazine and has analyzed and broken down the new postal rates that have taken effect on January 22nd, 2017. 

Overall, the rate increases are minor and they contain some good news for direct mailers and direct marketers as well as those that supply direct mail printing and printed envelopes for direct mail. 

Perhaps the biggest and best news is that automated (pre-sorted) mail will have a single, flat rate from 1 ounce up to 3.5 ounces.  This will enable marketers to put a lot more in the envelope for the same price.

Adam’s article has a whole bunch of useful information about the new rates along with some tips on how to save money on your next campaign.  Kudos to him for laying this out in such a clear and concise fashion.

So again,  Happy New Year (for the last time in 2017) and may all your direct mail campaigns be smooth and effective!

Topics: elite envelope, direct mail printing, printed envelopes, direct mail, post office

Five Perfect Web Printing Jobs

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jun 22, 2016 11:09:08 AM

Web printing has nothing to do with the World Wide Web. (It would be interesting to do a survey to see how many people actually know that’s the term referenced in the “www” in web addresses).   It’s understandable that many non-printer buyers who hear that Elite Envelope & Graphics does cold web printing automatically think it’s something done with a computer.  Well, our 8 color Didde Colortech press does have a computer attached but it’s for assuring the proper balance of CMYK as we lay down another awesome print job.

 The “web” part comes from the fact that the paper printed in these presses starts as a roll. As the roll unwinds through the press, it wraps around a series of rollers designed to keep the paper taut in order to maintain proper registration of the printing.  This creates the look of a “web” of paper; hence the name. The photo just below shows our two web presses from the back and gives you an idea of what I’m talking about.

2013-07-26_02.17.29.jpg Commercial presses print on either individual sheets (sheet-fed) or rolls of paper (web). Most high-end printing is done on sheet-fed presses. There are a lot of reasons for that but suffice it to say, both types of printing have their place depending on the individual job.  Web printing has its advantages over sheet fed for things like long runs of individual sheets; newspapers and broadsheets, booklets and perforated items. There are a lot of different web presses out there and each has its own unique features and strengths.  Here’s a list of five hypothetical jobs that are tailor-made for our particular web presses and which would be suitable for just about any similar type of press. 

  1. Letter size (8 ½ x 11) individual cut sheets for letterhead, statements or invoices.
  2. Postcards for mailing or binding in a catalog or booklet
  3. Buck slips (usually 3 ½ x 8 ½)
  4. 8, 12, 16 or 24 page booklet/self-mailer (ideal page size 8 ¼ x 10 ¾)
  5. Placemats (11 x 17) used routinely by diners and restaurants

The most common stocks for the above jobs would be 50-70# offset or opaque or 7-9 point hi- bulk for the cards.  Since perforating can be done in-line as the item is printed, any of the above items which contain perforated lines make it an even better value and better suited for the web press.  There can be multiple perforations or even cross-perforations on a single piece.   Folding for any of the cut sheets: e.g. a trifold letter size sheet to fit in a #10 envelope, is another ideal characteristic for a web job.  

Any of the above items can be printed from simple black up to and including 4 color process on both sides.  Newer web equipment features high resolution color printing which produces sharp, clear images suitable for all manner of direct mail applications.

The moral of the story is that anyone who buys print should know what works best on a web press versus sheet-fed.  Many buyers we work with will order one or two components out of a direct mail package to print web for the best price.  We hope this helps to clarify where you might start looking to make those buying decisions. It could very well save your company money and make you look very smart. Of course we realize you’re already smart because you’ve read this piece to the very end.  Oh, and you can get further information on our webs from the world-wide web at www.eliteenvelope.com

Topics: web printing, cold web printing, direct mail printing, financial printing, web printing versus sheet fed

Elite Envelope & Graphics – The Movie!

Posted by Jerry Velona on Nov 2, 2015 9:32:00 AM

We released our first video a couple of weeks ago.  It’s a “virtual tour” - a look at our plant, equipment, staff and production capabilities and it clocks in at a neat seven minutes and twenty-three seconds.   It’s something I’ve been thinking about doing for years and finally got around to.  The impetus was a talented young director, Sara Robin with whom I worked on a music video in my other professional life.  Sara and I are a good team and we came up with a concept which she executed extremely well along with her crew, Kellen Ryan and Yahna Harris.  All of them either attend or are graduates of the Boston University Graduate School of Film.

Making of Elite Envelope & Graphics video

Elite is certainly not the first company of its kind to use video for promotional purposes.  Video is now required to sell or promote pretty much anything. It’s a vital part of the “quality content” which marketers insist upon in order to give a company the best chance to penetrate the public consciousness with its brand.  Like it or not, we live in a visual world. Ironically, the public’s insatiable demand for video content is one of the things that has contributed to shrinking the print and envelope markets.  So, an envelope converter and cold web printer producing a promotional video might seem to some as “sleeping with the enemy”.

One of the recurring themes of this blog is the need for those of us in print, envelopes and direct mail to enthusiastically embrace the digital world.  I find that some in our industry seem to harbor a grudge against the technology they see as being responsible for the smaller and more competitive market.  They seem to relish being late adopters, almost as a badge of honor and resistance to trends they see as working to their disadvantage.  While I sympathize with the sentiment, I don’t see the sense in it.  The internet has made people less dependent on the mail. But while I yield to no one in my belief that print on paper can often deliver a message with greater impact than moving images on a screen, we need to acknowledge that there’s more than one way to do things. We also need to acknowledge that one of the reasons  digital messages have become so popular is they are convenient and inexpensive.  They allow us to do more in less time.

Not much more than twenty years ago, most of us in print sales were using pagers (or “beepers” as we called them) to receive notices from the office that someone had called us.  The next step was to find a payphone, pull over and park, grab a bunch of coins and make the return call.   Anyone want to make the argument that a cell phone is not superior to that scenario?  So, you have to take the good with the bad. But the neat trick is to use the “bad” to make us more productive.  In other words, you can bemoan the fact that “everyone” would rather see a video rather than read a message on paper or you can use a video to promote the message that reading on paper can be pretty cool and quite effective in selling your products and services.

Those of us in the print, envelope, paper and mail businesses are now in the position of swimming against the tide.  This sea-change (sorry!) is a relatively recent development and has happened quickly – mostly in the past two decades.  Whereas in the past our main job was to compete in the market, we now must sell the value of what we do as well as increase our share of a smaller market.  We also have to deal with the widely-held belief that printing on paper is somehow bad for the environment; a bogus claim that is easily countered but not without additional effort.

In order to ensure the viability of our business, we have to make our case as broadly as possible. Using online video as well as the many other technical marvels of our age will help us do that.  The timeless messages that are delivered in print are worth communicating in any fashion.

Topics: elite envelope, printing and envelopes, direct mail printing, envelope converter, cold web printer

Envelopes and Web Printing – Best Friends Forever! 

Posted by Jerry Velona on Sep 14, 2015 2:59:00 PM

If there were ever a title that required a smiley-face (or emoticon or emoji or whatever they’re called at the moment) I suppose it’s this one.  Yes, it’s time for the Elite Envelope and Graphics blog to dip its toe into social media-speak and the culture in general.  Just be glad that I didn’t go all middle school and use BFF: one of the many things for which you can be grateful this beautiful, late summer morning in America.

Can there be any doubt of the pervasiveness of social media in 2015? On a personal level, it’s been great when it knows its place; not always an easy place to find in the midst of the non-stop lives that many of us live.  We can keep up with our friends (maybe could do without all the updates about the latest meals), reconnect with people from our past who probably would have been forgotten, become aware of what’s new and perhaps exciting in our area and the world beyond.  All these things can be a welcome addition and diversion from the daily grind.

Business has latched onto this in a big way. No marketing conference can get away with not having at least one or more sessions on how to use social media to increase sales and brand loyalty.  Social media has reinforced and amplified the already well-established trend toward informality in business which in many cases has gone from Casual Friday to Casual Everyday without a lot of notice.  When you’re “liking” the new dress of some distant acquaintance on the same day that you’re “liking” the landscaping company you just hired, the distinction between personal and commercial is blurred beyond distinction.

Is that good for business in general? It certainly is for some businesses.  I suppose that companies generally will reflect the broad changes in society for better or worse. The general descent into explicit content and crude language on radio and television; two areas which in the relatively recent past you didn’t see that much are a fact of life.  Will businesses start to embrace this as a way of connecting to customers?  I think not for a variety of reasons but it will bear watching. Sometimes these things are driven by someone doing something considered outrageous and getting rewarded for it. Everyone then follows along as a way to compete or from a lack of imagination.  Howard Stern might be an example of this phenomenon. 

Perhaps it’s a stretch to suggest that social media business marketing is the beginning of the descent to the lowest common denominator; where how you speak and act in private is transferred to your commercial transactions with no distinction between the two.  If this does happen, I believe it will be driven by businesses which have a small, targeted market that would accept or perhaps even embrace that approach. 

Thankfully social media marketing is not that big of a deal in the printed and converted envelope and web printing world.  I say thankfully because it would be one more thing for me to do and frankly I much prefer one on one communication with customers. I think it’s more effective and in the world of social media can be a welcome relief from the need to post and promote incessantly to get noticed.  I think after I write this I’m going call someone I haven’t spoken to in a while just to say hi. They may be shocked!  Or they may think of me the next time they need a custom envelope or a printed direct mail piece. That’s worth one of these

 smiley face emoji

Topics: elite envelope, envelope printing, envelope converting, direct mail printing, web printing

Top Five Printed Products for the Cold Web Press

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jul 31, 2015 11:45:00 AM

Elite Envelope Cold Web Printing

Whenever you’re reading an article about how to write a blog article for maximum exposure, lists are always mentioned as a way to pique reader interest.  We’ve all seen them; those ads on the pages we click on with titles like: “Top 10 things you should never say to your wife/husband/pet”, whatever. How can you possibly resist clicking on something like that? Of course once we get there (after waiting and waiting for the page to load with an enormous number of other ads and click-bait) we are generally disappointed by something pretty banal like: “Number Six:  Are you gaining weight?” (Cats are particularly sensitive to that question…).

I try to keep this blog more geared toward useful information of a general nature and not too “salesy”. Thus far I’ve resisted using lists but we do some great things on our webs and I think you’d benefit from checking us out.  So here’s my Top Five list (could have made it Top Ten but hey, you’re busy and I respect your time).  These are not necessarily the “top” items but rather five commonly printed products that work really well on the cold web presses of the type we have at Elite Envelope.  But enough!  Here’s the list (in no particular order):

Bind-in/Blow-in cards for catalogs –  These can be printed with either a single perf so the customer can tear off the pertinent information or with a “T” perf so a reply card can be sent back in the mail; generally for lead generation.   Also Buck Slips: These are generally included as part of a direct mail package; often containing an “extra special” offer or message. In some instances, we will receive the order for just this one component because we happen to be very competitive on them.

Mailers & Fliers – Letter and Legal size cut sheets are a great fit for our webs. We print 2 or 4 page fliers that can be folded to a #10 or 5 ½ x 8 ½ and mailed; also 8-24 page full color booklets that can be mailed. We will often get orders for letters that will be personalized later. We’ll print and ship flat in cartons to the fulfillment house. 

Statements and Invoices with Perforations – Another part of the cut sheet family; we produce enormous amounts of these for medical billing companies, banks, election departments, local and municipal tax departments and others. The webs do perforations in-line which can make a huge difference in price especially on large quantities. The webs can also do multiple perforations and right-angle perforations. 

Placemats -   Yes, placemats! 11 x 17 placemats are the perfect size for diners, cafes and the food industry in general and they work great on our web presses.  They can be designed with ads and other information and can be printed in beautiful four-color process usually on 70# paper at very competitive prices.

Donation and Bind-In Envelopes  -  Fewer catalogs are using bind-in reply envelopes these days but they are still being purchased and we can provide them as well as the same style of envelope used by many non-profits for the mailing back of contributions.  These differ from regular envelopes in that they are end-glued without side seams so not as bulky when they are inserted into a booklet or catalog.  They can also be made with a lip at the end of the flap which is used for properly binding the item.

 

On any of these items, we can print up to 8 colors (4/4) in bold, sharp quality.  Please contact us if there’s anything we can do. As always, we love to get your comments as well.

Topics: cold web printing, direct mail printing, printed statements, web printing, Placemats, Bind In Cards, Blow In Cards, bind-in envelopes

Envelopes and Web Printing: The Happy Couple

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jan 19, 2015 11:42:00 AM

marriage of envelopes and web printing

 

When Elite Envelope and Graphics acquired Web Corp in September of 2012, we joked that it was likely to be a good “marriage” of companies based on the compatibility of the staff, similarity of customers and the friendly relations between the ownership of the two companies. 

It has certainly turned out that way. After moving the three Didde web presses into our facility almost two years ago, we have managed to integrate the two companies quite well. We’ve been able to cross train so that peak demand can be more easily handled with existing resources.  The personalities have meshed and everyone works well together toward common objectives.

But none of that would have been the case were it not for the fact that envelope converting and printing and web printing are very compatible businesses with products that complement each other and the markets we serve very well. 

Web printing has always been the “go-to” process for a lot of direct mail components.  The typical, basic direct mail components of letter with perforated tear-off for reply and separate buck slip or letter, buck slip and reply card can all be produced very economically on web presses. The fact that most web presses will be able to perforate in-line makes those letters a better fit versus a sheet-fed press where the perforating has to be done separately.

Typically web presses can print on paper as light as 30# newsprint – sometimes even lighter weights like 27# which are commonly used in financial printing for all the legal boilerplate required by government regulators.  On the other side, the webs can also use paper rolls as heavy as 9 point high-bulk or 110# text. The latter is a mailing weight; i.e. heavy enough to be mailed as a reply card and still hold up quite nicely.

Web presses, especially cold-web presses of the type we have at Elite, are generally thought of for basic printing: black or a color or two with light to medium coverage.  In the printing world, that’s often referred to as “down and dirty” printing (interesting that an idiomatic phrase often associated with someone’s sexual proclivities gets adapted to the printing world. I’ll leave it at that!)  However, newer web presses such as our Color Tech and VIP models can print in beautiful full coverage up to 8 colors. That usually means 4 over 4 although it can be broken down in any number of ways: 6 over 2, 5 over 3, etc.  These colors give great life to direct mail pieces and the web process enables these finely printed pieces to be produced at a very competitive cost.

And what do all those components need in order to complete the package? Yes, the mighty envelope(s)! Elite is one of the few envelope converters that has the ability to produce entire direct mail packages all under one roof.  There are many printers that have presses which can print envelopes but not many envelope manufacturers that can print on flat sheets. 

As the printing and envelope industries evolve in the digital world, I believe more companies will start to emulate this model.  Being more productive and offering greater value to the customer is the only way to maintain a reasonable profit margin in a mature industry.

Those looking for an economical way to produce a great-looking direct mail package can find what they want fairly easily. Just look for the happily married couple!

Topics: elite envelope, envelope converting, cold web printing, direct mail printing, web printing

Elite Envelope Wins Blog Award!

Posted by Jerry Velona on Oct 16, 2014 2:17:00 PM

Elite Envelope wins Blog award

When you write a business blog on a regular basis, you are doing it primarily to promote your particular company. That’s not exactly a secret but it explains why many blogs are virtually unreadable. Commercials can be entertaining; in fact I think they really must be entertaining to be able to get even a whiff of attention from viewers or listeners already overloaded with messages and data in our information overloaded world. But most sales pitches are generally not exactly scintillating; and that’s what your typical business blog reads like.

But sales pitches are different from blogs right?  Well, they should be but ultimately the blog’s purpose is to sell the individual or company. You can do that by providing useful information for people who buy your product or service or for those who may want to in the future. The best business blogs don’t read like sales pitches. They provide information of value which interested people might not mind taking a few minutes of their precious time to peruse.  Presumably, the reader will get the idea that the company knows what they are doing and might be worth considering

Elite Envelope & Graphics’ business is envelope converting, envelope manufacturing, envelope printing and web printing for direct mail and financial printing. In our blog, we attempt to write about these topics in such a way as to increase the understanding of what we do. We also will incorporate other topics that are related to what we do such as the continuing travails of the Post Office and the direct mail industry in general. 

Sy Syms who owned a clothing store named after him in the Boston area had a famous line on one of his commercials in which he said, more or less, “an educated consumer is our best customer”.  Not sure if ol’ Sy came up with that line himself but it’s a good one.  It suggests that the more you know about clothing, the better he looks. It’s an invitation for his customers to flatter themselves which is never a bad thing!

We started the blog after signing up with Hub Spot; a Massachusetts company that was little more than a start-up back then which has grown into a hugely successful public company (check out the recent IPO figures).  At the time, I considered writing a blog to be mostly a waste of time for us. However, my Hub Spot rep convinced me to give it a try as a way to boost our sales.  Following Hub Spots’ very carefully calculated procedures which tie into their very intuitive web design, I’ve since become a believer. The blog has increased the number of hits to our site dramatically and in the past year we’ve started to get regular orders from customers all over the country who find us on search engines as a direct result of our blog.

In addition to increasing my knowledge about the industry I’m in through researching for articles, I’ve also become a fairly capable “in-bound” marketer which has helped me understand the digital world better. One of the main ideas in blog writing is to incorporate those important phrases or “key words” which describe what we do and which get carried out to the world via search engines. You ‘ll notice how I already got that out of the way in paragraph three!

We’re proud of our blog and also of our membership and support of the New England Direct Marketing Association (NEDMA) an organization of which we’ve been a member for most of our almost eleven years in business. NEDMA brings together most of the players in the direct marketing field and emphasizes education with networking among the members as a nice side benefit. It’s the organizational equivalent of a good blog.  Elite’s blog won a silver medal this past June in the “Best Blog Copywriting” category.  We are grateful to NEDMA for considering us worthy and proud to have built and maintained what has become a very useful tool for us and, we hope, for you.

Topics: direct mail, elite envelope, envelope manufacturer, envelope converting, envelope printing, direct mail printing

Checking the Mail – The Next Generation

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jul 11, 2014 12:22:00 PM

 

Elite Envelope & Graphics blog photoRemember that AOL feature that excitedly said, “You’ve got mail” whenever e mails showed up in your in-box?  Yes, recently I was reminiscing about the dark ages of the mid 1990’s when I first started regularly using electronic mail on my Gateway pc (the one with the cow markings on the box!).  Hearing that instantly recognizable voice used to impart a bit of a thrill. You didn’t know what was in your in-box but you were about to find out.

Going way back to the Stone Age; i.e. my early youth, I remember getting a similar thrill when the postman would slip the mail through the slot in our front door and I’d hear it dropping on the foyer floor.  Even though I rarely got anything with my name on it in those days, it was still fun to collect the daily mail and look at the envelopes (mostly envelopes with content in those days, not many cards or “mail pieces” as I recall) before I put them on the kitchen counter for my parents and grandparents to sort out. 

When I got a bit older and would spend a couple of summer weeks at Camp Ocawasin in northern New Jersey, getting letters from home was a very big deal and looked forward to with great anticipation and excitement.  The mail was distributed after dinner by one of the camp leaders. He would call everyone individually to come claim his letter. It was understood that if you received more than three letters in one day, you’d be carried outside and thrown into the lake with your clothes on.  I remember writing home imploring my family to spread out the mail so that I never had to suffer this indignity. 

I still have those letters I received at summer camp as well as the ones I wrote home which my mother saved along with everything else and which I retrieved after she died. I also have letters I wrote home and received while away at college in the late 1970’s and later when I got married and started raising my kids.   Occasionally I will read them and be instantly transported to times long ago the specifics of which I would probably only vaguely recall 

And that brings me to the point (yes it’s coming, I swear!) which is simply this:  what will future generations review to garner a glimpse of their past?   Right now they’re immersed in their smart phones; texting, Instagramming, Snapchatting, etc. at every moment, albeit the virtual moment for the most part.  How much of all this incessant back and forth will be available to them twenty years from now?  Probably none of it. I find it interesting that this current generation which spends more time chronicling their every thought and action in excruciating detail will most likely have no record of it whatsoever for their later stages in life.

In order to keep the envelope converting, envelope printing, direct mail, paper and web printing industries viable for the long term, we need to establish some connection between the young folks of today and the written word; i.e. the ink and paper variety.  In order to do that, they need a good reason.  

Here’s my suggestion – free of charge! – to the PR department at the US Postal Service: start a campaign aimed at grammar school aged kids encouraging them to write letters to each other. The content of the letters would just be a recap of what they’re up to and how they feel about it all.  It could be part of a contest where the best written letters win prizes judged by individual teachers.  In order for the letters to qualify for the contest, they would have to be put in an envelope with a first class stamp and mailed to a friend or family member.  A copy of the letter must also be kept by the writer in a file at home.

You might say, writing a letter: how old-school!  Well yes, but also a novelty to today’s youth, no?  The program could be conducted over a five year period with multiple letters written during each school year. Then, after the fifth year, the kids would write a paper reviewing how their lives have changed during that time based on a review of their letters.  How hard can it be to have kids write about themselves?  And after five years I’m sure some will have that “a-ha” moment where they realize that it’s kind of cool to be able to go back and see what you were doing and thinking at various points in your life. 

You might just see your kids excited about what’s coming through the mail slot again: not a bad thing for them or those of us who make a living making that happen.

 

Your thoughts and feedback are, as always, much appreciated.

 

Topics: post office, envelope converting, envelope printing, write a letter, direct mail printing

Post Office Keeps Trying – Direct Mail World Keeps Hoping

Posted by Jerry Velona on May 27, 2014 11:06:00 AM

The ongoing mess at Veteran’s Administration hospitals across the country is yet another example of the futility of providing necessary services through a bureaucratic, unionized government monopoly.  In a market-based enterprise, the imperative of good customer service is driven by entrepreneurial energy, the desire for upward mobility and profits as well as competitive pressure.  In the government model, these factors are virtually non-existent and instead are replaced by an unholy alliance of rent-seeking politicians, interest groups, corporate supplicants and union bosses whose primary mission is to preserve the jobs of their members at all costs.

The latter factor was on painful display recently in a recent article in the BostonGlobe entitled “Postal Union Targets Staples over Mail Services Program”.  In 2013, the Post Office entered in a deal with Staples to put small customer centers in 82 of the office supply company’s retail locations.  The mini-postal counters would provide most of the services available at Post Offices.  “Customers like it because it’s more convenient and we’re open longer hours,” said a Staples spokesman.  Sounds like a reasonable plan to provide better service at a lower cost from an enterprise that lost “only” $5 billion in 2013; the seventh straight year of huge losses for the Post Office.

 Well apparently it’s not reasonable to the Postal Workers Union who’ve been picketing Staples stores with signs that read “The US Mail is Not For Sale” (?).  The article points out that the USPS already has deals with over 3,600 small businesses throughout the country to provide basic postal services. I’m guessing that a big, fat corporate target like Staples provides a more useful foil for the protests than the small independently-owned pharmacy. 

 While I’ve been critical of the Post Office in previous posts, I’m a fan of the present Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe who’s been trying to bring the costs of the Post Office in line with current revenues which have been trending downward for many years.  The Staples deal is just the latest attempt to bring about a win-win with two entities that have been struggling with the trend away from paper and mail. The union was able to scuttle a similar deal with Sears decades ago. They are now gearing up to increase the pressure through the teachers and other large unions.  Will Staples management eventually cave?  Will the union ever be realistic about the need for the Post Office to balance its budget for their own long-term survival?  Pardon me for being pessimistic about the likely answers to those questions.

The real victims here, besides the taxpayers who must continue to fund the Post Office deficits, are the direct mail, print and envelope industries which continue to swim against the tide of higher paper costs and postal rates.  According to a recent article in the DMA newsletter, second quarter periodical mailing volume decreased 7.8%. This follows a recent rate increase of 5.9% passed by the Postal Rate Commission late in 2013.  At that time, many in the direct mail industry protested that the increase would depress volume. The Post Office responded that mail rates were “inelastic” or mostly irrelevant to the mailing industry.

Direct Mail Elite Envelope & Graphics

The recent drop in catalog mailing volume may be an anomaly and small increases in mailing costs may not have significant short-term impact. But unless we suspend the basic laws of economics, prices do matter and they will affect the decisions of mailers to mail, printers to print and envelope makers to convert to some extent at some point.  Those effects will be mostly negative unless the Post Office can find ways to end-run Congress and implement the necessary cost-savings measures.

In the meantime: stay strong Staples!

Topics: direct mail, declining mail volume, post office problems, envelope industry, direct mail printing

Post Office Drama Continues - Any Direct Mail Solutions? (Part 1)

Posted by Jerry Velona on Mar 27, 2014 2:06:00 PM

 

Elite Envelope & Graphics, Direct Mail Solutions,

As you're probably aware, the US Postal Service raised the rate of a first class letter by 3 cents on Jaunuary 24th 2014.  I say “probably” since fewer people are relying on first class mail delivery these days although the number of those who do is still substantial.

This was the largest single increase in a while. Typically the increases have been in the penny range. The main reason for this is because it’s such an ordeal for the Postal Service to get any kind of rate increase or service reduction through the excruciating bureaucratic and congressional oversight process. After going through all the necessary motions, the wisdom is to make the increase as small as possible for appearance sake. 

An example of the ridiculous hoops the USPS has to jump through is that, according to, CNN Money, The Postal Regulatory Commission only approved the recent increase for two years at which point they will have to re-evaluate it. Given the amount of red-ink in which the Service currently treads, does anyone really think they will reduce the prices back to 2013 levels in 2016?  Is it really necessary to even go through that charade? Such is life in bureaucratic hell - wonder if Dante would have created a unique circle for that one.

As every business owner knows, when you’re going broke you’ve got to raise prices or cut staff or service. Since cutting staff with a government monopoly-style union is virtually impossible, cutting service or raising prices are really the only options. To be fair, the PO has been aggressively incentivizing early retirement in order to reduce payroll.  However, that also causes the very generous federal pension benefits to kick-in which I’m guessing reduces savings on a net basis. 

The USPS lost “only” $5 billion last year. That’s a lot less than in recent years; in part due to the 8% increase in parcel deliveries compared to the previous year.  But it is simply added to the debt burden incurred during those previous years as revenues are still nowhere close to where they would need to be in order to sustain the Postal behemoth. The Postal Service has been cutting back on processing facilities to account for the reported fact that nearly 2 billion fewer pieces of mail delivered in 2013 compared to 2012.  However, there are still far too many local post offices and many other ways they could and should cut back if they were allowed to truly run like the independent business they claim to be.

The spin usually given for the fiscal woes of the USPS is that Congress has forced them to fully fund their pension liability. Given the enormous amounts that will be paid out to retirees in the next few decades that seems very fiscally prudent to me. If only Congress would handle its own federal debt in such a manner; too much to ask I suppose.

No, the Post Office and Congress simply have to face the fact that mail delivery will never be what it once was. That means either allowing for privatization of the service (the best option in my opinion) or making the necessary cuts and adjustments to allow a smaller Postal Service to operate profitably and still deliver the large amounts of mail and packages it will handle for the foreseeable future.

And speaking of mail, as I’ve pointed in previous posts, the percentage of direct mail continues to increase relative to the overall mail volume. We see a lot of that at Elite Envelope and Graphics both on our envelope converting equipment and web printing side where we make and print many of the components that go inside the envelopes we produce.  Direct mail continues to be an effective way for companies to promote and sell their wares. 

But how can companies combat the higher postal rates and still mail at a competitive cost?  We have a couple of tricks up our sleeve that we’ll share in our next post. Stay tuned!  And as always, your comments are much-appreciated.

Topics: direct mail, elite envelope, envelope converting, post office problems, direct mail solutions, direct mail printing, web printing

Yet Another Blog Post

From Jerry Velona - co-owner,

Elite Envelope & Graphics, Inc.

Jerry offers pertinent, often useful information on envelope converting and printing, web printing, direct mail, the post office, songs that have to do with mail and letters, digital overload and much more!

(Non-spam) Comments always appreciated.  Spread it around!

 

Subscribe to Email Updates

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all