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Pushing the Envelope Beyond Ordinary

Holiday Print and Envelope Wishlist

Posted by Jerry Velona on Dec 21, 2012 9:17:00 AM

Letter to Santa Elite Envelope

Well, 2012 is almost behind us:  another year of challenges and ups and downs but hopefully more than your share of success.  The printing and envelope industries continue to either decline or evolve depending on your outlook. I prefer the latter. While there’s no question that far fewer envelopes are being mailed today as opposed to ten years ago, direct mail has remained a vibrant and attractive tool to marketers.  New digital technologies have made personalized mail affordable.  Improved four color envelope printing equipment and technology has moved process printing firmly into the mainstream.

As I write this we are facing the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar.  My 13-year-old daughter wanted to sleep over a friend’s house to mark the occasion which was fine with me. I could use some peace and quiet before the end of time. So who knows if you’ll even be around to read this?  Just in case, here are some of my fervent hopes and wishes for 2013.

  • I wish that companies in our industry and in general would be less timid about wishing customers “Merry Christmas”.  I understand that businesses tend to be risk averse and generally will take the path of least resistance. But Christmas Day has been a national holiday since 1870 and has a healthy and ubiquitous secular side.  I know there are some that take offense at being wished Merry Christmas but they are a tiny fringe and do we really want to consider their tender feelings above the vast majority who, regardless of their religion, enjoy and celebrate the Christmas Holiday?   How about “Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays”?

  • Along the same lines, I hope that printers and envelope companies will be less accommodating to the “green” agenda which ultimately does not have our best interests in mind. I’ve written in more specific detail about this issue in previous posts.  We should all take responsibility in our personal and professional lives to use resources wisely and consider the environment. But the greens think paper consumption is bad and that’s not right.

  • To add to #2, I wish that companies in our industry would stop claiming that their products are produced with “certified wind power” when all they are doing is buying Renewable Energy Credits.  If you have a wind turbine in your parking lot or solar panels on your roof then you are entitled to make this claim.  If not, it’s misleading and more kowtowing to environmental purists who are, for the most part, not our friends.

  • I wish more customers would go back to using formal purchase orders. E mail has certainly made us more productive but getting unspecific messages to proceed on an order via e mail requires us vendors to confirm everything in writing which is really what the customer is supposed to do through a detailed and precise purchase order.  Plus, sometimes you have two or three separate trails going on the same order which requires printing out voluminous correspondence for the job ticket. (I wonder if any of these e-mail orderers have that “don’t print this e mail unless it’s absolutely necessary” message after their signature?)

  • I wish more people would stop responding “your” welcome when I say thank you for doing something for me.

  • I wish our political class would allow Postmaster General Donahoe to implement most of the reforms he’s been recommending for the past several years. The Post Office is a mess. It’s losing money at a terrifying rate and needs to be significantly downsized and reformed or face collapse. What really needs to be done is to break the monopoly and privatize the delivery of first class mail as we have with parcels with great success.  What will most likely happen is dithering followed by another taxpayer-financed bailout.

Despite the many problems we face as an industry, we can be thankful for the chance we have to persevere and dream. We can also give thanks for our friends, family and loved ones; without whom our lives would be diminished. Lastly, to everyone in the printing and envelope world: Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and may we all flourish and prosper in 2013!

 

Topics: four color envelope printing, going green, envelopes and post office, postal monopoly, envelope printing, post office problems, envelope industry, printed envelopes

Post Office Working to Boost Direct Mail

Posted by Jerry Velona on Oct 10, 2011 11:00:00 AM

Direct mail photo resized 600Somewhat Lost amid the statistics showing 2011 first class mail volume declining around 7% after similar or greater declines in previous years is the fact that direct mail volume has increased significantly in the past year and now represents around 48% of total mail volume.

It seems that the Post Office is finally starting to get the message that encouraging direct mail and direct mailers is the best way to boost numbers and arrest the decline in mail generally.

According to an October 6, 2011 article in the Wall Street Journal by Jennifer Levitz, the Post Office has begun to offer discounts and incentives to small businesses. One program in particular allows businesses to drop off as many as 5,000 pieces to their local post office where they will be delivered to every house on the local mail routes for 14.2 cents per piece. What is most significant about this is that, for the first time apparently, the post office is allowing the pieces to be delivered without addresses. This saves mailers the cost of buying mailing lists and ink jetting or labeling.

The article also mentions the higher rates of success for direct mail in general versus electronic mail. Direct mail will always involve higher costs than electronic mail. However, if those costs can be kept reasonable with some incentives and discounts thrown in for good measure, the higher return on investment should outweigh the costs.

Many of us have often wondered why the Post Office never offered discounts to boost direct mail during the traditional summer slow period.  I guess the current budgetary woes have caused management to focus on such common-sense solutions. Even the tax-hungry state of Massachusetts for several years now has declared a sales tax holiday for a weekend in August which has been very successful in boosting business at retail outlets.

All this is very positive but cannot take the place of the cost-cutting that must be done in order for the Post Office to stay viable.  My town of residence has three post office locations all located within a few miles of each other.  I recently sent an e mail (yes, I know…) to the person in charge of public comments urging closure of two of them.  They are facing many complaints from local residents who like the status quo as well as the postal union who can’t see why they would close branches that are allegedly “profitable”.  Doing the right thing here will be a long, tough slog for sure.

While much of the mail discussed here probably went out without envelopes, I believe that any use of direct mail is a positive for the industry overall. Let’s hope that the post office continues to operate in a business-like manner to encourage direct mail. It may be its only hope for survival.

Topics: direct mail, post office, envelopes and post office, post office problems, envelopes and the post office, direct mail solutions

Envelopes and the Post Office

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jul 25, 2011 11:28:00 AM

The future of the United States Postal Service is one of the great question marks to anyone in the envelope, printing or direct mail business.

As overall mail volumes continue to decrease nationally and internationally, the ability of the Postal Service to continue to deliver mail economically will be a major factor in the continued viability of our industries.

Like any other government-provided service, the post office has been the butt of many jokes about poor, unresponsive service over the years. Some of it is certainly justified (is there a private business that consistently keeps too few people up front to handle customers? Probably, but they don’t stay around that long.) However, I’ve often remarked that the business office people I’ve dealt with provide a high level of prompt and friendly service; comparable to any private business and superior to many.

However the business model of the post office; with its monopoly power over first-class mail , tax-free status, heavy brick and mortar presence throughout the nation, unionization of the majority of its workforce and ultimately being under the control of politicians for any changes or reforms puts the mailing industry in a tenuous position here in 2011 and beyond.

We’re all aware of the changes in our culture and economy that have led to fewer mail-pieces.  Certainly the continuing influence and penetration of the digital world is at the top of the list. To cite only one example; going back less than 20 years, just about every mutual fund company in the country regularly mailed out a big, thick prospectus for each fund to millions of customers.  I have to admit that along with probably the vast majority of mutual fund customers, I now receive prospectuses via e-mail.  If I need to read it, and frankly I rarely even glance at it, I can access it on my computer. Much easier and more convenient that way, right? Well yes, but it also means a lot few envelopes and brochures being printed and that’s just one example.

As I’ve written about in previous posts, the Green movement has done a fine job convincing millions of people that generating and mailing printed material is somehow a sin against Mother Earth. And right on cue, the private sector is now taking up that rallying cry in a somewhat disingenuous attempt to lower their costs.  As I write this, Elite Envelope is imprinting a message on some bank statement envelopes we produce imploring the recipient to “Go Green” and get their statements electronically.  It’s a nice, little order for us today. But it’s kind of like a rough draft of our obituary.

Nevertheless, we can’t swim against this tide. Our industry must adapt and come up with new ways to thrive. In order to do that however, we’ll need some help from the Postal Service.  In future blog posts, I will be focusing on the problems we face today and will suggest some possible solutions to help keep the mail moving at a reasonable cost into the future.

Topics: envelopes and post office, postal monopoly, declining mail volume

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!

 

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