US catalogues hit with paper shortage

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Bloomberg is reporting that some 100 million Christmas catalogues will not be printed in the US this year, thanks to the online shopping demand, which is causing papermakers to turn to making the more lucrative boxes, causing a shortage of catalogue grade papers.

Shortage: commercial paper in the US

The company reports that paper production across North America has been “slashed” thanks to “skyrocketing demand” for boxes and packing materials during the pandemic. The shortage comes as catalogues bounce back into favour among retailers.

Bloomberg says that direct marketing agencies are “in a panic”, as mills convert to cardboard to meet the surging demand for in e-commerce deliveries.

According to Bloomberg 20 per cent of North American printing and writing paper capacity, which is more than 2.5 million metric tons - or nearly one-fifth of 2019 levels - has come offline since the start of last year.

Usually paper merchants and printers would turn to overseas mills to fill any gaps between supply and demand, but the global supply lines are constrained, as numerous commercial grade mills have closed, or switched to manufacturing packaging products themselves. The ongoing shipping crisis is also adding to the exasperation US printers.

Here in Australia and New Zealand merchants are confident they can meet demand from the local market, with both Ball & Doggett and Spicers telling Print21 last week that they were on top of the situation. With lockdown set to end in Sydney and Melbourne in the next few weeks, printers are hoping retailers will be going all out to entice customers into their stores in the lead in to Christmas.

Catalogues are making a comeback in the US, as retailers deal with consumers’ screen fatigue. After a decade of decline following the GFC, catalogues have been benefitting from screen saturation, soaring online advertising costs, and during the Covid crisis, people spending far more time at home. The king of internet shopping, Amazon, launched its own paper catalogue three years ago, aiming to cash in on the collapse of Toys ’R’ Us

US printers are also, according to Bloomberg, struggling to find paper to print books, and the education sector is also facing supply issues for printed products.

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