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In defense of the catalog: ACMA’s Davison

WHITE PLAINS, NY – Catalog mailing costs are hitting new highs, especially for the business-to-business mailers who lack the criteria necessary for the best discounts.

Panelist C. Hamilton Davison, executive director of the American Catalog Mailers Association, explored how we got here and what we need to do to promote a favorable change.

“The history for catalogers has not been too pretty,” Davison said.

He began with some statistics.

The United States Postal Service handles 98 billion pieces of First Class Mail a year, accounting for $5 billion for last year; 103 billion pieces of Standard Mail accounting for $20 billion; .9 billion pieces of priority mail, accounting for $5 billion; 9 billion periodicals, accounting for $2 billion; 1.2 billion pieces of package services, accounting for $2.3 billion; and 2 billion other pieces accounting for 2.5 billion.

Overall the USPS handled 53.2 billion pieces of mail last year, accounting for $16.7 billion.

Standard Mail has seen a great increase and mail volume and delivery points are also increasing.

“The USPS employment has gone down due to automation,” Davison acknowledged. “USPS costs are going up and 85 percent of the cost is labor. I used to consider the USPS an ossified bureaucracy, but I don’t anymore.”

The growth of the US economy and mail volume coincides and mail is not going away, because it helps consumers thrive. It connects consumers to the market.

Most catalogers spend less than 10 percent of their time worrying about postal issues. This is ironic considering the USPS controls access to the consumer.

“We need to start thinking about it,” Davison urged. “Cataloger apathy is not a good thing. It’s time to unite the industry. Collaboration brings strength.”

The ACMA’s strategy is to build a presence and to intervene selectively in rule and rate making.

“We need to build relationships with the USPS, PRC, major mailers and other associations like the Direct Marketing Association,” he told the audience. “We need to build relationships in congress and we need to grass root contacts.

“You have to have the relationship when you need it,” he said. “It’s good to put water in the well because when you come to it, you don’t want it to be dry.”

He talked about how catalogers are good for the USPS and for consumers.

Converting customers, for example, is good for the USPS as well because it results in multiple mail pieces.

Catalogs add value to mail.

“No one is going to watch a television station that only has commercials” he assured the audience. “People watch TV for the content, and catalogs are a form of content, only via mail.”

The catalog industry is also a significant employer and catalogers are a “powerful engine for entrepreneurial activity.”

The industry faces future threats like more rate hikes, the inability to economically prospect to develop future customers, and expensive compliance requirements. Public opinion that catalogs hurt the environment and terrorism in the mail is other threats.

“Please, play an active role in the formation and activities of the ACMA,” Davison said. “Commit to build ACMA membership among other catalog companies and suppliers and follow postal policy and development.”

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