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Sabine Lenz

Making the Grade

By Sabine Lenz

About Sabine

Sabine Lenz is the founder of, the first online paper database and community specifically designed for paper specifiers.

Growing up in Germany, Sabine started her design career in Frankfurt, before moving to Australia and then the United States. She has worked on design projects ranging from corporate identities to major road shows and product launches. From start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, her list of clients included Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Deutsche Bank, IBM and KPMG.

Seeing designers struggle worldwide to stay current with new papers and paper trends inspired Sabine to create PaperSpecs, an independent and comprehensive Web-based paper database and weekly e-newsletter. She is also a speaker on paper issues and the paper industry. Some refer to her lovingly as the "paper queen" who combines her passion for this wonderful substrate called paper with a hands-on approach to sharing her knowledge. 


That Golf Shoe Has Been Discontinued

“Could you please see if any of your other stores has this shoe in a size 9?”

My patience was running thin. The salesperson at a well-known golf shop in the Bay Area obviously didn’t want to be helpful. Grudgingly, she moved to her computer and started typing.

“No,” she said triumphantly. “This model has been discontinued, and none of our stores has any left in a size 9. I have access to all their stock numbers.”

I gave up (on the salesperson that is) and left the store. As you get to know me better, you’ll discover that I don’t give up that easily.

A few days later, I found myself in the neighborhood of the Redwood City location of the same-said golf shop. And well, I couldn’t help myself. I had to stop and check.

Oh look here...three (count ’em...1, 2, 3!) pairs of the shoe I was looking for in a size 9. There they were, all lined up neatly on the shelf.

Lesson learned: Rethink my source for golf shoes.

The same goes for paper, of course. I can’t count the times I’ve received emails and calls from designers asking why they can’t get their favorite paper any more.

Mohawk, for example, has just streamlined its offerings and reduced SKUs by 50 percent. Some items will be moved under another brand name. Others will be discontinued.

There are going to be lots of questions during the transition. And there are going to be queries for discontinued items long after the transition. But no matter what the paper (or mill), you have two scenarios to think about when a customer asks for a paper that has been discontinued.

Case #1: The paper has NOT been discontinued

There are many great printers like you out there, but there are also some bad apples. (There are some green apples, too—the paper buyers that don’t have a lot of experience.)

Those bad apples will tell a client that a paper has been discontinued when the reality is that the shop’s regular paper merchant doesn’t carry that paper any more. Bad-apple printers don’t want to go the extra mile and shop around. Green-apple buyers just don’t know any better.

Granted, access may not be easy in terms of securing credit or preferred discounts with a new merchant, but the paper is still readily available. Be honest with your client.

If your client finds out that you could have gotten the paper, the trust factor will be sorely damaged. (I also get emails from designers letting me know they’ll never use a bad apple printer again.)

Case #2: The paper HAS been discontinued

If a paper mill decides to discontinue a paper line/color/finish, it is not necessarily out of reach. In all likelihood, the mill still has some stock in its warehouse. And it will happily sell it to you until the supply is gone. So be sure to ask—even if it’s been awhile since the paper was discontinued.

Should the mill be out of stock as well, check out some of the small-quantity paper sources, such as Glodan or thePaperMillStore. I’ve been known to track down broken cartons of stock that were officially long, long discontinued by the mill.

So even though the paper—or golf shoe—might be discontinued, there is still hope. You might just find the stock your client is craving as easily as I found those size-9 golf shoes.

Don’t give up. Your personal eureka moment and the smile on your client’s face will be well worth the effort.

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