How to Work with a Paper Merchant
Ed Farley, senior vice president, marketing and communications for Unisource put it succinctly: “Today a merchant has to offer more than just a product. A merchant has to offer a platform of values to the customer that will help the customer grow their business profitably.”
Merchants buy paper from the mill, and then resell it at a markup. Margins are tight (except when they don’t pass price decreases on to the printer). There’s not much to be gained by trying to play one merchant against another—you can’t get much blood from that stone. Better to find one or two good merchants who understand your business and provide the service you need and provide paper at a competitive price.
Bob West, executive director for NetPrint, offers 10 specific things to look for, advising printers to: "Make sure your merchant...
“is a true 'merchant,' not a distributor. The printer needs a partner who is focused on a few products in each category and dedicates his marketing expertise with these suppliers.”
“has 'brick and mortar'—people and inventory in your market to service your account properly. Paper is your biggest spend; partner with a merchant who has made an investment.”
“has regular service runs for delivery to your plant. Late deliveries because of poor service are costly to your business.”
“has dedicated customer service, outside sales and technology to support your requirements. None of the shortcuts have ever been very successful.”
“is knowledgeable and proactive with market intelligence. Your competitive advantage depends on this.”
“is a solid link in the supply chain with mills. A marginal merchant will not represent your interests well with mills.”
“is solid financially. Choose a partner who is growing and managing its bottom line.”
“is fully informed of your goals and objectives. A solid relationship can carry both through difficult times.”
Jack Miller is founder and Principal Consultant at Market-Intell LLC, offering Need to Know™ market intelligence in paper, print and packaging. Previously, he was senior consultant, North America, with Pira International.
Known as the Paper Guru, Jack is the former director of Market Intelligence with Domtar, where he also held positions as regional sales manager, territory sales manager and product manager. He has presented at On Demand, RISI’s Global Outlook, PRIMIR, SustainCom World and at various IntertechPira conferences. Jack has written for Printing Impressions, Canadian Printer, Paper 360, PaperTree Letter and Package Printing, along with publishing a monthly e-newsletter, MarketIntellibits.
He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from The College of the Holy Cross and has done graduate studies in Statistics and Finance.