I have often said that if we cannot get an order from a printer, I would want one of our paper merchant competitors to get it rather than having the order leave the merchant channel entirely. That is how strongly I believe in the benefits the merchant brings to their customers. Other purchasing options, such as office superstores, mail or internet ordering, “seconds houses”, and warehouse clubs are among the non-merchant channels I refer to. Therefore, when I was asked to write about “Five things I would like readers to know about our company” I decided that expressing the benefits our merchant channel brings to the market would be beneficial for the readers of this publication.
Paper merchants, often called distributors, represent a wide variety of mills and products. Types of merchants are usually broken down into either:
1. Fine, which sell only printing papers and supplies
2. Industrial, which sell things like custodial products and packaging materials
3. Dual “Houses” such as our company, which carry both fine and industrial.
A typical warehouse will have several thousand different items in stock and tens of thousands more available in just a few days. When you add in packaging materials such as bubble, mailing bags, tape, pallet film and shrink wrap, a paper merchant truly can be a “one stop shop”.
While all companies proclaim service is important, the merchant takes it a step beyond. Delivery is only one small component of their service “palette”. Suggestions and advice on what paper to use on a particular job are frequently asked for and given. Samples to test, either on press or on electronic equipment is a common request as the printer wants their customer to have the best possible final product. Swatch books, printer material and access to other industry knowledge are common items distributed throughout the print community by paper merchants.
Of course service after the sale is critical for the printer. If a paper problem should arise there is no better source for complaint resolution than a paper merchant. We will gather necessary samples, advise of options, obtain replacement stock if needed and consult with mill personnel and have them come in to help resolve the situation if deemed necessary. All this is done while acting on behalf of the printer as their advocate.
Paper merchants are educators as well. In addition to the aforementioned sampling procedures, our segment of the industry brings suppliers closer to the printers by bringing mill representatives to the area. This allows the mill to have a good understanding of what happens at a certain customer, what their needs are and how to best meet those needs. Some companies, such as ours, also provide a Specification Representative, who visits with designers, agencies and corporate communication personnel as well as assist in their sample, swatch and industry knowledge needs. This resource is invaluable, but is provided at NO COST to the recipient. Finally, some firms will provide classes or less formal “knowledge training” on paper and related topics. Every time we do one of these training sessions we receive such positive commentary we begin planning for the next one!
Lastly, your area paper merchant is involved in the community, supporting many of the same causes that you, as a printer, support. We serve on boards and committees. We plan events and attend them. We donate paper, time and effort to local or area projects. Typically, these are the things the other channels cannot and do not provide.
For all the reasons above (and plenty not listed) your area paper merchant provides the customer with so much more than a competitive price and a quality product. When you need them, they answer. After all, as it has been said, “If your car won’t start do you want your auto mechanic a thousand miles away!” The merchant can provide all these things from your own backyard.
JP Gasway President