Should we buy our own paper direct?

Answered by Suzanne Morgan, Founder, Print Buyers

I’m a print buyer for a retail company. My company is considering buying the paper for our print projects direct from a paper manufacturer or merchant, rather than having our printers purchase it for us. Is this a good idea? We’re thinking that we can save money by buying direct, but we’re concerned about the amount of work it would take to manage this.

J. H.

I’m asked this question frequently by print buyers and the answer depends. Two of the first articles posted on Print Buyers addresses this question. The answers are just as relevant today as two years ago, so go to the following links for more details:

Article #1 – written by Suzanne Morgan (me)
Should You Buy Paper Direct?

Article #2 – a balanced article written by International Paper:
The Paper Purchasing Decision: Merchants or Brokers or Printers or Mills?

I’ll summarize the answer about buying paper direct, here:

There's a lot to consider before you decide to buy direct. Carefully consider the following questions:

  1. Do you have enough volume to make it worthwhile? It's not only a matter of your overall print quantities, but also the brands and types of paper you order. The more you standardize your paper specifications, the more realistic it is to buy direct.

  2. How many printers do you work with? If you switch printers often, then you will incur considerable costs in accounting for and shipping paper that's left over. Printers may have different core sizes on their web rolls. So, what fits one printer, may not fit another. The fewer printers you work with, the better.

  3. How much paper knowledge will you need? Buying paper direct will require more expertise and time. Do you have the staff and skills to handle this?

  4. What shipping and inventory issues do you need to consider? What are the costs? How will the paper be shipped to your printers? How and where will any paper left over from a press run be stored?

  5. Who will take responsibility for any paper problems once the job is on press? What happens if there is a problem with the paper during the press run? Who will resolve those issues?

In reality, it doesn't make sense for most companies to buy direct. But, if you are a buyer of any significant volume, you will benefit from having a relationship with your paper manufacturer or merchant. Before making a decision, we suggest that you discuss the above issues with your printers, merchant, and paper manufacturer.

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