ACMA forum

POSTMASTER POTTER: GET IN THE GREEN GAME

Catalogers have not been vocal enough about the environmental impact of the industry, Postmaster General John E. Potter told several catalogers at the ACMA’s first National Catalog Advocacy & Strategy Forum in late June.

Rather than speak up about catalogs and the environment, most mailers opt to sit back and play defense. And that’s a mistake, Potter said. “We have a renewable resource. Tell your story. The initial mindset is ‘let’s play defense.’ Part of the game is to get in the game.”

Due to last year’s devastating postal rate increase, many catalogers have since reduced paper weight and trim size, which in turn helped preserve the environment. “But we don’t talk enough about it,” Potter said. It’s an opportunity to send a message that is lost, he added.

How to convey green efforts? Potter suggested catalogers place messages on catalogs, saying, “Please recycle” or “This paper contains recycled content.”

Regarding customers’ mail preferences amid opt-out opportunities, Potter advised catalogers to look within. “The best thing you can do is manage the relationships you have with your customers,” he said. “Individual companies will attract customers based on how they manage.”

“DO NOT MAIL” A HOT POTATO

Nobody in the catalog industry wants to see Do-Not-Mail legislation passed. But a panel discussion at the National Catalog Advocacy & Strategy Forum showed that it’s clear that industry players and groups need to do a better job working together on fighting it.

A five-person panel Thursday representing catalogers, the Direct Marketing Association, the U.S. Postal Service, and the controversial Catalog Choice program spearheaded contentious discussion on pending Do-Not-Mail laws and catalog preference requests.

Jerry Cerasale, the DMA’s senior vice president for government affairs, told 70 attendees that there were only three states considering Do-Not-Mail legislation in 2005. There were four in 2006, but that figure jumped to eight last year.

Home goods merchant Crate & Barrel has been mailing catalogs since 1967, and obviously doesn’t want a national Do-Not-Mail list, said its direct marketing business director John Seebeck. “Self-regulation is the best choice.”

Consumers looking to opt out of receiving certain catalogs “are reacting to an annoyance factor driven by financial mailings and nonprofit mailings,” Seebeck said. “It’s about controlling the mailbox.”

PROSPECTS FOR LOWER RATES

A special prospecting postage rate for catalogers is a possibility, according to Stephen M. Kearney, vice president of pricing and classification for the U.S. Postal Service.

Speaking at the National Catalog Advocacy & Strategy Forum, Kearney said that the USPS understands that catalogers are facing a crisis. He also said that the Postal Service and catalogers must balance competing objectives.

As for the USPS coming up with a prospecting rate for catalogers, “We need to sit down and sign a contract and then take it to the [Postal Regulatory Commission],” Kearney said. “We want to do agreements that will stimulate growth and make the business case.”

Forum attendees agreed that a reduced prospecting rate would stimulate catalog mailings and, in turn, increase volume for the USPS.

But implementing such a program would be no easy feat. Chris Bradley, president of bedding merchant Cuddledown, said that for a prospecting rate for catalogers to work, it must be broad based and tested for one year.

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