Proposed Slim-Jim Catalog Revisions Are In

Some of the proposed changes to the requirements for slim-jim catalogs could result in reduced response rates from customers, several mailers say.

The U.S. Postal Service on Dec. 19 released a proposed rule that further revises requirements for letter-size catalogs, aka “slim-jims.” After several months of testing, the proposed rule includes revisions to tab size, tab location, paper weight and dimensions for folded self-mailers and booklets mailed at automation or machinable letter prices.

The new mailing service prices for 2009 will be announced in February and implemented in May, says David Partenheimer, spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service. The Dec. 19 release was to provide mailers advance notice of the proposed changes, he notes. “The comment period will be dependent on when the Federal Register is published.”

Partenheimer says the proposed changes will make these mailpieces “more compatible with our mail sorter equipment, but we will continue to monitor the processing to make sure the changes have the desired effect” of not jamming postal machines.

So what are the key proposed revisions for slim-jim books?
The use of tabs with no perforations, for one. And tab size is dictated by the design of the mailpiece, so booklets need three 1.5” tabs and folded self-mailers need two 1” tabs. For larger and heavier booklets, the USPS recommends 2” paper tabs.

Glue spots or a continuous glue line may be used to seal some folded self-mailer and booklet designs. The USPS says it will continue the current maximum weight of 3 oz, but it notes that 3-oz booklets are processed with the least amount of damage when the final trim size is reduced to 9” in length.

The maximum size for booklets would be 6” high by 10-1/2” long by 0.25” thick. There would also be minimum basis weight for cover stock–40 lb. for some designs; and a 60-lb. or 70-lb. minimum for pieces longer than 9”.

Because lighter paper is more easily damaged in processing, the USPS strongly recommends the 70-lb paper as cover stock on mailpiece designs that approach maximum letter-size dimensions.

For many catalogers, the new tab requirements are the most significant difference in the proposed revisions for slim-jims. Discount general merchandise cataloger Sierra Trading Post, which has transitioned many of its titles to the slim-jim format in the past 18 months, will immediately begin testing the new standards against its current standards, says director of catalog operations David Giacomini.

But having two 1.5” non-perforated tabs across a 6” side of a booklet “will pretty much ensure that the booklet will rip when opened,” Giacomini says. This not only affects the branding of Sierra Trading Post’s cover, he says, it impedes merchandise placement on the inside cover. Worse yet, “it’s an annoyance to the customer that may potentially degrade response.”

Larry Davis, vice president of marketing for jewelry and gifts merchant Ross-Simons, agrees that the tab requirements could mean big trouble. “The real issue is that customers won’t open the extra tabs,” he says. “Customers don’t open two perforated tabs, much less three.”

The USPS doesn’t have a specific date yet for the close of comments, but it will be 30 days after the Federal Register publication, Partenheimer says. “We will take the comments we receive during the comment period into consideration before the Postal Service publishes the final standards.” Comments can be mailed to: The Manager, Mailing Standards, U.S. Postal Service, 475 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Room 3436, Washington, DC 20260-3436.

Comments received from these mailers during the comment period will give the USPS the feedback it needs, “but we think this is a win-win situation for the mailers and the Postal Service,” Partenheimer says. “This proposed rule is more favorable to them than the original advance notice.”

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