ACMA Head Happy with Slim-Jim Updates

A few days after the U.S. Postal Service revealed its proposed changes to slim-jim catalogs, the executive director of the American Catalog Mailers Association says he’s happy with the revisions.

“Overall, I am pleased to see so many of the concerns we have raised in discussions and prior comments on this issue reflected in the soon to be published Federal Register notice, says ACMA executive director Hamilton Davison. What’s more, he says the language choices “clearly reflect a more customer-oriented perspective than we have seen from the USPS historically.”

For instance, statements such as “sensitive to the current economic climate and effect … on mailer[s]” or [the attempt to address cost inefficiencies while] “preserving as many mailpiece design options as possible” are significant for catalogers and “signal a fundamental change away from monopolistic dictates that ACMA welcomes,” Davison says.

The USPS 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 USPS will receive comments now through 30 days after the Federal Register notice is published. Partenheimer is unsure when the notice will be published.

Davison understands why some catalogers are worried about the impact of extra tab placements on slim-jim books. “We remain with concerns on the cost to our printers to apply tabs in positions not previously required and the impact on open rate and response rates these changes may have on effectiveness, but each will be known only with further study.”

But he believes catalogers should take heart in the USPS’s process and approach with this notice. The Postal Service has “given us advance notice of a need to make changes, worked with us to test a variety of alternatives, communicated issues along the way and solicited formal and informal feedback, then taken action to address the most glaring issues while continuing to partner on solving the ultimate problems.”

While further study is necessary, Davison says many of the proposed changes “mirror discussions we have been hearing for weeks in our continuing dialog with postal operations personnel. It appears the USPS has backed off of some of the more onerous requirements telegraphed initially.”