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Wrapping & Mailing: 5 minutes with… Stuart Searle

What’s the first thing your subscriber sees when they receive their subscription copy? The wrap. That is why getting that right is so important. We grab five minutes with First Mailing’s Stuart Searle to look at publishers’ mailing and wrapping options.

By Stuart Searle

Wrapping & Mailing: 5 minutes with… Stuart Searle

Q: What more can publishers do to limit their distribution costs?

A: Distribution and readership figures have always influenced the volume of distribution of magazines, newsletters and periodicals with readership being essential to generated advertising revenues and establishing your magazine as the ‘Go to’ for information.

However, with the inflationary pressures and pending postal rates increases, our attention is focused on all costs associated with production and postal distribution of publications.

There are a limited number of factors that can impact the cost of distribution, weight and size being the obvious two but the location of the mailing house in relation to the printer, data quality and the postal service used can also considerably affect the overall costs.

Why data? So often we see sub-standard address information provided, often completed by the subscriber online, not to the standard needed to maximise the postal discounts that are available. This is especially the case with the Mailmark service, where criteria must be met to ensure the processed mail isn’t later reverted. A mailing company will guide you and provide the necessary support and, as a result, reduce ongoing costs. For International mail, please also ensure the correct paperwork is being prepared or provided, especially for bulk copies where any excuse might delay the mail or incur unwarranted charges by the local postie!!

Every gram counts, a slight variance in size and paper weight can have a significant impact on postal charges. More often than not, the max letter size of 165 x 240mm isn’t achievable for the majority of publications but limiting the weight is. Having said that, we need to breakdown large letter price bands so you can maximise revenues as follows:

  • Up to 100grams is a fixed rate, but you’ll be hard pushed to send much more than just your publication.
  • However, the rate between 101-250 grams is all charged at the same rate. When your magazine only weighs 165 grams you can add 85 grams of chargeable 3rd party leaflets to your pack, taking you to the limit at no extra distribution cost!
  • 250 grams up to 750 grams is where weight costs by the gram. Trim your paper wisely in terms of size and weight.
  • Over 750 grams – there isn’t a sorted postal service – tread carefully as it can be cheaper to use a parcel delivery company than the usual postal operators.

Admail and Publishing Mail services must fall within certain criteria to quality for the discounted rate. Ensure the product is checked and verified ahead of mailing to ensure you don’t end up with a surprise reversion charge. Our recent experience shows this is being enforced so speak with your mailing company to gain approval or advice.

Q: How can the packing and distribution of magazines be made more sustainable?

A: This is complicated space, but let’s makes some sense of it.

Published print is the most engaging, most welcomed and interacted form of communication, and is generally paid for. The question of what is the most sustainable distribution choice comes down to perception by the recipient and our changing attitudes to the environment, as the answer today is different to that of five years ago.

LDPE clear plastics (now offered with 30% recycled content) are somewhat frowned on, although they are widely recyclable within the UK depending on your council.

Compostable / Starch / Bio polythene on the face of it seems to be a good choice – put the wrapper in your garden waste, but would you know to do so? Have you got a green bin or indeed a garden? How long does it take to decompose? A very important point is that mixed polythene recycling contaminated with bio polys cannot be recycled!

Paper is the answer, better still a fully recycled solution of white kraft, which can be pre-printed with natural inks and bio adhesives.

Q: How have paperwrapping solutions evolved?

A: As recipients started to provide feedback to publishers, an alternative to plastic was needed. Envelope inserting at high speed can be carried out but is far from ideal with heavy pagination product such as catalogues and brochures likely to tear the side walls when inserted.

However, paperwrapping overcomes this issue.

In a similar process to polywrapping, paperwrapping provides a premium solution enclosing multiple items at high speed. Originating with a basic white paper with a mono print, that has now transformed to offer full colour print, offering excellent visuals for impact where needed.

On the sustainability front, our current favourite is white faced kraft paper offering high tear strength which is fully recycled and recyclable and can be digitally, litho and inkjet printed.

Q: When switching from polywrap to paperwrap, what do publishers need to consider?

A: There are a few key points, not least is size:

Wrapping oversized A5 items that may qualify for letter rate when sent naked or in polythene may be charged as large letter. Typically, this effects 165 x 240mm products with A5 unaffected but a discussion with your mail provider will ensure no costly impact.

The contents cannot be seen, which suits some products. Traditionally however, when distributing a magazine, the outer face is usually visible. It is then clear what is in the pack on arrival; the cover makes immediate impact and the excitement of mail begins!

Enclosing the magazine in paperwrap has benefits though. The outer wrap gives not only the opportunity to highlight what is enclosed via printed outer paper but gives additional advertising space and associated revenue potential.

It’s worth noting that items contained internally, that may be personalised, would need to have camera matching to ensure the outer pack is addressed correctly and matches the contents. You will need to make sure your mailing house has such facilities.

Q: How can publishers and mailing houses work better together to improve performance?

A: Planning. Mailing houses have a range of clients, and despite the best effort to keep machinery free for a publisher, there are many clients all jostling for production space. Early notification of the inclusion of inserts or booking in of repeat production space for publications is important. Changes to schedules are inevitable but communication of timings of items being delivered in for a mailing helps, especially when rescheduling is required.

Most mailing companies are used to chasing but it’s often better to ensure space is secured especially around late August early September as the Christmas rush begins!

Q: What changes, if any, would you like to see made to the way the mailing industry is regulated?

A: We are pretty much a self-regulated industry. The mailing industry needs to be governed to ensure it is fully accountable for any work produced and mailed. It should be the directors of businesses who are accountable for the production of scam mailings and other such questionable mail pieces. Although Ofgem technically covers the mail communication space, there’s little or no direct governance, which isn’t right. I would welcome a body to regulate the industry better.

Better governance across the mail industry where it already exists would also be welcomed too.

The Royal Mail are providing what is a public service. They change and set the rules to suit their needs with little or no consultation on the impact to its customers of which publishers, mail order and major utilities are those with the biggest budgets. There isn’t an authority which actively brings the Royal Mail to answer for itself when things go wrong with compliance, service levels and reversion charges, and it’s disappointing that there is no easy way to get through to the powers that be.

GDPR data regulation was a positive step; it has improved the quality of mail. There is a lot less waste throughout the mail system which is important and fits well with the sustainability point above. However, when it comes to the mail, there are further steps which should be verified to ensure the poster is receiving what is being paid for. Recent horror stories of unscrupulous owners of mailing houses defrauding the DSAs and Royal Mail of millions in revenue does nothing to help those many excellent service providers which provide 100% mailing and verification of handover details to show clearly that all items in the data provided have been mailed and delivered.

Q: What’s in the pipeline from First Mailing?

A: We are going through a mini evolution at the moment but in a word, what’s in the pipeline… intelligence! We already have some of course!! Understanding the behaviour of clients and potential clients will be the best way to reduce costs as we can be extremely targeted with focused fully personalised variable colour messaging that really hits the mark.

This effort needs to be supported by all other forms of direct and supportive messaging to make an impact that can be monitored and costs accounted for when budget and performance is analysed.

I see the low cost, self-mailer market having great success for the right message but those with the deepest pockets will find the best results by investing in quality full colour personalisation, fully sustainable and 100% recyclable materials.

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About us

First Mailing was established in 1993 by its current managing director, Stuart Searle.

We are one of the UK’s most respected mailing houses, providing intelligent direct mail solutions to our customers that include many of the country’s leading publishers, printers and blue-chip brands.

An early adopter of paperwrapping from reels, we have now developed the production process to include inline colour printing, peelable glue options and dedicated kraft papers for a complete solution.

Operating two automated lines, we have plans for a further two machines during 2024 as we move away from the polythene wrapping we currently provide to meet clients’ needs.

First Mailing runs a range of other mail production machines for envelope inserting and one piece mailers.

The company is based in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire.

Tel: 01480 450661



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