As many readers know, I have been publishing various research studies on behalf of three or four national trade associations for more than 25 years. Most of these studies have been published for NAQP and have dealt with subjects such as industry pricing, wages and benefits, bindery services, and my own favorite, financial operating ratios—which we now refer to as financial benchmarking. I have, however, published studies for two other industries as well—the mailing services industry and the reprographics industry.
My most recent study is the 2010-2011 Mailing Services Pricing Study. I began publishing this study in 2002 at the request of a small association (no longer active) called the Southeastern Mailer’s Association. I have published five editions of it since that time, and by the time you read this I will have released the sixth edition.
However, before I provide you with you some details gathered from this recent survey, I want to share with you something that I experience every time I publish a study, regardless of the industry. As a general rule, we (or the sponsoring organization) make it a practice to provide a free copy of the study to every company that participates and returns a completed survey by the published deadline. We typically receive 300-400 surveys for one of these studies. Approximately 70% are submitted electronically, while the remainder arrive by mail.
General Profile of Mailers
Thanks to the joint sponsorship of Quick Printing, the Mailing Fulfillment Service Association (MFSA), and Mailing Systems Technology, we not only received a record number of responses, but the data came from a broad cross section of companies that offer mailing services. These sponsors bent over backwards to help me in every way they could to provide the best mailing lists possible. As a result of their efforts, we heard from a broader range of firms providing mailing services than at any time in the past. This year’s pricing study represents the most diverse list of participants we have ever received and, as a result, we have been able to paint the best picture possible of real world pricing practices in the mailing industry.
While the reason for using certain selection criteria is explained in greater detail in the final study, suffice it to say that to qualify for inclusion in our database, firms had to report annual 2009 sales between $200,000 and $40 million. Yes, that is a broad sales range, but we had many additional companies outside that range that submitted surveys as well. However, for various reasons, we felt their data would distort rather than help build a true picture of the industry. Companies had to mail a minimum of 10,000 or more pieces per month for their pricing to be included in our database. Companies falling outside our data limits are still entitled to a free study, but we chose not to use some or all of the data they supplied.
As a result of including companies with annual sales of $15-$40 million, the average annual sales increased substantially over what has been reported in the past. However, while the reported average annual sales of participants increased significantly, most of our other key ratios, including overall pricing practices, remained relatively similar to what has been reported in the past. If anything, the result of including many of these larger firms that would have been excluded in the past has resulted in a report far more reflective of industry-wide pricing practices.
In order to provide an even more accurate analysis of pricing trends among all sizes and types of printing and mailing firms, we decided that for the first time we would subdivide our pricing report based upon the reported dollar volume of annual mailing sales. As a consequence, we provide three major breakouts for virtually every pricing operation covered by the latest mailing survey: