We get asked often if the pandemic-fueled paper and supply problems have been resolved. Well, no. Not yet. But it’s better. And it seems more stable now than it has been.
The good news is we have paper and we’ve been able to keep it in stock without having to spend the hours every day searching the web and making phone calls that we were forced to spend for the past two years. Not having to waste hours a day hustling to find paper (or hours a day driving to pick up paper when we do find it), means we’ve been able to focus on doing what we do best — printing comics. Due to the paper and supply related-issues (and being short-staffed for several months), we built up quite the backlog and our turnaround times were the worst they’ve been. But now with some stability in the supply (and our short-staffing issue resolved), we’re fast getting back on track. The backlog is being whittled down quickly and orders are shipping out at their best clip since before the pandemic.
That’s the good news. But some problems remain. While we do have paper available to us, we still can’t always get the paper types we want. Before the pandemic, we had shifted almost all of our comics and paperback interiors to a nice glossy 70lb stock. But since the shutdowns, the coated glossy stocks have been in ridiculously short supply, forcing us to allocate every bit of glossy paper we can get our hands on for comics covers ONLY. All of our comics and paperback interiors are being printed on an uncoated 70lb stock. Uncoated paper is the only paper we can get right now in the volumes we need to keep the presses rolling. We’re hopeful that we can offer glossy interiors again someday, but honestly, I don’t know when –or even if— that will be. My supplier tells me that the mills are still not taking orders for 70lb coated stock (glossy) and heavier stocks can only be back-ordered.
The dearth of coated paper has forced us to make some changes. Until the coated paper issue is resolved and the supply has stabilized, we won’t be able to offer trading cards or bookmarks. We just can’t get the paper. We also had to stop offering metallic/holographic covers for the same reason. And we’ve had to move our paperback covers from UV coating to lamination. UV Coating requires coated paper. Lamination doesn’t. On a side note, if you haven’t seen the satin-finish soft laminate that we’ve made our default option for paperback covers, you should check it out. We also have a gloss laminate option, but there’s a reason we made the soft satin the default. It looks spectacular!
Before the paper crisis, we always ordered on a JIT (just in time) basis. Paper was readily available then and we kept only enough in stock to meet our immediate needs. We can’t do that anymore. As paper becomes available, we have to stock up because we don’t know when it might be available again. This leads to us carrying a lot more paper inventory than we’d prefer, but to have confidence in the supply on hand, we have no other choice. What’s the downside to stocking paper rather than ordering on a JIT basis? Cash flow. Ours is a cash flow business, meaning money flows in with orders and money flows out with expenses. When you’ve got money tied up in inventory sitting on the floor waiting to be used, it puts a big dent in your cash flow. This means we’ve had to tighten our belts a bit because we don’t always have as much money on hand for expenses as we’d like. And as you can imagine, paper costs have soared! The coated (glossy) paper we can get costs us more than twice what it did before the pandemic and even the uncoated paper is much more expensive than the glossy paper we once stocked for our interiors. We’ve tried to hold the line on raising our prices. We had one small increase earlier this year and I’m afraid we can’t rule another, as paper costs continue to rise.
But it’s not all bad news. Crisis creates opportunity. Not being able to UV coat, meant having to make a sizeable investment in lamination equipment, but that same equipment also gives us the ability to do some things we’ve never been able to do before. Like metallic foil. It also gives us a chance to offer metallic and holographic covers again — new and improved metallic and holographic covers! And even a few other things we can’t talk about until we’ve had a chance to test them more. But if they work out –and we think they will– you’re going to love them! We’ll be posting an update soon on the pricing and availability of foil and metallic/holographic covers.
Okay, that’s your update! We’re still here. We’re still producing comics and paperbacks. Things are getting better and there are more options coming your way soon! Thanks for sticking with us!