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An Industry in Flux

Production Solutions

The past few years have been incredibly difficult for our supplier community – truth be told direct mail manufacturing is not an easy business.

In the last month, two of our long-standing and strongest partners, The Colortree Group and North American Communications (NAC), have closed. They are among the many manufacturers whose doors have been shut due to persistently volatile market conditions.

We have worked on countless jobs and projects with these companies and built trusting, personal relationships throughout the years. This is extremely hard for them, and we want to take a moment to recognize all of those years of dedication, hard work, and care. We have the utmost respect, gratitude, and appreciation for them. It has been inspiring to see how the community and the direct mail industry have stepped up to the plate, and rallied around the good people whose jobs were impacted by these recent closures via job fairs, and proactive outreach. We at PS are certainly rooting for every single person impacted to land well into the next phase of their careers.

These are uncertain times, and with ongoing changes in regulations, technology, paper, postage, trucking, and the labor market, you can be certain that disruptions will continue.

As we continue to live and work through the present and plan for the future, we find it helpful to take a step back and review the direct mail industry through the lens of history.

In the post-WWII era, large nonprofits sought new avenues to reach and acquire donors and began utilizing direct mail as a marketing channel. In the 1960s the zip code was born, allowing the direct mail industry to develop sophisticated targeting models. The next few decades introduced the computer to the direct mail game, which led to a tsunami of growth for the industry as a whole as strategies and niche industries were invented and reinvented all over again. Many entrepreneurs and families made the brave decision to start companies of their own in the 1990s centered on the demand from this period of explosive growth, PS included! We all rode the wave together and forged business and personal relationships during that era that allowed us to all flourish. And then, in 2008 the stock market crash and subsequent recession shook our industry, with the biggest and longest-term impact experienced by those same suppliers that we had successfully partnered with for so many years. Many suppliers never fully recovered from 2008 and were not positioned well to handle continued market volatility presented during our current Age of Acceleration.

This is the reality many print and mail companies in our industry are still dealing with, 11 years later.

Ben Harris, President of Production Solutions

“It has been a challenging and sad few weeks for Production Solutions, and our staff, as we worked through the transition and closure of these two partners. On many levels, for much of our staff, who are veterans in the industry, it is like losing a close friend and closing a really important chapter in your life. This industry is built and fueled by amazing people who care deeply for the mission of the clients for which they produce goods and services, and when they are suddenly removed from that, it’s very challenging emotionally to work through. We are grateful for the decades of service, and thousands of projects we have produced with these companies, and the employees who on many occasions pulled a rabbit out of the hat for us, when the chips were down, or we were running behind. This is a trend we don’t expect to go away, unfortunately, so it remains a top priority for Production Solutions, on behalf of our clients is to strive to always ensure zero disruptions and downtime, due to supplier instability.”