What Paper Contraction Means When You're Buying Print Work

Paper contraction refers to an increase in paper costs due to increased raw material and transportation costs and decreased paper-making capacity at the mill.

The market is experiencing its third 3-5 percent price increase in the past six to twelve months due to the following reasons: Raw material and transportation costs are increasing. Mills are closing. Capacity is shrinking. The labor market is tight. Global mill pressures are real, and global trade wars are escalating. Communication technologies are creating choices of how we connect with one another, our clients, and our consumers.

But, despite this, there’s no reason to be alarmed! We asked one of our paper partners, GPA, for their input to help us answer the most essential questions of our print clients.

Knowing the condition of the current landscape, how will it change the future?

GPA sees stabilization, continuation, acceleration, burst, and new communication innovations as possible outcomes. Our crystal ball and time machine are unpredictable, but we foresee continued demand for mass customization and the need for print and multi-channel communications relevance. Taking advantage of the vast amount of data that new technologies make accessible, businesses can stabilize costs and create demand for post-print customization or embellishment.

What can be done to prepare?

For VPDCS, it’s to train and educate our team in a variety of ways. Then, train our clients.

As a marketing partner, we are responsible for elevating our clients’ experiences through the power of print, paper, and specialty substrates. It is our job to your organization’s wants and needs. As a team, we’ll need to start thinking about print as more than just printing on white coated or uncoated paper, but as tactile innovations that include versioning with different substrates. We leverage our strategic relationships with our strategic supply chain partners, including GPA, to find our clients the best opportunity for substrate availability, shortest lead-time, and cost-effectiveness.

In short, we want to understand each client’s unique journey maps. Understanding the brainstorming, creative, and production processes (and all the steps in between) creates a mutually beneficial relationship.

How can clients prepare?

There are a variety of things that can be done, including:

  • Involve the VPDCS team even earlier in the design process. We have a variety of team members, including GPA, who have years of experience in finding the best solution and strategy for printed materials.
  • Set deadlines at least a month in advance of their ship date. With paper availability [sizes, brands, etc.], it’s ideal to select a substrate as soon as possible to avoid any delays.
  • If you print regularly, it doesn’t hurt to absorb some print and process knowledge. Ask questions of strategic partners, i.e., What kind of substrates are available for a particular project? Should I print something on a plastic instead of a paper stock? Will this project have targeted messaging?
  • Support your print with an omnichannel experience via social and online content marketing.

This all boils down to two simple objectives: Work smarter and leverage your resources. Focus on these and you’ll be able to maximize your marketing no matter what the paper industry is doing, whether it’s a paper contraction or the overall market dynamics.


GPA is the market leader in substrate solutions for offset, digital, and wide format printing, with a comprehensive offering of pressure sensitive papers, films, laser labels, eco-friendly substrates, digital and specialty papers, and more. GPA can introduce you to the substrates that are the foundation for today’s most profitable applications.

Article written by:

Marketing Manager, McKenzie Decker, in collaboration with GPA