Population Plays Minimal Role in Pricing

Published Nov. 15, 2021

Pricing Practices for #10/24 1-S Envelopes
Varies Little When Based Upon Population

By John Stewart, Executive Director, NPRC

Once again, before we begin our formal report on the results of our latest survey, we would like to thank the owners of 115 printing firms who took the time to complete our most recent survey. Without their support and participation, detailed surveys such as this would simply not be possible. The data below is provided absolutely free to the industry in hopes of encouraging greater participation and appreciation for the contributions made by NPRC to this industry.

 NPRC has just released the results of its latest mini-survey dealing with the pricing of 1-C and 4-C envelopes. The survey was launched on Nov. 9, 2021 and closed on Nov. 11th and attracted 115 participants. The survey covered pricing practices for producing digital and offset #10/24 Envelopes.

This survey tackled pricing two quantities of envelopes, 500 and 1,000, for #10/24 regular envelopes, 1-S, printed in black and/or 4C. An additional breakdown for pricing asked for pricing for “digital” vs. “offset” printing. Below is listed both average and median pricing for these four breakouts.

An ancillary question for pricing envelopes regarded the preferred method used to produce these envelopes. When it comes to producing envelopes in black ink/toner, 61.2% of respondents indicated they would produce these envelopes digitally, while 38.8% said they would be produced via offset.

However, when it comes to producing 4C envelopes, 96% of all respondents indicated they would rely on digital devices, while only 4% said they would rely on offset. Consequently, the vast percentage of pricing reported below (at least as it applies to 4C envelopes, represents prices for digital production. In fact, approximately 33% of our respondents told us they no longer have offset presses in their operation.

“Approximately 33% of our respondents told us they no longer have offset presses in their operation.”

Requested delivery time? Our mini-survey also asked participants if the customer placed the order “on a Monday, and would like to pick up the envelopes on Thursday mid-day, how
would they characterize this delivery request?”

Provided with four choices, this is how our or respondents answered:

  • We would easily be able to delivery this job as requested… 75.8% (86)
  • Would be tight, but doable… 21.% (24)
  • Delivery job under this time-frame would be a significant challenge… 1.8% (2)
  • We would have to charge an additional fee to meet this schedule… 1.8% (2)

Population Density Extractions

One new extraction we used for this analysis is the ability to analyze envelope pricing based upon population densities. We’ve often argued, contrary to popular opinion expressed by many printers, that pricing varies far more within individual markets than it does when comparing pricing from one market to the next, especially when analyzing markets based upon population density.

Often overheard statements such as, “I could never charge those prices in my market area” or “large markets can always charge more (or less) than I can get in my market” are common in our industry. So too is the classic argument, “My market is different.” The latter is often heard in any discussion about pricing.

We have argued over the years that there are far more similarities in pricing than there are difference between one market and the next, even when the discussions raise the topic of population density. Our basic argument has always been that the greatest variations in pricing are found within individual markets, and not from one market to the next.

We have consistently found that prices for specific products (such as 1M #10/24, 1-S, 4C envelopes) can often vary by as much as 30-40% within individual markets such as Stow, OH, or Lake Mary, FL. However, the average (or median) price for these products rarely varies by more than 10% when comparing one market to the next. Another way of saying this, is that you are likely to see far more variations in envelope pricing within markets such as Stow, OH or Lake Mary, FL than you are from one market to the next.

The opinions noted above are based on 30+ years of consulting, as well as assisting dozens and dozens of printing firms conduct their own locally based pricing surveys.

Thanks to a recently discovered Excel tool, we are now able to extract the population of virtually every town or city listed by our participants and analyze their pricing based upon that population. For the purposes of this analysis, we were able to extract the population basis for almost all of our 118 participants.

Next, we ranked the populations extracted from low to high, and then we divided our list into four approximate quartiles: 

Market Size Population Range Count
Rural 1,000-19,000 29
Small 20,000-69,999 28
Medium 70,000-199,999 28
Major 200,000-10 Million 23

With our new population tool in hand, we were able to analyze and extract average and median pricing for both black and 4C envelopes for each of four distinct population breakouts.  Below are two tables. The first one analyzes pricing for black ink for #10/24 envelopes for All firms, as well as those falling into each of our four population classifications.

The second table provides the same pricing but for 4C #10/24 envelopes. Generally speaking, notice how relatively little the average and median prices vary among the four markets noted.

#10/24 Blk Envelope Pricing

#10/24 4C Envelope Pricing

Despite vast differences in population size, note how relatively little pricing (both average & median) varies from one breakout to the next. Although sample size for each breakout is relatively small, we can assure you that even if we had 200+ firms for each population category, we would still have found only modest if any differences in pricing.

The graph below illustrates average and median pricing for 500 4C envelopes.

This graph illustrates average and median pricing for 1M 4C envelopes.

Conclusion – If you participated in our survey we want to express our appreciation. If you did not, we would like to encourage you (especially if you are a member of NPRC Listserv) to participate next time. We try not to overburden you with surveys, and our goal is to keep these surveys to no more than 5-6 questions on a very specific subject, whether it be pricing or more general in nature.

If you have any suggestions for a future mini-survey please sent us an email at: [email protected].

John Stewart, Executive Director, NPRC
Melbourne, FL 32904

Major Pricing Variations a Myth!

Pricing Variations Between Markets
A Myth Says Industry Pricing Expert

By John C. Stewart, Executive Director, NPRC

As publisher of key industry pricing studies for the past 30+ years, there is one recurring comment I  hear repeated week after week and month after month from printers around the country, and those comments deal with pricing variations from market to market.

The comments go something like this: “John, just received the latest pricing study and I really like it, but I couldn’t help but notice that many of the prices in the study are much higher in my market than what is noted in the study.”

Of course, I also hear the reverse as well, “John, just received the latest pricing study and it has been a real eye-opener, but I couldn’t help but notice that many of the prices in the study seem a lot lower than what is charged in my market area.”

When it comes to pricing practices, printers, don’t like to hear the validity of their pricing assumptions being questioned. For 10-25 years, they’ve always heard statements like, “Hey, pricing is far different in my market” or “I could never charge those prices in my market. If I did I would be out of business.”

“I could never charge those prices in my market. If I did I would be out of business.”

Many printers simply make assumptions about pricing, as well as repeat things they’ve heard in the past. They will state things like, “Obviously prices are higher in densely populated markets than they are in smaller markets,” or they will note something like, “Prices on the West Coast are typically higher than other regions of the country.” The latter being pure conjecture on their part, and is lacking any substantive evidence to back up such a claim.

Do Prices Vary by Market?

Too many times I hear well-meaning printers claim that pricing obviously varies from one geographic market to the next as well as from markets distinguished by population density. While sincere and well intentioned, most of these comments are not based upon hard cold facts, but rather more so on “gut feel.” Labor costs may indeed be higher in one area than the next, but those costs may be offset by lower material costs. 

The hard cold facts are, with rare exceptions, that you will find far greater variations in prices for specific products and services within a single market than you will find as you explore and compare pricing from one market to the next, or from one region  the next. 

“The hard cold facts are, with rare exceptions, that you will find far greater variations in prices for specific products and services within a single market than you will find as you explore and compare pricing from one market to the next, or from one region  the next.”

So, when someone emails me as they did the other day and says he is from San Francisco and the prices there are much higher there than they are in other places in the country I politely tell him/her that unless he has already conducted a professional pricing survey and “shopped his competitors” that he will generally discover that his assumptions are simply incorrect.

Pricing Digital Envelopes

Industry Pricing Studies Validate Pricing Practices

Industry Pricing Studies Validate Pricing Practices

Here’s a perfect example of what I am talking about. According to one of our newest reports, the 2018 Digital Color Pricing Study, the national average price for 1M 10/24# 4C digitally printed envelopes is $291. The median price is $281.

According to the recent 2018 Digital Color Pricing Study, we know that franchises are about 11% higher than independents. We also know that when we look at average pricing based upon population density, we find that average prices vary between $271 and $294 for that specific product. That is equivalent to 5% +/- of the national average. If we examine average pricing for this product based upon geographic regions (Northeast, Central, Southeast, West, etc.) we find that prices vary by less than 5% from one region to the next.

However, while prices for these #10/24 digital envelopes vary only modestly when looking from one region to the next, or from one geographic market to the next, we know the situation is far different when we drill down to individual markets.

We know for a fact that when we look at individual markets such as Oskosh, WI, Jacksonville, FL, San Francisco, CA or Greenville, SC or similar markets we will discover far greater (sometimes huge) variations in pricing for a specific product WITHIN each of those markets, than we will discover going from one market to next. 

Small Markets & Pricing Variations

As an example, let’s take a relatively small town or city where there are 10 small format quick printing operations. Now let’s survey the price for those 1M 10/24# 4C envelopes. What do we find? We will find a much larger variation in pricing for these envelopes within this small market than we will find when we look at national or regional pricing for this product.

While we know the average price for 1M envelopes is indeed $291 with average variations in pricing running in the 3-7% range, if we conduct our local survey we will uncover pricing for this specific product varying between $175 (40% lower) and $350 (20% higher) among those 10 printers.

1M 10/24# White Wove, 4C envelopes (no bleed)
Average Price… $291

Median Price… $281

When we closely examine pricing variations within individual markets, we typically discover pricing variations of 20-40% +/- of what we report for national average price. Now, some of the erratic and inconsistent pricing can indeed be attributed to “real-world estimating mistakes.” However, the vast majority of pricing variations are more likely explained due to dramatically different approaches to pricing by individual owners and the perceived value they assign to various products  – as opposed to differences based upon market size, region, as well as differences due to material costs, labor costs and overhead costs.  

Most readers who call or write us with questions regarding specific prices published in various industry pricing surveys tend to do so based not out of sheer curiosity, but rather as a rationalization for justifying their own prices, especially when their own prices may vary by 30-40% or more from what we report in our pricing surveys.

My Challenge Today

Surveying and capturing pricing for specific products is not for the faint of heart or for amateurs. If you want it done right be prepared to spend $400-450 or more!

If you have some misconceptions about pricing, or would simply like to confirm that you are indeed “in the ball park” in terms of pricing, I would encourage you to consider hiring a professional price shopper to survey 10-15 printers within your own market.

For details on what is entailed in hiring a shopper click on the link below. Please, whatever you do, don’t take the cheap way out and hire your cousin Susie, or have your press operator Bob call around for pricing during his lunch break.

For years I have told clients that, “If you’re going to survey customers, at least do it professionally,” (Go here to read more about these surveys.) Don’t grumble about the cost. Be prepared to spend $400-450 because that’s my estimate of what you should be prepared to hire a “professional shopper.”

If you do act and hire a shopper I would love to receive a copy of their written report and your analysis. Thanks for listening. Send your comments, criticisms or questions to [email protected] 


Pricing Study – Table of Contents and Sample Pricing Page

You asked for it, so we did it! Recently we received some inquiries from owners who have been thinking about purchasing our latest pricing study – The 2018 Digital Color Pricing Study, but told us that before they placed an order they would like to view the Table of Contents – a pretty reasonable request, but something we had failed to think about. So here it is… Click Here to see exactly what products are covered. 

Although this new pricing study, like all publications published by NPRC, is sold on a 100% money-back guarantee, some folks would still rather just be sure what our studies contain before they place an order. Then visit the  NPRC Bookstore to place your order.

You can also  download three different sample pages from this just-released study. Click on one or more of the pages depicted below to download a complete full-page PDF.

The first page is a sample pricing page depicting pricing for 4 x 9″ Rack Cards. Click on the image to print-out the pricing sheet:

Rack Card Pricing is one of more than 30 products and/or services covered in the 2018 Digital Color Pricing Study.

The second is a pricing page covering 9 x 12″ Digital Envelopes printed in black as well as 4C.

Click here or the artwork above to download a PDF of one of two pages offered in the study dealing with envelope printing.

The third page is a pricing page covering 4/0 and 4/4 Digitally produced business cards.

Click here or artwork above to download a sample pricing page for 4/0 and 4/4 business cards.



2018 Digital Pricing Study

New Digital Pricing Study Proves Popular

NPRC has released its highly anticipated 2018 Digital Color Pricing Study. This new 100+ page report offers up average and median pricing for dozens of color digital products and services in the printing industry. Data on digital pricing is provided in various formats, including average and median prices for a range of quantities, plus in many cases the price per booklet, sheet or in some cases per signature.

“Hello John,
I just had to let you know how impressed I was with the Digital Pricing Study you just released. While I only spent 30 minutes going over the study, my initial impression is that the quality of this study is as good if not better than previous studies. Thanks for the hard work you and NPRC put into these studies, The printing industry is better off because of studies such as this.”
Armand Girard, Curry Printing & Marketing, Auburn, ME

“An excellent study. It is great to see what other printers are charging for the same products and be able to compare those prices in an organized fashion.”
Kevin Williams, Systems Print & Mail, Laguna Hills, CA

Pricing Study Cover

Cover of New Pricing Study

Publication Price…
PDF Copies… $179.00
Hard Copies… $191.00

NPRC Member Pricing
PDF Pricing… $89.50
Hard Copies… $95.50

 Discover what fellow printers from
around the country are charging for…
Graphic Services – Standard and Complex
Variable Data 4/4 cards (sizes 4.25 x 5.5 and 5.5 x 8.5)
Flat sheets, 100# Text & Cover (finished sizes 8.5 x 11 and 11 x 17)
Rack Cards – 4/0 and 4/4, finished size 4 x 9, full-bleed
2-Part and 3-Part Carbonless forms, plain and numbered
Click Charges Only for quantities ranging from 500 to 5,000!
16-page and 32-page newsletters (qtys. 100 – 2,500)
32-page Booklets – finished size.5 x 8.5 (qtys. 100 – 2,500)
#10 and 9 x 12 Envelopes – Blk only and 4-C (qtys. 100 – 2,500)
Plus many, many other prices with majority high-low guidelines

Special Note to Survey Participants – Please note that printing firms who participated in our Digital Color Pricing survey receive an email and link for downloading the FREE PDF of the study on Dec. 2oth and Dec. 21st, 2017. Please check your trash and deleted folders as well as your spam folders if you are unable to find the email used to distribute this study. The subject line used to advise participants was: “Urgent – Here’s Your 2018 Digital Color Pricing Study.”

Visit the NPRC Bookstore to place your order.