The Work of the ACMA: Do You Get It?

By Paul Miller, VP & Deputy Director, American Catalog Mailers Association

You may start reading this and think “ahh, I know those folks; I’ve seen them at NEMOA events and user group events…sure, another one of those trade associations.” If that’s your thinking, you don’t know how important we are to your business — so please read on.

The Dingley Press American Catalog Mailers Association (ACMA) 10th anniversary Badge

For starters, we’re not a trade association; we’re an advocacy group. There’s a big difference. And the ACMA is solely focused on you, the catalog mailer – nobody else. We were launched back in 2007, the year your postage rates shot up by over 20%. It wasn’t the first time catalog mailers had gotten shafted in Washington, but it was the last to this point.

During our 10 years, we’ve taken seat at the bargaining table in Washington on behalf of our members. We’ve cultivated close relationships with the past three postmasters general. ACMA is well known to the postal regulator and regularly participates in their rule making and oversight. We have developed scores of relationships with members of Congress. Because of our constant harassment, all understand the catalog business. They know that a one percent postage increase can be a game-changer for your business.

Before the ACMA came along, the Postal Service did not look upon catalogs as a unique entity; catalogs were typically batched with other oversized mail (flats), and it was assumed they had similar volume decision drivers as other types of mailers, which we all know you do not.

But they now get our business. The question to those who’ve not yet jumped on the ACMA bandwagon is, how well do you get it?

Because of our aggressive advocacy, catalogs have gone from a virtual bastard child to the golden boy in postal circles. Your postage rates have largely been held in check. Our members often get recognized because they are directly involved in the discussions, and they certainly receive advance notice from us whenever there are important changes in regulations, price increases, discounts, you name it.

We’ve grown to about 140 member companies, about two-thirds of which are catalogers; one-quarter are their loyal suppliers, like Dingley, the other major printers, list firms, co-op databases, and others. The remainder are most of the familiar catalog consultants you’ve come to know and work with over the years. But with fewer than 100 catalog member companies compared to approximately 10,000 such companies around the U.S., we’re obviously well under-supported.

Any and all Washington work requires big money. Our dues, which are based only on your annual catalog mail volume, are quite reasonable – essentially amounting to about ¼ of 1% of your annual postage spend. Our website (www.catalogmailers.org) is full of far-more convincing details and I’d urge you to click around. I’m also happy to answer any questions, but let me leave you with a few quick takeaways on why we need your support:
• Despite our stellar success, the challenges continue to grow. Our continued success in Washington can only be assured through greater support from the catalog industry, which also includes online and bricks and mortar retailers who also mail catalogs, and their suppliers.
• ACMA’s continued success depends on the commitment and passion of its members. No matter a company’s size, businesses are stronger and more effective when they speak with the same voice together in common purpose.
• I haven’t mentioned our recent aggressive work in trying to preserve the Quill v. North Dakota sales tax precedent, but that’s a matter that’s not going away anytime soon. And if those on the “kill Quill” side have their way, you could easily be forced out of business overnight. We’re there, working on catalogers’ behalf.

ACMA has shown you can get results in Washington that produce outcomes necessary for your immediate and long term business success. Still, major challenges remain. Significant threats to our future lay ahead. What is required is broader support that allows ACMA to pursue bigger and more important objectives and solutions to complex problems only a well-resourced advocate can provide. What is required is you!

About the Author: Paul Miller

A former editor with the two catalog industry-focused publications Catalog Age (now Multichannel Merchant) and Catalog Success (now Total Retail), has served with the ACMA since January 2010, focused on membership building, member relations, marketing and communications, and lobbying on behalf of the ACMA’s 140 members.