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Paper Shortage Hits American Retailers When They Need It Most

Companies placing catalog orders are getting turned away at commercial printers, threatening the critical holiday season.

Holiday Shopping Catalogs
Holiday Shopping CatalogsPhotographer: Robert F Bukaty/AP/Shutterstock

Skyrocketing demand for boxes and packing materials during the pandemic has slashed paper production across North America, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time for retail companies.

“We’re starting to hear, ‘We’re out of paper,’” said Polly Wong, president of San Francisco-based direct-marketing firm Belardi Wong, noting that some of her clients already missed their fall advertising campaigns due to issues at the printers. Wong estimates that 100 million catalogs will not be printed or reach U.S. homes in time for the year’s biggest spending season as a result. “It kind of put our industry up in a panic.”