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Printing and writing paper is distributed in different ways, depending on the amount of paper purchased at one time.

Mill Distribution - Very few customers buy directly from a mill. Generally, only the largest magazine publishers are likely to purchase directly, and they are likely to have arranged unique specifications for the manufacturing of their paper.

Paper Merchants/Distributors - For Large Quantity Purchases - Most paper is sold through paper merchants, who contract with one or more mills to provide their paper in specific geographic locations. Usually, several distributors serve each area, each carrying papers from different mills. So if the paper you want is not available from one merchant, try others, or ask the mill who carries their paper.

Mills are usually very protective of their merchant relationships. Generally, they will designate only one distributor in each geographic area to carry their paper, to eliminate competition between their own merchants. A few mills will contract with some customers directly, but then often ship the paper through their local merchants.

Distributors usually discourage small sales of paper by requiring a minimum purchase of $500 or more. Customers get price breaks as they buy larger quantities of paper. Their primary customers are printers, retailers and major corporations. They also sell to re-sellers, who may sell paper in small quantities.

In the past, there was a healthy collection of regional paper merchants, with a few national companies such as Unisource and Nationwide. But national companies such as Xpedx are quickly buying up the regional merchants, who sometimes retain their historical name but become part of the national group.

Small Quantity Purchases - Customers buying in small quantities, such as cartons and reams, have several potential distribution sources, although currently these are not always well-stocked. Depending on the type of paper and customer needs, small quantities of environmental papers are available from paper retail outlets, small quantity paper sales companies (often selling through catalogs or over the Internet), quick printers, office products stores, some warehouse and retail stores such as WalMart and Costco, and some stationery stores (especially letterhead and envelopes). Kinko's also provides recycled paper in its self-service copy machines; will copy on the recycled paper of your choice for projects such as letterhead, brochures, and reports; and often sells packets of environmental papers and envelopes (frequently tree free). See Buying in Small Quantities.



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