You may not realize this, but the pocket folder market is a surprisingly accurate economic indicator. Some examples include, early each year accountant folders are produced in preparation for tax season. Spring generally brings an influx in title/mortgage folders and construction-based businesses. And, in the old days (pre 2020), summer meant folders for Colleges and Universities gearing up for a new school year. And so on.

Over this last tumultuous year, I watched the economy indicators from what was produced on our shop floor. Early in the pandemic, we produced almost exclusively hospital and healthcare-related products, then came banking folders in response to stimulus efforts which was followed by a stream of attorney and other legal-related presentation needs. I can tell you when we began getting “key folder” orders in 2021, I took this as a good sign.

So, if you’re wondering what vertical markets are re-establishing their brand outreach and communication tools, using the unscientific yet accurate folder-barometer, read on to check out the market trends and tips.

Three Key Markets Trending Upward:

Medical Specialists

In a sampling of folder orders from the last six weeks, just over 25% were produced for some kind of medical specialist (not including hospitals) examples include: dermatologist, dental, sleep specialists, eye centers, foot care, physical therapy, dental and orthodontist, behavioral health, cosmetic surgeons, sports medicine, and on. This is a logical influx in need since during the past year folks have put off non-emergency medical treatments and this group also involves consumer involvement in the choice of provider. So, pocket folders are a key component of both marketing and informational transactions as key tool for several phases of communication. 1) Providing introductory information on the process, benefits, and getting started. 2) Providing estimates/insurance/billing information. 3) What to expect and instructions for surgical procedures and then the follow-up, discharge, or post-operative instructions.

Because full-color folders are cost-effective in shorter runs, this levels the playing field for a small independent clinic to offer their information on a branded folder just like the larger affiliated groups that have bigger buying power. While the 9×12, standard two-pocket folder is the most common size/style, keep in mind that for these groups the half-size, 6×9 pocket folder is also used frequently to include inserts of important information and is better “purse-sized.” When it comes to effects, orthodontist folders commonly include foil (braces) images and cosmetic clinics utilize effects like soft touch and/or dimensional UV. Branding is particularly important in this market and all the tactile implications of the folder should be considered.

Tourism and Events

Home and Away

City of (small and mid-town USA), travel, and hospitality folders are on the upward trend.  Particularly the not-your-expected locations. Midsize cities and small or more isolated locations are the “hot spots” of 2021 and they know it. Additionally, many cities are advertising to their own residents, touting the benefits of staycations and what to explore in your town. Some traditional getaway spots are not available or desirable to travelers just yet, so we’re seeing cities that are usually under the radar booting up their marketing campaign alongside boutique hotels and specialty travel groups. What is your chamber of commerce, local travel bureau, and city/state visitor’s centers doing to gear up? Do they know you can help?

The major cities aren’t going to be left out though, we’ve produced marketing folders for Las Vegas as well as Sioux Falls. According to the AP, air travel is up and continuing to climb. For example, our humble city will host an influx of travelers in June for the College World Series. The scheduling of big events for summer and Fall continues to grow. That said, business travel so far remains hesitant and conference events (good for sharing printed materials) still trend to the smaller and even some “mixed” with a virtual/in-person presence. We have begun producing an uptick of folders for events, generally short runs and some even individually personalized.

Landscaping, Construction, Home Improvement

Folders for roofing, landscaping, and home construction/renovation business have come back this Spring. This is also an industry group that provides plenty of paperwork to the consumer, from estimates to insurance/billing info and other important contractual information. Over the last six weeks, nearly 10% of our folder orders are in this catagory. As the do-it-yourself home improvement saw its boon during the heaviest lock-down portion of our recent history, those who want to bring in an expert appear to be coming out of the woodwork in 2021.

These brands tend to utilize their folder as a showpiece, full of full-color testimonials of their good work. Generally, these pieces are produced on 14 pt. or heavier stocks to convey the stability and quality of their craftsmanship.

Traditional Markets

Tried and True

There are traditional markets that consistently utilize pocket folders that are back to prevalence on our shop floor. These include medical (both the specialists listed above and hospitals), real-estate, and banking. As mentioned earlier, medical folders include both 9×12 and 6×9 folder sizes, this is true for the hospitals and the medical clinics. (For more about popular uses of 6×9 folders, check out this short blog here.)  Real-estate and related industries provide materials in either the standard 9×12 or in a legal-sized folder, 9.5 x 14.5 with a .25” spine to allow for the bulk of documents involved in purchasing. Banks of all sizes continue to require pocket folders as a marketing and informational tool, as well as for holding important documents for loans and other contractual information. This variety of important paperwork needs means banks order folders of varied sizes/styles from legal size to the “pocket-size” of a 4×9.

Honorable Mentions

Early Spring brings an influx in folders for accountants, no surprise as taxes are still a thing. In 2021, some of the other vertical markets that have seen an “opening up” of order are attorneys, apartments and property management, automotive, and insurance groups. We’ve also noticed an uptick in outreach from religious organizations and non-profit groups.

Trending Finishes and Styles

Toward the end of 2020 and as the New Year began, the most popular options of 2021 were clean finishes, simple designs, and the most common 9×12 styles almost to exclusivity. As we entered into Spring the marketing messaging shifted slightly to brighter, more colorful designs and reaching out via custom sizes/styles. The top two finishes continue to be a simple coated sheet or soft-touch lamination.  UV coating, a high gloss, tends to pick up in the summer months and I think this will trend again this year based on the communal need for optimism in design and message.

Show and Tell

If you are a commercial printer or print broker and would like a distributor kit with pricing and a variety of samples, please let us know your information here. Feel free to add into the notes any specific sample requests and we’ll accommodate. If you’d like to have a video chat and talk about a specific project or market in your area, we’ll happily engage, just supply a few details here.  And if you’d like to go down the rabbit hole of folder process, technology, finishes, and other cool stuff, check out more ideas here.


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