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'Apparel' fits quite well

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Edgell Communications' purchase of Apparel Magazine from VNU in late February set in motion an aggressive growth strategy the company plans to pursue this year and beyond.

"We had been actively looking for opportunities to grow through acquisition for more than a year, and we'll continue to look for more opportunities in the future," said Gerry Ryerson, president of Randolf, N.J.-based Edgell.

Ryerson said he had been casually considering media titles on the market since 2001. But it wasn't until 2004-a very good year for Edgell, which posted double-digit revenue growth-that Ryerson decided to become an active buyer.

When VNU put Apparel Magazine on the market, Ryerson saw it as a particularly attractive title and a good fit with Edgell's existing business.

"It was a market-leading publication for, and dovetailed very nicely with, our core strengths," he said.

Edgell's media portfolio, which now consists of eight publications and their associated Web sites and events, focuses primarily on the retail sector and the technologies that serve it. "There's a great deal of crossover potential from our existing advertisers into this new acquisition. Additionally, a great deal of Apparel's editorial content is technology-focused."

Financial terms of the Apparel deal were not disclosed. Jordan Edmiston Group advised VNU on the sale. Apparel's executive, editorial and sales staffs will retain their current offices in Columbia, S.C.

The acquisition includes the Web site http://www.apparelmag.com/ , a weekly e-newsletter and several live events, including the Executive Forum, the Tech Conference and the China Symposium and Sourcing Fair.

"The conferences were especially interesting to us," Ryerson said. "We see tremendous growth opportunities in live events."

After 2001, print advertising was down for the b-to-b publishing industry overall and the technology sector in particular, so Edgell was forced to search for other ways to generate revenue. "We had a few successful conferences at this point and realized there was significant potential in beefing up our event efforts, specifically focusing on small, intimate niche conferences rather than on large trade shows," Ryerson said.

Edgell said it plans to launch three new events this year: Restaurant Technology Summit, Restaurant Executive Forum and Hotel Technology Forum.

Web seminars have also been an area of growth for Edgell. "We started doing a couple of them in 2003. Then we held 10 in 2004, and this year we're averaging about one every week," Ryerson said. "Advertisers-typically sole sponsors for each Web seminar-love this format because they can immediately capture client leads."

With all its recent moves, Edgell has an aggressive sales revenue target for 2005 that it's on track to meet, Ryerson said. "We're expecting a 20% increase in business for all our properties except Apparel," he said. "We hope it will duplicate its performance from 2004 as we get our hands around the market it serves." M

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