COLLECTIBLES CUT BUDGETS;INDUSTRY TURNOVER, STRATEGY CHANGES MEAN FEWER SUNDAY MAGAZINE ADS

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There's a chill in the Sunday magazine world, and the collectibles industry is the cause.

USA Weekend Publisher and President Brette Popper said her title will run just over 70 pages from Roll International Corp.'s Franklin Mint, Franklin Center, Pa., this year, down about a third from 1994. Ad pages from Lenox Collections, Langhorne, Pa., were also down slightly for the year, and pages from Bradford Exchange, Niles, Ill., were flat.

"I believe they will decrease ad pages even more next year," Ms. Popper said. "We're going through a period of tremendous transition in the way we market."

Parade Publisher Carlo Vittorini said his publication will run at least 50 pages from Franklin Mint this year; in 1994, the industry leader bought 99 pages in Parade, according to Competitive Media Reporting. He said the loss has been more than made up by display ads from other categories.

"The entire direct response area hit a wall back in May," Mr. Vittorini said. "Some [direct response] people told us if they ran an ad they would lose money."

Those page ads offering commemorative plates and dolls historically have represented about half the collectibles industry's measured media spending, which CMR said totaled $377.8 million in 1994.

CMR numbers are only available for the first seven months of 1995; for that period, Sunday spending by the five biggest players totaled $83.3 million, down 6.4% from a year earlier. By comparison, other magazine spending by the five was down 3.2% to $89.4 million; total media spending fell 5.1% to $174.7 million. There are indications spending cuts that began in May picked up speed in the past three months.

"I wouldn't be surprised if we saw as much as a 20% cut in consumer print spending," said Pam Danziger, president, Unity Marketing, Reinholds, Pa., a firm that tracks the industry for the Collectibles & Platemakers Guild. "I think they might look at some of the more vertical books and shift [ad dollars] into direct mail."

Mr. Vittorini's pinpointing of last May as a trouble spot roughly coincides with the time top management at collectible companies began departing. Franklin Mint President Tom Durovsik left, and later joined U.S. Healthcare, Blue Bell, Pa.; Norwalk, Conn.-based Hamilton Collection's President J.P. Smith left; and so did Lenox Collections President Mike Tracy, who became GM for Disney Direct Marketing, New York, the company's catalog division.

"Before this, the industry had been very stable," Ms. Danziger said. "This kind of turnover in the last several months is indicative of the difficulty companies are facing. Sales are strong, but the profit isn't there."

It's also been a time in which the industry has seen sales begin shifting to retail and TV. In 1993, retail and TV shopping accounted for 72% of sales, direct marketing 28%; in 1994, retail and TV sales accounted for 75%, direct marketing 25%.

Said Mr. Tracy: "There is a bit of a retrenchment in the print spending world. I think you'll see a pull-back [on print ads] until fresh products are available. I think ad budgets are going to decrease overall."

Jack Wilkie, VP-communications and marketing at Franklin Mint, said his company continues launching new product lines like 3-D plates as well as retail outlets in upscale malls.

Mr. Wilkie wouldn't discuss the company's media schedule, nor would spokesmen for Lenox, Hamilton and Bradford. Danbury didn't return calls. All five handle advertising in-house.

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No longer gold plated

Measured ad spending, in thousands of dollars, of the top 5 collectibles marketers for the first seven months of 1995.

FRANKLIN MINT

Spending Change

Total $89,590 -2.2%

Sunday magazines $54,149 -0.5%

BRADFORD EXCHANGE

Total $26,691 +19.1%

Sunday magazines $13,228 +25.0%

DANBURY MINT

Total $19,478 -39.4%

Sunday magazines $5,752 -42.7%

HAMILTON

Total $21,724 +5.0%

Sunday magazines $5,267 -27.6%

LENOX

Total: $17,176 +0.7%

Sunday magazines $4,924 -26.8%

Change compares the same period in 1994. Source: Competitive Media Reporting

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