Business World

THE JOURNAL RECORD, July 28, 1998 | Go to article overview

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Canned messages

MILWAUKEE (NYT) -- Since last month, Miller Lite has been sold in seven different cans that invite the guzzler to establish a meaningful relationship with his beer. One can has a Cal-O-Meter on it, a scale to show the calories consumed, from zero ounces (zero calories) to 12 ounces (128 calories). Another can has a space where a drinker can write his name, address and phone number -- in case the can gets lost. Some cans note, "Not every can of Miller Lite contains the same number of bubbles."

The arch labeling is pitched to the postcollegiate crowd, beer- drinkers weaned on Lettermanesque humor. It is Miller Brewing's response to a flatness in sales, said Gina Shaffer, marketing communications manager for Miller Lite in Milwaukee. She said the labeling is "focused on 21- to 28-year-olds."

Miller Lite, introduced in 1975, had its peak year in 1990, said Eric Shepard, executive editor of Beer Marketers Insight, an industry newsletter. A six-pack of 12-ounce cans is $4.50.

Tulsa entrepreneur scores

LOS ANGELES (JR) -- Equity Marketing has acquired the worldwide rights to the popular kid's bath product Tub Tints -- red, yellow and blue effervescent tablets that, when dissolved, allow any color to be created in the water. Tub Tints were developed by Shelly Brady, an entrepreneur based in Tulsa.

Under the terms of the 99-year licensing agreement, Equity Toys, a division of Equity Marketing, has rights to manufacture, market and distribute Tub Tints to mass-market and specialty store retailers worldwide. Equity Marketing also will pursue promotional opportunities for Tub Tints.

"This product is ideal for mass-market distribution and offers numerous product-line extension opportunities that fit well with our strengths in licensing, design and manufacturing," said Donald A. Kurz, president and co-CEO of Los Angeles-based Equity Marketing. Equity Toys creates and manufactures products for sale through retailers.

Returns are down

NEW YORK (NYT) -- After three years of rising returns of unsold books, the tidal wave of hard-cover flops and paperback rejects that washed over the publishing industry is finally showing signs of easing. Publishers who once boasted about million-copy print runs as a way to promote the potential for books by pricey authors are now bragging about unglamorous efficiencies that are reducing their returns, which in the worst cases soared as high as 80 percent of the value of books shipped to bookstores.

Last year, the number of books that had to be returned unsold to publishers reached such a high level that a nonprofit industry group called it a "crisis" for the publishing industry. In the year's first five months, when returns are typically heavier, the hard-cover books sent back by bookstores dropped by almost 19 percent, to $204 million, from the comparable period in 1997, according to the Association of American Publishers, the industry trade group. And some of the large trade publishers in New York confirm that significant reductions are starting to take place -- largely because of cautious new attitudes in a flat market that has prompted executives to reconsider the old convention that simply pumping out more copies increases excitement and sales.

"It seems pretty clear that everyone is being more conservative," said Lou Aronica, the publisher of Hearst Corp.'s Avon Books, who noted that the number of books returned to his company had dropped by several percentage points this year because the company chose to ship fewer books and to print more modest runs, which are replenished frequently based on new orders. "This is an industry that feeds on mass hysteria, and at the moment there doesn't seem to be one," he said. "There seems to be a calming sensibility."

Avalon's still Avalon

OKLAHOMA CITY (JR) -- Avalon Community Services has changed its name to Avalon Correctional Services. …

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