BUYERS FLIP OVER CALENDARS' ANNUAL APPEAL.
Four years ago, Melinda Hoeye and her husband Gary Garrison got into the calendar business on a lark.
Hoeye, a model, and Garrison, a photographer, were both outdoor types, so they came up with the concept for "Women in Waders," a racy wall calendar featuring rubber-boot-wearing-swimsuit models frolicking in streams and lakes with fishing rods and shotguns.
"The first year, we did it as a little side project," said Hoeye, aka Miss September 2001. "Then we started doing it full time."
Hoeye and her husband are now completely focused on calendars, 12 months a year. They own Eugene-based Reel Fish Calendar Productions and they have since published four more versions of Women in Waders. The 10,000 unit run of the 2005 calendar is already sold out, and three additional titles - "Women in Chaps," "Beauty and the Bass" and "Guns and Camo" - are in short supply at the Reel Fish Web site (www.calendardates.com) where they sell for $12.95.
"Everybody needs a calendar," said Hoeye. "Usually they need more than one, one for home, one for work."
In fact, American households own an average of five calendars, industry experts say, and the growth of electronic calendar devices has not distracted from the appeal of old fashioned paper calendars, which are a $600 million a year industry.
One draw for calendar buyers, experts say, is the low price, which has remained fairly stable at around $12 to $13. Increased production volume has allowed manufacturers to keep costs down. Plus, many calendars are now printed overseas.
Reel Fish's calendars aren't the only racy ones being produced in Lane County. Others include the "Oh Girls" calendar, which features Oregon college women in various states of undress, and the famous "Men of the Long Tom Grange" calendar, which shows partially unclad older Junction City men.
Nationally, an estimated 45 million calendars will be sold this season.
"The number of titles is exploding every year," said Hillel Levin, general manager of Calendars.com, an online retailer affiliated with the Calendar Club chain. "I think a lot of the growth is fueled by the industry finding and further mining new affinities, new groups, new niches that people really care passionately about."
Levin, who carries 5,000 titles for 2005 and expects to stock 6,000 to 6,500 titles for 2006, said dogs are the most popular calendar niche. Recently, West Highland White Terriers showed up on the national best seller list in the No. 2 slot. Other calendars highlighting hundreds of different breeds ranging from rottweilers to rat terriers can be found, and humorous dog calendars such as "Monthly Doo" have made their mark.
"What's so bizarre about the calendar business," Levin said "is that you have the entire spectrum (of interests), from very refined to really raw."
On Calendar.com's Web site, titles such as "Buns" and "High Times 30th Anniversary" blend with "Classic Georgia O'Keefe" and "Ansel Adams - American Wilderness." There are calendars featuring frogs, Harley Davidson motorcycles and duct tape - and often there's more than one version of each.
"If it's a noun, we have a calendar," said Wendover Brown, co-owner of Brown Trout, the San Francisco-based calendar maker that calls itself the largest calendar producer in the world.
Brown Trout started in 1986 with three calendars - "Idaho," "Florida," and "Salt Lake City" and now produces nearly 1,000 different titles, including 140 on dogs. They have ridden the wave of calendar popularity and seen it go from a small niche industry mostly confined to book stores into a widespread phenomenon that even features calendar-only stores such as Calendar Club.
"There's a lot more places to get calendars," said John Lash, marketing director for Calendar Club, which has over 550 stores nationwide, including one in Eugene and one in Springfield. "We're still growing, but not at the rate that we used to be because there's just more places for consumers to (go)."
At the Eugene store in Valley River Center, co-owner Katie Reiter carries nearly 2,000 calendar titles all arranged neatly into categories, from Tuscany to Star Trek.
"About 80 percent of the people (who come into the store) know what they're looking for," Reiter said. "Some people do all their gift shopping here. They can do it all in one stop."
Some of the best selling items at Reiter's store defy categorization. "Odd Jobs" features pictures of an armpit sniffer and a maintenance man who cleans Mt. Rushmore. "Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy" is devoted to misheard song lyrics and "Nun's Having Fun" shows Catholic sisters smoking, boating, bowling and eating ice cream.
Meanwhile, the calendars themselves are taking on new shapes and sizes beyond wall and desk calendars. There are "day to day" calendars, "mini-wall" calendars and "sticker calendars."
The top-selling "Mom's-Plan-It" is a combo family organizer and wall calendar for busy soccer moms.
Smaller regional calendar producers have found they can carve a niche in the vast national market.
Sales for "Women in Waders" and "Oh Girls" calendars are tiny compared with 100,000-plus-selling-titles such as "Thomas Kinkade - Painter of Light," but stores like to carry as many different calendars as possible in order to appeal to everybody.
"Sometimes, a regional calendar can be one of the best selling calendars in a store," said Rachel Dashnaw, a calendar buyer for Calendar Club.
Zach Patterson, the creator of the "Oh Girls" calendar, said his secret was paying attention to the market. After studying the calendar industry for two years, the University of Oregon business graduate realized that except for one Canadian title, there appeared to be no calendars depicting barely-clad college girls. He produced "Oh Girls 2004," which featured students from the UO, and sold 1,500 copies. This year, he put out a Civil War themed calendar with UO and Oregon State students and has nearly sold out the 4,000 copy run.
Next year, Patterson plans to release another Civil War calendar and hopes to put out an Apple Cup calendar featuring the women of the University of Washington and Washington State.
"There's a calendar for any kind of interest you could have," Patterson said. "But I couldn't find any calendars (like this)."
1: Mom's Plan-It
2: West Highland White Terriers
3: Shania Twain
4: Dilbert by Scott Adams
5: Thomas Kinkade - Painter of Light
6: Clay Aiken
7: Mom's Family
8: 365 Cats Page-A-Day
9: Michael Phelps
10: Boston Red Sox
Already, Reel Fish's "Guns and Camo" is in short supply.
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|Title Annotation:||General News; Low prices and titles for almost any interest drive big sales for the growing industry|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Dec 23, 2004|
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