Stationery Stands Still

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Pop music peaked; scrapbooking shows promise

There were no high-flying licensed properties in stationery and back-to-school supplies, leaving sales levels virtually unchanged from a year ago.

Some goods, like notepads and locker magnets, rose a bit, thanks in part to the popularity of boy bands like *NSync and Backstreet Boys. However, some manufacturers paid big upfront dollars for other well-hyped properties, but because of bad timing or other reasons, product didn't sell-through as well as anticipated. Music-inspired backpacks were strong in 2000 and 2001, and many bands had more than one licensee in the category. Expect a slowdown in 2002.

Nostalgia still rules as a marketing tool. This year, book and calendar maker Andrews McMeel secured the license for calendars for HBO's Band of Brothers series set during World War II. McGraw-Hill children's division expanded its fairly new educational series with the Little Critter character (a four-legged furry friend loved by many baby boomers) into a line of first readers.

Colorful stationery breakthroughs: school supplies licensor Lisa Frank entered the apparel market, via master licensee Millennium Apparel (New York). Binney & Smith's Crayola forged into horticulture with the help of Velvet Ridge Greenhouses (Asheville, N.C.).

Scrapbooking continues to pick up speed as one of the fastest growing hobby crafts, suggests manufacturer Creative Imaginations. Mary Engelbreit introduced 14 scrapbooking themes with CI in 2001. Debbie Mumm, a quilting book-based licensor working with CI, sold about $1 million (retail) in scrapbooks during the first half of 2001, vs. $550,000 for the same time period in 2000.

A big change in the paper world is giving many pause for thought: the planned merger of Mead - known for school and office supplies - and Westvaco, a supplier of envelopes, packaging and coated paper. The move gives Mead more clout in a market in which it has already been a powerhouse.

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