Girls' Life aims for big gains Monarch Avalon will announce deal with Scouts

September 03, 1996|By Abbe Gluck | Abbe Gluck,SUN STAFF

For Monarch Avalon Inc., the Baltimore board-game company that has spent 47 years targeting boys and men, the profits may ultimately lie in sugar and spice.

Girls' Life, the pre-teen magazine founded by the company in 1994, will announce plans today for a joint venture with Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. that will give it direct access to 920,000 more women and girls.

"It has the potential to be the biggest thing we've ever done," said Jackson Y. Dott, Monarch Avalon's president.

For each issue beginning in October, Girls' Life will also publish an issue for Girl Scout subscribers with a four-page insert containing articles and information relevant to them. Except for the insert, the Girl Scout issue will be identical to the regular issue.

The company, which currently sells about 175,000 copies of the bimonthly magazine, will have access to the Girl Scouts' mailing list, which includes 860,000 girls and 60,000 troop leaders.

"We are very protective of the Girl Scout name, and we don't have a great deal of partnerships like this," said Sharon Hussey, Girl Scouts national director for membership and program. Another partnership -- perhaps the most well known -- is the deal between the Scouts and the bakers of their cookies.

Girls' Life, which calls itself "a magazine that talks to readers like a best friend who's got her head on straight," espouses values the Scouts support, Hussey said. The venture also allows the Scouts to communicate information in a timely fashion, she said.

Until February, the Girl Scouts published a magazine through a joint venture with Scholastic called G.I.R.L. Although it had a four-page insert, the newsprint pages and the look it shared with other academic magazines distinguished it from the glossy, Seventeen-esqe look of Girls' Life.

"If you put our product up against that one, I don't know how we can't come out in front," said Karen Bokram, Girls' Life founding editor and publisher.

G.I.R.L. was able to reel in more than 10 percent of the Scouts, and Bokram and Hussey said they expect an even greater response to Girls' Life.

Unlike Scholastic, which uses teachers and troop leaders as "agents" to sell publications, Girls' Life will use direct mail. It also will send troop leaders a free first issue.

Blaming the failure of G.I.R.L. on bad timing and low subscription levels, Hussey said, "Girls' Life is a terrific magazine already off and running on its own."

For Monarch Avalon, the deal provides a way out of increasingly difficult economic times.

In the fiscal year ended April 30, Monarch Avalon reported an 11.4 percent decline in revenue and a drop in earnings per share by 9 cents, to 36 cents, from the period a year earlier.

"There are blessings and curses about this company," Dott said. "One blessing is that we do everything in-house, which is also a curse, in this age where everything is subcontracted out."

Another "curse" is the problem of specializing in historical board dTC games such as "Diplomacy" and "Gettysburg" in an era of computer technology.

But Dott said the revenue already generated by the magazine and from the Girl Scouts' deal "will really contribute some significant numbers this fiscal year."

The magazine, into which Monarch Avalon invested more than $1 million in start-up funds, is "already approaching profitability," he said.

"We catered 100 percent to boys and men, and wondered why we were catering to only 50 percent of the population," Dott said. "For seven- to 14-year-old girls, there's nothing out there."

Industry experts agreed. "It's a terrific magazine because what's missing out there is a girls' magazine that doesn't talk about sex and boyfriends," said Roberta Garfinkle, director of print media for McCann-Erickson in New York. "This is a wonderful opportunity for Girls' Life to broaden its appeal and circulation, both with Girl Scouts and with their friends," she said.

While Bokram said Girls' Life caters to girls who are "intelligent and cool," the articles, which deal with everything from going out with boys in groups to the election, are free of issues such as AIDS and alcohol. Girl Scouts will pay $13.50 for a year's subscription, compared with the regular $14.95 rate, Dott said. The insert will contain no advertising, and Girls' Life will absorb all costs, which Bokram called "nominal."

Pub Date: 9/03/96

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