Monarch Services to focus on Girls Life, its final asset

Baltimore firm sheds unprofitable envelope and printing business


August 28, 1999|By Kristine Henry | Kristine Henry,SUN STAFF

Now that Baltimore-based Monarch Services Inc. has shed its unprofitable envelope and printing business, company officials say they are moving forward with new plans for their sole remaining venture -- Girls' Life magazine.

Formerly known as Monarch Avalon Inc., the company was founded in 1949 as a direct-mail printing facility but became best known as a maker of elaborate board games. But it has struggled financially in this decade, losing money in five of the past six years. Last year it sold its Avalon Hill games unit to Hasbro Inc. for $6 million in cash. Avalon Hill made games such as Waterloo and Afrika Korps.

With last week's closing of the printing and envelope business -- which meant layoffs for about 30 employees -- all that remains is the bimonthly magazine, which is aimed at girls between the ages of 8 and 14.

The magazine was started in 1994 when company officials, realizing that nearly all their game customers were male, went looking for something to broaden their scope.

"I remember that everything out there for young girls was about boys or shopping," said Jackson Y. Dott, president, chief executive and treasurer. "We came upon the conclusion that there needed to be a magazine for little girls growing up."

The magazine covers topics such as liking yourself for who you are, realistic beauty tips, and dealing with puberty. Dott said the company hopes to get involved in electronic commerce soon, allowing readers to buy advertised products -- such as software, music and books -- directly from the Web site

"We do not want to go head-to-head with, but we know the trends," he said. "We've got girls telling us what they like and don't like."

Girls' Life has a marketing agreement with the Girl Scouts, which provides four pages of content in editions that go only to subscribers who are Scouts. Dott said that fewer than half of the nearly 400,000 magazines sold every other month go to Girl Scouts.

Dott said Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Karen Bokram was adamant that Girls' Life feature not only model-pretty girls but girls that look as if they could live next door.

"They read the magazine over and over and over," said A. Eric Dott, Monarch's founder and chairman, and Jackson Dott's father. "They fall in love with it and spend hours on the phone discussing articles."

He said the company, which lost $1.73 million last year on sales of $8 million, is expected to return to profitability within several months. The number of employees has been pared down to about 25 -- from its peak of 110 two years ago.

Shares of Monarch closed at $3.50 yesterday, down 37.5 cents, on the Nasdaq stock market.

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