“Low Tech, But More Popular Than Ever”: Traditional Calendars Defy The Digital Age:


Will you be buying a paper calendar this  Christmas – either for yourself or as a present for someone else? If you are under 35 years old, probably not. Instead, you’ll be using your laptop, smart-phone or 1Pad to keep a record of personal or work-related appointments and key dates such as birthdays or other anniversaries. If you are in your mid-thirties or above and your “social grade” can be classified as “ABC1” (lower middle- class upwards), however, then you belong to the demographic group that “Calendar Club”  – the UK’s biggest calendar retailers – tends to target in the months prior to the festive season.

 Why does anyone (whatever their age) still buy what the BBC News Magazine journalist Jon Kelly described in September 2011 as “this most analogue of devices”? For him, the continued level of interest in traditional calendars showing (for example), pop stars, household pets, football teams, celebrities and titles such as “Goats in Trees”, “Yoga Cats” and “The Romance of Steam” is remarkable, considering that by now “they should have been superseded by technology”. He quoted the IT consultant Adrian Mars’ opinion that “Even among the most digitally-up-to-date, the appeal of the cardboard agenda hanging in one’s home is unlikely to fade any time soon – not least because it offers a decorative function, expressing one’s interests, personality and identity, that the more modern alternatives lack”.

As the Calendar Club’s Marketing Director, Natalie Taylor, has emphasised, this explanation is just as valid now as it was then. This was corroborated by her colleague Bill Nettleford, who – when interviewed by Tim Muffet of BBC TV News  – pointed out that for “anyone who has done well in the X-Factor (either as the winner or as runner-up),  calendar sales the following autumn featuring them will go through the roof”. Amazingly, he added, those with veteran singer Cliff Richard (now 73) were doing even better than in the previous year.

Although BBC Click’s Technology correspondent, L.J.Rich, told Muffet that she expects us all eventually to be using electronic calendars rather than paper ones, his report concluded that “What makes calendars so simple is what makes them so effective. For the moment, their lack of interactivity is irrelevant”.

So which will be the best-selling calendars for 2014? It seems to depend on which company is providing the statistics. According to “Calendar Lady.co.uk” , graffiti artist Banksy is at No.1, followed by singer Olly Murs (X-Factor runner-up in 2009) and the artist Beryl Cook at No.3. Cheryl Cole is down at No7 and Scottish painter Jack Vettriano No 8. “Calendar Lady” include several models in their “Top Twenty”, among them (at No 14) Rosie Jones from Middlesex, a “Page 3 Girl” who has appeared in men’s magazines such as “Nuts”, “Loaded”, “FHM” (For Him Magazine) & “Front” and Lucy Pinder (No 18), who has been on “50 covers of ‘Nuts’, selling more than 15 million copies and on over 200 covers of the ‘Daily Star’”.

“Calendar Lady” have placed boy band “One Direction” at No. 10. On the Calendar Club list, however, they are firmly at No 1 – which is where they’ve been for the past three years No-one, says Natalie Taylor, has ever done that before. Football calendars (Liverpool No 3, Manchester Utd No. 4, Chelsea No 12, Arsenal No 15, Tottenham Hotspur No. 28) are up there every year, as is Cliff Richard (No 10). Pugs are currently the most “insanely popular dog breed across the country” (Pug Puppies: No 7). The Dr Who 50th Anniversary Calendar is “doing brilliantly” (No 18). David Beckham is at No 42: Further down: Justin Bieber (55), Sherlock Holmes (82), “Sun Page 3” (84), Marilyn Monroe (88) and the “Eric The Penguin Slim Calendar” (98).

Calendar Club has been “trading successfully for 16 years in Britain”. It is an offshoot of the US organisation of the same name founded in 1992 and its headquarters (which it shares with the Otter House Group of companies) is a 150,000 sq ft warehouse and office area in Exeter, Devon , through which seven million calendars are distributed around the UK. Three million of these go to retailers such as Tescos and WHSmith, the remaining four million to the 300 Calendar Club stores which open up in the main shopping centres as from mid-September and close down again in mid-January.

It is by its very nature a seasonal business – they sell most of their calendars in the last two weeks of November and the first two in December – so they have to re-negotiate new leases for the available commercial space on an annual basis. It is a “unique industry and business model”. Their store managers are self-employed: “60% of them do their own thing for the rest of the year and then return to Calendar Club for the season”. The average price of their calendars is £9.99p. The “slim format” (£4.99 – £5.99) is popular as a “stocking filler”. There are considerable regional variations: in Scotland, between 70%- 80% focus on their local scenic views and football clubs. The same applies in the “West Country”, where the “Western Morning News” calendar displaying (among others) the “grandeur of the North Cornwall coastline and daffodils in the woodland gardens at Castle Hill in North Devon” have displaced “One Direction” from the top slot.

Calendar Club sell two & half thousand of their “titles” through their website and another one thousand in their stores. Most of the orders for “model calendars” are made online – but it is a “relatively small part of their overall business and not a sector they particularly want to concentrate on”. The company has positioned itself as a “family brand”. Panoramic vistas, football images, dog & animal-related photos, entertainment genres. This is what Calendar Club is really all about and where they intend to stay.



Filed under: General, Society | Posted on November 26th, 2013 by Colin D Gordon

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