FOLLOWING the 365-day cycle of the star Sirius, ancient Egyptians record the very first year. An auspicious day for humanity to be sure, but even more so for those in the calendar business. After all, without the star-gazing and detail-obsessed people hanging out by the Nile all those years ago, they’d be without a job.
Admittedly, any vocation owes a debt to its originators, but for those who make a living off the passage of time, shouldn’t particular attention be paid to history? And not just to the invention date of the calendar, but to all events critical to the industry?
There’s no need to open a text book or browse Wikipedia for hours, absorbing half-facts and making your former history teachers instinctively cringe. Sit back, relax, and let Promo Marketing guide you through the what’s and why’s of a few important dates in the history of calendars
Not long after the year was invented, an enterprising young Egyptian decides to print calendars on papyrus and sell them for profit. His business lasts barely a few months, only selling a handful of calendars until the Egyptian equivalent of November 1 rolled around, when the sudden rush of orders was so overwhelming he promptly closed his doors in frustration.
Thankfully, modern calendar salespeople have figured out how to avoid the young Egyptian’s plight. “All the calendar companies offer early order discounts,” said Phil Martin, national sales manager for Warwick Publishing, St. Charles, Illinois. “Some of them at different deadlines, but we all offer early order discounts, which are a huge advantage to both the distributor and the end-user.”
John Kilday, president of American Calendars, Greeneville, Tennessee, explained the reasoning behind the discounts. “We just have tons of orders that come flooding in to us the later part of August, first part of September,” he said. “Our pricing strategy is all based upon getting the orders in earlier, because we’re working regular hours until this time of year [about mid-May]. Then we start picking up some overtime, then we’re working 60-80 hours overtime. Our costs just explode.”
Among calendar suppliers, the various deadlines for order discounts seem to fall between the first of May and early August, and can also vary substantially in structure. For instance, some suppliers like Warwick Publishing offer a flat discount, and others like American Calendars will break it up into different tiers, slowly decreasing the savings as monthly deadlines pass, so its a good idea to verify the details with a given supplier as soon as possible. Regardless of structure, the early discounts can be quite substantial; Kilday cited American Calendar’s earliest discount as 25 percent.
The Romans start bulk commodity trade routes over water, not only revolutionizing the way goods are distributed, but also creating a whole industry of people who are very attentive to schedules and time’s passage. Almost 2,000 years later, the maritime freight business may be vastly more complex and competitive, but knowing the date remains just as important in that industry.
“They’re big buyers of calendars,” said Kilday. “You’ve got the ships that transport the goods across the seas, then you’ve got their freight [and] their trucking lines that are an extension of that. There’s a lot of stuff that’s imported now, and most of it’s coming by sea, then it’s being loaded by truck and taken somewhere. Those are markets that are really growing, I think.”
The first compound microscope is invented in the Netherlands, and from then on, people start realizing the value of paying more attention to smaller things. “Distributors want to get the big order, it seems,” said Martin. “[But] it’s main street America, it’s the small business who utilizes calendars in a lot of cases.” Martin listed numerous examples, including plumbers, electricians, barber shops and beauty salons. A type of small business Martin singled out for particular growth was the restaurant industry. “For us, they’ve been able to use them in a coupon-type program,” he said. “They can put right in the ad copy ‘bring your previous month’s calendar sheet and receive 10 percent off’ ... and we’ve seen kind of a growth in that.”
Kilday pointed out material distributors as another strong market for calendars. “It can be plumbing distributors, it can be any electrical distributors, it can be distributors of clock pieces or anything,” he said. “Those people are probably the best prospects.”
At a time when most TV was broadcast live, Desi Arnaz insisted every episode of “I Love Lucy” be recorded. Arnaz managed to secure full ownership of the recordings, and in doing so not only invented reruns, but also made himself a fortune in the process.
As most in the calendar business will tell you, the economic value of repetition is not exclusive to television shows. “The average order repeats for eight years,” said Martin. “You talk to some of the old-time calendar salespeople in our industry, and a lot of them are retired, but they’ve [kept] their calendar orders and just make phone calls and say, ‘How many do you want this year, and are there any changes?’”
Annual dependability is hard to come by in many products, but yearly orders are not the only way calendars positively harness repetition. “The oldest information that we have, and the most conservative information that we have, says that the calendar is looked at 2.8 times a day,” said Kilday. “In the business environment, it’s many more times than that. ... But using that as the most conservative estimate, that’s a 1,022 times that your ad gets looked at for every calendar you hand out,” he added. “And in the $2 range, that’s about five looks for a penny.”