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Rodale Continues Push Into Retail Markets
Jim Milliot -- 11/10/97
The Rodale family has no intention of selling or taking the book and magazine publisher public, Ardath Rodale, chairman and CEO of the company told PW. "We are committed to being a privately owned company," Rodale said, noting that the family feels it is their mission to carry on the legacy of Bob Rodale, who was killed in a car crash in Russia in 1990. To help achieve their goal, Rodale's daughter, Maria, was recently appointed vice-chairman of the company.
Rodale made her remarks as part of a tour to promote her book, Gifts of the Spirit, which is being released under Rodale's new Daybreak Books imprint, which published its first title, The Daily Word, in April. That title is now in its third printing, with 100,000 copies in print. Rodale plans to publish 12 Daybreak titles annually, said Pat Corpora, president of the book group. The launch of Daybreak is part of Rodale's strategy to increase its retail business, and Corpora said trade sales will likely top $20 million in calendar 1997. Rodale's distributor, St. Martin's, closed its fiscal year October 31, and showed Rodale trade sales up 25%, with returns down 13%.Corpora has two more initiatives planned that he hopes will boost Rodale's presence in the trade market. The first is the April launch of The Hidden Pope, which will have a 250,000-copy first printing and which the company will back with a $250,000 advertising and marketing campaign in a bid to have its first retail bestseller. Corpora also hopes to announce a new line of health books targeted specifically at the trade market at BookExpo America. "I am very enthusiastic about our bookstore business," Corpora said. He noted that Rodale has proved that its direct-mail efforts have a positive impact on retail sales. A year-long study conducted with Barnes &Noble showed that sales of Rodale titles spiked dramatically following the three mailings it did during that time span. The result is that bookstores are more willing to have books in stock when Rodale plans a mail promotion, Corpora said.

Another encouraging area for Rodale has been the Internet. In addition to the Rodale corporate site, the company has established sites for about eight of its titles, and Corpora estimates that the company will sell more than 50,000 books via the Internet this year. The company's Spanish-language program has also taken off this year, with Corpora estimating that the line will generate about $8 million in 1997, almost all of it through direct mail. In a further effort to crack the retail area, Rodale is repackaging some of its major health titles into a Spanish trade paperback format that it plans to sell to drugstores in heavily Hispanic areas.

Corpora projected that the Rodale book group will finish 1997 with revenues of about $275 million, up from $240 million in 1996 and with profit margins holding at 10%. Leading sales this year is a new title, The Green Pharmacy, which has 500,000 copies in print, while Low Fat Living and New Choices in Natural Healing, originally released in 1996, continue to sell well. A new niche for Rodale, pets, is also doing very well. Rodale's expanding international operations will add about $25 million to company coffers in 1997, Corpora concluded.
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