Just for Kids rises again

Storybook Inc., which produces the Storybook Heirlooms catalog of special-occasion apparel for girls ages five to seven, is relaunching costumes and apparel catalog Just for Kids, which has been dormant for six years.

The catalog arrived in homes on July 19 to capitalize on Halloween, which has historically made the third quarter Just for Kids’ biggest, says Storybook president Jon Bruml. “We mail early because this is an item-driven niche,” he says, “and shipping merchandise by Oct. 1 is critical.”

The catalog features costumes which transform children into Elvis Presley, a fairy princess, and a wide variety of movie characters, as well as accessories and some adult costumes that complement the children’s selection. And with nine pages devoted to boys’ and girls’ everyday apparel, Just for Kids also aims to take advantage of the back-to-school market.

The book mailed to an undisclosed number of prospects including names from co-op databases, and to some former Just for Kids buyers. Overall, the numbers are right on target, Bruml says, though he won’t share specifics. Sales of boys apparel are higher than expected, he says, and online sales are double original estimates.

A complicated history In 1995, Foster City, CA-based Storybook purchased Just for Kids from Disney, which had stopped mailing the title at the end of 1994. Storybook, which had Just for Kids on the back burner, was in turn acquired in July 1997 by Fulcrum Direct. Then in July 1998, Fulcrum filed for bankruptcy. Two months later, New York-based Delia’s acquired the assets of Storybook, including the database from the entire Fulcrum collection of children’s catalogs. It relaunched Storybook Heirlooms in January 1999.

Bruml estimates that by the end of the fiscal year, Storybook Heirlooms’ sales will have jumped 250% from last year. This sales growth prompted the company to expand beyond the girls’ market by reintroducing the Just for Kids catalog. At 40 pages, Just for Kids is smaller than the 64 pages it contained at its peak in 1994. “We are treating this title as if it were a new business, so we are being prudent with the number of pages,” Bruml says.

The next edition of Just for Kids is slated for spring. “Our expectation moving into 2001 is to strike a more even balance between apparel and specialty products,” Bruml says, “while remaining season-specific.”

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) Emerging Issues Task Force, which sets the accounting parameters followed by public companies, met in July to reach an agreement on a proposal that would standardize the way catalogers and e-tailers account for shipping and handling revenue and costs. The task force concluded that any shipping and handling costs billed to the customer should be reflected as revenue in all accounting reports, rather than as a reduction in selling expenses.

The recommendation made by the task force is set for implementation by the fourth quarter of the year. Not only will the companies need to adjust their accounting for the fourth quarter, says FASB practice fellow Doug Reynolds, but they’ll also have to adjust records for the previous five years to ensure consistency among reports for comparative reasons.

The FASB opted not to rule on another issue: how marketers should account for shipping and handling expenses. Though the FASB was expected to recommend that these expenses be included as cost of goods sold, Reynolds says, “The task force decided that this kind of expense classification issue would be better addressed as part of an overall income statement classification program.”

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