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Playboy: 50-year toys
Playboy celebrates milestone with laser-embossed bunny logo lipstick and one-of-a-kind skateboard.
October 15, 2003: 4:18 PM EDT
By Parija Bhatnagar, CNN/Money Staff Writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Can Playboy make money off high-end luxury goodies? Maybe not, but it can get some attention ... and for a company that hasn't had a profit for three years, that could be enough.

To commemorate its 50th anniversary, Playboy is launching a limited-edition collection of specialty products, some that are designed by well-known fashion houses like Versace, Vivienne Westwood and Sean Jean, the apparel label headed by music mogul P. Diddy.

Even if Playboy doesn't rake in big bucks from the sales of these products, analysts say any publicity right now is a good thing for the company.

Playboy:50 years the Photographs debuted last week. (Publisher: Chronicle Books)  
Playboy:50 years the Photographs debuted last week. (Publisher: Chronicle Books)

"Playboy's 50th anniversary is important to the company because it's a way to promote the brand and bring back the readers that have strayed away from picking up the magazine," said Jeffrey Hoskins, analyst with Harris Nesbitt Gerard.

Indeed, magazine sales are half of what it sold at the peak in the early 1970s. Total sales of Playboy magazine last year slipped 5 percent from the year before while the company hasn't posted an annual profit since 1999.

Playboy's recent editorial shakeup -- last year it brought over James Kaminsky, former editor of Maxim, to revamp Playboy magazine -- is a step in the right direction.

"Playboy needs to do two things. It needs to maintain growth in its online division, and it needs to grow its international market for its cable network," Hoskins said. "They want to expand their retail business, but the problem with that is the retail business won't become big enough to move the earnings needle for the company."

Nevertheless, the company is claiming some measure of success.

"Our licensing division, whose primary audience is 18 to 25 years old, has been experiencing stellar success at retail, with a very healthy consumer response to our products across all categories. Our brand appeals to young audiences because it represents freedom, fun and sexy entertainment," Christie Hefner, told CNN/Money.

"The products will go on sale mid-November through March 2004 and will be available at department stores Bloomingdale's and Macy's East, and at Henri Bendel," said Lorna Donohoe, spokeswoman with Playboy Enterprises. "From what we've heard about the pre-sales orders from our retail partners, we're expecting the products to be a sellout."

New York-based M.A.C. Cosmetics has created two limited-edition products: "Bunny Pink" lipstick and a glitter cream titled "Playmate Pink", its homage to 50 years of Playboy.

M.A.C.'s "Bunny Pink" lipstick and "Playmate Pink" glitter Cream.

"The lipstick even has a laser-embossed bunny on the tip of the lipstick," boasted John Demsey, president of M.A.C. Cosmetics.

Other collectibles include Sean Jean's men's and women's velour track suits featuring the Playboy rabbit heads, a limited edition skateboard and snowboard, and the Playboy: 50 Years, the Photographs released last week by Chronicle Books.

"The book contains 250 of the best photographs that appeared in the magazine over the last 50 years, such as the best covers, contemporary playmates and celebrities featured in Playboy," said Jason Mitchell," spokesman for Chronicle.

The limited-edition skateboard features the Playboy rabbit and the 50th Anniversary seal.  
The limited-edition skateboard features the Playboy rabbit and the 50th Anniversary seal.

The first run of 100,000 books have sold out already, Mitchell said. An additional 25,000 copies are in printing.

Perhaps the most expensive Playboy memento is an $80,000 Versace evening gown, hand embroidered in gold thread with the signature Playboy Rabbit Head.

According to Donohoe, the dress costs $80,000 to make, but it could be auctioned for much more than that. All of the one-of-a -kind pieces will be auctioned for charity next year, with proceeds benefiting the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA).

Christie Hefner, who took over the financial reins from her father about 20 years ago, indicated the retail effort is part of a major attempt by Playboy to connect with younger audiences.

"Newsstand sales for our flagship magazine rose in the first half of the year despite a very difficult market that resulted in many of our competitors reporting year-over-year declines," Hefner told CNN/Money.

"In online, which skews to a young demographic, we've seen strong growth in our subscription and e-commerce business, and the group reported its first two quarters of profits in the first half," Hefner said.  Top of page

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