For banks and many businesses, the end of the year used to mean that it was time to give away free calendars bearing the corporate logo or advertising. But these days, companies are more likely to give away a T-shirt or a cap.
Although the dollar sales of commercial calendars have increased, sales of other promotional items, such as T-shirts, have grown much faster and have won a greater share of the market, according to the Special Advertising Assn. in Irving, Tex.
The trade group says free calendars accounted for 10% of the $4.4 billion worth of promotional items given away by firms in 1987. That's down from 14% in 1984. Meanwhile, T-shirts have become the largest corporate give-away item, accounting for 18.1% of the market last year, according to association spokesman Rick Ebel.
But commercial calendar makers have not given up the fight. Many have their products printed on sheets of fabric, vinyl and foil.
Some of the nation's most prominent museums--from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to the Metropolitan in New York--publish and sell their own calendars.
"The calendars will draw on their collections and will have the museums' names on the front," said Katie Burke, managing editor at Pomegranate Books & Calendars, which has created a line of French Impressionism calendars based on works at National Gallery of Art in Washington and of paintings by Edward Hopper on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
This year, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art produced a line of engagement calendars based on the museum's collection of American quilts.
Silliness and swimsuits seem to be hot sellers in the calendar business this season. Half of the 10 top-selling calendars at the 1,200 store Waldenbooks chain feature humorous themes. And three of the 10, including the top seller, are based on Gary Larson's comic strip the Far Side. Two of the top sellers feature cheesecake--Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Calendar at No. 2--and beefcake--Chippendale's at No. 4.
The top 10 include: Far Side Off the Wall, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Calendar, Far Side Off the Wall 16-month calendar, Chippendale's, Calvin and Hobbs, Star Trek, Far Side desk calendar, Cats and Kittens mini-wall calendar, Truly Tasteless Joke-a-Day and Boris Viejo's Mythology.