Didn’t get any calendars this year? Here’s why

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Didn’t get any calendars this year? Here’s why

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From left: Shinsegae, Yuhan Kimberly, JTBC and BYC calendars for next year. [LEE HYUN-TAEK]

New year calendars have become scarce.

Calendars used to be one of the most common year-end gifts or promotional item, given out in torrents by corporate communications’ departments of Korean companies.

But calendars have made the top of companies’ cost reduction lists in a persistently sluggish economy.

Not only manufacturers but also financiers decided not to send calendars - or to send a lot less than usual.

Kumho E&C, a construction arm of Kumho Asiana Group currently in a debt workout program, didn’t order any calendars for 2016, while the group’s flagship affiliates Asiana Airlines and Kumho Tire reduced their gift list.

KEB Hana Bank, which merged with Korea Exchange Bank this year, halved the amount of recipients.

Doosan Group, which has many affiliates suffering financial woes like Doosan Infracore, reduced the calendar’s mailing list by 15 percent compared to last year.

“Each affiliate requests calendars and pays for them later, but many of the affiliates in financial trouble requested fewer this year,” said an official at Doosan Group.

Such cost reductions had an impact on small and midsized printing companies in Korea.

“We feel like the calendar printing market has been cut almost in half this year,” said the head of a printing industry trade association. “In particular, the market for the so-called premium very important persons [VIP] calendars has almost disappeared.

“Those VIP calendars with fancy designs and high-end paper stock are expensive, so they used to give us high costs,” the source added.

Samsung Group’s VIP calendars used to be highly sought after. Samsung Foundation has published 50,000 fancy calendars every year for the past 20 years and sent them to big-wigs. However, the foundation recently decided to stop the custom.

Each calendar costs 100,000 won ($85.4) to make. The foundation’s 2015 calendar featured the three greatest genre painters of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), Kim Hong-do, Shin Yun-bok and Kim Deuk-sin. Hong Ra-hee, director general of the Leeum Museum, was known to have been directly involved in selecting the 12 pieces to use.

Some companies have shaved the unit price for each calendar by 15 to 20 percent by using cheaper stock while distributing the same number, according to the printing industry source.

Some companies that are not suffering chose to send fewer calendars because people don’t use them as much anymore in the age of smartphone calendar functions.

CJ Group printed only 143,000 calendars this year, one-third the level of last year. It expanded the number of desk calendars, while completely cutting out wall calendars.

Retailers find calendars as efficient marketing and promotional tools. They expose customers to products for an entire year.

BYC, a local underwear maker, introduced a calendar with product pictorials. Yuhan-Kimberly, a hygiene product maker, rolled out a calendar with forest illustrations and printed it with soy oil, reflecting the company’s environmental image.

JTBC, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily, recently introduced a calendar with chefs starring on its popular cooking show “Please Take Care of My Refrigerator.” Each page of the calendar has a chef’s recipe used on the show.

Major department store chains like Lotte and Shinsegae are printing thousands of calendars for loyalty card holders.

“As the department store calendars are only for VIP members, they have a big promotional impact,” said the head of public relations at Shinsegae.

BY LEE HYUN-TAEK, YIM JI-SOO [kim.jiyoon@joongang.co.kr]

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