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Day Runner, Inc.


2750 West Moore Avenue
Fullerton, California 92633-2565

Telephone: (714) 680-3500
Fax: (714) 680-0542

Public Company
Incorporated: 1980 as Harper House, Inc.
Employees: 598
Sales: $121.8 million
Stock Exchanges: NASDAQ
SICs: 2741 Miscellaneous Publishing

Company History:

Day Runner, Inc., is America's leading developer and manufacturer of paper-based personal organizers. The company produces and markets a wide variety of organizers and planners, as well as refills and other accessories, ranging from student planners to sophisticated systems for busy executives. The original Day Runner System, available in several different materials and sizes, remains the company's biggest seller. The product line has since been expanded to include FactCentre Organizers and 4-1-1 Student Planners on the lower end and the PRO Business System for professionals in a higher price range. Day Runner has also added to its line a software product for personal computers designed to work in conjunction with a paper-based system.

Altogether, the company has sold about 21 million planners and organizers since 1980, the year it was founded. They can be found in 17,000 retail stores throughout the United States, as well as in Europe and the Far East. As of fall 1995, more than 11 million people were using Day Runner products to keep their lives in order.

Day Runner was established as Harper House, Inc., in 1980. The personal organizer that became the company's flagship product was conceived by Boyd and Felice Willat, film production coordinators in Hollywood. The Willats discovered that the simple planners on the market at that time were not up to the task of organizing the frantic schedules they kept in both their work and social lives. To meet their own needs, they designed an organizer that combined the functions of calendar, address and telephone book, and personal planner. Reasoning that other people were probably having similar problems managing their hectic lives, Harper House put its first generation of Day Runner personal organizers, called the Day Runner System, on the market in 1982, targeting the growing numbers of young, ambitious professionals and entrepreneurs with family responsibilities and numerous outside interests.

Initially, Day Runner organizers were marketed mainly in gift stores, as something of a novelty item for executives. It quickly became clear, however, that the Day Runner had market potential far beyond what could be called a novelty. A key shift in strategy came in the mid-1980s, when Harper House began emphasizing "productivity" in its promotion of the Day Runner line, and the organizers began appearing in office supply stores rather than gift shops. Soon Day Runner organizers were being purchased by a much broader range of people, including executives, blue-collar workers, and students.

By 1987 Harper House had annual sales of $11 million. As the decade rolled on, consumers continued to flock to office supply stores to buy Day Runners. Over the years, the Day Runner System was offered in a growing array of styles. Users could choose between loose-leaf and spiral formats; vinyl and leather; and snap, Velcro, and zipper closures. The systems could also be personalized by choosing from a variety of refills, calendar formats, and accessories. All versions of the system shared Day Runner's trademark burgundy and gray page design, and featured the company's characteristic colored tabs.

As the name Day Runner began to achieve a high degree of recognition in the growing personal organizer market, Harper House made the decision to adopt it as its corporate name in 1988. Company revenues continued to soar over the next few years. By 1989 Day Runner's sales had grown to $26 million, with net income reaching $2.3 million. The impressive increase in the company's sales during this period was fueled in part by its appearance in low-cost office product superstores, such as Office Depot and Staples. Around this time, competition began to emerge from electronic organizers, like Sharp Co.'s Wizard. Although electronic gizmos like the Wizard and similar products made by Casio and other companies sold reasonably well, they did not make much of a dent in the market for paper-based planning systems at the time.

Day Runner entered the 1990s on a strong note. By early in the decade, the personal organizer market had blossomed into a $500 million business, with Day Runner in the lead among companies doing primarily retail business. Since the other leading planner companies sold their wares through different channels--Franklin Quest Co. at its own time management seminars and Day-Timers by direct mail--competition was relatively scarce. By 1991 Day Runner's sales had grown to $53 million, a 500 percent jump over a period of just four years. That year the company rolled out a new line of products, called the FactCentre. First introduced as one model, the FactCentre was essentially a more economical version of the original Day Runner System, with sections for calendars, addresses, and notes. The line was eventually expanded to include specialized models for business people (Personal Organizer), purse carriers (Compact Organizer & Memo Planner), home planning (Home Manager), and school (Student Organizer & Planner). Suggested prices for the various FactCentres ranged from $10 to $65.

1992 was a particularly eventful year at Day Runner. In March the company went public, with an initial offering of 1.4 million shares. By this time, there were about 80 different Day Runner organizers for customers to choose from, and about 6,000 stores from which those organizers could be bought. At the root of the company's ongoing growth was the idea that each individual had different planning needs, and these differences could be translated into subtly different organizer products. In order to assess exactly what these differing needs were, the company sought out feedback from customers. As its base of potential customers broadened, Day Runner began selling its goods in large discount chains, such as Fred Meyer, Inc., and Wal-Mart. The target market throughout these mass marketing efforts was usually the 25 to 49 age group with better-than-average incomes and busy lifestyles.

Day Runner also introduced its first organizer computer software, Time Plus, in 1992. Designed to be used in conjunction with a paper-based personal organizer, Time Plus duplicated the most worthwhile features of existing planner software in a more user-friendly format. Day Runner's system, for DOS-based IBM-compatible computers, offered automatically updated to-do lists, special abbreviations to ease database manipulation, and the ability to print out updated address book entries, project notes, and other features on sheets that could then be popped into a conventional Day Runner organizer.

In spite of a fourth-quarter slump that saw Day Runner's newly offered stock sink to around $8 a share (from a high of $21.75 shortly after it began trading), company sales soared again in 1992, reaching $71 million for the year. Day Runner Chairman Mark Vidovich attributed the slump to poor sales at smaller independent dealers. Large wholesalers, the company's bread and butter, continued to sell Day Runner products at a brisk pace. By this time Day Runner controlled at least half of the retail market for personal organizers.

Day Runner emphasized mass market channels even more as the 1990s continued. New outlets for Day Runner products in 1993 included Payless Drug Stores, Revco, and Kmart. During 1993 the company sold over three million organizers and planners and about 12.5 million refills. Two new products were introduced during the year. The PRO Business System, designed for business managers, took the standard Day Runner concept to new levels of sophistication. New wrinkles offered by the PRO Business System included a seven-ring format, graphics for locating specific sections more easily, a built-in solar-powered calculator, and, in some models, a slide-out panel that turned the organizer into a miniature desk top.

The other new Day Runner product launched in 1993 was the d'Affaires, a line of organizers with an elegant look. The d'Affaires was designed to be sold in departments stores, luggage shops, leather goods stores, and other specialty retailers. This new look featured beige pages and brown ink in a soft leather binder. Like the classic Day Runner organizer, the d'Affaires was offered in a variety of page sizes and book thicknesses. Along with the addition of the PRO Business System and d'Affaires lines, the company also expanded the FactCentre line.

For 1993 Day Runner reported sales of nearly $82 million, about one-fourth of which came from mass market sources. That figure was held down somewhat by a wave of closings and consolidations among independent office supply dealers. Nevertheless, net income took a healthy jump to $5.6 million, a company record. A number of other developments took place during 1993. James E. Freeman, formerly president and chief operating officer of Stuart Hall Co., was named to the newly created position of chief operating officer at Day Runner. An East Coast distribution facility was opened as well. Perhaps more importantly, the company increased its focus on operations outside North America by creating Day Runner International Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary based in the United Kingdom. Sales to foreign customers during the year amounted to $3.5 million.

As the 1990s progressed, more new products were unveiled. The 4-1-1 line of student planners, first introduced for the 1994 back-to-school season, was aimed at the student market from junior high through college. Available in both loose-leaf and wire-bound formats with youthful styling, the 4-1-1 line included places for phone numbers, class notes, class schedules, and personal information. Day Runner was recognized by the Calendar Marketing Association for its innovative design work on the 4-1-1 system. Fueled by the company's success at seeking out new market segments and targeting new products accordingly, Day Runner's sales reached $97 million in 1994. As Day Runner continued to parlay its dominance in the personal organizer market--which it had largely created--into profits, the business media began to take notice. Both Forbes and Business Week included Day Runner on their lists of America's best small companies in 1994.

In 1995 Day Runner introduced a Day Runner Planner for Windows. The new Planner software combined all of the most popular Day Runner functions, including calendars, phone books, to-do lists, project planners, and expense reports into an easy-to-use system whose graphics resembled the classic look of the paper-based Day Runner organizer. Other features made possible by the software included auto-dialing and audible alarms. Pre-formatted, hole-punched paper for printing out sheets generated by the software were also made available. For those customers who did not already use Day Runner organizers, a special package that included both the Planner software and a paper-based organizer was offered at a bargain price.

For the fiscal year ending in June 1995, Day Runner's sales increased by 26 percent to $121.8 million. During 1995 Freeman was given the additional title of president in addition to his role as chief operating officer. Day Runner was also cited again by the Calendar Marketing Association, this time receiving that organization's Gold Award for the page design of its PRO Business System.

Principal Subsidiaries: Day Runner de Mexico, S.A. de C.V.; Day Runner International Limited.

Further Reading:

O'Brien, Timothy L., "Fast Track: Personal Organizer Firm's Days Are Full--Of Cash," Wall Street Journal, October 14, 1992, p. B2.
------, "Day Runner Stock Falls 28% as Sales Slip Below Forecast," Wall Street Journal, December 23, 1992, p. C11.
Petruno, Tom, "A Stock Offering That Should Fit in Your Schedule," Los Angeles Times, February 28, 1992, p. D3.
Teitelbaum, Richard S., "Companies to Watch: Day Runner," Fortune, June 15, 1992, p. 123.
Whitmyer, Claude F., "Discovered: A Time Manager That Works," The Office, October 1992, p. 26.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 14. St. James Press, 1996.

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