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December 27, 2010

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Playboy hopes for bunny's luck

FEBRUARY marks the start of the Year of the Rabbit in the lunar calendar.

It may be an auspicious sign for Playboy Enterprises Inc, which opened a nightclub in Macau last month as it seeks to expand its licensing of the trademark bunny head logo on lifestyle products in Asia, its fastest growing region.

The company, founded by Hugh Hefner in 1953, also plans to open a Playboy Mansion in 2012 in Macau, and has been busy cutting deals to sell Playboy-branded merchandise across Asia.

Its namesake magazine has struggled with competition from the Internet, losing readers and advertisers. Playboy hasn't turned a profit since the third quarter of 2007 and losses widened to US$27.4 million in the most recent quarter.

The renewed focus on Asia is something of a do-or-die move for the company as it tries to transform itself from the publisher of a magazine synonymous with centerfolds of bare-breasted women into an entertainment and lifestyle brand.

"It's our biggest and fastest growing market, and obviously there's a mass appeal," said CEO Scott Flanders. "We're more of a fashion brand. We're more like Louis Vuitton."

Playboy had been trying to open a club in Macau for a long time, Flanders said. The company finally managed to reach a deal with Sands China Ltd, a unit of casino operator Las Vegas Sands Corp, which is led by billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

The 1,115-square-meter club opened on November 20 atop the Sands hotel-casino, staffed by 18 Playboy "bunnies" wearing an updated version of the signature outfit of bunny ears, fluffy cottontail, corset and cuffs.

The bunnies - from the United States, Australia, Estonia, Hong Kong and Macau - serve drinks and chat with customers. The club, decorated with black tile and dark velvet curtains, features private gaming rooms and offers sweeping views of the neon-lit Macau skyline.

The club aims to lure high-spending Chinese who flock to Macau, the only place in China where gambling is legal.


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