It's A Spice World. Again.

THE SPICE GIRLS MAY NOT HAVE much to offer musically, but they're smarter than you think. Unlike other successful pop acts who pay no attention to the business end and cry broke years later, the girls have negotiated a slew of lucrative merchandising and endorsement deals that should set them up for life. If you look closely, you soon realize that it's money, not respect, that makes the Spice World go round.

The new album, ""Spice World,'' out this week, will not win the critics over. But it doesn't matter. The average Spice Girl fan, after all, is 12 years old. This is first-kiss music: earnest and ridiculous with lines such as ""Do you still remember, how we used to be?/Feeling together, believing in whatever.'' The very etymology of Spice Girls lends itself perfectly to the role-playing that teenage girls do. Think about Cher in ""Clueless''--isn't she Fashion Spice? Or Claire Danes on ""My So-Called Life''--wasn't she Moody Spice? Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Killer Spice.

Yet the inanity of the Spice Girls' music belies their financial savvy. Their multimillion-dollar Pepsi contract doesn't even begin to quench the Spice Girls' thirst for big bucks. What will keep the Spices humming ""Girl Power'' all the way to the bank is their merchandising and endorsement deals. There are Spice Girl fashion dolls, as well as Spicy clothing, stationery and sheets. You'll see the girls exposing their cleavage over Sony videogames, posing with Polaroid cameras and chomping on their own Cadbury chocolate bars. You'll also smell the Spices--Unilever fragrance has signed on as well.

In comparison, the ""Spice World'' movie, out in January in the United States, seems a minor sideline. The girls' main focus seems to be collecting huge fees for their advertising deals, perhaps with an eye toward early retirement. It's rumored in Britain that the Spice Girls, aware of the short attention span of the music industry, are signing so many endorsements because ""Spice World'' will be their last album. The Spice Girls seem to know they should quit while they are ahead.

The Spices admitted in Rolling Stone, ""We're not the greatest singers. We're not five Mariah Careys.'' The anti-Spice Girl movement need not worry. It may be a ""Spice World'' now, but it won't last forever. And no one knows it better than the girls themselves.