PARIS — Will the stream of grim financial news take any of the shine off the content in glossy fashion magazines?
Advertising and newsstand sales are already under pressure, with the latest figures showing single-copy sales down across the board in the first half, and page counts likely to take a dive in 2009. Through October, monthly magazines saw ad pages decrease 8 percent over the same period in 2007, according to figures from Media Industry Newsletter. The October issues alone reflect an even sharper decline, shrinking 12 percent over October 2007.
Publishers believe the falloff will continue at least into the first quarter of 2009. Most advertisers are putting together marketing plans now for next year under a cloud of concerns about the economic crisis and Wall Street’s implosion. Weekly titles are beginning to feel the pinch now, and monthlies will likely feel the contraction in issues next year as advertisers spread their dollars across fewer titles. Said Paul Caine, president of Time Inc. Entertainment Group, who oversees People, People StyleWatch, People En Español and Entertainment Weekly, “Planning is becoming more hesitant as we approach the fourth quarter, but we’re seeing more double-down investment. We have more advertisers approaching us about becoming their exclusive partner.”
Interviewed on the sidelines of the Paris runway shows this week about how the economic downturn will impact their operations and their magazines’ content, editors in chief said they’re keeping a close eye on expenses — up to and including resisting the 20 euro jar of nuts in the Ritz minibar. Some also plan to banish exorbitantly priced creams and fashions from their pages.
Still, most said fashion’s role is to let women dream, while also offering sound money-saving advice for tough times. Here’s what they had to say:
Cynthia Leive, editor in chief of Glamour: “The days of editors not paying attention to expenses have been over for a long time. We are all running businesses. It’s surreal to be in Paris looking at million-dollar clothes. People do want to escape. People want clothes that will make them feel better. At the same time, it’s going to be hard to sell a $3,000 T-shirt.”
Stefano Tonchi, editor of The New York Time’s T magazine: “We have been under a lot of pressure for the last year. If luxury goes down, the pressure certainly will increase. I don’t believe fashion should be looked at in function or in relation to economic problems. Fashion is a kind of dream. The last six months have been very tough in the U.S. in categories like travel and design — the most related to the financial crisis. Fashion has held up better. We have 15 more ad pages for our winter issue.” Linda Wells, editor in chief, Allure: “I don’t think denial of beauty is what we’re after. In difficult times, women want to keep up appearances. We’ve seen this throughout history: No burlap sacks; no Crisco facials. I think it’s important not to be escapist to the point of unreality. In the November issue, we have a recession-proof beauty story. We’re also being highly critical of some of the out-of-control prices on fragrances and antiaging creams — almost for the sake of being the most expensive.”
Charla Lawhon, editor, the In Style Group: “We’ve always had a mix of the aspirational and the accessible. We’re just being very careful to include both. Right now readers need a reason to want something; others need reassurance. They’re still looking to Hollywood for inspirations and reasons to get excited about things. In our November issue, the overall philosophy is ‘worth it.’”
Glenda Bailey, editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar: “We already run a tight business and we have to control costs. It’s vital that we look at the business in those terms. We’ve had a strong six months but we are cautious about the future.” She said more editorial partnerships and collaborations were certain. “It’s a time to do what we do well — to edit the very best. Of course in difficult times everyone wants to look and dream.”
Joanna Coles, editor in chief, Marie Claire: “I don’t think people are going to stop buying great luxury bags, shoes and clothes, but they may buy fewer of them. I think people are going to be looking for value. We’re always thinking about the readers’ pocketbook, be it the Hermès one or the Club Monaco one. Designer Andrew Gn is clearly assuming there will be a recovery very quickly. Certainly if you put on one of his jeweled dresses, you are going to feel better. I think fashion provides wonderful escapism. The Titanic’s going down: You might as well be well-dressed.”
Roberta Myers, editor in chief, Elle: “We started showing things from Wal-Mart and Target a while ago. There was one look where the Wolford tights cost more than the entire outfit. But the runway is obviously directional and the readers want the fantasy as much as the reality.” Franca Sozzani, editor in chief, Italian Vogue: “What is happening in New York has not affected Italy yet, we’ve had a good year,” said Sozzani, adding that she hadn’t detected any reflection of the economic climate in the collections. As for the likelihood of the industry’s doom and gloom affecting her magazine’s editorial direction, she said: “No way, not at all. There are more than enough commercial magazines out there to take care of that.”
Aliona Doletskaya, editor in chief, Russian Vogue: “The economic recession will definitely influence the commercial side of fashion and editorials will have to reflect that in some way. Having said that, it’s not like we’re going to superdreary, commercial stories as that’s just not what Russian Vogue’s about.”
Cécile Narinx, editor in chief, Dutch Elle: “It goes both ways. We’ll be exploring escapism and giving tips on how to invest in classic pieces.”