NEW YORK — The first six months of 1994 were a blessing for some fashion and lifestyle magazines and a curse for others.
While publishers were hoping to pull out of a first-quarter slump, the business environment proved a lot more difficult than expected.
Fashion dollars are still hard to come by, but the luxury category, by some accounts, is born again.
The big news in the fashion field: Elle took over the number-two spot — behind Vogue — in ad pages, knocking Harper’s Bazaar into third place. It’s sweet revenge for Elle, as HB had bumped Elle from the number-two slot back in February, 1993.
According to Media Industry Newsletter and figures supplied by publishers, Elle ran 669.3 ad pages in the half, while HB had 651.2 pages. Vogue, the leader, logged 1,056.7 ad pages.
The six-month winners: Allure rose 15 percent; Town & Country increased 15.6 percent; Elle climbed 14.8 percent, and W gained 12.9 percent.
The losers: Vogue was off 6.9 percent; Harper’s Bazaar declined 5.8 percent; Glamour dropped 4.7 percent; Mademoiselle plunged 22.9 percent, and Mirabella was down 10.2 percent.
At Elle, increases in the U.S. and European fashion and beauty business contributed to its first-half gains, said Diane Silberstein, publisher. “There’s been a growing interest and increase in the luxury business,” she said, adding that the second half “is looking good.”
“We’re expecting increases to continue. August is a little bit soft, but we’re seeing all indications we’ll have a strong September,” said Silberstein. “The stores are feeling particularly optimistic that it’s going to be a strong fashion season since there are so many options.”
Elle’s bestselling issue in the first half was March, which sold 320,000 newsstand copies. That issue’s cover raised some eyebrows — and irritated a few advertisers — by mixing church and state: an editorial photograph of three relatively unknown models split open to reveal Elizabeth Arden’s Sunflowers ad.
At HB, “the forecast for the coming six months is very good,” said Carl Portale, publisher. “August will be flat, but September could be the biggest ad page issue in the 126-year history of Harper’s Bazaar. Last September, we ran 302 pages. We expect to run a minimum of 320 and a maximum of 340, maybe 350,” he said.
Newsstand sales, where HB has been fighting an uphill battle, are ahead 5 percent through the first five issues of the year, said Portale. Discussing Vogue’s performance in the first half, Ron Galotti, publisher, said, “The business in 1994 got off to a slower start. People are still being cautious.” Galotti said he expects the second half to be flat, with the publication down 4 percent for the entire year.
Vogue’s biggest moneymaker in the six-month period was April — the “High Style, Low Cost” issue — which carried 277 ad pages, versus 329 a year ago, said Galotti. He expects April to be the largest selling issue in the half, selling about 760,000 newsstand copies.
Mademoiselle, which in one year went from hip to mainstream in the course of two redesigns, had a disappointing first half, with ad pages falling 22.9 percent to 435.6. Glamour, the Conde Nast cash machine, appears to have glitched, reporting a 4.7 percent decline in ad pages in the first half, with 770 ad pages. Allure, meanwhile, continued its upward spiral.
“We’re up a little over 15 percent. We brought in a lot of new business and probably had over 50 new advertisers,” said Alexandra Golinkin, publisher.
New business at Allure included 19 pages in automotive ads, versus none a year ago. “There were also big increases in the retail business,” she said, noting Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and Barneys New York were new advertisers, and Neiman Marcus will begin in August. Golinkin said she hopes to finish the year 10 to 15 percent ahead in ad pages.
At W, Stephanie George, publisher, attributed its increase to “retail pages that are significantly ahead of last year.” She said, “The second reason is, we’re number one in jewelry for the first time.”
“The second half looks very strong. We will finish the year about 14 percent ahead,” George added. W’s bestseller was the February “What’s in Store” issue, with 140 ad pages.
Increases at Town & Country — while up against a small base of 254 pages in the year-ago period — were attributed by publisher Molly Schaefer to “Pamela [Fiori, editor] completely redoing the magazine.”
“The second half looks strong. I can’t go out on a limb and say it’ll be a breeze, but we have commitments, and I’m sure we’ll be up,” she said.
Catherine Viscardi, publisher of Mirabella, attributed the magazine’s decline in ad pages to a weakness in beauty and fashion business.
“What I’m seeing is a total reversal starting with the July issue,” she said. The July issue will carry 36 ad pages, a 100 percent increase from last July. August will be up between 40 percent and 50 percent, while September will be up around 10 percent. I think the second half will be up between 4 and 5 percent,” she added.
“For the second half, the fashion business is coming back. The rest of the business is holding steady and improving,” said Viscardi.
Vanity Fair continued its downward spiral, reporting a 21.2 percent decline in the half. However, publisher Kathy Leventhal believes the worst is over.
“I am really happy about the way the second half is shaping up and the way we’ll end the year,” said Leventhal. She said she sold a 40 page program to one advertiser for a fourth-quarter fragrance launch. Leventhal declined to name the advertiser, but industry observers speculated it may be Calvin Klein’s unisex fragrance, One.
She attributed the problems in the first half to the beauty and fashion categories. In beauty, she said there were few major fragrance launches, versus the first half of 1993, and in fashion, “the pages have vanished.”
Vanity Fair scored its biggest first-half newsstand success this year with the February issue, which featured Roseanne Arnold on the cover. It sold 450,000 newsstand copies.
Architectural Digest finished the first half down 5.4 percent in ad pages, running 538.5 pages, according to MIN. However, Thomas P. Losee Jr., publisher of AD, pointed out, “In the first six months, ad revenue was up 18 percent. Pages are nice, but I’ve always been under the impression that money is the most important thing.”
Losee said the climate for ad sales is improving. “The reason AD is doing better is the Nineties are over. The first three years of the Nineties, people were convinced it was immoral to spend money. Also, the mix of HG subscribers and AD subscribers went better than we anticipated.”
He estimates the second half will be an improvement over the year-ago period. “By yearend, we’ll be even with last year, but way up in revenues.” He said since AD has been acquired by Conde Nast, there are no discounts and no negotiating rates.
“Half these magazines that are showing ad page gains are giving their magazines away,” he said.