By  on June 5, 2009

NEW YORK — Coupon usage was up almost 17 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to Valassis, a media and marketing services company.

That’s good news to Jack McAuliffe and his Beauty Handbook group of chain-customized consumer magazines. At a time when consumer magazines are struggling, Beauty Handbook is thriving, according to McAuliffe, president and publisher of the publishing company, which distributes at certain chains under proprietary names and under the Beauty Handbook logo for many other large and regional drug chains.

“Our publications are experiencing unprecedented sales as women find value in the informative beauty, health and wellness content at a low price of 99 cents, in addition to valuable coupon savings inside,” explained McAuliffe.

A perfect example of the value in the magazines is the latest edition of CVS Pharmacy’s Reinventing Beauty, which will reach more than 1.2 million customers. Actress Kate Winslet shares the cover with a banner proclaiming “$25 worth of coupons inside.” The coupons include $1 off the new Colgate Wisp, $2 off Veet and $2 off CVS’ own Skin Effects by Dr. Jeffrey Dover. The publication offers CVS the chance to promote its own brands along with national advertising. A few nonbeauty items include $1 off Coca-Cola’s Dasani water and $1 off Hershey’s Kisses. Beyond the coupons featured in the CVS magazine, additional inserts are distributed through the stores.

McAuliffe said he can attest to the fact that coupon usage is on the rise since his firm can measure redemption data from retailers as well as see an increase in sales of the publications.

Jeff Rogers, president of Physicians Formula, provided a testimonial to the magazines. “In the first 30 days [after a CVS Reinventing Beauty Program] we experienced redemption of 5 percent and a lift in sales of approximately 3.2 percent over last year’s selling period,” he stated.

In addition to the general market magazine, Beauty Handbook publishes Belleza, a Spanish version of Beauty Handbook; Monitor Your Family’s Health, and a Beauty Advisor Training Program. This vehicle establishes a partnership between beauty advisers and manufacturers to drive additional sales. A recent example of this type of publication offered CVS advisers sales-building ideas, such as new products, as well as editorial articles about consumer trends. There are also stories with quizzes to help associates validate what they’ve learned.

“The training program allows manufacturers to develop a partnership with the beauty advisers and retail sales associates and provide them with sales strategies, product information and incentives to assist the sales associated in recommending their brands to the shopper,” McAuliffe said.

With more staffing being added at stores without additional training support from chains or vendors, the publication serves as a training tool, one retailer explained.

McAuliffe realizes there is a pressure for print publishers to provide more digital content. “A balance must be achieved in providing certain content online in order to reach new readers, as well as to provide advertisers with new vehicles to target consumers,” he said. “Our program is unique in that the entire content of our publications is designed to drive consumers into the brick-and-mortar retail stores.”

However, he said his firm is evaluating what works and what doesn’t on the Internet and plans to roll out a new online presence in the next few months.

Chain drug is the best fit for the magazines, McAuliffe proposed, versus grocery stores, because the magazine helps boost store traffic by redirecting women — who are usually the providers for a family’s beauty, health and wellness needs. “Our publications support the image that our retailer drug partners are the experts in providing health and beauty needs,” he said. “Our programs provide manufacturers with the opportunity to target the drug customer and provide them with additional incentives to purchase their brands.”

And, a price incentive does indeed work in this economy and could hold true even as the picture improves. “Challenges in the economy are most definitely influencing manufacturers and consumers as it relates to both distribution and redemption,” said Suzie Brown, Valassis chief marketing officer. “Every trend indicates these current buying and saving habits will continue to increase and value-seeking will become a cornerstone of shopping behavior in the future.

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