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A Real Beauty of a Catfight

NEW YORK -- Real Beauty, a new magazine published by The New York Times Magazine Group, wants a piece of the beauty action.<BR><BR>The magazine, which some observers have dubbed a "midwestern Allure," was tested last summer, and its second issue hits...

NEW YORK — Real Beauty, a new magazine published by The New York Times Magazine Group, wants a piece of the beauty action.

The magazine, which some observers have dubbed a “midwestern Allure,” was tested last summer, and its second issue hits newsstands March 29. It will publish again in June and September, and will accelerate to six times in 1995, said Sally Koslow, editor in chief.

Koslow fired a broadside at her key competitor — Conde Nast’s Allure — noting that Real Beauty will be “very reality-based.” Real Beauty’s readers, she said, don’t necessarily know how to pronounce the names of Frederic Fekkai and Isaac Mizrahi — two names likely to populate the pages of Allure.

Meanwhile, Allure’s editor in chief, Linda Wells, said she was none too happy when she saw the first issue of Real Beauty last summer. “It’s an homage to Allure. I was amazed. It was a knock-off. It was as if they took a fake Xerox of what we did, but didn’t get it.”

The beauty category, while a growing one, is hotly contested among the fashion and beauty magazines. Advertising revenues in the toiletries and cosmetics category grew 10.4 percent in 1993 to $809,871,862, according to Publishers Information Bureau.

“It was a really strong category in 1993, number two overall, and the indications are good for 1994,” said a PIB spokeswoman. “One of the things that’s driving the category is aging boomers and skin care products.”

Editorially, however, the field is crowded with fashion magazines that devote about 10 percent to beauty coverage, and Allure, which is dedicated to beauty.

“It’s very competitive in terms of beauty coverage. But there’s room for competition,” said Marion Aaron, publisher of Real Beauty. “Allure paved the way.”

According to Aaron, Real Beauty is pursuing advertisers such as Revlon, L’Oreal, Oil of Olay and Elizabeth Arden. “I don’t think there’s lots of money [available],” she said. “There are a lot of mass vehicles that a lot of big advertisers will go in — the Revlons and the L’Oreals. A lot of them are committed for the first half, but they don’t plan for a whole year like they used to. There are opportunities for somebody new on the block.”

For a test issue last year, the company distributed 600,000 copies, and Aaron noted, “Sell-throughs were strong enough to guarantee a rate base of 300,000.” Allure’s rate base is 600,000.

Real Beauty is aimed at women in their late 20s and early 30s, with a median household income of $43,684. Allure’s median income is $52,000.

“Allure does terrific things, but it’s very coastal. We want to service women in Des Moines, North Dakota, Chicago and Staten Island,” said Koslow.

Allure’s Wells shot back: “I would disagree with that. We do reviews of salons throughout the country, in St. Louis and Detroit. Unlike a lot of magazines, we do a lot of trend stories throughout the country. We have a well-distributed readership throughout the country.” She conceded that Allure’s “highest readership is in New York and Los Angeles, but that’s where the population is greatest too.”

Wells also said Allure “is not elitist” in its coverage, and writes about products from both department stores and drug chains.

Koslow, meanwhile, said Real Beauty wouldn’t be as “extreme” as Allure, in that it would never feature a waif model on its pages, nor will it be too critical of beauty products.

“I think what Allure does is great, [but] I think they’re a little extreme,” said Koslow. She said that, across the country, there’s been a backlash to the waif look, adding, “We would not have embraced the waif. It’s not what women want.”

“We did it [the waif] as much as anybody else did,” responded Allure’s Wells.

Real Beauty will devote 50 percent of its coverage to beauty and grooming, 20 percent to health and fitness, 20 percent to apparel and accessories and 10 percent to amusements, culture and humanities.

But will there be enough ad dollars to go around?

“Real Beauty claims their point of differentiation from Allure is they are drugstore based, and it’s a different approach,” said Roberta Garfinkle, senior vice president, director of print media for McCann–Erickson, a major ad agency. “Because of that, you cut out half your advertising base, because upscale and department store products won’t advertise. Allure does the whole pie. My biggest concern is if you’re doing an article on mascaras and you’re only talking about half the market, are you doing your readers a disservice?”