NEW YORK — Saks Fifth Avenue is jumping into the magazine game.
This fall, the retailer will launch 5, a publication officials say will have a different format from other magalogs, catalogs and catazines recently spawned by retailers.
“This will be a magazine, and it won’t just be filled with one ad after another,” said Christina Johnson, president and chief executive of Saks Fifth Avenue Enterprises, adding the company is using it as a way “to build our fashion authority.”
The first edition of 5 will be mailed Oct. 29-31 to 110,000 Saks First customers — those that spend at least $3,000 a year at Saks and earn points and other shopping benefits based on their level of spending. The magazine will have 132 pages and will be poly-bagged with the Saks Christmas catalog.
Other fashion chains have also been getting into publishing to strengthen their image and sales. In 2000, Bergdorf Goodman launched the Bergdorf Goodman magazine, which is like a magalog since customers can order from it, but includes lifestyle and travel articles. Calls for merchandise go to sales associates at the store.
Bloomingdale’s will launch “B” in October, which store officials said will be an “editorially driven fashion and lifestyle magazine,” and Neiman Marcus publishes the In Circle magalog tied to its loyalty program.
Unlike some of the magalogs, Saks is taking a soft-sell approach. While fashion spreads will show products sold at Saks, there’s no ordering from the magazine, nor is the magazine especially geared to drive traffic to Saks stores. “This is informational,” Johnson said.
The custom publishing arm of Hearst Publications will produce the magazine.
For some of the features, the number 5 is a common thread. For example, one article written by Jennifer Alfano on “5 Women that Matter” including Dr. Beth Karlan, head of the women’s reproductive cancer research department at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center; Janice Bonadio, head of the Big Bam breast cancer charity for underprivileged women and a cancer survivor; Carol Hochman, ceo of Danskin, which supports the Key to the Cure cancer campaign; Evelyn Lauder of Estée Lauder, who has been active in women’s health causes, and Glenda Bailey, editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar. Henry Leutwyler photographed the women.There is also a spread of five places to vacation: Bali, Kenya, Montana, Paris and Baja, Mexico, written by Aimee Lee Ball. Another article provides tips on being a hostess from Cindy Adams, Josie Natori, Nellie Connally, Muffie Potter Aston and Denise Hale. A regular feature will be “Scene,” with photos of Saks events with celebrities and customers, such as a tea held at the flagship here with puppies and their owners.
According to Sheri Wilson-Gray, Saks chief merchandising officer and executive vice president, there is a 35 percent ad-to-edit ratio for the premiere edition.
“We see it as a tool to talk to Saks First customers about things of interest to them,” she said. “Not that advertising can’t be interesting. It can be. As a service to the customer, we want to be selective and informational. We know from talking to customers there are certain things they are interested in hearing about from Saks,” citing such topics as travel, lifestyle, entertainment, cities, and health in a limited context, such as fund-raising for cancer research and treatment, in which Saks is active. The magazine will avoid heavier subjects, such as politics or war.
While style will be part of the format, “We don’t see 5 as being a fashion magazine,” Wilson-Gray said. “We see at least two to three issues next year — not every other month, but it’s fair to say this could become quarterly.”
Wilson-Gray did cite some risks in the new venture, such as possibly cannibalizing ads from the Saks catalog. Saks distributes 20 major catalogs annually, each about 150 pages, with a circulation exceeding 400,000. Saks also produces smaller, more focused catalogs.
She also said it’s not certain the magazine would yield a profit. “We could jam in a bunch of advertising, and make it about money. But what we really want is to provide a service.”
Wilson-Gray described the magazine as advancing the Saks First newsletter strategy, which communicates promotions at the store while also having an editorial slant. With the progress of the magazine, it’s possible the newsletter may shrink in pages, or eventually be discontinued, but no decisions have been made.The company also said the magazine won’t be a distraction from the business of retailing, which hasn’t been easy for any retailer, though this summer there have been signs that things are picking up. According to Jaqui Lividini, senior vice president of fashion merchandising, “We direct the editorial and what stories we want in the magazine. We have editorial and creative control. They [Hearst] go out and shoot it and lay it out and hire writers. We work with them, but we direct what the magazine is going to look like.”
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