NEW YORK — It was a first half that publishers would rather forget.
Most fashion and lifestyle magazines floundered in the first six months of the year, for obvious reasons: The double whammy of the recessionary economy and the after-effects of Sept. 11 hit every business sector and forced many advertisers to sharply reduce their budgets. Magazines that rely heavily on luxury advertising were especially hard hit.
In June, meanwhile, several magazines managed to achieve successful results which, for some, signal they may have turned a corner business-wise for the second half. Among the big June ad page gainers were Lucky (+78.9); Marie Claire (+43.1); Allure (+27.4); Self (+17), In Style (+10.1), Cosmopolitan (+9.5), Vogue (+8.9), Glamour (+8.7) and Vanity Fair (+6), according to Media Industry Newsletter.
Almost every other title had a tougher time for the month. For example, Elle’s ad pages fell 37.9 percent, Harper’s Bazaar’s declined 36.4 percent and W’s dropped 21.4 percent. Those three magazines also showed the steepest declines for the half: Elle was off 29.1 percent in ad pages, Harper’s Bazaar fell 25 percent and W declined 20.1 percent, according to MIN. Meanwhile, In Style, Vogue and Vanity Fair experienced drops of 14 percent, 11.6 percent, and 8.1 percent, respectively, in the first half, according to MIN.
A few magazines performed better in the half, though, at least in relation to the others. Marie Claire’s ad pages declined 3 percent, ad pages at Self were off 2.9 percent and Allure saw its ad pages slip only 1.7 percent, according to MIN.
The only title to buck the downward trend was Lucky, the shopping upstart at Condé Nast Publications (owned by Advance Publications, owner of WWD parent Fairchild Publications), which pulled in a whopping 58.8 percent gain for the half.
Sandy Golinkin, vice president and publisher of Lucky, attributed the strong gains to creating ways for a lot of their clients to track their results, as well as added-value programs. She also said readers have embraced Lucky’s shopping concept.
However, sources said that Lucky offered charter advertisers substantial discounts in the second year if they advertised in the first year _ in some cases as much as 30 percent _ as well as other frequency discounts, depending on their corporate buys. According to sources, some advertisers bought Lucky to fulfill minimum page requirements for big corporate discounts at Condé Nast. Now some clients are balking that Lucky’s rates are going up, and they are being charged more if their total Condé Nast buy isn’t large enough.
However, Golinkin said that a lot of Lucky’s business in the first half was “new business.”“The percentage of charter clients has greatly declined,” she said, adding, “Business is looking very good for the forseeable future.”
Discussing In Style’s first half performance, Lynette Harrison, publisher, said, “The places where it’s really challenging is certainly retail. American fashion business was really consistent, and European business took more of a hit in the first half.” Beauty was flat, and automotive was up in the first half.
She said June ad pages are up 10 percent. “It’s really turned the corner for us. Both July and August are up 6 percent over last year.
She said advertisers are feeling more optimistic, but are slower to commit. “We are planning very much month to month. I think European and retail business in the second half will have a nice rebound. And there are a record number of beauty launches in the second half.” Among those companies launching fragrances are Giorgio Armani, Chanel, Elizabeth Arden and Calvin Klein.
Tom Florio, vice president and publisher of Vogue, attributed the first-half decline to reduced budgets. Although ad pages were down, he said Vogue had a 3.7 percent increase in market share among the top fashion titles — Vogue, W, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar. He said W gained 0.1 percent, Elle lost 2.6 percent and Harper’s Bazaar lost 1.2 percent. Through the first half, Vogue has a 37.2 percent market share, W has 23.2 percent, Elle has 20.7 percent and Harper’s Bazaar has 18.9 percent, according to Florio.
Alyce Alston, vice president and publisher of W, attributed the magazine’s first-half ad decline to its “core business” of fashion and retail.
“Ninety-eight percent was from repeat advertisers who did less business,” said Alston. She said these advertisers were still in the magazine, but instead of a double spread, for example, they ran a spread.
“We’re holding our market share without diluting the book,” said Alston. She noted that as the luxury business turns around, “we’re well positioned.”
For the second half, she said many advertisers are coming back to the same levels they were at prior to Sept. 11. “We’ll make up some of it in the second half.”Discussing Harper’s Bazaar’s decline, Cindi Lewis, vice president and publisher of Harper’s Bazaar, said many advertisers took a “wait-and-see” attitude since the magazine had a new editor in chief, Glenda Bailey. That, coupled with Sept. 11, meant that Bazaar was frozen out of many schedules. “The reality is the luxury and travel categories have been the hardest hit,” said Lewis.But she’s feeling very good about the next few months. “Beauty’s looking good, and we have nice increases from Estée Lauder and L’Oréal.”
Katherine Rizzuto, publisher of Marie Claire, attributed June’s 43.1 percent surge in ad pages to increases in beauty, retail and automotive advertising. In fact, she said she was up 19 pages in beauty ads. July is up, and August is 10 to 15 pages up. “We closed our biggest June, July and August ever,” said Rizzuto.
For the first time, Marie Claire surpassed both Elle and Harper’s Bazaar in ad pages in the half, according to Rizzuto.
“September looks terrific, and October looks strong,” she added.