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September Falls Flat for Most Mags

September is the make-or-break month for fashion magazines.

September is the make-or-break month for fashion magazines. This year, there will be more broken than not. Write it off to a troubled economy, dramatic erosion in consumer confidence and unpredictability in the stock market. According to Publishers Information Bureau, ad pages declined 6.4 percent for magazines in the first quarter and 8.2 percent in the second quarter of this year compared with 2007. And by the looks of ad page performance through September, those declines are likely to continue. Some of this year’s declines refl ect hangovers from the giddiness of September 2007, when many titles, including W, Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour and Vogue, touted the biggest issues in their histories. But this year, even with additional paging that some of the Hearst Magazines and Condé Nast titles receive from their corporate marketing programs, “30 Days of Fashion” and “Fashion Rocks,” respectively, most publishers were not able to beat last year’s ad page performance.

Based on publishers’ estimates, the few magazines that will print fatter September issues this year include Elle, which added 26 pages to its September edition, its largest ever at 420 pages. Elle’s year-to-date pages are 1,802, up 6.6 percent. Lucky, which welcomed new vice president and publisher Gina Sanders in January, increased pages 7.2 percent in September, to 299. However, pages year to date through September declined 8 percent, to 1,184. Marie Claire added eight pages to this year’s September issue, which carries 178 ads. Year to date, Marie Claire’s pages are down 3 percent, to 943. Harper’s Bazaar managed to increase ad pages nearly 3 percent, to 373, and for the year has increased paging 7 percent, to 1,410. Bazaar’s luxury and accessory advertising has remained steady, and the magazine has seen gains from travel. The fashion title also spun off “Runway Report,” covering looks from the fall fashion shows in New York and Europe, and 10 of the magazine’s 81 pages of advertising will count toward its September page count. The title joins a growing competitive list of runwayoriented spin-offs and will hit newsstands July 29 with 100,000 copies and an additional 100,000 to targeted subscribers.

Most of the larger fashion and lifestyle titles saw September issues shrink. At Vogue, senior vice president and publishing director Tom Florio and his team attempted to top last year’s recordbreaking 725 ad pages. Instead, this year’s September carried 50 fewer pages. Year to date, Vogue’s pages have declined 4 percent. At Glamour, pages for its September issue fell 10.6 percent from last year, while year-to-date pages have fallen 10.5 percent. “For us, 2007 was a 20-year high, so to be down 10 percent from the best issue in the last 20 years, we’re OK,” said senior vice president and publishing director Bill Wackermann. In Style is down 13.7 percent in September, to 341 pages, and off 11 percent, to 1,969, year to date. W is down 17.7 percent in September, to 396 pages, and year to date is off 7.1 percent.

Vanity Fair reported a 5 percent drop in pages for its September issue, to 335, and a 12 percent drop in ad pages this year compared with 2007, when Vanity Fair produced its July Africa issue. It featured guest editor Bono and 20 separate celebrity covers, an event that advertisers clamored to be a part of. “The Africa issue picked up 55 pages of business that we didn’t normally carry,” said Edward Menicheschi, the magazine’s vice president and publisher.

Among the teen titles, Teen Vogue reported a 19 percent drop in ad pages. Nevertheless, said publisher Laura McEwen, who succeeded Sanders when she moved to Lucky, the magazine has broken new ads from Nike, Burberry and Shiseido. Year to date, pages are off 5 percent through September, to 814.

For the men, Men’s Health reported a 14 percent decline in September’s ad pages, after last year’s largest September in the magazine’s history, while Details posted a 8 percent loss in pages, as it received fewer pages from Condé Nast’s “Fashion Rocks” supplement than it acquired last year. Maxim, who did not provide numbers to WWD by deadline, could be down as much as 15 percent in ad pages contracted for its September issue, according to a magazine insider.