ALL BUNDLED UP: The knives — albeit relatively blunt ones — are out, ahead of the release of the latest British ABC figures on Feb. 11. In a colorful letter to ad agencies and brands, British Vogue publisher Stephen Quinn has accused rival NatMags of inflating the circulation figures of British Harper’s Bazaar by bundling it with mass market, less-sophisticated sister titles She and Coast.

“Fashion upstart Harper’s Bazaar dances with the fishes by offering value packs at U.K. newsstands to bolster sales,” Quinn writes. “This packaging of inappropriate titles such as She and Coast with Harper’s Bazaar…will allow Bazaar to boost their numbers in the forthcoming ABCs. Without these inappropriate value packs…the ABC posted by Bazaar would show a greatly reduced total.

This story first appeared in the February 5, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“It is reasonable to question such tactics, as the headline number could be taken as showing legitimate growth amongst upscale consumers when, in reality, the Bazaar audience is dragged down-market in the process,” he added in the letter.

Tess Macleod-Smith, NatMag’s Luxury Group Publishing director, shot back with the following statement: “It is good to see that Vogue is so threatened by the success of Harper’s Bazaar. Their claims are factually incorrect. Magazine multipacks are an effective marketing tool used industrywide that allows Harper’s Bazaar to reach a wider audience of similar profile. Harper’s Bazaar subscriptions are at their highest level ever, posting its 14th consecutive ABC increase.” Numbers are due next week for the period from July to December 2009.

A spokesman for Pringle, one of Bazaar’s luxury advertisers, said the brand was not concerned about the polybagging strategy. “For us, there are only two criteria for advertising: The quality of the writing, and that of the fashion shoots. Many titles use special forms of promotional packaging, and we fully support Harper’s Bazaar,” he said, adding that if Vogue decided to adopt a similar strategy, “it would not be a problem for us.”

— Samantha Conti

BRITAIN’S GOT…AMERICAN TALENT: BBC2 has commissioned a reality show that will thrust Liberty; its buying director, Ed Burstell, and a host of young British talent into the spotlight. The channel has already begun filming the six-part series “The Buying Game,” which will follow the fortune of young hopefuls taking part in Liberty’s second open call. Hundreds of designers are expected to gather outside Liberty Saturday for the call when they can show their goods to the store’s buying team in the hope of being snapped up for the fall season.

The show, to be aired this summer, will shadow the designers who are eventually short-listed and chosen as Liberty suppliers. “It’s great for Liberty and for young British talent,” said Burstell, adding: “I knew once I moved to another country that I would finally become a reality TV star.” Burstell joined Liberty in 2008 from Bergdorf Goodman.

— S.C.

BLOOMBERG’S FRENCH KISS: Christy Ferer invited only her French and Francophile friends to watch her become a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor on Tuesday night at the French Consulate in New York. But a Gauloises-smoking crowd this wasn’t. Among those who celebrated Ferer’s award, the order’s highest degree, were Christiane Amanpour, Katie Couric, Cindy Sherman, Charlie Rose, Eric Fischl and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for whom Ferer serves as a liaison to the families of victims of 9/11 and an “unofficial liaison to France,” she said. “I took him to his first fashion show,” she explained. “It was in Paris, in 1994. It was a Chanel fashion show. He sat there soaking in the visions of that runway and he couldn’t wait to hit backstage.” (Asked how she knew Bloomberg, Ferer said, “Let’s just say I’m an ex-gal pal.”)

For the award reception and dinner for 50 (catered by Daniel Boulud, natch), Ferer, who is also a longtime television fashion correspondent, founder of media company Vidicom and Huffington Post contributor, wore a Narciso Rodriguez dress and Giorgio Armani jacket. “No jewelry,” she added, “because they give you a big fat medal.” But, alas, no French designers? “I had on Louboutin shoes, chéri! And a Van Cleef watch.”

— Nick Axelrod


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