Harper's Bazaar and Elle's 2019 September issues.

In the world of glossy fashion magazines, September is actually August, but this year the September issues will do just what they say on the cover.

Some publishers are pushing back the release dates of their most crucial issues of the year from August to September, allowing more time for ads and samples to roll in. It will also give editors additional time to shoot models and celebrities, a task that has been difficult to carry out during lockdown.

“Our September issues will come out in September — something I’ve wanted to do for years,” said Carol Smith, the publisher of Hearst’s Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire and Elle. For Marie Claire, that means Sept. 1 and for Elle and Bazaar, Sept. 8. Subscriber and digital issues tend to arrive a few days earlier. Usually the newsstand September issues are released in mid- to late August.

“When we started talking to Italy [in mid-May] only a handful [of brands] had shot their campaigns….so on that side giving them more time to create their ads for sure, but on the edit side giving our editors more time to get in their samples,” Smith added.

With many factories, warehouses and offices around the world closed for the past couple of months due to the coronavirus outbreak, brands have struggled to produce clothes and accessories, let alone the opulent, expensive ads that often involve a small army of photographers, stylists and makeup artists.

But with Italy gradually unlocking, some companies are beginning to act. Max Mara recently shot its campaign, styled by Carine Roitfeld, who traveled from Paris to Milan by car for the project. Others have turned to virtual shoots.

Nevertheless, Smith acknowledged that it will be a tough year. “While I believe very strongly that fashion and luxury will recover, it’s going to be a tough 2020. [Brands] have to make up for lost ground,” she said.

In terms of ads, only around three brands have told Smith they won’t advertise in September. Others are scaling back their usual spend. “In fashion, you know in September Saint Laurent needs six pages. Well, maybe they’re going to run four in an issue. So, yes, there’s going to be a slight scale back. We have anticipated it and certainly projected that.”

In the long-gone heyday of magazine publishing, September issues were as thick as a telephone book, jam-packed with ads from luxe retailers. But in recent times they have become thinner and thinner as brands move some of their ad spend elsewhere, either to their own or other digital channels. The pandemic appears to be accelerating the trend, with nearly every media outlet reporting shrinking ad revenues despite record engagement in many cases.

WWD’s previous research of 2019’s September ads found that Vogue scored the most at 356 pages, or 59 percent of the book, although this was down from 427 pages in 2009, when the country was mired in recession, and from 562 pages in 1999. In second place was Bazaar, which had 222 pages of ads, or 55 percent of the book. In 2009, there were 276 pages and in 1999, there were 325 ad pages in that magazine’s September issues.

For Vogue, to which its September issue is so important there was a whole documentary about the 2007 edition that weighed close to five pounds, the newsstand release date is also early September. Last year’s September issue was available on newsstands in New York and L.A. on Aug. 13, and nationwide Aug. 20.

It’s understood this is also to allow the magazine, which once used to set the agenda for the entire fashion industry in its September issue, to give its brand partners more time, as well as staffers producing content. Such a move by Vogue and the other titles could also align with the reopening of more retail stores. Otherwise they would be telling readers about the new fashion trends that they wouldn’t be able to go out and buy — at least in a store.

Elsewhere at Condé, which has implemented two rounds of cuts as it grapples with falling advertising due to COVID-19, Vanity Fair, more general interest but still reliant on luxury advertising, seems to be sticking closer to its usual schedule of August, with plans to release its September issue at the end of that month.

At Meredith Corp.’s InStyle, publisher Agnes Chapski did not provide WWD with a release date for September, but said: “For the September issue specifically, we plan to be flexible with our production schedule to accommodate the creative challenges our marketing partners are having as a result of the pandemic.” It usually hits newsstands mid-August and, according to a media kit, that was also the original plan for 2020.

InStyle is the only fashion magazine that has stuck to its 12-month publishing schedule. Marie Claire, Bazaar and Elle each will have one summer issue, while Vogue combined June and July amid advertising and producing concerns. The latter plans to make the missing issue up with a bonus holiday edition.

“I’m really proud of that,” InStyle editor in chief Laura Brown told WWD earlier this month about the magazine’s 12 issues. “Everyone has their reasons or their schedules and their economics and I’m not going to speak to other companies, but we’re doing it.”

At the time, Brown was hoping InStyle could start shooting during the first week of June. “I have a really, really, really, really, really, really big idea for September and we just pray we can shoot it and if we can’t, we shoot it when we can.”

The arrival of September magazines actually in September fits in with the growing consensus in the fashion industry that deliveries of new collections should be closer to their seasons — hence, fall clothes arrive in stores in the fall, and not in July. As for whether a later September issue will become the new norm in publishing, too, Hearst’s Smith hopes so. “I genuinely believe we should hold to this schedule and I think it does feel like finally fashion is going to change its delivery schedule and hopefully retailers will create new selling seasons so October isn’t when all of fall goes on sale.”

For more, see:

How Will the Coronavirus Impact Already Fragile Glossy Magazine Print Ads?

Low in Print This Summer: Magazines

Hearst Magazines Offers Fashion, Beauty Brands Free Ads Through ‘Together’ Initiative

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