STYLE MAGS: THE QUARTERLY REPORT
Byline: Lisa Lockwood
NEW YORK — Having put the wraps on a bumpy first quarter, publishers winged their way this week to the CTFA convention in Boca Raton in pursuit of the elusive beauty buck. Some clearly had more lift than others.
First-quarter gainers included Elle, Vogue, W, Mademoiselle, Vanity Fair and Town & Country. Losers were Harper’s Bazaar, Allure, Glamour, Self and Architectural Digest, according to Media Industry Newsletter (see chart).
Many of the publishers attributed first-quarter difficulties to the lousy Christmas season. “The first opportunity people had to react [to Christmas] was Jan. 1, when the March books were closing,” explained Beth Brenner, publisher of Self.
The beauty category also posed some problems in the first quarter, mainly due to fewer launches, but publishers are optimistic it will pick up later this year when launch fever heats up again. Upcoming launches include Tommy Hilfiger’s women’s fragrance, another fragrance by Calvin Klein — code name CK Two — and Christian Dior’s Dolce Vita. Already introduced for spring were Chanel’s Allure, PoEme, Polo Sport for Women, among others.
On another front, retail advertising is surprisingly healthy, despite limited sales growth and a slowdown in consumer spending in apparel. Of course, most of the gains are due to co-op advertising, where the stores actually kick in a very small percentage. But retailers will buy certain lines if they’re guaranteed the manufacturer or beauty company will advertise their store’s name. And due to the competitive climate, magazine exposure has become an important marketing tactic: Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom have all kept their profiles high this year through various co-op arrangements.
While beauty and retail ads may be on the rebound, gains in the fashion category are expected to be more modest. In fact, the tough climate has inspired a fair share of mudslinging and charges of page theft among publishers at the major magazines.
Ronald A. Galotti, publisher of Vogue, described the fashion forecast as “pretty good, but the year will be a bit of a roller coaster.”
Still, Galotti has taken the gloves off with some unconventional tough-guy tactics. The magazine has set up a “share of market program,” whereby if a fashion advertiser says he’ll give all his dollars to Vogue, or transfer a chunk of business from Elle and Harper’s Bazaar, Galotti will put their ads on 10 Manhattan city buses for one month. There have already been several takers in February: Todd Oldham, Claude Montana, Gucci, Paloma Picasso, Escada and Charles David. The March group includes ICB, Donna Karan, Prada, Mossimo, LancOme, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace and Isaac Mizrahi.
“It’s about share, and it’s big time. The [bus ads] make 22 million gross impressions a month,” said Galotti.
For the second quarter, Vogue expects to “break even,” said associate publisher Norman Waterman. “It’s tough, but beauty’s coming back with all these launches. We’re still generating 2,500 pages, and we do not negotiate,” said Waterman.
For 1995 in total, Vogue’s ad pages were flat.
As for the competition, Galotti charged: “Elle is giving space away,” referring to its publisher as “Monty Hall Portale,” and at Harper’s Bazaar, “it’s buy two, get one free.”
On that subject, Carl Portale, group publisher of Elle, said, “When people start telling people we’re discounting pages, they are insecure.”
Portale countered that Vogue’s bus ads are giving advertisers “a month of free advertising on a bus, which costs about $20,000 to $25,000.”
“When it comes to market share, we won that game. Our March issue was up 43 percent. Vogue’s market share ploy didn’t work, in my opinion,” said Portale.
Portale called the March Elle “one of the biggest issues ever for Elle, and one of the biggest in revenues.”
For the first quarter, Portale noted, “We performed really well in the apparel sector. We got big portfolios from Versace, Escada and Gucci.”
Portale, who expects business to be flat in April and May, said, “June is looking strong. We expect to be up 7 percent in the first half.”
For 1995, Elle was up 11.7 percent in ad pages.
Harper’s Bazaar ended the year 7 percent ahead, but took a hit in the first quarter, with pages down 4.8 percent.
Stephanie George, publisher of W, attributed its increase in the first quarter to an uptick in the beauty category. “It was new business for W, not really launches,” said George.
“European business was up, particularly Italy, and we carried a big Armani showcase and Italian Trade Commission portfolio,” said George. “The retail business continues to push ahead.”
As for the second quarter, George said April is flat, but May and June will be ahead. “We expect to be up 3 to 5 percent for the quarter,” she said. For 1995, W was up 17.8 percent.
Allure, whose beauty results have been erratic the past several months — although it did manage a 14.7 percent gain in 1995 — is expecting to halt its decline in the second quarter and projects flat results.
“The second quarter is improving,” said Alexandra Golinkin, publisher of Allure. “I’m very pleased that every issue from January gets better, and we’re seeing the deficit is smaller.” Allure was off 14.9 percent in March.
“The first quarter was tough. People were skittish after a tough Christmas, and there were a lot less launches in the first quarter versus last year. We’re seeing less spectacular business. But over 80 percent of our clients are with us again. They’re just running less pages. We were not suffering from attrition of clients, but from less pages and spectaculars,” said Golinkin.
A key area for Allure has been retail advertising. “Retailers had a tough Christmas and are determined that their dollars work for them.” Allure tags ads with 800 numbers, and the results have been strong, said Golinkin.
Among some of the launch business Allure has scored in the first half is PoEme, Polo Sport and Chanel’s Allure and in the second half, Calvin Klein’s new fragrance and Christian Dior’s Dolce Vita.
The decline should be erased at Self as well, according to its publisher. The magazine was off 0.4 percent in 1995, and the decline continued in the first quarter.
“Things are looking much better in the second quarter than the first,” said Self’s Brenner. “May and June are looking very good.” Overall, the magazine will be flat for the second quarter.
“Self got hurt with beauty in March and April,” said Brenner. “It was very strong in January and February.”
Self’s new business for the second quarter includes Polaroid, Hershey’s, Parfums Boucheron, Freixenet Champagne and Mitsubishi.
Glamour, too, took its hits in the first quarter, after a 2.9 percent increase in 1995. Publisher Mary Berner attributed the first quarter’s declines to the beauty category, especially hair care. “There was more launch stuff last year,” she said. Fashion, meanwhile, was up 2 percent for the quarter and is pegged for more growth in the second quarter when the magazine redesigns its fashion editorial pages.
Mademoiselle expects business in the second quarter to be up between 7 and 8 percent, said Catherine Viscardi Johnston, publisher. “It’s very tough, but we’ve been eking out some nice gains.” She reported increased business from Calvin Klein, as well as new ads from Liz Claiborne, Lee, Reebok, Polo Sport and Tommy. She also noted Maybelline is back in the magazine.
Mademoiselle was up 14.1 percent in 1995.
Vanity Fair, riding a 30.7 percent gain in ad pages in 1995, was up 9 percent in March. But it will be off about 18 pages in April, when VF reprises its Hollywood issue — its largest issue ever last year.
While Hollywood may have peaked for the magazine, VF is continuing to explore theme issues. For May, VF will run a special Olympics issue, featuring pictures by Annie Leibovitz, who’s the official U.S. photographer for the games. The magazine’s gatefold cover will show nine Olympic athletes. The magazine will be up about 20 pages.
“The fashion business is holding pretty steady,” said Mitchell Fox, publisher. “Retail business looks very strong, and beauty is flat.”
Fox, the only publisher tracked down by WWD in Detroit, quipped: “That’s the difference between them and me…Automotive for us is exceptionally strong. It’s our fastest-growing category.”
But beauty still calls: Fox conceded he was about to catch a plane for Boca Raton.