LUXURY LIFTS FASHION MAGS IN ’95

Byline: Lisa Lockwood

NEW YORK — The revitalized luxury goods market provided a needed boost to fashion and lifestyle magazines in 1995, but the erratic beauty category put a big dent in some performances.
The leading monthlies reported increases, but in all cases, the gains were hard won, due to the rocky retail environment. According to Media Industry Newsletter, increases ranged from a mere 0.3 percent at Vogue to a healthy 30.7 percent at Vanity Fair, thanks largely to the rebounding luxury market.
Several publishers noted, however, that the beauty business remained tough all year as there were fewer launches and smaller accounts cut back pages.
Looking ahead to 1996, publishers said the year has gotten off to a slow start. Advertisers are holding back to see how Christmas unfolds. Also, many companies don’t have their creative ready in time and are shipping their spring merchandise to the stores in February and March, rather than January. Publishers project that business will pick up in February and especially March, closer to the actual spring selling season.
Of the top fashion magazines, Elle appears to have settled comfortably into the number two spot behind Vogue, reporting an 11.7 percent increase in ad pages, following a 10 percent gain last year. Harper’s Bazaar, which slipped into the number three spot in the summer of 1994, saw ad pages grow 7 percent for the year after an 8.5 percent decline last year. Vogue’s 0.3 percent gain followed a 3.5 percent decline last year.
“I’m thrilled to be up seven pages for the year,” said Ronald A. Galotti, publisher of Vogue. “We expect to be up $10 million in revenues,” he said, adding, “Profitability is up nicely.
“Anybody in the business recognizes the soft areas at retail, so to hold our own, even to be up a drop, is a pretty damn good accomplishment,” he said.
Galotti said Vogue’s fashion business was off 10 percent for the year, and the beauty business dropped 6 percent.
“The luxury end is the strongest portion of our business, especially watches and jewelry, and we’re up a little bit in retail,” added Galotti. He noted that in the beauty category, the high end has done better and held its own, while the mid-range has been more competitive.
The new year certainly won’t bring an across-the-board rebound: Galotti projects Vogue will be off about 12 percent in January.
Carl Portale, group publisher of Elle, attributed gains in 1995 to both the luxury and designer markets. He also noted accessories and apparel manufacturing were up, but cosmetics was flat or down for the year.
Next year, he said, the cosmetics business is expected to be good, based on the number of launches planned. He said retailing probably would be flat for the first half, but added, “It all depends on Christmas.”
Portale said Elle would be off in January, flat in February and show increases in March. For the year, he’s looking for a double-digit increase, which, he said, would be the third year of growth in a row for the publication.
Bucking the downward trend in January, Harper’s Bazaar, which experienced increases in 1995 in such categories as fine jewelry and watches as well as fashion and accessories, automotive, footwear and retail, is up four pages for the month. “February looks flat, but March is going to be a blockbuster,” said Jeannette Chang, publisher.
She noted beauty was flat in 1995, but expects improvements in the category next year. Fashion, she said, was up 19 percent and Chang expects overall revenues to be up 13.1 percent in 1995.
W showed a healthy increase for the year, running 30 percent more ad pages for December, and 17.8 percent more ad pages for the year, according to MIN. This is on top of a 12.6 percent gain last year.
Stephanie George, senior vice president and group publisher of W, attributed the magazine’s gains in December to strong retail performance, a new men’s gift section and increased schedules in fashion and beauty. She said the January issue should be even with last year because advertisers are booking ads later in the season. George noted that most of the business that had historically been done in February and March has shifted into March, April and May because merchandise is shipped to the stores later and consumers are buying closer to the selling season.
A few magazines had a disappointing December, but managed to score gains for the year. Glamour, after a 34.5 percent plunge in December, wound up the year 2.9 percent ahead.
And Allure, whose fortunes have been married to the beauty business, had a 22.6 percent decline in December, but managed to end the year 14.7 percent ahead.
Alexandra Golinkin, publisher of Allure, said December was the only issue that was down this year. “Last December we had a few spectaculars [special inserts for Neutrogena, Donna Karan, Liz Claiborne watches and RJR’s Winston cigarettes], and it was an exceptionally strong issue. We felt this December we had a good issue, but we didn’t have a blockbuster.”
But Golinkin said she was pleased with the magazine’s results for 1995, although the beauty business, its core category, didn’t grow at the pace of previous years.
“Our most notable accomplishment was that fashion and retail was up 35 percent in ad pages,” said Golinkin. She found that beauty clients ran fewer pages, but were still buying schedules. “Eighty-two percent of our business had been with us in 1994,” said Golinkin.
Looking ahead, Golinkin called January’s business “tough,” because the magazine is up against four special inserts that ran last January. She said she expects business to pick up, beginning in March. For some magazines, 1995 was a comeback year.
In particular, Vanity Fair, which was off 12.5 percent in 1994, showed a 30.7 percent gain for the year; Mademoiselle, which declined 24.7 percent in 1994, ended the year 14.1 percent ahead in ad pages, according to MIN.
Mademoiselle, bucking the beauty funk, is looking for continued growth next year, said Catherine Viscardi Johnston, publisher.
One of the biggest challenges Johnston faces in 1996 is to continue the beauty momentum that began in 1995, when the magazine carried 100 additional beauty pages. “Prestige beauty advertisers are going after the younger market,” she said. “They can buy the Chanel name, for example, without having to buy the jacket or the shoes.”

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