MAG MELTDOWN SPILLS INTO 2002
Byline: Lisa Lockwood
NEW YORK — Bring on 2002.
Fashion books this year faced the triple whammy of a general slowdown in the economy; the post-Sept. 11 falloff in consumer spending, and the evaporation of dot-com and tobacco advertising. With the exception of Jane, which was up 8.9 percent in 2001, every fashion and beauty magazine reported declines for the year, ranging from a 1.9 percent drop at Allure and Vogue to a 16.1 percent decline at Elle to a 17.3 percent slide at Glamour, according to Media Industry Newsletter.
Early reports for upcoming issues in January and February — typically slim months — are equally disappointing. But publishers say they’re hopeful March business will pick up, and that the second quarter will bring some relief.
Among the notable achievements this year: Vogue led the fashion field with 3,179 ad pages, followed by In Style with 3,024. For the first time, W stepped into third place with 2,123.1 ad pages, beating Elle, with 1,913.3 ad pages, by 209.8 pages. Harper’s Bazaar, in a transition year, came in fourth with 1,642.7 ad pages.
For 2002, publishers agree that advertisers are committing much later, and many luxury accounts are obviously waiting until the Christmas season has passed until they make more commitments. Here’s what publishers have to say about 2001 and the year ahead: l “We had a disastrous January ,” admitted Richard Beckman, vice president and publisher of Vogue. He said ad pages were off 30 percent, down to 60 from 90. February is off 6 percent. But the good news, he said, is that he expects Vogue will record its biggest March issue in its history. He said he’s seeing retail spending starting to recover. “March will wipe out the difficulties of January and February, and we won’t be far off for the first quarter.”
Lynette Harrison, publisher of In Style, expects to be flat for January and off in February. “We’ll be flat in the quarter,” said Harrison. Automotive and European fashion advertising will also be flat in the first quarter, but Harrison believes In Style is still in a growth mode for European business. She also sees growth in bridge-price accessories. “The second quarter will start looking up and hopefully, by the second half, we’re planning to be on track.” She noted that two issues of In Style Weddings will be published next year — up from one — as well as Makeover and the Look. Ad pages from those special issues will be included in Publishers Information Bureau numbers in 2002. In January, In Style will raise its rate base to 1.5 million from 1.4 million.
Alyce Alston, vice president and publisher of W, said that although the magazine was off 2.8 percent in 2001, it gained 13 percent in revenues due to a rate increase. She expects to be up 3 percent in January, down 5 percent in February, and flat to off 5 to 10 percent in March — when W will be up against its biggest March issue ever. She said the Italian fashion business is coming back, but instead of four pages, advertisers are running spreads, or instead of a spread it’s a page. “They just don’t have the kind of money to scream and yell, but they can say hello,” she said.
Susan Plagemann, publisher of Cosmopolitan, said that January and February are both off, and March is soft too, “but we’re hoping to maintain share.
“In beauty we’re holding our own in terms of share,” she said. Cosmo has the largest share in the beauty category. She said that for 2001, Cosmo had page growth in every category with the exception of the dot-com and tobacco. On a positive note, Cosmo’s July and August issues sold over two million copies on the newsstands, and its November All About Men issue had the highest sell-through of the year, even with a higher cover price of $3.99. Cosmo will raise its rate base in January, August and November to 2.8 million, up from 2.7 million. The rest of the year it will be 2.7 million, up from 2.6 million.
Michael Clinton, executive vice president of Hearst Magazines, said that Harper’s Bazaar’s first quarter will be mixed. “The luxury business, both retail and manufacturing, has been soft, and the Italian business has been slow,” he said, but noted there’s nice growth from companies including Giorgio Armani and Ellen Tracy. January business is off 7 percent in ad pages, and February hasn’t closed yet.
Clinton said advertisers are booking late, and everything is pushed back to March. “In March we’re seeing a lot of creative kick in. The next two weeks at retail are going to determine if budgets will be released. Manufacturers are holding back budgets and doling them out month by month.”
“Fashion and beauty brands have to promote and build their business,” added Clinton. “The whole fashion category is off to a slow start, but hopefully they’ll build in the second quarter and beyond.” Meantime, newsstand sales are showing dramatic improvement. Harper’s Bazaar’s November issue, with Gwyneth Paltrow on the cover and Glenda Bailey’s “unofficial” first issue, sold 50 percent above last year’s November issue, said Clinton.
Katherine Rizzuto, publisher of Marie Claire, noted that 2001 was the best year in the magazine’s history. Although ad pages were down 2.9 percent, revenues gained 11 percent because prices rose as a result of a rate base hike. Next year, Marie Claire’s base goes up to 850,000 from 825,000 in all months, except March and September, when it will be raised to 900,000. January ad pages are ahead 1.1 percent, and February will be down. “March will be flat to a percentage point or two up,” she predicted.
Suzanne Grimes, vice president and publisher of Glamour, said January would be off about 20 pages and February will be flat. “I budgeted to be down for the first quarter and flat in the second quarter, and will make up the shortfall in the second half.”
She said she’s not seeing a resurgence in the fashion category, although a lot of the big denim and mainstream advertisers are still active. Jewelry and accessories are still soft. The big opportunities lie in beauty — both mass and prestige — and health and beauty products, she said. “The whole pharmaceutical category is still somewhat strong,” she said.
Bucking the downward trend is Eva Dillon, publisher of Jane, who attributed the magazine’s growth this year to significant gains in fashion and beauty, as well as automotive and liquor. While it lost only about five pages in December due to Sept. 11 and the bad economy, its January-February issue will be down 25 percent, and March will most likely be flat.
Nancy Berger, publisher of Allure, said the magazine had a great year. “From a beauty standpoint, we went from number five to number two in market share,” said Berger. (Cosmo is the category leader.) The January Allure is flat, and February is up. There were a lot of launches planned before Sept. 11 and they will be coming out for spring and for fall. Berger said Allure is up 10 percent on the newsstand through November.
Beth Brenner, vice president and publisher of Self, said that the January issue will be down 18 pages but February will be up about 10 percent in ad pages, which she attributed to gains across the board. “Twenty percent came in after the close. There was a last minute rally the last two weeks. March is looking a little better.”
Brenner believes that magazines that are not largely dependent on luxury goods “will be the quickest to recover. Those books [that deal heavily in luxury advertising] are waiting for Christmas to be over.”