NEW YORK — Although lots of people initially scoffed at the idea of a shopping magazine, Lucky has proved them wrong.

Launched during one of the most difficult years in publishing history, Lucky made its debut with 720 ad pages in 2001, 20 percent above plan. As its competitors in the women’s category reported double-digit declines through the first quarter of 2002, Lucky, still obviously in launch mode, is up 32 percent, according to Media Industry Newsletter. However, that’s based on three issues in 2002 versus two in 2001. For April, ad pages are up 90 percent, according to Sandy Golinkin, vice president and publisher.

With its fast-paced, catalog-style, information-packed approach, Lucky appears to be in the right place at the right time. In fact, Adweek named Lucky the launch of the year in today’s issue.

“If there’s one lesson I’ve learned, you ignore the reader at your own peril,” said Kim France, editor in chief of Lucky. “They expect us to be a resource on everything.”

The magazine premiered with a 600,000 rate base in December/January 2001 and raised it this past January to 700,000. It will be increased again in July to 750,000.

After Sept. 11, France worried that the reader may have lost interest in shopping. “I felt queasy waking up Sept. 12 — Certainly, being the editor of a shopping magazine.” But, she realized, “life will continue and people will keep being interested in things they’re interested in.”

And shopping appears to be right up there. With a median age of 31, Lucky’s core readers are primarily single and childless and are beginning to want a lifestyle, said France. “She’d like a real sofa, not a futon sofa.”

Although the magazine is based on a concept popularized by Japanese magazines, France finds that along with the shoots, the reader wants more context.

“There’s a lot of text and it helps the reader get more for her money,” she said. For example, Lucky’s first handbag guide last year had no text. “Now there’s a lot more explanation.” France said that she tries to make the credits as specific as she can. “We’ve gone into territory with credits where no magazine goes. The whole mission of the magazine is to make things more available,” she said.

Moving product appears to be the magazine’s mission.

According to Golinkin, the magazine has a diverse ad base. Its biggest category is beauty (32 percent). Fashion accounts for 22 percent of the advertising base.

Lucky, which sells a four-color ad for $43,680, has clearly benefited from parent Conde Nast’s corporate buy. In fact, Golinkin pointed out that 90 percent of its advertisers are corporate clients.

While ad executives acknowledged that Lucky wouldn’t be the right environment for their luxury clients, they believe the magazine helps move more affordable products.

Charles DeCaro, partner in Laspata/DeCaro, the New York ad agency described it as: “a fashion primer where merchandise is readily available.”

Sam Shahid, partner in Shahid & Co., another ad agency here: “Our client, Naturalizer, is in there and they called us and said, ‘We have a pair of shoes in there and we got 50 calls.”‘

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