Consumer magazine ABCs - women's

By Ian Darby,, Thursday, 23 August 2007 08:00AM

The women’s lifestyle market was flat in parts, difficult for many and only seemed buoyed by the launch of IPC's weekly Look, which many feel is a celebrity weekly in a fashion title's clothes.

Sales of women’s monthlies, incorporating the weeklies Look and Grazia, grew by 3.1 per cent, yet it wasn’t all plain sailing.

The market leader, Condé Nast’s Glamour, experienced a significant fall in its circulation as it faced competition from the weekly sector. Its main competitor, Cosmopolitan, is still some 100,000 copy sales behind, but even Glamour’s reduction in coverprice, from £2.20 to £2, failed to deliver a sales increase.

However, Simon Kippin, its publishing director, remains upbeat. He says: "I’m not exactly cracking open the Champagne, but Glamour is now maturing; and we’ll have ups and we’ll have downs. There has been an onslaught of investment in the weekly titles so, if anything, I thought things could have been worse."

Jessica Burley, The National Magazine Company’s managing director, attributed Cosmopolitan’s relatively solid performance to editorial changes: "The magazine has undergone a makeover in recent months, giving the brand a more upbeat tempo and fresh design template."

Observers agree with Kippin, arguing that women’s weeklies are providing increasingly strong competition for young, monthly fashion titles. Clare Rush, the head of press at Mediaedge:cia, says: "In the past five years, 12 weeklies have launched. What we have seen is gossip becoming the social currency, some women no longer want just a fashion and beauty monthly."

Rush feels women’s titles that do not have a clear positioning in the market will be the ones to suffer the most and may not be able to afford expensive covermounting exercises indefinitely.

For now, though, titles such as Marie Claire (up 0.5 per cent) are managing to just about hold their own against the weeklies. However, Emap’s Grazia increased its weekly sale by 25.6 per cent and Look entered the fray with a mass- market positioning. Its publisher, IPC, argues that it provides more of a focus on high-street fashion than its competitors and is for women from all backgrounds. Evelyn Webster, the managing director of IPC Connect, says: "The high-street fashion market has never been hotter – young women are relishing their decade of indulgence and Look is their perfect weekly fashion fix."

Among the titles showing the largest declines in the sector, aside from Glamour, was Emap’s New Woman, which haemorrhaged readers after a relaunch. Also at the older end of the market, Emap’s Yours, NatMags’ Prima and Good Housekeeping saw a decline in sales, indicating the more generalist titles are in the firing line.

Vogue grew its circulation, showing that fashion titles with a strong brand and positioning continue to be in demand. Back on the celebrity theme, the titles which performed most strongly seemed to be those monthlies that offered an alternative to the recently launched weeklies: NatMags’ She, IPC Media’s Essentials, and Hachette Filipacchi’s Psychologies. A revamped She recorded a 15.8 per cent rise in circulation to 169,112, Essentials leapt 34.9 per cent to 100,047 and Psychologies rose by 25 per cent to 130,101.

Andy Taylor, the associate press director at Carat, says: "These titles have provided alternative content to celebrity and fashion editorial and this has helped set them apart from their monthly counterparts."

Verdict Some take the view that the launch of celebrity and fashion weeklies have cannibalised monthly sales. There is increasing evidence for this in the ABC figures, leading to a distinct possibility that those monthlies who haven’t already done so will change or revamp their product offerings to counter the competition.

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