Sales of men's monthlies increased by 5.6 per cent in the second half of 2003, with "upmarket" titles generally faring better than the mid-market publications.
Conde Nast's GQ, The National Magazine Company's Esquire, Rodale's Men's Health and Emap's Arena, which recorded a 28.1 per cent year-on-year increase, all outperformed the market-leading titles FHM, Loaded and Maxim. Haymarket's Stuff also posted an impressive increase.
Sales of Emap's FHM and IPC's Loaded were flat and Maxim, published by Dennis, suffered a small decline. The launches of the men's weekly titles Nuts, published by IPC, and Zoo Weekly, published by Emap, are expected to lead to further declines in monthly circulations as men try the new products at the expense of monthly magazines.
James Carter, the publishing director for FHM UK, says: "In the context of the market, this is a fantastic result. Our direct competitors are Maxim, Loaded and Front, and if you combine the actively purchased copies of each title, it's still less than FHM."
Loaded increased its lead on Maxim and halted its sales decline, with the gung-ho approach taken by its new editor, Martin Daubney, appearing to pay off. However, Loaded's circulation climbed by less than 1 per cent and was down year on year.
Eric Fuller, the group publishing director at IPC Ignite!, says: "We're extremely pleased. Having absolute stability in Loaded's ABC was our ambition and that is what we have achieved."
The Maxim publishing director, Bruce Sandell, says: "The magazine has been stable for the past two periods; we're looking to stabilise and, longer term, grow its circulation."
Arena recorded the largest percentage increase in circulation, moving its sale to 40,617 from 31,712 the previous year. This closes the gap on Esquire, which has a circulation of 70,164 but gives 23,000 copies away as bulks. Arena's figure is 100 per cent actively purchased.
Tess MacLeod-Smith, the group publishing director at NatMags, defended its large percentage of bulk copies: "We have high bulk figures because we have a strong relationship with British Airways. All those copies go to first- and business-class travellers. For me, that's fine - it's a legitimate sampling opportunity targeting broadsheet readers."
She adds: "Arena had a really good period but it's a very young magazine. It's taking readers from the younger end of the market but not affecting us."
Danny Flower, the publisher of Arena, says: "It's a younger audience than Esquire's, but our average age is 27 to 28, which is only a year below Esquire's average age."
GQ's slight increase is welcomed by its editor, Dylan Jones: "The aim for GQ is always steady growth and we have achieved this. The large-selling downmarket magazines are having a harder time and this will probably be compounded by the launch of Zoo and Nuts because there is no way the success of these magazines won't cannibalise the market."
Fuller argues that it is still too early to judge: "It really is hard to call. Men's weekly magazines are a radically different proposition.
What the women's market has shown is that weekly titles and monthly titles can enjoy healthy growth at the same time. That said, it's so absolutely brand new that you can't predict with any confidence what the impact will be."
Verdict The launch of men's weeklies is likely to have some impact on the sales of the more popular men's titles during the coming months. But small sales increases at quality titles such as GQ and Arena suggest there is some room for growth at the quality end of the market.
TITLE PUBLISHER Total ABC Period Year
on period on year
% change % change
FHM Emap 601,166 0.10 -3.10
Loaded IPC 263,107 0.40 -9.30
Maxim Dennis 243,341 -3.10 -2.70
Men's Health Rodale 220,446 0.77 0.78
GQ Conde Nast 124,022 2.70 0.40
Wallpaper IPC 107,814 -2.80 -2.70
Front Highbury Cabal 103,203 -6.50 -27.50
Bizarre Dennis 95,095 -6.00 -10.00
Esquire NatMags 70,164 1.40 3.10
Stuff Haymarket 65,016 4.90 8.10
Men's Fitness Dennis 60,017 6.60 17.80
T3 Future 53,349 n/a 6.00
Focus Origin Publishing 51,010 n/a -1.10
Arena Emap 40,617 24.30 28.10
The Face Emap 40,286 -7.80 -4.60
Jack Dennis 39,052 17.10 n/a
Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations, July - December 2003.