Headliner: Polished publisher keeps her cool as Hello! hits sales high - Sally Cartwright may be at the helm, but Hello! leads the way, Claire Beale finds

While her staff are celebrating Hello!’s Exocet circulation results, Sally Cartwright is busy trying to track down a few hundred tonnes of paper.

While her staff are celebrating Hello!’s Exocet circulation

results, Sally Cartwright is busy trying to track down a few hundred

tonnes of paper.



A Spanish lorry drivers’ strike is threatening UK distribution and

printing here is the only solution - if enough paper can be found in

time. If not, more than half a million customers, according to the new

circulation figures, would be disappointed.



Not that Cartwright is showing any signs of panic. In fact, Hello!’s

publisher has all the poise and presence of a headmistress of a private

girls’ school. While the women’s magazine world around her is a mire of

politics, in-fighting and penis-feature envy, Cartwright seems a

throwback to a more genteel time, when women crocheted antimacassars and

made their own filo pastry. She also plays on her refined image -

catching you by surprise when she starts sucking on a cigar or reveals

that she’s learning to tango. Her clipped manner is often accompanied by

a mischievous glint in her eyes.



Elegant and charming but firm, Cartwright has steered Hello! from a

wavering start in the early 90s, through a 538 per cent increase in ad

revenue to last week’s triumphant break through the half-a-million sales

watershed.



Average issue sales for the period July-December 1996 were 536,724, up

8.5 per cent year on year - the biggest rise of the women’s mag pack and

a victory flick to detractors who predicted that Hello!’s fortunes would

decline with the royals’ popularity. No Spanish lorry driver is going to

be allowed to soil Cartwright’s moment of triumph.



So what if Hello!’s editorial is hardly the most challenging or

incisive; its ABC1 demographic profile is a testament to its success

with a more upmarket reader. And if some advertisers aren’t exactly

waving wads of dosh in Cartwright’s direction, well, copy sales are

clearly healthy and a new-ish ad director - Jon Humphey, previously with

the Economist - has a brief to lure more fashion houses and financial

advertisers to the title.



Cartwright identifies her own contribution - in the earlier days, in

particular - as raising the title’s visibility among the advertising

community: ’I had to create an image for Hello! that made people more

aware of it, take notice of it.’ She has also taken a firm line on

distribution, honing the process until around 80 per cent of all printed

copies is sold each week - way above the market average.



The magazine’s sales history - from the early days of selling around

140,000 - shows that when new readers were attracted by a particular

cover story, a significant portion of samplers tended to stick with the

magazine and become regular readers.



Fergie and baby Beatrice take the credit for providing the first

significant upturn in Hello!’s fortunes, so perhaps the magazine can be

forgiven for turning Sarah into a permanent fixture. Bill Wyman and

Mandy Smith’s ’fairytale’ wedding and Hello!’s invitation into the Duke

and Duchess of York’s family home were responsible for similar

uplifts.



But don’t expect Cartwright to play the luvvie publisher. Does she live

the Hello! lifestyle? ’Not that I’ve noticed,’ she says. She met

Nicholas Parsons last week, has brushed shoulders with Diana a couple of

times and Terence Stamp came to the magazine’s Christmas bash - but as a

veggie teetotaller he wasn’t really up for a knees-up. Basically,

Cartwright prefers cocooning with her hubbie - the director of corporate

affairs at the TI Group - in the Wiltshire countryside at weekends.



Mind you, it’s not easy to escape the image of Hello!. ’Unlike any other

magazine I’ve worked on, Hello! inspires interest and reaction,’

Cartwright says. ’It’s not always favourable. I’ve had people be

extremely unpleasant to me at dinner parties. But everybody has a view

about it. Hello! has etched itself a place in the country’s

consciousness that I don’t think will ever go away.’



So where does she take Hello! next? Regular spin-offs, such as fashion

and travel booklets, are being considered, though Hello! TV looks like a

non-starter at the moment.



’We are very, very cautious about that, though we’ve had an awful lot of

proposals. It might work, but there’s no cable or satellite TV channel

at the moment that could give us the sort of audience the Hello! brand

name justifies. I think we would have to wait until a terrestrial

channel was allowed to carry masthead programming.



’But the one thing that’s certain about Hello! is that we aren’t going

to take it anywhere. It will take us.’



THE CARTWRIGHT FILE

1973: IPC Magazines, promotions and publicity manager

1983: IPC Magazines, publisher (portfolio included Ideal Home and

Woman’s Journal)

1987: Capital magazine, managing director

1988: Harmsworth Publications, managing director

1990: Hello!, publishing director.



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