When the major publishing houses began their ABC announcements by talking about the increasingly tough women's market, it was obvious that individual figures were going to be disappointing.
Several were. There were double-digit year-on-year losses for titles such as Gruner & Jahr's Prima. This had a dramatic fall from grace, losing its number one spot with a sales decline of 17.4per cent. Emap Elan's Minx was also down by 18.2 per cent, and NatMags Company fell by 16.6 per cent.
There were winners however. IPC Southbank's Woman's Journal demonstrated an amazing turnaround following its relaunch in September. Registering a miserable 19.8 per cent fall to a 103,209 circulation during the last round of ABCs, the magazine managed to boost circulation by 20.4 per cent to 133,407. "It's as near a publishing phenomenon as anything I have witnessed," said IPC Southbank publishing director, Rita Lewis. It remains to be seen whether IPC can maintain the expensive covermounts that have contributed to its success.
Rumours abounded that IPC's Marie Claire had outsold Cosmopolitan for the first time. The figures revealed that this was true only of news-stand sales, prompting NatMags to draw its claws and accuse IPC of creating a 'misleading spin'. Cosmopolitan does maintain the number one slot with a circulation of 470,280, although it is down year-on-year by 1.3 per cent compared to Marie Claire's year-on-year gain of 1.1 per cent.
Elsewhere in the NatMags stable, She maintained its strong ties with thirty-something women - an increasingly competitive market. The publisher claims to have "lots of plans" including improved content for Company, which fell by 16.6 per cent.
Attic Futura's B reported a disappointing 3.5 per cent fall. Its last figures showed a healthy 11.1 per cent year on year rise.
With the exception of Minx, Emap Elan's glossies all showed growth with Red up 4.2 per cent, Elle up 4.8 per cent and New Woman up 5.6 per cent year-on-year.
Verdict: The market is poised for a wealth of new launches from the BBC, Gruner & Jahr, John Brown and Parkhill, several of which are believed to be targeting the thirty-something woman. The move comes as editors respond to the changing profile of the female population. According to Terry Mansfield, managing director of NatMags, "The emphasis will be on keeping a date, not finding one."