The annual barometer of fashion magazine health, The September Issue, will begin to hit U.S. newsstands next week. According to Ad Week, some titles like Hearst’s Elle and Time Inc’s Marie Claire already know that this year is a year to be thankful for, reporting personal record-breaking ad page totals of 400 and 237, respectively. Though not quite up to the level of 2007’s banner year (the year Vogue, for example, released its mailbag-busting 840-page issue), to see significant upticks across the board is a heartening sign for an embattled industry. Also heartening is that according to a new piece in The New York Times, western women aren’t the only ones who want their fashion magazines fat. As they are in almost every luxury sector, here too, the Chinese are setting the new demand standard.
And though early numbers in the U.S. are good this year, the market and momentum currently favor China, where fashion magazines have so much ad interest editors have no choice but to create additional special-interest issues, split issues in half (i.e., release two August covers), and/or sell them with specially-designed “plastic and cloth bags” to make them more easily carry-able. All “problems” American publishers would die to have. L2 founder and CEO Scott Galloway, however, isn’t completely convinced the love affair will last. “Is China really the fashion magazine’s savior, or is this just the ultimate head-fake?” he asks, pointing out that the affection the Chinese feel for print right now could be what Americans felt — and got over — in earlier decades. “It’s unclear whether their cycle will run its course in 24 months or, like ours, in 24 years.”
The profile of the Chinese fashion magazine consumer may be the deciding factor. Very different from her American counterpart, most notably in purchasing power (which is almost entirely floated by indulgent extended family members–the result of an ‘only child’ generation), she not only has the money to buy the magazines every month but also many of the items from the magazine’s pages. Laid out in the NYT piece by Lena Yang, general manager of Hearst China, the typical reader of one of their issues spends more than one-third of her annual income on high-end jewelry, bags, shoes and clothing:
Also strikingly different about the Chinese fashion magazine consumer is her preference for print over digital. Whereas in the U.S., more and more magazines are bifurcating efforts between the two to accommodate an increasingly mobile, tablet-reliant readership, Chinese women still view the old-fashioned book as an important status symbol.
And Chinese women aren’t the only ones craving monthly luxury reading. Just last week, Hearst announced it would be launching its 25th international issue of Esquire in Singapore–just in time for September.
(Images via Vogue, L2)