Publishers smarten up, match mags, bags

by Mai Iida

Kyodo News

For 19-year-old Yurika Tauchi, buying designer bags at a nearby bookstore has become commonplace as an increasing number of fashion magazines tie up with apparel brands to offer their readers fashion items with the purchase of magazines, usually priced for less than ¥1,000.

Such magazines, which come with gifts such as designer brand items that could cost a lot more when sold on their own, are enjoying brisk sales, offering one of the few bright spots in Japan’s long-declining publishing market.

“Designer bags are expensive when I buy them normally, so I’m happy that I can buy them as a magazine gift for just several hundred yen,” Tauchi said as she visited a bookstore in Tokyo to see whether there were any gift items she wanted.

“Sometimes, I buy them not because I want to read the magazine but just to get the gift,” she said.

The boom of the gift-added magazines, particularly those targeting female readers ranging from their teens to their 30s, was triggered by medium-size publisher Takarajimasha Inc., which pioneered the concept.

Takarajimasha started out by offering a brand-name gift with the purchase of a men’s fashion magazine in 2002 and expanded the practice two years later to all seven of its fashion monthlies, six of which are geared toward women.

The gifts have included tote bags, pouches and other fashion items from brand labels such as Marc By Marc Jacobs and Kitson that were attached to its Sweet magazine, which costs about ¥700.

The business model to sell magazines with items once thought too fancy for a gift every month is working well in bringing back customers to bookstores and boosting sales, and thereby increasing advertising revenue, said Keiko Sakurada, public relations manager of Takarajimasha.

Such revenue growth enables the publisher to offer better quality gifts, which then bring in more customers, creating a virtuous cycle, she said.

Sakurada added that greater sales also mean the magazines are serving as a good PR tool for overseas or young but chic designer brands that have few outlets in Japan.

“At first, we had to ask labels for cooperation and persuade them,” she said. “But now they trust the quality of products we offer and many apparel brands come to ask us for collaboration.”

Among well-known brands taking part is luxury French label Yves Saint-Laurent, whose tote bag is offered by the publisher’s Brand Mook booklet line for ¥1,300.

“Before, people in our industry used to think of magazines as culture, but we think of it as a product and have focused not only on creating it but also on selling it,” Sakurada said.

“We consider the brand-name gift items on our magazines as a very important content of our magazines, like a main feature story. We don’t regard them just as a sales incentive,” she said.

The items are tailored to attract a wide range of readers to increase interest in the respective brands, she added.