Here we are in the third year of our September weigh in, and to probably nobody’s surprise, the news is not good.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this feature, we began weighing and measuring some of the top fashion magazines to see how they stack up (literally and figuratively) against each other, since ad page sales are no longer considered (by some) the gold standard in determining a successful fall fashion issue.
This year’s September release was ushered in with some pretty negative press, including questions about its vitality and future. And we have to admit, after seeing our own three-year trend line, such questions are not without warrant.
Of the eight titles we measured, all but six of them were down significantly, and the other two were only flat. The graphs paint a pretty gloomy picture of the continued decline of what was once the most important month for many magazines—and not just fashion books.
If you could call anybody a “winner,” we suppose Porter, who remained perfectly flat, would be it. Followed by Harper’s Bazaar, who remained nearly flat, aside from a slight shrinkage in spine thickness, which could be attributed to a number of variable factors. So essentially, for the purpose of this report, it too was flat year-over-year.
Vogue, the category leader, retains its spot as the heaviest book in the stack, but its weight dipped 10 ounces since last year, and 15 since 2016. That’s a reduction of nearly 25 percent in just two years.
Anecdotally, there was also another troubling indicators with this year’s release. First of all, from our point of view we saw very little effort to promote the books in comparison to years past. Further, the release dates were extremely staggered, for no clear reason. Elle, for example, was held back until August 28th, while others were released during the first week of the month.
What’s more, it was difficult to track down all the titles again this year. And again, we ended up purchasing all of them at a major book retailer (you can probably guess which one). One of our team members even looked around a few large chain retailers along with some independent newsstands in Manhattan but was told they no longer sell magazines. Yikes!
So with all the bad news, here is a little bit of good news: four of the eight of these magazines feature a non-white cover star. By now most have heard about Beyonce’s Vogue takeover. But emerging star and comedian Tiffany Haddish as well as magazine cover regular, Lupita Nyong’o, grace the covers of Glamour and Porter, respectively. That’s noteworthy, considering it wasn’t too long ago when the norm was white women on virtually every cover, not just September. So while there may be little to celebrate from a business perspective, there is reason to be optimistic about the social implications of this year’s fall fashion preview.
Each magazine was weighed on two scales to confirm accuracy. Weights are then rounded to the nearest ounce. Additionally, each spine was measured in the middle of the book and rounded to the nearest millimeter. Because trim sizes and paper stock are not uniform, we measure both weight and spine thickness to offer a more fair comparison.