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STYLE FILES / Uncool facts behind fashion magazine ranking

Photo by Akira Miura

Takarajimasha, Inc. offers complimentary items with its fashion magazines.

By Akira Miura / Special to The Japan NewsThe monthly women’s magazine Liniere, published by Takarajimasha, Inc., was ranked as having the largest circulation in the category of women’s fashion magazines for the first time in the latter half of 2017, surpassing Sweet — put out by the same publisher — by a narrow margin, according to rankings released in May by the Japan Audit Bureau of Circulations.

The news became a topic of conversation because Sweet had consistently been the winner in this category since the first half of 2009.

Liniere sold a monthly average of 177,052 copies compared to Sweet’s 175,844 copies, according to the ranking.

Takarajimasha has announced that its 10 fashion magazines account for the largest market share of the fashion genre with 28 percent, far more than the 17 percent achieved by the runner-up.

Takarajimasha started publishing Liniere in October 2010 along with Glow, another women’s magazine. The word “liniere” means “linen” in French, and the magazine has attracted women who place importance on having a comfortable life and wearing feel-good clothes with a natural look.

Eventually, it cultivated a new category of readers dubbed “lifestyle-oriented women.” The publisher explains the magazine has a wide range of readers, from teenagers to those in their 70s.

Takarajimasha is known for its publications on subcultures, but is also succeeding in the fashion magazine business. There is a good reason for this: The publisher has made a point of offering attractive complimentary items with its fashion magazines.

I now remember something I saw a while ago. A woman bought a magazine with a complimentary item at a bookstore. She put the item into her tote bag and handed the magazine back to the clerk, saying, “Would you please dispose of this?”

This moment shows that Takarajimasha magazines’ complimentary items are regarded by consumers as very appealing and valuable.

Many other major publishers have managed to make up for deficits incurred in their magazine businesses with gains from manga, paperbacks, rights-related and real estate businesses, while also struggling to make their digital publishing businesses profitable. It can be said that Takarajimasha has become the king of magazine publishers while others are struggling.

However, as a longtime observer of the magazine industry, I wondered why Sweet’s sales have declined so much after having been the best-selling women’s fashion magazine for nearly a decade.

Let me refer to a story by J-Cast News on Jan. 9, 2010, which is titled “Takarajimasha’s Sweet prints more than 1 mil. copies amid slowdown of publishing industry.”

Sweet was first published in March 1999 and steadily increased its circulation with this sales pitch: “We’re 28 years old, we’ll be girlish forever!” In July 2007, it printed 200,000 copies. This number doubled to 400,000 in January 2008, tripled to 600,000 in April 2009, and increased to 700,000 in September 2009. The magazine was listed as one of the best-selling items of 2009 in the Nikkei MJ marketing magazine. The number finally reached the 1-million mark when it printed 1,056,320 copies of its February 2010 issue. Although there had been some magazines that printed a million copies during the bubble economy era from the late 1980s to early 1990s, it was an outstanding number for 2010.

The complimentary items with the memorable February 2010 issue were a large tote bag and a commuter pass holder, both by Cher, a specialty fashion boutique. Now, after eight years, Sweet’s number of copies has plunged to one-sixth of the peak, which is an extraordinary decrease.

Takarajimasha is undaunted in boasting about the success of Liniere and its focus on a new lifestyle. Yet that attitude has simply highlighted the bleak situation of the publishing industry.

I have one more thing to tell you. The fashion boutique Cher’s tote bags were seen on the street regularly for a certain period of time, because Takarajimasha had provided them as complimentary items many times. But Cher started closing its outlets around 2006 due to sluggish sales and finally closed its last one last year. Some people point out that its brand power deteriorated because its products were provided with Takarajimasha magazines too frequently and did not look new or precious any more.

Miura is an editor at large of WWD Japan.Speech

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