Hachette-Filipacchi hit by changing trends

Hachette Filipacchi UK (HF-UK) seems to be making a habit of suspending magazines suffering from falling circulations. Following the decision to drop teen title Elle Girl last year, young women’s publication B now also faces the axe.

Hachette Filipacchi UK (HF-UK) seems to be making a habit of suspending magazines suffering from falling circulations. Following the decision to drop teen title Elle Girl last year, young women’s publication B now also faces the axe.

The monthly magazine is in limbo “until further notice”, with the May issue being the last until the publisher’s management team completes an internal review (MW last week). Media buyers and advertisers claim they have already been informed by HF-UK about the closure of the title. But a spokeswoman for HF-UK insists: “We have not closed B. The title is undergoing an internal review, and staff have entered a consultation period. Both are expected to last until the end of April.”

The suspension follows flagging fortunes for the title, with circulation haemorrhaging after recent launches such as EMAP’s glossy weekly Grazia, and the increasing popularity of other monthlies such as Condé Nast’s Glamour and EMAP’s fortnightly More. To keep pace with its rivals, B was last relaunched two years ago as the magazine for the “20-everything” generation, backed by “significant investment” from the publisher (MW May 20, 2004).

With B failing to increase circulation, the relaunch seemingly proved futile. According to the July to December 2005 Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) figures, it fell 10.1% during that period and 9.4% year-on-year to 150,536. MediaCom press director Claudine Collins says: “HF-UK gives up easily, without really investing much behind its brands. It was not prepared to put much money behind B when it languished way behind the likes of Glamour and Company.”

French publisher Hachette first emerged in the UK in 2002 when it acquired teen publisher Attic Futura for &£55m. It also acquired Red and Elle from EMAP. Since then, its only launch has been a British version of the French monthly Psychologies, which has posted an unimpressive ABC debut of 96,012 copies. Elle and Red are the only titles, out of a total of nine, to have posted recent circulation increases. One rival publisher says: “It seems busy reconstructing its editorial teams and doing internal revamps, which have so far failed to resonate with readers.”

Media pundits also believe that HF-UK is clearing the decks to get rid of its non-performing magazines in readiness for new launches. It is believed the publisher might be considering a “Grazia II”, in a desperate attempt to replicate EMAP’s weekly glossy success. The booming weeklies market – in particular Grazia, says Collins – has put a massive dent in the sales of most young women’s monthlies.

Simon Kippin, Glamour’s publishing director, adds: “The young women’s market is very difficult. Titles like Glamour and maybe even Elle fall into that category, but magazines like B, which are more of a crossover between teen comics and glossies, have a very short lifecycle. Teenage girls grow very quickly and like to trade up to young women’s magazines like Glamour and Company.”

EMAP Elan managing director Dawn Bebe, who changed the frequency of More! from monthly to fortnightly, agrees that young women’s monthlies have struggled historically. “We don’t think a young women’s market exists today, so we changed [More!] to a lifestyle title,” she explains.

The expected demise of B might have something to do with changing lifestyles and could even spell the end of an era. But HF-UK will have to come up with a new launch soon to fill the gap and maintain its reputation.

Sonoo Singh

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