In another hopeful sign that the magazine industry—or, at least, some segments of it—may be turning an important corner, Hearst’s Elle brand is preparing to relaunch an extension, Elle Accessories, to include a projected 200-page, oversized print edition published twice per year, along with a “fully shoppable” database on its website.
Elle Accessories first launched in 2005 under its previous publisher, Hachette Filipacchi Media. It planned to scale back in frequency from twice per year to annual in 2008 but ended up shuttering completely that same year.
The new iteration will have “more of a luxury thrust” than its previous version, says Elle senior vice president, publisher and chief revenue officer Kevin O’Malley. He adds, as a motivating factor for the relaunch, that accessories are “becoming a very vital element of the overall luxury [market] recovery,” as U.S. consumers spent $36 billion on accessories in 2011—a number that is projected to grow in 2012.
For e-commerce in particular, accessories are “at the top of the food chain,” he says. “That has to do with the ease of purchase, no ‘fit’ issues, and it’s a little bit more of the impulse buy.”
O’Malley says Elle.com’s shoppable accessories database will not immediately extend to apparel, though that could change in the future. When the database launches this fall, in tandem with print, a revenue share will not be part of the picture, but that could also change after it’s up and running. Also, while replica editions on the Nook and Kindle will not be shoppable, an enhanced iPad edition will be.
As for print, Elle Accessories will launch with a rate base of 300,000. One hundred thousand copies will be sent to top purchasers of accessories through Neiman Marcus (the high-market retailer publishes two accessories catalogs), while 50,000 will be sent to Elle’s most affluent subscribers. The magazine will sell as a standalone for $4.95 exclusively at Barnes and Noble, a strategic launch partner, which will promote the title in store and on the Nook, through banners as well as content videos. In other locations throughout top U.S. markets, it will be bundled with Elle for $4.99.
Elle Accessories is one among at least a small number of titles to reemerge within the magazine industry, which was hit hard by a large wave of closures during the recession. Earlier this year, Condé Nast cautiously resurrected its beloved Domino brand for a one-off special edition. That same month, a group of investors announced plans to relaunch a shuttered news weekly, Beverly Hills 213, as a quarterly, glossy print title, targeting the affluent Los Angeles-county market.
The luxe category itself has seen what seems to be a disproportionate amount of launch activity of late: In February, Bloomberg Markets introduced its luxury lifestyle offshoot, Bloomberg Pursuits; shortly thereafter, Forbes announced the relaunch of its own extension, ForbesLife, as a standalone to be sold at newsstands; around that same time, Niche Media founder Jason Binn unveiled plans for Du Jour, a quarterly print and monthly digital magazine targeting e-retailer Gilt Groupe’s three million top-tier subscribers.
This lowered barrier between content and commerce may be fueling this renewed activity in the luxe category, as partnerships between retailers and content producers continue sprouting up. Last month, for instance, GQ announced plans to partner with Nordstrom on a sale, with more to follow from Bloomingdale’s.
Hearst itself has been busy with launches. The company now boasts a magazine portfolio of 20 titles—including its Food Network and HGTV Magazines, both launched within the last year, in addition to brand extensions Cosmopolitan for Latinas, a standalone title, and Marie Claire@Work, a supplement.
Hearst acquired publishing rights to Elle last May as part of the corporation’s $919 million purchase of HFMUS parent Lagardère SCA. Publisher O’Malley joined the title last June from Esquire, where he served as publisher since February 2003.
Under his leadership, Elle has seen record-breaking ad revenue and pages for its May, June, July and August issues. July, at 97.24 issues, featured an 8.25-page year-on-year increase in ad pages, while June included 15 more than last year’s.