Publishers 'bulk crazy' as decline hits men's sector

 Aviator-style covermounted sunglasses and bulks were as much a part of the men’s sector as the women’s in the latest round of ABC’s.

The sector, down 5.5 per cent on last year, suffered closures of Later, Sky and Mondo. And 11 out of the 15 titles posted a decline.

Maxim, just 374 copies behind Loaded, said it would have taken the lead if it was not for bulks. Andy Semple, group publishing director of Maxim, accused publishers of being obsessed with the top-line figure. "It is just an ego thing. Everyone has gone bulk-copy crazy," he said.

Semple predicted another slowdown next period but said: "It is not an industry in crisis, it is just an industry that needs to be slightly repositioned by going back to its roots." Mike Soutar, managing director of IPC Ignite!, said he hoped to reverse Loaded’s 12.7 per cent decline with the redesign led by a new team and editor Keith Kendrick.

Soutar warned that Loaded would join in the covermounting war with "equal if not more ferocity than its rivals". He also stressed the importance of editorial innovation if the top three titles – FHM, Loaded and Maxim – were to survive.

"The one that does not reinvent itself will just plummet. There have to be some more risks taken. If you are sure of your values you can do it a thousand different ways, it just requires editorial enterprise," he said.

Arena was the only title to show any real growth, up 35.2 per cent on the previous period. Coming from a fairly low base, Emap said the climb was due to promotional activity and the editorial direction of Mark Ellen.

Louise Matthews, managing director of Emap Elan Entertainment, added that there was more investment earmarked and the intention was to go straight after GQ.

Although GQ intends to extend its print run by an extra 20,000 next month to test the smaller A5 format, its editor, Dylan Jones, said it would be a mistake for publishers to have a "knee-jerk" reaction to the current slowdown.

Project Jack, the forthcoming launch from James Brown’s venture IFG, is also believed to be the smaller A5 size.

Men’s Fitness, under new ownership, shot up 13.6 per cent on the previous period. Men’s Health fell 9.6 per cent while Front posted a 6.3 per cent year-on-year increase.

By Ruth Addicott

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