Unlike the men's sector, the women's glossy market has ridden out the recession reasonably well, suggesting female audiences still value affordable luxuries and practical advice in times of austerity.
Part of the 2.8% year-on-year drop in the market can be attributed to smaller disposable incomes and the fact that readers who frequently bought multiple titles - or monthlies as well as weeklies - may now be limiting themselves to just one magazine.
"When the high street has a tough time, magazines quickly follow," reflects Richard Johnstone, publishing director at Marie Claire. The monthly title has experienced a difficult period, dipping 9.2% period on period to 285,307, and IPC will hope that a revamp of the print product and the website, alongside a £1m marketing push, will reverse its decline in the next ABC audit.
"In former times, Marie Claire may have been perceived as too worthy, clever and serious," admits Johnstone. "Now, we aim to reconnect with readers by showing we can still be all these things, as well as savvy and fun."
Condé Nast's handbag-sized Glamour retained the top spot in the sector, despite a drop of 4.6% year on year to 526,145. The magazine is still comfortably ahead of NatMags' Cosmopolitan, which dropped 6.2% year on year to 441,663.
Some press specialists believe introspective self-improvement is less of a priority during a downturn, when adults are more likely to value a healthy dose of pragmatism. A year ago, Hachette's Psychologies was soaring, posting a rise of 15.4% year on year. This year, it is down 13% year on year to 130,608, coinciding with news that UK launch editor Maureen Rice is to step down.
NatMags' women's monthly She also suffered a big fall, dropping 14.1% year on year to 148,860, while stablemates Prima and Company saw smaller drops of 3% and 4.1%. Dominic Williams, head of press at Carat, reflects: "We are again seeing an oversupplied market and a sector that is bereft of enough marketing and investment to clearly differentiate the value of those titles."
But is there more at stake? Tim Caira, head of press at PHD, cites the declining quality of covermounts as a significant factor in the decline in the women's monthly market.
He says: "A few years ago, the lavish covermounts on some of the larger titles provided readers with an instant value incentive to purchase. In recent months, the quality and frequency of much of these have declined."
After its relaunch last September, Bauer Consumer Media's More! has performed strongly, with a 17.3% year-on-year increase to 190,708. The figures seem to vindicate a switch from fortnightly to weekly, as well as a special offer where the title was sold with sister title Heat.
Among the weeklies, Bauer's Grazia rose 0.7% year on year to 228,694. IPC's Look also captured the cost-conscious mood, rising 0.3% period on period to 315,410.
This article was first published on mediaweek.co.uk