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Can’t Get Enough Fashion? Hearst’s Fashion-In-a-Box Will Satisfy Your Appetite and More. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with William Michalopoulos, Senior Director, Retail, Hearst Magazines

August 15, 2014

“I’m most concerned with the store level conditions in merchandising. That’s where the rubber meets the road in execution. We can come up with these great ideas, but if they’re not executed at the store level, it doesn’t really matter.” Will Michalopoulos.

FallFashionBox

Think print is dead? Fashion magazines beg to differ. Take Hearst three fashion titles, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle and Marie Claire, for example. They “land” on the newsstands weighing nine pounds (almost 4 kg) early next week. And rather then searching for a heavy duty bag to carry all three magazines, William (Will) Michalopoulos, senior director of retail at Hearst Magazines came up with a great idea. How about we create a box to hold all three magazines (with a handle and such) and offer them for sale at retail with one price (in fact cheaper than some book-a-zines).

HCC I reached out to Mr. Michalopoulos and asked him about his idea of the “Fashion Box” and other newsstand related issues. First, the sound-bites followed by the lightly edited transcript of The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Will Michalopoulos, senior director, Hearst Magazines:

The Sound-bites:

On the background of the “Fashion in a Box” idea: The background of this idea is that it really comes from the fact that ever since sales have declined, we’ve seen multiple purchases down and statistics show on these fashion books, 85% of the buyers only buy one of them.

On the cover price for the box:
It’s $13.99, which is about $2 off the cover price. We wanted to discount it a bit more, but we’re trying to make a little money too.

On the weight of the box:
Nine pounds. And you’ll see when you get it; it’s extremely well made.

On how he thinks travelers will receive it:
When I showed it to Hudson News their first thought was this will be perfect for international travel. That’s where we get the most multiple purchases. They’ll grab it and take it on the flight.

On whether his head is up or down when it comes to the reaction to this concept:
I would say it’s up. I think you saw that at the retail conference from just our presence there, from our management to the people who spoke, they’re completely committed to print.

On whether the light at the end of the tunnel is the train or the actual light:
I think that’s to be determined. We’re going to have to do things differently. I believe we’re going in the right direction and I think this company believes that there’s light at the end of that tunnel.

On what keeps him up at night: I’m most concerned with the store level conditions in merchandising. That’s where the rubber meets the road in execution.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Will Michalopoulos…

Samir Husni: I’ve seen a lot of examples overseas of packaging different titles together and some very shy attempts in this country of packaging maybe two titles together, but this is the first time that we have three titles in a box. Tell me a little about it.

Will Michalopoulos: The background of this idea is that it really comes from the fact that ever since sales have declined, we’ve seen multiple purchases down and statistics show on these fashion books, 85% of the buyers only buy one of them.

Over the last couple of years we’ve really been trying to think of ways to generate multiple purchases. We’ve done some other things and actually when I first got here we looked at doing this three-pack in a poly-bag and we looked at it several ways and we just physically couldn’t do it. The books were just too big.

One of our rack manufacturers had some examples of some cases and I loved it and I said that’s it, we’ve got to try and do this. And I basically came up with a prototype that no one knew I was even working on. And when I showed it internally, it was very well received and then I brought it to B&N, I didn’t even tell them what it was, I told them that I had to show it to them. The second they saw it; they said we’re in. We’re in.

That’s where the idea came from. It’s really to try and generate more multiple purchases. And this way if you pick up the box, you’ve bought all three. We’ve tried some things where the customer can buy two and get $2 off, buy three get $3 off, with some limited success, but this way it makes it very easy for the consumer.

Samir Husni: And the cover price for the box is?

Will Michalopoulos: It’s $13.99, which is about $2 off the cover price. We wanted to discount it a bit more, but we’re trying to make a little money too. We want to see how it does the first time around. Primarily, it’s in Barnes & Noble, so if you’re a B&N loyalty member, you’ll get an additional 10% off. We’re testing it in some terminals as well, a few Hudson newsstands in JFK, Grand Central and one in Newark. And also NewsLink, their flagship store on One Ocean Dr. is like a constant store, five or six stores in one. They’re going to display it actually in the women’s apparel section called Mixx. So we’re going to have a few data points to look at.

Samir Husni: How heavy is the box?

Will Michalopoulos: Nine pounds. And you’ll see when you get it; it’s extremely well made. It was done by Ryle’co Display and when you pick up that handle, while it’s heavy; it’s very sturdy. You don’t get that feeling that it’s going to fall apart.

Samir Husni: How do you think it will be received with travelers?

Will Michalopoulos: When I showed it to Hudson News their first thought was this will be perfect for international travel. That’s where we get the most multiple purchases. They’ll grab it and take it on the flight.

Another thing about it that is so neat, it builds its own display. It’s going to be in the stores, not in the mags section; they’re going to have a special table for it. It can basically be stacked on top of each other and it creates its own display.

Samir Husni: So we have 9 lbs. of magazines and three titles for a mere $14, which is almost cheaper than a book-a-zine these days.

Will Michalopoulos: That’s true and a very good point. There’s been some discussion on the price, such as should we go lower, but I think we want to get some data points first and I can tell you internally at Hearst, it’s been extremely well received and it’s been sent out to advertisers and we think there is a lot of opportunities with some of our special issues for sponsorship and what else we could possibly put in that box as far as maybe even premiums.

Samir Husni: In the middle of all of this doom and gloom it’s good to see some innovative marketing ideas being created; as a person who is in charge of single copy sales for one of the major magazine companies in the country and one that has launched three very successful magazine titles in the last five years; when you meet with the hierarchy of Hearst, is your head up or down?

Will Michalopoulos: I would say it’s up. I think you saw that at the retail conference from just our presence there, from our management to the people who spoke, they’re completely committed to print. We’ve launched new product and we continue to reinvent our product. I’ve been here just over three years now and virtually every one of our products, from the largest books to the smallest, have all been tweaked as far as their editorial. We just had a brand new redesign of House Beautiful.

So my head is up. They’re very committed to it. Are there challenges? Absolutely. And that’s why we’re pushed to come up with some new ideas on how to do it. I think we have t be creative with the retailers. And I’ll tell you this was very well received. When we brought it to Barnes & Noble, their reaction was honestly why hasn’t anyone else thought of this? We’re all in. Let’s do it. And they’ve committed to it.

I think we have to continue to think like that and like you said, we have to continue to reinvent ourselves just a little.

Samir Husni: So is the light at the end of the tunnel the train coming or it’s actually “the light?”

Will Michalopoulos: I think that’s to be determined. We’re going to have to do things differently. I believe we’re going in the right direction and I think this company believes that there’s light at the end of that tunnel. We may have to dodge a couple of trains, but from our company’s perspective, I would say there is definitely light at then end of the tunnel.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Will Michalopoulos: I’m most concerned with the store level conditions in merchandising. That’s where the rubber meets the road in execution. We can come up with these great ideas, but if they’re not executed at the store level, it doesn’t really matter. That’s what worries me the most.

I think our biggest challenge is getting our servicing wholesaler and our partners to pay more attention to it and be more diligent on it. There are other issues, but to me if we’re going to sell more copies, I think that’s where it starts.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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One comment

  1. This is a good fashion magazine, but I wonder if it’s still available or maybe you have other fashion stuff to offer?



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