Women's magazines:
monthly glossies and slicks

by Tony Quinn

Women's magazines – the monthly titles are often described as glossy, or 'slick'. These pages cover the main magazines and their histories. They had a busy time around the turn of the 20th century, but the sector calmed down as publishers focused on their weeklies, which supermarkets preferred because of their higher turnover. One wonders whether publishers might try to increase the frequency of monthlies or produce spin-offs, because titles such as Queen and Vogue were weekly or fortnightly until the 1980s. (Historical sales figures.)

In 2005, the women's glossies sector saw total circulations increase by a fifth in the first half of the year (see table of women's magazines sales figures). The boom can be put down to several factors.

First, there were two big launches – Easy Living from Condé Nast and Emap’s Grazia. The latter aims to create a weekly glossy sector. Its Italian inspiration has thrived for decades, but it is 20 years since women's magazines such as Vogue in the UK were published fortnightly (at least for part of the year). IPC tried a similar glossy strategy with Riva in 1988, but this only lasted for six issues.

Second, there was aggressive price-cutting, for example Marie Claire dropped its price to £2 in the autumn of 2004.

Third, was the relaunching of women's magazines such as Eve (which was also sold by the BBC to Haymarket, but later closed) and the advent of dual format titles sparked by Glamour. Marie Claire and Cosmo now come in A5 ('handbag' size) as well a large A4 formats.

Next, was the extensive use of cover mounts, particularly on women's titles, in the summer months.

Finally, there was the popularity of women's magazines aimed at the 35-plus age bracket, with Good Housekeeping and Woman & Home standing out. All the fashion magazines, HFUK's Elle, IPC's InStyle, and Conde Nast's Vogue and Tatler recorded sales increases.

Of course, there have been losers, with women's monthly magazines aimed at 20-somethings losing sales to the celebrity weeklies and weekly glossy Grazia (which put on 10 period-on-period increases to reach 170,783 even though it added 20p to its cover price to £1.70). Conde Nast's Glamour saw its second six-monthly circulation fall, down 5.5% year-on-year to 585,984. Its rival slicks, Cosmopolitan, Company, Marie Claire, New Woman and B all recorded sales falls also. HFUK's B suspended publication in March 2006.

This page links to profiles of women's monthlies, many of which are known as glossies or slicks because of their high production values and upmarket editorial. Some weeklies – such as Grazia and Riva - are included because of their attempts to establish themselves as weekly glossies. The Observer's two female supplements are included as examples of the competition faced from newspapers (other examples being You from the Mail on Sunday, which is now sold on Tuesdays, the Sunday Times' Style, the Telegraph's Stella). Women's monthly magazines – past and present – are arranged alphabetically on the following pages:

Top five women's monthlies (end 2005)

Title Publisher Frequency ABC figure*
Glamour Conde Nast monthly 585,984
Good Housekeeping The National Magazine Co monthly 468,579
Cosmopolitan The National Magazine Co monthly 461,610
Yours EMAP Esprit monthly 421,438
Marie Claire European Magazines (IPC/Marie Claire) monthly 371,444
Source: *ABC (www.abc.org.uk) Jan-Jun 2003

Women's monthlies: details and sales

Title Publisher Launch date ABC sales
Jul-Dec 2005*
19 IPC SouthBank 1968 closed 2004
Aura Parkhill 2000 closed 2001
B Hachette Filipacchi UK 1997 (Attic Futura) Publication suspended March 2006 with sales of 150,536
Bare John Brown Publishing 2000 closed 2001
Chic Northern & Shell 1993 (Hamerville Magazines)
Clothes Show BBC Enterprises / Focus / Redwood 1988-97 closed 1997 (150,494)
Company (UK) National Magazine Co 1978 283,429
Cosmopolitan (UK) National Magazine Co 1972 461,610
Easy Living Condé Nast 2005 182,146
Elle (UK) Hachette Filipacchi UK 1985 (Murdoch/Hachette) 208,132
Essentials IPC Media 1988 118,853
Eve Haymarket 2000 (BBC) 163,671
Family Circle IPC Media 1964 (ITP) 112,597
Frank Wagadon 1997 closed 1999
Glamour (UK) Conde Nast 2001 585,984
Good Housekeeping (UK) National Magazine Co 1922 468,579
Grazia (UK) Emap London Lifestyle 2005 170,783
Happy Northern & Shell 2005 n/a
Harpers Bazaar National Magazine Co 1929-70; 2006 102,863
Harpers & Queen National Magazine Co 1970-2006 102,863
Honey Carlton/Reed/IPC 1962 merged with 19
in 1986
InStyle UK IPC Media 2001 196,857
Marie Claire (UK) European Magazines (IPC/Marie Claire) 1988 371,444
Mirabella (UK) Murdoch Magazines/News International 1990 closed 1991
Emap London Lifestyle 1988 277,862
New Woman Emap London Lifestyle 1988 231,066
Nova Newnes/IPC 1965 closed 1975
Nova 2000 IPC Media 2000 closed 2001
Observer supplement 2005 free supplement
Observer Woman Observer supplement 2006 free supplement
Options Carlton/Reed/IPC 1982 closed 1999
Over 21 Spotlight Publications 1972 closed 1988
The Passion   1997 closed
Prima National Magazine Co 1986 (Bauer) 331,715
PS Dennis 2000 closed 2001
Psychologies Hachette Filipacchi UK 2005 96,012
Queen, The Stevens Press 1861 62,200 in 1962. Merged 1970 (Harper's & Queen)
Real Essential Publishing 2001 (Bauer) 183,042
Red Hachette FilipacchiUK 1998 (Emap/Bauer) 219,689
Riva Carlton/Reed/IPC 1988 closed
Scene Spiro Group 1997 closed 2000
She National Magazine Co 1955 closed 2011
(156,674 in 2005; 144,583 in 2011)
Tatler Condé Nast 1709 88,189
Vanity Fair National Magazine Co 1950-1972 closed
Vanity Fair UK Condé Nast 1991  95,304
Vogue UK Condé Nast 1916 214,348
What To Wear BBC Worldwide 2001  closed 2004
Woman & Home IPC Media 1926 335,922
Woman's World IPC  1990 (Carlton) closed 1990
Working Woman Wintour  1984 closed 1986
Yours Emap Esprit 1984 421,438
Zest National Magazine Co Aug 2003 97,428

*Source: ABC (www.abc.org.uk) Jan-Jun 2003
Women's monthly magazines – back to top