Voguein Britain: Authenticity and the creation of competitive advantage in the UK magazine industry

Howard Cox, Simon Mowatt
2012 Business History  
Vogue in Britain 1 Vogue in Britain: Authenticity and the Creation of Competitive Advantage in the UK Magazine Industry Introduction Wherever people live graciouslywherever fashion is in force, there you will find Vogue. The reason for Vogue's international (even world-wide) leadership in its field is because it deals with the interests of smart and cultivated women in an authoritative, timely and beautiful manner. Advertisers in Vogue reach an incomparably rich market with the maximum degree
more » ... he maximum degree of effectiveness. 1 During the Second World War the increased participation of women in factory production led to a sharp rise in workplace accidents. According to the Chief Inspector of Factories the accident rate in factory work for adult females rose ninety percent from 1938 to 1941, despite the view that women in general were in less dangerous jobs than men and were usually more careful workers. 2 The fundamental reason for this rise in the number of accidents involving women was the greater employment of female factory labour, but one preventable element of the problem was due to the fact that women"s hair, worn long in the current fashion, was prone to being caught up in the machinery, and firsthand accounts of women being scalped were not uncommon. 3 Harry Yoxall, the Managing Director of Condé Nast Publications in the UK, related one unorthodox approach taken to improving this situation by Ernest Bevin, the Minister of Labour and National Service. Bevin wanted the editor of Vogue "to make long hair unfashionable." The prevailing view of the London editorial office was that the magazine reported on, rather than made, fashion, but in the national interest it was agreed that the magazine would emphasise the trend towards shorter hair observable in France and the Vogue in Britain 2 United States. According to Yoxall, "within a few months Absalom-type accidents had disappeared from our workshops." 4 It would appear that the opinion of Vogue fed through to the workplace. In the inter-war period the British edition of Vogue magazine had come from being a low-circulation loss-making American publication to one which was not only highly profitable, but was able to authentically influence British women"s fashion decisions. The reason for this success was primarily based on the development of a business strategy that sought not only to understand and target a select readership, but also to provide an authentic link to the world of fashion on behalf of their advertising clients. In the execution of this strategy, the management of Condé Nast and their editorial departments went from being passive commentators to active participants in the fashion and apparel industries, creating competencies that competitor firms in the long-established British women"s magazine industry found impossible to replicate. This paper begins by outlining the role played by fashion in the development of woman"s magazines in the UK prior to the arrival of Vogue, and demonstrates that the reconfiguration of the fashion magazine market by US-based publishers such as Condé Nast and W.R. Hearst allowed them to create a high-value niche-market founded on strong relationships with their readers, advertisers and, critically, the fashion industry itself. In particular, the paper analyses the success of the focused business strategy developed between the wars by Condé Nast as exemplified by its flagship title Vogue. The Early British Woman"s Magazine Industry By the launch of the British edition of Vogue in 1916 the women"s magazine market had a long established history in Britain. Cynthia White has dated the earliest professional attempt Vogue in Britain
doi:10.1080/00076791.2011.617209 fatcat:yisjyopav5ebhnw3yukwikzzkq