Friday, April 2, 2004

Magazine watched for signs of success

By Anne D'Innocenzio
The Associated Press

NEW YORK - Is the Y chromosome evolving? Are guys really starting to care more about things like where to bargain-hunt for clothes and what's the best skin cream?

A new shopping magazine is being closely watched by industry experts and advertisers to see if men actually want more help than a wife or girlfriend, if they have one, can provide.

Then again, some may well buy Cargo magazine just to get through the whole shopping experience more quickly.

"I have a sense of style and want what is trendy, but I don't have a lot of patience looking for things," said Wilson Cleveland, 29, of Manhattan.

Cleveland spends about $500 a month on himself and used to do almost all his buying at few stores: clothes from Banana Republic, J. Crew or the Gap; gadgets from Circuit City, furniture from Pottery Barn or Ikea. "Admittedly, I closed off many options," he said.

Then he picked up Cargo, which Conde Nast Publications introduced on newsstands in March. He immediately spent $300 on shirts and skin creams from stores he had never previously shopped at, including Lacoste and Sephora.

"This tells me where to go, and I don't even have to go looking for it," he said.

Cargo is considered the biggest launch ever for a men's magazine, based on the 99 pages of advertising in the premiere issue. Conde Nast, which also publishes the highly successful women's shopping magazine Lucky, is targeting Cargo to men ages 25 to 45.

Stores including Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue and manufacturers such as Oxen Workwear have reported an uptick in sales of products featured in the magazine. Designer John Varvatos, for instance, has practically sold out of a $120 sneaker for Converse at his stores.

That's catching the attention of other retailers and advertisers. They believe the success of publications like Cargo - some competitors will be coming out soon - would provide more evidence of a change in male attitudes toward shopping.

"Men do like to buy things. They just like more information" than women, Cargo publisher Alan Katz said. He says sales at newsstands have been strong, based on preliminary reports, but couldn't offer figures.

In particular, sellers of men's clothing - which have been struggling more than women's - could benefit if they found more effective ways to reach customers, according to Marshal Cohen, senior industry analyst at NPD Group, a market research company.

A look at the male shopper

The male consumer - whether married or single - seems to be increasingly shopping alone. And not all of them shop alike.

According to NPD Group, a market research firm, more than 45 percent of menswear sold in the United States last year was sold to men who were shopping without women, compared with 26 percent in 2000.

Alan Katz, publisher of the new men's shopping magazine Cargo, said the publication's research found three different kinds of male buyers:

• The enthusiast, who buys a lot across all categories, and is the first to embrace the latest trends.

• The focused buyer, who does a lot of research, but buys in only a few categories.

• The guided buyer, who looks to publications, friends, girlfriends or his wife to tell him what to buy.

To get a better picture of the male consumer, Cargo spent months researching men's shopping patterns, including hiring Chicago-based Doblin Research, which applies ethnography, a branch of anthropology, to study what motivates men to shop. Men were interviewed at their homes and were followed on shopping trips.

Cargo officials intend to present that information to retailers and manufacturers across the country over the next few months.

Renee Lewin, Cargo's associate publisher for marketing, said retailers have underestimated the roles of women in men's shopping. "Men want to look good for women, and women have raised the bar."

Stores, she added, should target the "guided" male buyer, since he is the easiest customer. "Don't waste your time selling to the focused guy. He's tough," she said.

Cargo also will be learning from its new Cargo Council, a panel of 2,500 men who will offer their opinions on the issues as well as new products and advertising.

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