Some people will argue that magazines are already one big advert, so what difference does it make for a store to produce their own? Well, the main difference is that, while the average fashion magazine is far from impartial, it can include clothes from a broad spectrum of high street and designer brands, which is how you end up with a £7 Primark satchel on the same page as a £760 Ralph Lauren one. Of course the lines can be blurred when you get things like celebrity interviews where they are obviously plugging the cosmetic which they are the face of.You now also come across supplements like InStyle's Get Smart a workwear supplement in association with LK Bennet, which meant there was a high ratio of LK Bennet products to other brands. The thing that made this readable was the way it was well put-together, nicely laid out and still featured enough text and articles for the reader to know that they've put the normal amount of effort into it.
It is this balance between presenting your merchandise and making a quality magazine that in-store mags should really strive to achieve. I only have knowledge of the ones available in the UK, but let's take a look at some of them anyway.
New Look Magazine
Not much more than a leaflet really. 28 pages of pure New Look, placed surreptitiously into your bag at the counter by a sheepish shop attendant. On the bright side the actual content isn't bad, it bears the style of a weekly fashion fix magazine like Look or Grazia: street style pages, a fashion spread across a few pages and various suggestions of outfits. This is a good one to pick up if you need something to read on a short train journey or want some pictures to cut out for a mood board.
John Lewis Edition
I don't tend to get this from John Lewis, but instead from Waitrose, the food store in association with it. There have been about 8 or 9 issues by now, and I have to say that I still love getting a new one each month. It probably helps that John lewis is a department store, so not all of the stuff is own brand. The best things about it are the regular articles and interviews, which include colmns by Luke Leitch from the times and Jess Cartner-Morley from The Guardian. The editorials are also of a high quality and the subjects covered venture past fashion to include food, travel, motoring, technology and interior design. It's just the right balance!
Considering the fact that M&S is equally a seller of clothes and food, it's hardly surprising that their magazine is largely a provision of free recipes. Unfortunately, the fashion pages which they do include are reminiscent of a shop catalogue. It's OK, but the real reason to pick this up is if you're stuck for ideas for Sunday lunch, not after advice on what to wear to a party.
I've been reading the ASOS magazine online for a wile now, but I don't feel that's an ideal medium for magazines. Anyway, we can have a debate about that later, the point is that yesterday a print version arrived in the post which allowed me to properly look at it, and realise that it is THE definition of the perfect in-store magazine (which is ironic considering there is no store, just a website). It has proper interviews, a comprehensive culture section and an abundance of shoots. What's even better is that they go for some more well-known yet classy and intersting people to interview, rather than a big name who they know will cause a flurry of attention. In the May issue for instance, the cover is owned by Josephine de la Baume. There follows interviews with Kinga Burza, music video director, Shiloh Fernandez, the up-and-coming star of Red Riding Hood and Paz de la Huerta, from Boardwalk Empire. In addition to that, there are reams of style pages featuring not only ASOS own brand but also the other brands they stock, including: See by Cloe, Peter Jensen, Jonathan Saunders and French Connection. If you read one brand-produced magazine, make it this one.