Elle to roll out national edition

A fashionable newcomer is about to join the familiar faces on Canadian newsstands....

A fashionable newcomer is about to join the familiar faces on Canadian newsstands.

Elle Canada, a Canadian-content version of the popular U.S. fashion title Elle, is scheduled to launch in February. The glossy magazine will be produced as a joint venture between Montreal-based Transcontinental Publications and Hachette Filipacchi Magazines, worldwide owner of Elle.

André Préfontaine, president of Transcontinental, says Elle Canada will target women 18-34, offering a mix of fashion and beauty editorial presented with ‘a social conscience.’ (In order to comply with foreign ownership laws, the magazine will feature at least 80% domestic content.)

He projects a paid circulation of 130,000 in the magazine’s first year, with subscriptions accounting for 60%-70% of that.

A Quebec edition of Elle has been published since 1989, and is now the leading fashion and beauty title in the province, with a paid circulation of more than 75,000.

Elle Quebec was launched as a partnership between Hachette Filipacchi and Telemedia Publishing. When Transcontinental acquired the latter company last January, ‘we immediately started getting requests from key advertisers for a launch of Elle Canada,’ Préfontaine says.

Rob Young, senior vice-president, planning and research with Toronto-based media management firm Harrison, Young, Pesonen & Newell, says Elle Canada stands an excellent chance of success.

The fashion and beauty industry in Canada currently spends around $50 million a year on advertising, Young says – and they’d shell out even more if there were a larger pool of domestic magazines in the category.

At present, however, the number of English-language Canadian fashion titles with a national presence is minuscule. For the most part, Elle Canada’s competition for advertising dollars will be limited to Flare and Fashion.

‘There’s a pent-up demand for titles in this category,’ Young says.

With a paid circulation of just over 160,000, Flare is Canada’s largest fashion and beauty magazine. Publisher David Hamilton says he will be watching Elle Canada’s entry into the marketplace with interest, but is not gravely concerned about the added competition for advertising dollars – even though it’s likely that the new title will try to undercut his publication’s rates considerably.

‘[Fashion and beauty] advertisers in Canada have some very fine choices,’ he says. ‘It’s not a huge industry and there aren’t a lot of magazines in Canada – but the ones that are there are pretty solid.’

Flare and Fashion aren’t the players that should be worried, Young says. His prediction is that Elle Canada will steal dollars away from newspaper fashion sections and some of the other supplementary media used by advertisers in this category, rather than the major magazines.

The Elle Canada announcement comes a little more than a year after the federal government passed its controversial Bill C-55, which opened the Canadian market to split-run editions of foreign magazines.

The legislation allows foreign-owned titles with no Canadian content to sell a portion of their ad space to Canadian advertisers. A few U.S. publications – Maxim, Prevention and, most recently, Stuff – have launched split-runs in the last year. (As yet, none of the major U.S. fashion titles has followed suit.)

For his part, Préfontaine says joint ventures like Elle Canada offer Canadian publishers one means of staving off competition from foreign titles.

Transcontinental will be on the lookout for more such joint venture opportunities in the months ahead, he says. But they don’t crop up every day.

‘There are only a few selected niches where this is possible. I don’t think it’s a formula that can be applied across the board successfully. You’ve really got to be careful where you do it and how you do it.’