While the bridal market represents only 3 percent of U.S. households, according to Howard Friedberg, associate publisher, it makes up 10 to 20 percent of all home furnishing sales.
“Bridal is an upscale market,” pointed out Friedberg, who said home furnishings make up 25 percent of their ad linage, with high-end tabletop being one of the largest categories. “Couples getting married today are older than a generation ago. There are more two-earner families, which doubles the average income, and they tend to see home furnishings as more permanent acquisitions.”
Cele Lalli, editor-in-chief, agreed, “Overall, their tastes are more sophisticated. They’re taking time to search out home furnishings that fit into the lifestyle they’re going to pursue, and there is a lot of preliminary communication.”
Lalli said Modern Bride, published by CBSM has responded by providing more consumer information features, decorating and purchasing information, and how-to articles. She noted many of her readers look for dual-purpose furnishings such as desks that can double as buffets.
“The image of the newlyweds getting by with orange crates is just not true,” said Edward Abramson, advertising director for Conde Nast’s Brides magazine. “They’re setting themselves up for a good lifestyle like they’ve never done before. They have nothing, they need everything, and they’ll buy most of it within the first six months.”
Another high-purchase group is new homeowners or apartment dwellers. This summer, Changing Homes, a quarterly magazine targeted to this market, made its debut in more than 6 million households in 25 major metropolitan areas. It is distributed free through local participating utilities.
Home furnishings is a top priority for readers, according to Rick Del Mastro, publisher and chief executive officer. “Ninety percent of those moving do so for positive reasons, such as more space or an expanded family. They’re looking to upgrade their furnishings in their new environment.”
According to a survey by Certified Marketing Services Inc., 30 percent of all people buy new dining room furniture within the first year of moving; 65 percent buy new lamps; 49 percent purchase new televisions, and 31 percent get a new stereo or VCR.
Purchases decrease substantially after the first year. Changing Homes, however, does not have to address that problem since readers are dropped a year after they get the first issue.
For those with very specific tastes, a number of magazines have aligned themselves along style lines — many with a distinctively country flavor, focusing on traditional furniture, furnishing and Americana.
According to one estmate, as many as one-third of all American homes are decorated in a country style. In this era of high tech, people are looking to create an aura of warmth and remembrance in their homes.
The bimonthly Country Home, for Example, does a number of articles on items “invested with history, that have the feel of substantial craftsmanship,” according to Troland, including everything from hand-loomed rugs to Shaker furniture designs.
Country Living, another of the more successful magazines of this genre, was started in 1978 as an offshoot of Good Housekeeping and has doubled its circulation in the past three years to a current 1.5 million.
“People are returning to their roots — you’re seeing more interest in family,” said Regina McNamara, promotion director. “They’re getting away from plastic and formica, from streamlined looks. Even readers under high pressure who live in the city read about country living as a way to escape.”
Just over 54 percent of the editorial coverage is dedicated to home furnishings, with articles on items from period furniture and decorative quilts to antiques and collectibles. The publication melds the past and the present with columns such as town Crier, which highlights new products. “Modern appliances fit in beautifully with country kitchens,” noted Richard J. Sarno, publisher, who emphasized that country is not a fad but a way of life.
Colonial Homes began in 1974 as an offshoot to House Beautiful, gradually moving from an annual to a bimonthly. It keys in on traditional design from the Colonial period (1600 to 1800) and, in the words of Sasha Lawer, advertising director, “avoids the kitsch of country.”
“We see country as it relates to history, not as a design to copy,” said Lawer, noting that about 70 percent of all home furnishings pruchased in the U.S. are of “traditional” design.
Added Lawer, “There’s a wave of traditionalism in society. A lot of people — especially the younger, more affluent — are beginning to buy furniture such as antiques for investment purposes.”
The book is also getting more involved with tabletop items, such as silver, crystal and fine china, as its readers do more formal entertaining. “It’s their way of saying they’ve arrived,” Lawer added.
Increased entertaining has also spurred the expansion of food magazines for cooking and creating the proper environment.
Food & Wine is complementing its coverage with more hands-on information, such as its series on Great Kitchens, which includes floor plans, and the Complete Kitchen, initiated in September, whcih gives readers information on what’s available in product categories and comparison charts.
“There is such an overload of information out there and we try to take readers through the thickets,” said Ila Stanger, editor. “And with the kitchen becoming the heart of the house, design has become terribly important. Everyone is either beginning a new kitchen or renovating one.”
Country Cooking, an outgrowth of Country Living, first came out in October 1985 as an annual and will be going quarterly next year.
Publisher Wolf noted that, in addition to the best of “mom’s recipes,” the book also describes novel products and kitchen design. “Our magazine is for the cooks who want to spend some time in the kitchen, and not whip out meals from nowhere.”
Those publications whose sole thrust is food have still given their presentation a modern twist. Good Food, which came out in February 1986 and is sold at supermarket checkout stands, is at the far end of the convenience spectrum. “If’s for really busy people who like good food,” said Bob Young, associate publisher, who pointed out the Express Line feature, which shows meals that can be made with 10 items or less.
The magazine, which is equally oriented to men and women, takes a health-conscious approach, giving information on calories, sodium and nutritional components.
Even distinctive Gourmet magazine has made concessions to its readers’ busy lives with special features on dishes that take 45 minutes or less to prepare. While Gourmet sees food as an art form, according to Verne Westerberg, publisher of the 45-year-old magazine which Conde Nast has owned for the past three years, it is keenly aware of the aura as well and views itself as more of a life style publication.
He issued a warning for magazines that become too narrow in scope: “With the increased trend toward specialization, there’s been a lot of failures as well, and I think you’re going to see a lot more. You have to have enough to make you an important vehicle for advertisers. The danger is getting so vertical that no one can see you.”