Beautiful magazine, an independently published title aimed at "real women," has just secured distribution in Britain's biggest supermarket chain, Tesco, despite being only three issues old.
The quarterly magazine was founded by journalist Sue Thomason, who, for the past 20 years, has worked for exactly the kind of mainstream glossy women's titles that Beautiful rejects. She also works as a body-image coach, a role in which, she said, "I encourage women to seek out healthier sources of entertainment which don't put so much pressure on them." Beautiful claims to respect, accept and celebrate real women and to feature fashions that they can look good in now -- without having to wait until they lose weight.
Beautiful's first issue was available by subscription only, but its second issue was distributed in 160 outlets of Britain's biggest plus -size high-street retailer, Evans. The $4.50 magazine sold out in the flagship store and was selling at a rate of 1,000 copies a week in other branches, and hopes to replicate this success in Tesco.
Ad Age : Was it difficult to get the distribution deal with Tesco?
Ms. Thomason: No. I wrote one letter and they asked us to come in for an interview. Tesco were very helpful -- they wanted to be supportive of a healthy body image. I'd checked out several distributors and decided it would be better to go direct to Tesco.
Ad Age : Have you been surprised by the response to Beautiful?
Ms. Thomason: The response has been exciting and, yes, a bit of a surprise -- you're always scared when you start something new. We've had so many letters asking us to go weekly, and I got one this morning that said reading the magazine was as good as five hours of therapy. It's great that we're helping women to feel good about themselves.
Ad Age : Has it been difficult to attract advertisers to the title?
Ms. Thomason: So far most of our advertising is from marketers who don't advertise much in other places -- plus -size clothing manufacturers and designers [Evans, Brastop, Curvy Kate, IGIGI, Anna Scholz] who want to be in glossy magazines, but have a hard time getting into things like Cosmopolitan.
We don't take advertising from designers who stop at a size 14 [U.S. size 10], and there is no diet-industry advertising, but I'm hoping to attract food advertisers, because we don't tell our readers what to eat. I've emailed Dove but not heard back from them yet. I'm selling all the ad space at the moment because I'm the only person who knows the message inside and out.
Ad Age : You have an interview with singer Adele in the latest issue -- is it hard to find celebrities who are happy to be associated with Beautiful?
Ms. Thomason: We have had letters back from a couple of celebrities who say that it's not the type of magazine they want to be in. I doubt they've read it. Our first cover star was a Scottish girl who wasn't famous but wanted to be a model. She looked beautiful and got lots of publicity in Scotland, but we still got rude letters saying she's not fit to be a model.
Ad Age : Do you have any plans to expand outside the U.K.?
Ms. Thomason: Yes, we are trying to go digital in the U.S., where the majority of our online subscribers are based. The U.S. edition will have a lot of the same content, although we will make some changes. I'm already looking for someone to sell space in the U.S. We also want to create an online version for Italy, because we've had a great response from women there, too.
Ad Age : Were you apprehensive about bringing out a new print title in the digital age?
Ms. Thomason: The reason magazine sales are down is because they make women feel bad -- you can only stand it for so long, and then you are compelled to avoid it. I know that the plus -size market and the market for bigger clothes is booming. We are part of a movement to make change.