Driving foot traffic

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Magazine publishers and retailers, pinched by the economic downturn, are turning up the heat on co-sponsored efforts.

Luxury retailers in particular are teaming up with upscale magazines, but even Wal-Mart Stores has turned to Primedia's Seventeen for a high-profile series of events aimed at stimulating sales for both brands.

"Since September, retail foot traffic is way down, and at the high end, it's pronounced," said Tom Florio, publisher of Conde Nast Publications' GQ, which has significantly stepped up the pace of special events it's sponsoring in stores for subscribers, including at Manhattan menswear boutiques like Luomo. "We bring in our editors to talk about trends and invite readers for an exclusive evening with wine, and the cash register rings," he said.

The trend toward magazine-sponsored in-store events is not new, but has gained momentum since Sept. 11, with dozens more planned in 2002, publishers say.

"Advertising and shopping may be down, but private events like these bring the best customers directly into a retailer's store at a time when they need it. And it proves to our advertisers that we can deliver," said Lisa Hughes, VP-publisher of Conde Nast Traveler, which has staged several such events this fall. She added that each event includes ad page commitments that have helped stanch an overall advertising decline.

Rodale Press' Organic Style, launched last year, is also spending heavily on events at retailers, including a high-profile event Dec. 8 with San Francisco's Saks Fifth Avenue this month, where subscribers got free gift bags and spa treatments.

Conde Nast Traveler staged a special event for subscribers last month at Nordstrom's Faconnable in Beverly Hills that netted $7,000 in store sales in under three hours from 125 guests. At an event last month at San Francisco's Cole-Haan store, subscribers had a private seminar with the magazine's wine editor and got 20% off purchases of $100 or more. The store racked up $28,000 in sales, said Ms. Hughes.

This month, Seventeen kicked off a new series of quarterly in-store events in Wal-Mart stores, with fashion shows to be held at four stores each season; nationwide, Seventeen will provide Wal-Mart with a continuous video describing new fashion trends, and sales associates will receive special updates on fashion trends.

"We've had private shopping events before, but we'll be doing more of these in the future," said Mr. Florio.

The events will be promoted in the magazines and through direct mail to subscribers, according to publishers.

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