Retail and magazines have always had a relationship, mainly through advertising, but also via some other methods over the years. Indeed, during the younger days of eCommerce there was some push among magazine publishers to get more directly involved with retail activities, and that trend seems to have gained some fresh life in recent weeks.
The first example of that involves an operation called C Magazine, which covers luxury and lifestyle issues from a California point of view. According to a report this week (Jan. 30) from Women’s Wear Daily, or WWD, C Magazine, which is 15 years old, “is opening its first permanent retail shop this weekend in Newport Beach’s outdoor mall Fashion Island.”
Beyond the Pop-Up
The move follows previous retail activity on the part of C Magazine. “After a brief experiment with a pop-up shop two years ago in the Westfield Century City mall in Los Angeles,” the report continued, “founder and chief executive officer Jennifer Smith said sales were enough to show that this was a viable business opportunity. But it took time to find the right space and get the right brands involved. So far, there are about 80 brands featured in the store, dubbed Studio C.”
This move also reflects a larger trend, of course — trying to bring new life to malls, many of which are struggling, and are seeking to find reasons for their continued existence. As recently covered in PYMNTS, mall vacancy rates in the U.S. have hit a 20-year high mark. By the end of 2019, there were more vacant stores than at any time during the past two recessions, according to Reis Moody’s Analytics. The common culprit, at least from the point of view of mall operators? Online retail is getting most of the sales rather than physical stores. Malls are anticipating that more shops will shutter in the coming months. For instance, Texas-based Pier One Imports is the latest casualty, with 450 stores going out of business. Gap and Victoria’s Secret also announced closure plans, demonstrating how the fortunes of big retail chains impact the mall space.
Magazines, Marijuana and ‘Instacart-Like’ Delivery
Another big and growing trend in retail is the rise of legal cannabis — as in, the stuff that makes people inebriated, not the unregulated and growing marked for CBD-infused products. And that trend is driving the fresh entry of another magazine — this one a venerable if sometimes still controversial title — into the retail landscape of 2020.
The owner of longtime pro-marijuana magazine High Times, a company called Hightimes Holding Co., reportedly “plans to open flagship stores in Los Angeles and Las Vegas and later expand to Aspen, Chicago and San Diego,” according to a news item this week (Jan. 30) from the Los Angeles Business Journal. “The stores will carry High Times memorabilia and other licensed merchandise as well as an array of cannabis products from local producers,” the report said. “The move is a part of a multi-pronged strategy that also includes ecommerce, licensing and events, and a reshuffle of its management team.”
Over the years, High Times magazine has shifted focus from what one might call a gardening angle, with more and more coverage devoted to helping readers learn how to best grow marijuana, and detailed education about the differences in various cannabis strains. The magazine, once a symbol of the counterculture, hopes to stay relevant in this new era of legal pot, which is being sold via boutique-type settings (some of them rather upscale, at least for this particular product) and even via what amount to marijuana superstores, complete with food court options (a pretty natural and obvious offering, as you can probably imagine).
According to the report from the Los Angeles Business Journal, High Times is trying to reverse the $11.9 million net loss it suffered in the first half of 2019 — which makes retail not only an interesting proposition for that brand, but perhaps even a vital one. The idea is to create what the company’s executive chairman was quoted as calling a “multifaceted cannabis brand company that will now ‘touch the leaf.’ We will focus on high-margin business segments, including flagship dispensaries, licensing relationships,” along with eCommerce and delivery. According to the report, High Times’ eCommerce will be channeled through its online sites, hightimes.com and 420.com, and via its social media accounts. In addition, the new venture promises “Instacart-like same-day delivery service.”
It’s still far too early to say if magazine-backed retail efforts will emerge as an important trend for 2020, but these recent examples do at least indicate that the interest in there.