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EShopping's Niche Is the Rich

In a field dominated by publications serving micro-demographic profiles, Larkin Publications has developed a magazine that may take niche marketing to new levels.

The publisher plans to launch eShopping Magazine in July as the world's first Internet shopping guide for wealthy women.

Larkin Publications, Needham, MA, plans to position the monthly magazine as a combination of fine living articles and listings and ratings of Web sites that sell luxury goods, up-market fashion and high-end travel packages. And if that wasn't enough of a niche, the content and focus will target a readership who eShopping's publisher, Richard Slater, calls the most underserved market in the Internet publishing arena — affluent women.

Larkin Publications, which has published fashion and musical merchandise trade magazines since 1945, is betting that since women drive the majority of traditional household purchases, they will soon drive Internet purchases as well.

“Women traditionally spend 85 percent of household income anyway,” Slater said. “And it was a foregone conclusion that women would take over purchasing and shopping over the Internet.” If this premise does hold true, he added, why not develop a product that would focus on only the highest-income women.

Slater said eShopping will debut this summer in a 200,000-issue rollout to free controlled and paid subscribers who match the following profile: a female household member from 40 to 64 years old, a minimum household income of $100,000, a household net worth of at least $750,000 and at least one Internet-accessible computer in the home.

This market is also one Slater believes will be the most desirable to potential advertisers.

“There's a snob appeal to it, and that's okay,” he said. “We're in a very rarified atmosphere here. But those are the people spending the money, and that's what the advertisers want.” Advertisers for the debut issue include BarnesandNoble.com, Bluefly.com, Buy.com, Furniture.com and iBaby.com.

Slater said he worked with two list companies to develop two specialized mailing lists of 2.25 million households and 6 million names that met his demographic wish list. Both firms cross-analyzed the lists, matched names and addresses whenever possible and then pared the names down a potential subscriber list of a few hundred thousand. Citing competitive concerns, Slater refused to identify the names of the list companies eShopping contracted.

The publisher is set to conduct its first prospecting campaign April 15, with an e-mail offer to 117,000 homes. The monthly is being offered at $29.95 for a one-year subscription. Traditional mailings and consumer media efforts will follow the first outreach efforts. After the company determines how many paid subscribers it can attract, it plans to add the appropriate number of free-controlled subscriptions to bring the circulation total up to 200,000. Slater did not say how long he believed it could sustain that introductory subscription level.

In terms of content, eShopping is attempting to walk the line between the instructive, like Consumer Reports reviews, and the compelling, such as articles on fine art and family. Slater said the magazine will assume its readers are comfortable with the idea of purchasing online, if not the practice.

“Higher income households tend to be better educated and less reluctant to worry about giving their credit card number over the phone or the Internet,” he explained. The problem is that the size of the Internet is scaring them away. “When you jump on a search engine and type in a word, you get 90,000 pages back, and that's not an exaggeration. It's almost debilitating for someone who is jumping into this for the first time.”

Slater said eShopping's review section will examine Web sites' product assortments, return policies, online or phone-based customer service, shipping policies and privacy and security measures.

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