Shopping Around for the Right Feel

I wrote about Cargo magazine a year ago, when its first issue appeared, and intrepid reporter that I am, I missed the only Jewish wrinkle in the entire story – that the editor in chief is Ariel Foxman, son of Abraham Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League.

I recall not even looking at the editor's note, which would have revealed this fact. But I was far more interested in the notion of publishing a magazine telling people how to shop, which seems rather redundant in our consumer society.

I backed into the topic by looking first at Lucky and Shop, magazines aimed at women, then spoke of Cargo, which was the first such publication geared to men.

Men, in this equation, would seem to have a deficiency, at least when compared to women. The old cliché, as far as shopping goes, is that the girl drags the guy to the mall, then he sits and grows bored.

But as it turns out, both men and women are deficient in the shopping gene. Let's take Lucky, for example, one of the great successes among recent magazines. It's based on a simple premise: The majority of women are filled with anxiety when it comes to buying clothes. The body-image thing has always been a problem for women, but the formula behind Lucky speaks to a sociologically deeper point. The typical American woman feels intimidated not just by size issues, but by salespeople and the very mechanics of putting an outfit together.

Lucky is dedicated to helping dissipate such anxiety. It's refreshingly down to earth; none of the haute couture stuff here. This is about simple solutions to assembling a clean look, then adding the right accessories. Lucky does it all for you in easy-to-digest photo spreads.

Cargo is based on much the same formula, but tweaked to make it palatable to men. It works on the idea that guys may not like to shop, per se, but they do like stuff – lots and lots of stuff – especially the techno kind. So Cargo looks like other men's magazines, especially some of the new, raunchier type (think Stuff and Maxim), but with a scrubbed veneer.

In its earliest incarnations, the magazine was described as "The New Buyer's Guide for Men"; one year later, it's "Your Money Well Spent." The July/August issue has also been designated "The Summer Fun Issue." Inside, we're told, will be lots of "Sex, Sand & Sea."

Indeed, Cargo's taken a bit of a turn, adopting the sense of being a guide to a man's sex life and sensibilities. "Turn Her On!" screams a headline. "866 Women Reveal the Secrets to Catching Their Eye."

There's been a change in the cover design as well. They used to show guys surrounded by lots of buyable merchandise; a few months ago, women began intruding on the covers. You could see a foot or leg poking into the scene. Now there's a woman in a bikini draped across a guy's midriff. She's even in the forefront; he's pushed into the background.

Who said sexy stuff doesn't sell?



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here