New Yorker Cover Award, Selling Shoes ONLINE

New Yorker Wins Best Cover of the Year

A New Yorker magazine cover, right, depicting President Bush being flooded in the Oval Office after Hurricane Katrina has been chosen by a panel of the nation’s magazine editors and designers as the best cover of the year.

October 24, 2006

New Yorker Wins Best Cover of the Year

PHOENIX, Oct, 24 — A New Yorker magazine cover depicting President Bush being flooded in the Oval Office after Hurricane Katrina has been chosen by a panel of the nation’s magazine editors and designers as the best cover of the year.

The illustration shows the waters rising around Mr. Bush and his top appointees as the flood from New Orleans engulfs the White House, which was criticized for failing to respond promptly and fully to the disaster.

Barry Blitt drew the cover, entitled "Deluged," which appeared on the Sept. 19, 2005 issue.

The magazine-cover contest was held jointly by the American Society of Magazine Editors and the Magazine Publishers of America to promote their industry. Last year, to mark the 40th anniversary of the society, a panel of editors, designers and photographers chose the 40 best covers of the last 40 years; the two groups later decided to make it an annual contest for covers published between Aug. 1 and the following July 31.

In this year’s competition, another New Yorker cover was chosen in the category of best news cover: a depiction of Vice President Dick Cheney and President Bush as cowboys, alluding to the movie "Brokeback Mountain." On that cover, published in the Feb. 27 issue, Mr. Cheney, who had recently shot and injured a friend in the face in a hunting accident, is seen blowing the smoke from the tip of his shotgun barrel. The cover was drawn by Mark Ulriksen.

The best celebrity cover award was shared by two magazines that are not traditional celebrity magazines — Harper’s Bazaar, for a cover featuring the actress Julianne Moore, and Vibe, for a cover featuring Busta Rhymes. That these magazines could win in the celebrity category underscores the extent to which celebrities have come to dominate the industry. Many editors say that they often feel compelled to put a celebrity on the cover to compete in a celebrity-saturated marketplace, and that famous faces sell better than models or ordinary people.

The awards panel said in a statement that the Julianne Moore cover was a breakthrough on several levels. Ms. Moore is not automatically perceived as someone whose picture alone can sell magazines. On this cover, her face is partially obscured by her red hair. She is not flashing a big smile. And her dress and the type used on the cover are green, a color often worn by redheads but one that has traditionally been considered poison on the newsstand.

The Vibe cover showed Busta Rhymes with a piece of duct tape over his mouth, a reference to his supposed withholding of information regarding the murder of his bodyguard. The panel lauded him for being willing to poke fun at himself.

Cynthia Leive, the editor of Glamour, who announced the winners today at the magazine society’s annual meeting here, said a cover could become iconic because, in a single visual statement, "it has the potential to live on for decades and become an indelible part of our culture."

Winning covers and runners-up in all categories are posted online at the society’s web site, www.asme.magazine.org.

 

Selling Shoes Online, With an Eye Toward Fewer Clicks

Jan Stürmann for The New York Times

Toby C. Lenk, president of Gap Direct, Gap Inc.’s Internet division, said last year’s expensive technology upgrade was paying off sooner than anticipated.

October 23, 2006
E-Commerce Report

Selling Shoes Online, With an Eye Toward Fewer Clicks

EARLY in the first e-commerce boom, there was a widespread idea that shoes just didn’t fit in. No one wanted to buy shoes online, the thinking went, because getting a pair to fit is tricky and no one wants the expense and hassle of returning shoes through the mail.

That conventional wisdom was upended by Zappos.com, the online shoe seller based in Las Vegas that opened for business in 1999. Sales for the privately held company are on track to reach $600 million, up from $370 million last year, according to Alfred Lin, the company’s chairman and chief financial officer.

Zappos’ success is now enticing Gap Inc., which is mired in a sales slump, to trade its cement shoes for something a little more nimble. Last week, the company introduced a new brand, Piperlime, and a Web site (piperlime.com) featuring thousands of footwear styles from 150 brands.

Piperlime is heading into a market dominated by a category pioneer, Zappos, as well as an increasingly aggressive contingent of newer competitors, all fighting in what is estimated to be a $2.9 billion market this year. But perhaps more significantly, the site will be selling goods made by other companies, a sharp departure from Gap’s traditional private-label strategy (you can’t buy Levi’s jeans at the Gap, for example) and a shift that could presage further merchandising changes at its Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy stores.

Analysts said Piperlime alone would not significantly jump-start Gap’s sales, which were unchanged last quarter at $3.7 billion, but they said that given the strength of the company’s Internet division, Piperlime stood a good chance of leading in the online shoe market.

"Gap has the capabilities to offer a better browsing experience than what’s available for buying shoes online today," said Carrie A. Johnson, a retail analyst with the online consultancy Forrester Research. "And they’re striking while the iron is hot."

Piperlime, for instance, relies on Gap’s "quick look" feature to offer consumers an expanding window explaining product details without requiring them to click to a separate page. Ms. Johnson said that feature, which is available on few commerce sites, was particularly critical for shoe sales since customers typically browse through multiple styles before considering one shoe more closely.

The quick-look feature was part of a huge multimillion dollar technology upgrade Gap made last year that also included a re-engineering of the company’s back office systems to merge customer e-mail addresses and their buying history into one system.

"They have some very rich data to mine, and unlike many companies they can actually mine that data," Ms. Johnson said. "Going into new products isn’t a huge leap, given how much they know about their customers."

Toby C. Lenk, president of Gap Direct, the company’s Internet division, said last year’s self-built technology upgrade, which was criticized as unnecessarily expensive by some in the industry, was paying for itself much more quickly than he had envisioned. Since the new technology was completed, Mr. Lenk said his division had seen "substantial improvements in operating efficiency, customer retention, average order sizes, profit margins and sales-per-visitor."

But good technology only goes so far when you are selling shoes. Peter Cobb, a senior vice president of 6pm.com, an online shoe seller based in Denver that was introduced late last year by eBags, said Piperlime did not include some brands of men’s shoes, like Cole Haan, Allen-Edmonds and Johnston & Murphy, among others.

"The site looks trendy, but you’re not really in the men’s business with 20 brands," he said.

Mr. Cobb, whose Web site was introduced last year with fewer than half the 150 brands the site now features, speculated that some brands might have been waiting to see Piperlime in action before committing to the new site — a notion that Mr. Lenk, of Gap, confirmed.

Gap Inc., based in San Francisco, is also taking a different approach to merchandising than 6pm, Zappos and others, in that it often offers a point of view about shoe styles customers should consider, rather than simply presenting a multitude of shoes from which visitors can browse by various attributes. Among other things, the site offers shoe shopping suggestions from noted fashion experts, like Hollywood stylist Rachel Zoe.

Ms. Johnson, of Forrester, said such strategy was sorely lacking from the current online buying environment.

"Apparel is a bit of an emotional buying experience, and there’s a limit to the number of customers who want to buy from a bare bones experience, versus something that has a little more fashion infused," she said.

If there is such a limit, Zappos does not appear close to reaching it. Part of that company’s growth comes courtesy of a product expansion that brings Zappos more directly in competition with eBags, Gap and other apparel sellers. Zappos this year began selling small amounts of eyewear, watches and apparel, Mr. Lin said. "But we expect to ramp that up over time," he added.

Zappos offers free shipping and free returns, which helped it debunk the idea that shoes would not sell well online. (Piperlime has free shipping and returns, too.) The economics of such a generous shipping policy, which reduces the risk for consumers, is possible for shoes, which carry a greater profit margin than other apparel items. Zappos has since extended that policy to everything it sells.

Piperlime’s entry into the market could affect his business, Mr. Lin said, but he is not overly concerned. "There might be fewer people buying from us because they can shop on BananaRepublic.com and stay in the Gap family for shoes," he said. "But it’s not any harder for customers to come to Zappos."

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One Response to “New Yorker Cover Award, Selling Shoes ONLINE”

  1. Dave Says:

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