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It's been a rough decade for Japanese fashion magazines. In the ten years since the magazine market's peak in 1997, circulations have dropped a whopping 30%. The once dominant medium has seen greater competition from the internet and free weeklies. And lower consumer spending means less need for "shopping" guides.
As a solution Japanese magazines have recently started to include freebies in each issue. These items — called furoku in Japanese — are usually cheap goods and trinkets , sandwiched between the middle-pages in the magazine. Furthermore, furoku giveaways are just the latest step in the steady increase in "advertorial tie-up" between magazines and brands.
The real pioneer of furoku, however, has been publisher Takarajima, whose titles come almost every month stuffed with items from collaborating brands. Constant freebies have taken Takarajima's In Red, for example, from a so-so 100,000-circulation title to top-level 300,000 title. Takarajima's Sweet has moved from 200,000 copies on average to 400,000.
More than even magazine sales, the greatest proof of the freebie boom has been the sheer amount of furoku goods seen on the street after publication. Sweet's blue furoku eco-bag from popular select shop Cher was one of the hit items of summer despite only being available as a magazine freebie. The popularity and ubiquity of the blue bag led to even bigger sales for Cher's official white canvas eco bag. The new Cher autumn catalog from Takarajima comes bundled with a real canvas Cher eco bag in a new brown colorway. Now these are hitting the streets in large numbers.