As Seventeen Goes Upscale, Can It Keep Its Readers?

Seventeen has been a reliably mainstream read for teen girls, but its readers will now have to dig deeper to pull off some of its looks because the magazine is making a big push into luxury fashion.
The Hearst magazine has been adding high-end fashions little by little, and its April style guide will be the boldest demonstration of its new direction thus far, with items like $400 Marc Jacob wedges and a $400 Coach purse.
These are the kinds of brands more commonly associated with Seventeen’s crosstown rival Teen Vogue, published by Condé Nast. But Seventeen editor in chief Ann Shoket believes that after years of recessionary belt-tightening, her readers are ready to start splurging again. “We 100 percent do not want to alienate our readers who want to shop at accessible price points,” she said. “We always want to be at reach for our readers…But there’s something to be said for delicious designer splurges. This style guide was a real reaction to that.”
A Seventeen rep said the price point for items featured in the magazine would stay below $500. Still, a $400 pair of shoes seems out of reach for many Seventeen readers (or, really, their parents), whose median household income is just north of $53,000. To its credit, though, the guide does offer a few items under $50, like Hue socks for $6.
Asked whether Seventeen is moving into the competition’s turf, Shoket demurred. “I would hate to draw a comparison to Teen Vogue. This is a pure Seventeen play,” she said, while adding, “We’re certainly in the same market together, aren’t we?” Teen Vogue declined to comment.
As long as the emphasis on luxury doesn’t put off its budget-minded readers, it could help Seventeen in the ad-page department, where it has lagged Teen Vogue for the past several years. In 2010, for example, Teen Vogue carried 800 ad pages to Seventeen’s 740. The April section helped Seventeen secure two ads, from Miss Dior Chérie and Michael Stars.