(Free with Purchase, above: Blueberry-print mini-shorts with Sept. issue of GISELE mag; cher-print large tote and small lunch bag with Cher Fall/Autumn Collection Lookbook)

In the U.S., you may come across an offer of a free tote or calendar or small handbag or makeup pouch sent to you FREE with your paid magazine subscription to Lucky, Allure, Cosmo, etc? Almost every women’s magazine out there has one of those freebie offers (though I’ve only seen an offer of a freebie with a Vogue subscription ONCE, and that was this past June, and so I promptly renewed my subscription by using the mail-in offer card so I would get the free bag, because although I really don’t need yet another bag…it’s free and it’s from Vogue, so of course I wanted it. Makes perfect logical sense, no?)

But the freebie is never included inside the magazine. Never. It’s sent to you about 4-12 weeks after your subscription is processed, so even if you were planning on cancelling your subscription as soon as you got your freebie, you still have to be pay in full and then go through the rigmarole of trying to get a partial refund since you’ve already received a couple issues.

In Japan, you can get a subscription to a magazine, but why bother? You may receive 10% or 15% off the cover price with a yearly subscription, and there’s the added bonus of the magazine being delivered to your doorstep every month so you don’t have to bother walking the 5 minutes to the nearest one (or three) convenience stores in order to buy the latest issue…but it’s financially not worth it unless you buy 10 or more issues a year. In the U.S. a year subscription to LUcky is something ridiculous like $12, since advertising pays for the cost of producing the magazine. In Japan, consumers pay $4-6 an issue for the latest women’s magazine, and unless you live super far from a bookstore or convenience store, a subscription isn’t that great a deal. Consumers are far more likely to just go to their local store and pick up the latest issue – and that’s where the FREEBIE comes in.

In June of this year, to boost flagging sales, almost every single women’s magazine in Japan came with a freebie of some sort, tucked in between the pages, and sealed in plastic so you couldn’t slip it out secretly while in the bookstore and make off with the freebie. From compact mirrors to makeup cases, eco-friendly tote bags to scrunchies, keyrings to cellphone cases, just about every little thing you could think of was included with the purchase of some magazine.

And yes, it wasn’t necessarily stuff you might really need, some of it was really cool, like some famous brands (Celine and Q-pot, for example) doing collaborations with the magazines and producing merchandise specifically for the readers.

(Paul & Joe Sister-designed vinyl tote, included with purchase of Sept. Sweet magazine) 

Though come July things were back to normal, with only a few mags offering up some goodies, again this month there is a whole slew of magazines with products included. There was even a list at the local bookstore of the items available in magazines this month- so you could pick and choose what you wanted and buy the magazine accordingly. A Marc Jacobs tote included with the purchase of the Autumn/Winter ’09 Marc Jacobs lookbook? A pair of thong undies with another ladies mag? A puffy scrunchy and pompon hair elastic with Popteen? Check, check, and check.

I picked up a pair of mini-shorts, a large canvas tote bag, a small lunch tote bag, and a large vinyl tote bag with my purchase of magazines. Free! Love that word.

(And if you have a Kinokuniya or other Japanese bookstore that stocks these magazines near you – you can pick up yours too!…at the dismal price of $13 U.S., whereas the Japanese counterparts are about 400 – 500 yen or $4-$5 a mag.)

xoxox from Tokyo



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