Pros: To-the-point, easy to read and informative articles.
Cons: Price. Lacks thorough explanations of Consumer Reports.
Shop Smart Magazine is a new magazine, launched last summer, from the editors of Consumer Reports. Like CR, ShopSmart does not accept ads or freebies so the ratings are not influenced by advertisers. ShopSmart is styled as a shopping magazine geared towards women with the kind of product reviews that Consumer Reports is known for. There are sections on kitchen, home & yard, health & fitness, food, electronics, family, and autos.
ShopSmart is more of a CR light. The articles are shorter, much shorter in many cases and lack the in-depth analysis of CR. For product reviews, ShopSmart generally only lists the very top choices of a certain product and might also mention the very worst brand of a product. Gone is the familiar list of every product and brand tested and how it ranked. Depending on the product being reviewed, however, this is not always a bad thing.
For example, there was a feature on sunglasses. It runs for less than half a page. Most helpful is that the article lists [three] qualities the buyer should look for in sunglasses. Since sunglasses are otherwise such a personal choice depending on style, comfort, use, and price range, it is nearly impossible to choose one or two pairs and say these are great for everyone. So, in this instance, the brief rating and analysis is not a bad thing.
The layout of Shop Smart is much more appealing than Consumer Reports. The short summary articles make for easy reading, but if you want the thorough analysis of CR, you wont find it here. I dont doubt that the editors did a full testing of the products,and the article will often say how many items were tested and how many out of those are being featured. They just dont include all of that in the magazine. You get the abridged review.
There are also many generalized advice articles like Five ways to shop smarter or how to save money at big warehouse stores and a great feature on shopping the outlet centers. I find these articles helpful and I like that they are very to-the-point. There is usually one travel feature and advice on on-line shopping. One 2-page feature is called New stuff we love. This is just a random list of good new products. In the Spring 2007 issue, the hot new items were DunkinDonuts cookies, Origins Polyester Microfiber Fabric Table Cloth, Lands End, LL Bean, and Stafford Pinpoint Oxfords, and Energizer Energi to Go Instant Cell Phone Charger. The page also listed Not so hot new items: veggie chips, laundry detergents with fabric softener, and Kelloggs Special K Protein Water. So, although the reviews are only a few sentences, I now wont bother trying out the detergents that include softener.
There was a nice article about "charitable" purchases. Like the Pink Ribbon products where some proceeds are donated to breast cancer research, or the RED campaign that supports AIDS research and treatment. Some of the tips are common sense - it's much more effective to just make a donation to the charity - but if you are in the market for the item anyway, you can also help your cause. The article also cautions that some donation programs are capped at a certain amount, but the products will still be out there for sale even after the donation level has been reached, so you may think 10 cents of your purchase price is going to the cause, when the promotion is actually over. This is one of the articles that left me wanting more. There are so many of these products and promotions out there but only a handful were mentioned. Three shopping-for-good websites were listed but there was not a lot of information about how to find other such products, or how to check on a promotion and find out how much is really being donated.
Similarly, there was an interesting article about organic beauty products. Some of the best known, such as Kiss My Face and Alba, are actually barely organic. A handful of products were mentioned that are wholly organic, along with some information about ingredients.
Overall, a lot of information is packed into this little magazine and the short, breezy articles are a fun and easy read. I would generally recommend this magazine, unless you like thorough reviews on everything. I wouldnt look to ShopSmart for help choosing a car or a high-tech camera. But for everyday items it is useful.
The cover price is $5.99(!), but remember, there are no ads, so readers pay the whole price of publishing. I bought my copies at Half Price Books for $3 each. (LOVE Half Price Books!)
Even with the lack of depth in some reviews, I do enjoy perusing this magazine. It's a quick and easy read for those times when I'm operating with a short attention span. It would be hard to pay $6 at the newsstand, unless there were several product reviews that I was particularly interested in covered in the issue. I couldnt find subscription information in the magazine. I later read an article about the magazine that said they don't offer subscriptions. This is not so bad - if you have to buy it on the newsstand, you can browse first and see if there are enough items of interest to justify paying $6.