ABC Intro: Customer Magazines

The positions of the three leading customer titles - from Sky, Asda and Boots - remained unchanged in the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations figures, but there was plenty of activity elsewhere in the sector to suggest an industry in good health.

Customer publishing turnover has grown 56 per cent in five years to £344 million, according to new Mintel figures from the Association of Publishing Agencies. It is poised to grow to £531 million by 2009.

While Sky the magazine tops the sector with a circulation of 6,709,861 (more than twice the size of its nearest rival), the biggest market for customer publishing is retail.

According to the APA, retail accounts for 17 per cent of customer magazines.

Holland & Barrett's title Healthy, published by River, made the highest leap of the paid-for retail titles, up 24.9 per cent to 280,075.

Sainsbury's title was close behind, up by 21.1 per cent on the last period, to 340,126. This is good news for Seven Publishing, which bought the magazine's publisher, New Crane, at an uncertain time for the grocer.

John Brown Citrus Publishing's Waitrose Food Illustrated was strong again, with an increase of 14.8 per cent to 300,153. The rise was a reflection of Waitrose's acquisition of 20 former Safeway stores, allowing the upmarket food retailer to extend its reach into new regions.

The success of the paid-for titles adds credibility to customer magazines and highlights the importance of ABC figures for those publications that carry advertising.

Julia Hutchison, the director of the APA, says: "The ABCs mirror what we said in our Mintel report that marketers get tangible results for investing in customer titles, especially in retail because epos data can monitor success of product sales."

Asda the magazine, which is published by Publicis Blueprint, continued its growth, up 5.4 per cent in the past six months to 2,584,693.

The retailer extended its portfolio, launching a health title called Good For You to complement its food range of the same name. The magazine, which launched with a print run of one million, is increasing its distribution to 2.5 million for the next issue.

However, not all retail titles were up. Boots Health & Beauty, the only magazine from Redwood with an ABC figure, retained its position at number three with a circulation of 1,766,893, despite a fall of 3.7 per cent. The Somerfield Magazine, published by Rare, posted a 1.3 per cent slide.

A new entry into the retail sector was Debenhams Desire, the only title to come from a mass-market, non-food retailer. The title, published five times a year by Publicis Blueprint, launched in November with an ABC figure of 973,116.

The growing popularity of Bingo was met by the other notable new entrant into the ABC figures: the Bingo Association's Eyes Down. The title debuted with a circulation of 984,946.

There were strong performances from magazines for slimming clubs, highlighting the nation's obsession with dieting. Both Weightwatchers Magazine and Slimming World Magazine showed year-on-year surges. Weightwatchers Magazine, which did not post an ABC last period, was up 10.1 per cent year on year.

Slimming World Magazine was down 2.2 per cent on the last period, but rose 2.8 per cent over 12 months.

The increasingly diverse range of sectors that use customer titles provides further evidence that the market is poised for expansion. And the continuing rise in new-business opportunities, which rose 24 per cent according to the APA (with the average number of pitches per publisher rising from eight to ten), is further proof of this.

Andrew Hirsch, the chief executive of John Brown Citrus Publishing, says: "The ABCs show a continued growth in the success of customer magazines. All publications have done well and there appears to be a renewed appetite for magazines generally in the UK. Customer titles are at the forefront of that growth."

The only blot on the landscape was the absence of O, the magazine for users of the mobile phone network Orange. The title, published by John Brown Citrus Publishing, was discontinued in November. The company is currently reviewing its strategy and it is expected to relaunch in March.

Car companies continue to support the sector, although there was no significant new entrant among the top 100 magazines. Vauxhall's VM The Vauxhall Magazine, from Mediamark, experienced a 10.7 per cent drop over the year. However, Cedar's BMW Magazine showed a period-on-period increase of 3.1 per cent to 266,173.

In the past, the use of ABC figures as a measure of customer magazines' success has been questioned. However, with 39 per cent of industry revenue (£128 million) coming from advertising in 2004 and strong performances from paid-for titles, their relevance is becoming more evident.

Verdict The sector is growing rapidly and expanding into new areas. This growth looks set to continue, with Abbey entering the market recently and McDonald's looking at an in-store magazine targeted at mothers.

CUSTOMER MAGAZINES

TITLE Publisher Total ABC Period-on- Year-on-

period year

% change % change

Sky the magazine JBCP 6,709,861 1.7 5.0

Asda the magazine Publicis

Blueprint 2,584,693 5.4 14.0

Boots Health &

Beauty Redwood 1,766,893 -3.7 -2.0

The National Trust The National

Magazine Trust 1,655,088 n/a 5.2

Saga Magazine Saga 1,247,180 0.3 0.5

The Somerfield

Magazine Rare 1,115,588 -1.3 -2.7

Eyes Down Profile Pursuit 984,946 n/a n/a

Debenhams Desire Publicis

Blueprint 973,116 n/a n/a

Homebase Ideas Publicis

Blueprint 444,991 -0.6 12.6

VM The Vauxhall

Magazine Mediamark 391,802 -7.4 -10.7

Motoring & Leisure Civil Service

Motoring

Association 371,940 n/a 1.9

The Garden RHS Publications 345,728 4.1 5.8

Unlimited BBC Origin

Publishing 342,680 3.7 -2.0

Sainsbury's: The

Magazine New Crane 340,126 21.1 4.8

The Caravan Club

Magazine The Caravan Club 328,305 n/a 1.7

Sky the magazine

Ireland JBCP 326,579 4.0 12.1

Waitrose Food

Illustrated JBCP 300,153 14.8 16.8

Healthy River 280,075 24.9 31.8

BMW Magazine Cedar 266,173 3.1 0.4

Slimming World Miles-Bramwell

Magazine Executive

Services 261,426 -2.2 2.8