Last month there was a big news in the magazine publishing world in the UK that Wardour News would be closing down by the end of May. Messages of support poured in on social media and online from the community that embraces independent magazine publishing and strong print voices. But what many missed out are the opportunities and what could have been done with Wardour News.
If you haven’t heard of Wardour News, it was a place where you could discover new voices in fashion and art. It was a mecca for creatives to stop by and buy new print magazines. For over three decades Wardour News has built a credible reputation, and community, for supporting new magazine publishers. That’s what made them different. One would have thought that having that as your competitive advantage is enough.
However, retail in general is very tough at the moment. While physical stores are battling for survival, online sales seam to be rising quarter by quarter. The official reason for closure was rising rents in central London. On Instagram some blamed “greedy landlords” for its ending. Now, I personally never spoke to or met Raj Patel, the founder, but since ESTILA’s first volume was stocked there, I went in to check it out. From being an outsider (new publisher) looking in, I could spot a major problem:
As someone who previously never set a foot through the door there before, like with many newsagents on the high street, the interior wasn’t looking great. Old flooring, dated display units and poor lighting didn’t help to make me feel inspired. My immediate concern was that I made a mistake with distribution because I felt that my reader, who might have never known them, wouldn’t go in. As a business you can rely on your customer base to some point but eventually you need to attract and acquire new customers. Now more than ever retail should deliver experience and part of it should be a well-considered interior decor. This is something which online can’t provide. You might think that that’s not what newsagents are about but to me it’s obvious: one needs to do things differently and deliver service which customers don’t expect. Anyways, I left feeling deflated and almost embarrassed to send my readers there, even though it was supposed to be a well-respected magazine destination.
So what could have been done differently with Wardour News?
I think newsagents should start thinking about diversifying into other areas and provide services as an add-on to their core product sales. This could be offering a subscription box and deliver a well-curated service each month to its online customers who can’t physically go in their store because they don’t live in the area. Especially for Wardour News, who was established on supporting new print entrants, this could have been a great opportunity to explore. Another option could have been a Wardour membership where readers get a reward card and each time they make a purchase they get points which turn into financial or product rewards.
2/ CREATE A HUB
To me retail spaces are a great opportunity for exploring opportunities beyond retail. When we used to have a showroom, we regularly hosted events, product launches and open days, inviting customers to join in a conversation and be generally more engaged with us as a brand. Wardour News already had an established and loyal community which could have benefited from such activities. If it was me for example, I would have invited editors and their teams and discuss topics, artists and designers featured in the print magazines. One thing with print is that it’s limiting in terms of pages, but there is an opportunity to expand on that discussion in a physical space.
The whole point of partnership in my view is to tap into other audiences and markets. One of the biggest lessons I learnt after our business failure is never rely on one market. If that market dips, or is affected by external forces (which was our case), there is not much margin for turning things around. When no one buys, no one buys. But if you can have a presence in other markets, you stand a higher chance of surviving the dip. In terms of newsagents this could mean partnering with another businesses on the high street and creating a new product or service together. It could also mean partnering with someone bigger in the industry or offer a service to bigger businesses inside and outside of the industry.
As I said in one of my comments on Instagram, it’s not always “others” or “some other thing” that happened that is to blame for your own business closure. If you stop innovating and adapting to market changes and consumer behaviour, I can guarantee that you will reach a stage when you will have to fight really hard for your survival. In some cases, as in Wardour News, you lose the battle and move on.
Want to be part of a group of like-minded creatives who are going through what you’re going through? We have an amazing community of emerging designers, interior designers, stylists, fashion accessory brands, artists and photographers, where we help each other grow. This is where I encourage sharing knowledge and brand collaborations. No fakes, self-centred liars and backstabbers are allowed. Please join us here. And, feel free to share if you found this useful!