Two publishing industry veterans have created Magazine Heaven– a one-stop shop with more than 2,000 titles run the way they think all magazine stores should be run. Marcello Perricone reports on Rushden’s new destination store 

After magazine distributor Comag closed last year, two veterans of the publishing industry with more than 40 years’ experience between them decided to open a shop in Northamptonshire. 

Full of ideas, the father-stepdaughter duo of Bill Palmer and Eloise Cappoci created Magazine Heaven – a magazine store run the way they think such stores should be run.

“The aim here was to create a one-stop shop for magazines, so we allow every magazine to have its chance on a shelf,” Bill tells RN. “We currently offer more than 2,000 different titles and we plan on having around 3,000 very soon.”

It opened a mere two months ago, but the store has already proved immensely popular with shoppers from more than 60 miles away. “People come from far beyond London to shop in our store, and we’ve got several loyal customers already,” says Eloise. “Word of mouth has started to spread and this has definitely helped to drive footfall.”

Magazine Heaven is the only independent store in Rushden Lakes Shopping Centre, and unlike stores such as M&S or House of Fraser, it does not have access to big-budget technology such as electronic footfall counters. But, according to Bill, the store sees “thousands” of customers both days of the weekend, and 50% of people who enter it buy something.

The store has also become a destination, thanks in part to its upstairs café. “People come a long way to spend a whole day in the shopping centre and we don’t just offer magazines – we offer food and a place to relax,” says Eloise. “Male shoppers also prefer to stay here and buy something, rather than get dragged through clothing stores.”

The café has other benefits. For example, the travel magazine section has been placed in clear view of its seating area. “Shoppers can see the magazines, so impulse and casual purchases are a lot higher than normal,” Bill says.

All magazines are displayed with their own bespoke fixtures, without overlap or overcrowding. This enables potential customers to see which publications are available and discover new titles that may pique their interest, and the extra exposure particularly helps with pricier titles.

“We didn’t want to put premium titles such as Apollo or ArtReview in the back of the store, as WHSmith does. We want to pull people in, which means no women’s magazines or TV weeklies in the front – we don’t want people to think we’re just like a supermarket,” he says.

This unique approach is visible throughout the store, with big posters of magazines covers on the wall and two LCD screens near the entrance flashing promotions at passersby. Bill wants this space to function as an advertising opportunity for publishers to invest in the store.

“Publishers who don’t advertise with us are completely missing the boat. They have to engage with consumers. All those people browsing the shelves? They’re buying,” Bill says. “Publishers can’t talk directly to customers, but independent retailers can.”

As well as digital screens, Eloise and Bill rely on their team to help boost sales. “We’ve got staff with interests in specific areas such as graphic novels. They are experts in their fields and can advise customers,” Eloise adds. “Our specialist titles sell better than the mainstream ones.”

To keep up with younger shoppers who they believe are slowly returning to the market, the duo plan to add touchscreen monitors to the store and eventually open in new locations, if possible.

“We describe ourselves as Waterstones meets Apple, so we want to have a modern techy feel to the place that is also comfortable and inviting,” says Bill. “We want to be the best magazine shop in the UK and I think we’ve done it.” 

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