What does the future hold for the home interest sector of the magazine market? Quite a lot, if recent growth in circulation is anything to go by

The home interest magazine sector has enjoyed phenomenal growth over the past ten years.

In 1984, there were only four titles: Homes & Gardens, Ideal Home, House and Garden (which have all been published since 1920) and World of Interiors, launched in 1981. Combined average monthly sales stood at around 600,000 copies.

By the end of 1994, the number of titles had grown to 13 and circulations had tripled to nearly 2 million. It is the newer titles that account for almost all of this growth in copy sales: Country Living and Country Homes and Interiors, both launched in the mid-Eighties, on their own account for more than 300,000 copies.

But the really explosive growth has come from two more recent titles: the five-year-old House Beautiful, which has established itself as market leader with an average sale of 320,000 (January to June 1994), followed closely by IPC’s Homes & Ideas at 295,000.

Indeed, House Beautiful’s publisher, National Magazines, felt that its successful formula had been followed rather too closely by Homes and Ideas and took legal action against IPC. It is clear, though, that Homes & Ideas has succeeded in expanding the market rather than simply grabbing share.

Most of the leading titles consistently attract large volumes of advertising. The majority of this, not surprisingly, is from manufacturers of household durables, furnishings and accessories, trying to reach either the core “homecentred” readers, or those who turn to these titles for advice or inspiration on an important project such as new carpets or curtains. The presence in most titles of an index of advertisers bears witness to how active the readers are in gathering information.

It is this high level of reader involvement which has led to an increasing number of poten- tially lucrative spin-offs, ranging from “reader offers” and book publishing to reader events, which include the highly successful Country Living Fair and IPC’s recent At Home exhibition.

These activities can make a major contribution to profitability, and the more potent brands in the market have not been slow to recognise this. House Beautiful added a new dimension recently, with the launch of a branded range of wallpapers.

So will the Home Interest sector continue to grow at the same rate, and if it does, where will the growth come from?

With less than ten per cent of households buying a specialist home interest magazine, there is certainly plenty of scope for growth. It is likely that the new economics and techniques of publishing will encourage new ventures to highlight and exploit niches in the same way as the smaller existing titles.

However, the recent success enjoyed by both House Beautiful and Homes & Ideas will surely have the major publishers investigating the feasibility of further titles aimed at this end of the market.

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