Express Newspapers has been in the throes of a commercial revolution, and part of that process has been the decision to re-open a Manchester office this autumn, after a ten-year absence.
We know from the success of our Scottish office it is important to use local people who understand local businesses, recognise the needs of the community and are attuned to the culture of the area. This enables us to offer innovative national or localised commercial opportunities.
Our recent investment in the Scottish office and the re-establishment of a Manchester office is a clear affirmation of our belief in the prosperity of these regions. The North has hardly been a case of smokestack industries in terminal decline. During the last recession it fared considerably better than the South.
Economic buoyancy means those in Wales, Scotland, North and North-west England are the most optimistic about their economic prospects – 43 per cent expect the economy to improve over the next year. Anybody who’s familiar with these areas can see that confidence.
Express Newspapers, and the advertising agencies which are busy opening regional offices, are joining those in the industry who have already recognised this opportunity.
Good relationships with advertising communities are extremely important. Clients deserve respect for their enterprise. They should be able to see us on a regular basis, and are entitled to prompt accountability. They have the right to assume their problems will be solved by sales people who understand the market.
They don’t want annual visits that, at best, render them uncertain as to the level of service and depth of knowledge they can expect from an office hundreds of miles away and, at worse, leave them feeling patronised and exploited.
We should have a commitment to these regions because our papers are strong there. The Express and Express on Sunday are more likely to reach adults in the North and Midlands than any other mid-market or quality national title. The Star, within its market, could be defined as The Newspaper of the North, with 61 per cent of its readers and advertisers in that region.
So we are saying yes to editorial and commercial devolution. The office in Manchester will be the hub of a northern operation, covering the North-west, North-east, Yorkshire and the Midlands. Similarly, the Scottish office will embrace all commercial opportunities in Scotland. They will not be distant outposts of the London head office.
They will exist in their own right, drive their own business, and make their own decisions, while incorporating the sales philosophy of Express Newspapers – which is to understand the market, and service it energetically and imaginatively.