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Time Inc chases 'whole new aspect' to business with retail charge

Publishing company Time Inc is hoping to create a “whole new aspect” to its business with the introduction of two retail offerings for its popular Marie Claire and Wallpaper titles.

Speaking to The Drum following the news of its plans to expand the brand to physical retail stores, Jackie Newcombe, managing director of UK luxury brands, said the venture comes amid a restructure at the publisher which has allowed Time Inc to become “active in our development” and capitalise on the consumer trust in its brands.

“What we have become very clear about is the strength of our brands, the consumer trust in our brands and therefore all the possibilities that exist for us to expand our business. One of those opportunities is in retail; commerce and e-commerce.”

For Marie Claire, Time Inc has partnered with Ocado and its subsidiary Speciality Stores to capitalise on its expertise for a beauty e-commerce presence, as well as Marie Claire-branded bricks and mortar stores on the high street.

While Newcombe couldn’t be drawn on the specifics of how the stores and online presence will look, she did reveal that a heavy focus will be placed on customer service and hinted that the new venture will play heavily to its publishing strengths.

“What we want to do is really come up with something quite distinctive. If you are a publishing brand it enables you to do all sorts of things that other businesses can’t do,” she said. “What we want to do is offer something with a point of difference, that’s innovative, that really helps to deliver something different in terms of the customer experience within a store. And that’s important both within the bricks and mortar presence but it’s also important online and in e-commerce so the customer service part is very, very important.”

For Wallpaper, the publisher has teamed with The Level Group to create an e-commerce platform offering a curated selection of items from international brands and designers. The store will launch in spring 2015 and will include homewares, lighting, textiles, gifts, home fragrance, desk accessories and stationery, travel accessories and personal electronics, plus a selection of one-off products commissioned for Wallpaper’s annual Handmade exhibition and issue.

Newcombe also revealed that Marie Claire’s brand extension “won’t stop” at retail and said that there are going to be “lots of other aspects” to it. She is also confident that the partnership with Ocado will help to ensure the success of the commerce venture, something she said other publishers haven’t yet been able to do.

“The holy grail for most publishers is you know that you create demand,” she said. “Through the curation that media owners deliver to consumers we help people to navigate through the plethora of information that’s out there. So because of that, and because you therefore build trust and people like your view of the world, you know that you really do create demand.

“But what most publishers have never been able to do is capitalise on that closer to the point of purchase, so by taking that trust and creating a retail proposition it just opens up a new opportunity for us and you’ll see us doing other things as well.”

While Newcombe was unable to disclose the size of the investment in the Marie Claire venture, she said that Ocado has invested around £3m on “that part of the business”.

Details for the marketing drive and launch for the beauty stores are set to be announced in the coming weeks.

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