A MAGAZINE subscription business set up on Tyneside in 2004 has doubled its turnover in two years and is now eyeing the growing digital content market.
Unique Magazines was set up by John Porrett in 2004 while he was a director of what was the region’s largest convenience store business.
He initially ran the business alongside his day job at Whitley Bay-based Mills Group, where he had worked for 18 years, then bought out the other three directors in 2010, including his then boss Nigel Mills, who went on to sell his 80-plus store chain to Tesco that year.
The North Tyne Industrial Estate company takes online subscription orders for magazines to be delivered both from its warehouses and sent out by the publishers themselves.
It handles 3,000 titles from more than 200 publishers, ranging from commercial women’s magazines such as Glamour and Take a Break, as well as business titles and specialist hobby magazines.
On a monthly basis, Unique supplies magazines to every single postcode area in the UK, plus has a growing overseas market with customers as far away as Australia.
Porrett said: “The idea to set up Unique Magazines originally came when I was working as a magazine buyer and noticed a gap in the market for creating an online version of the traditional newsagent service of sourcing different titles and publications.
“Our subscription portfolio now consists of a diverse range of over 3,000 lifestyle, specialist interest and business titles which we are consistently growing.”
The company’s turnover has jumped from £480,000 in 2010 to just over the £1m mark this year and Porrett is aiming to it over £2m by 2015.
In 2006 the firm moved into distribution of the magazines and online retailing.
It has since developed an e-commerce facility with a website-design capability.
The business has recently spent £150,000 to improve its marketing and customer service, and also invested in a new website. Five staff have joined the team in the last year, including Porrett’s wife Karen, who manages its new online gifts and greeting cards wing, www.GiftsFromUnique.co.uk
Unique now employs 10 people. Its customers include libraries, schools and marketing organisations, which continue to demand hard copy magazines. Porrett said: “The growth in our business has come at a time when the number of online publications is rapidly increasing.
“Our continued expansion has shown there is still significant demand for more traditional and specialist print magazines with a longer readership life and we are excited about the future of the business as we enter a new phase of growth and investment.”
However, the business is now looking at offering the first digital magazine subscriptions for clients alongside the hard copies of their publications.