Ever on the hunt for ways to boost my knowledge of magazine publishing, last week I spent a morning with the team behind John Lewis Edition, the brand’s customer magazine.
The visit came about because I’m a member of the John Lewis Partnership (a Partner, as we’re known), working in the corporate social responsibility department at head office. I got in touch with Assistant Magazine Manager Scott Pendrous (pictured below) and he kindly agreed to spend some time telling me about the history of the free quarterly magazine and how it’s put together. Scott is part of the brand creative department and coordinates production of each issue, overseeing the work of John Brown Media, the company that produces the actual editorial content.
Edition was born when the previous customer magazine, Source, was closed. Source had been the communications vehicle for Greenbee, John Lewis’s insurance provider, but Edition was designed to coincide with the repositioning of the John Lewis fashion offering. You may have noticed that slowly but surely over the past couple of years John Lewis has been shaking off its so-called vanilla image with exclusive designer collaborations (the latest is with Osman Yousefzada) and high profile ad campaigns – did you spot Coco Rocha in one last season? That’s why Edition always has a model on the cover, rather than a celebrity, carefully chosen to reflect the Partnerhip’s target audience: a woman who is older than, say, a Topshop customer, but is still aware of current trends.
Ultimately, Scott explained, the magazine is an opportunity to ‘have a conversation with the customer,’ so it’s a means to influence how the John Lewis brand is perceived by the public. I was interested to find out how much the head office buyers influence the magazine content. Scott told me that once the buyers have decided what the key themes are going to be each season they present to the magazine team,who subsequently design the issue to reflect those themes and gather the merchandise – from clothing and accessories to home and electrical products – that they want to feature. They do a couple of fashion shoots for each issue and still life product photography is commissioned too. The majority of the written content comes from the five regular columnists including Jess Cartner-Morley (a favourite fashion writer of mine) and Luke Leitch, covering fashion for women and men respectively. Less overtly product-centric, the columns make Edition more of an immersive, engaging experience for the reader and ensure it doesn’t just feel like an extended catalogue.
You may think I’m biased because I’m a Partner, but I genuinely think that Edition is great and always pick up a copy. It was fascinating learning about the production process and getting to see the new autumn issue before it was published. I also got to look around the ‘mock shop’ which is used to test out merchandising on the shop floor. The shop was all decked out for Christmas already – just like at fashion week, in the retail world you’ve got to always be thinking six months in advance.
The new autumn issue of John Lewis Edition is available free in John Lewis stores now.