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Case Study: Waitrose customer magazine

Waitrose Food Illustrated is popular among the upmarket supermarket's account and non-account holders alike, with its recipes, food experts and design. The magazine has a circulation of nearly 250,000 and almost a quarter of people who bought it signed up for a Waitrose account card.

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Client: Waitrose

Magazine name: Waitrose Food Illustrated

Industry Sector: Retail

Frequency: Monthly

Circulation: 244,176

Target Audience: Waitrose account customers and shoppers


  • To reward account customers and encourage loyalty;

  • To grow the number of account holders;

  • To develop an emotional relationship between Waitrose and its customers;

  • To reflect the Waitrose brand and generate positive PR;

  • To increase customer spend in store.


    Waitrose Food Illustrated is the monthly magazine for Waitrose account holders, typically aged over 30, ABC1 educated, high earners.

    Distributed at checkouts in store, the magazine is also bought by significant numbers of non-account holder Waitrose customers.

    Using beautiful design and photography and leading food writers, the magazine appeals to those who are passionate about good food. Described by its readers as "not ordinary or predictable", the magazine presents highly appealing and "doable" recipes alongside vouchers and promotions.

    How is the success of the magazine measured?

    Waitrose conducted qualitative research in 2002 that covered the magazine. Sales uplift is also independently monitored each year, excluding promotions and seasonal spend, to indicate true sales increases on products featured in the magazine.

    How effective is the magazine as a marketing tool?

    As account holders have to actively choose to "pick up" Waitrose Food Illustrated in store, a 23% increase in one year demonstrates that significant value is attached to the title by its core readership.

    Focus group research has shown that typically account holders pick up every issue and read more than 50% of its content.

    Waitrose's own research has shown that 24% of customers opened their accounts purely to receive a free copy of the magazine.

    Readers are highly motivated and responsive to Waitrose Food Illustrated with large numbers sending letters and completing competition entries. A range of spin-off reader events has seen high levels of take up.

    Focus group research has revealed that readers believe the magazine conveys the Waitrose brand "very well".

    Additionally, Campaign named the title number one customer magazine in 2002, describing Waitrose Food Illustrated as "the template for customer publishing at its best".

    The magazine has generated extensive press coverage in the national broadsheets, regional press and radio.

    Independent research has conclusively shown that the magazine generates sales uplift on featured products. Across products where pre-publication there has been a decrease in year on year sales, the magazine has generated uplift of 72%.

    Waitrose Food Illustrated won Most Effective Consumer publication (retail) at the APA Customer Magazine Awards 2002.

    Hilary Weaver, director of the APA, says: "According to the latest Mintel report (2002), the retail sector has a 15% share of the total number of customer magazine titles.

    "This is testament to the medium's effectiveness and a reflection of retailers' growing desire to build closer relationships with their customers and strengthen brand loyalty. Waitrose has delivered a great campaign and demonstrated that customer magazines can deliver a significant uplift in sales, as well as encourage loyalty."

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