So it was probably just a matter of time before Ashley migrated its business into the magazine arena. With the formal January launch of its Luxury Homes quarterly, Ashley hopes to do for posh coffee table mags what its Home Books have done for local directories: give them a serious upgrade in class and authoritativeness.
"[Starting the magazine] was a natural step," says Greg Samios, the company's executive vice president and general manager. "Demand for this product is there. I know that every publisher says things like that, but in our case it's actually true."
As evidence, Samios points to what he calls a "special edition" of Luxury Homes that hit newsstands in March. Showcasing winners of a home-design competition, the magazine's entire run of 75,000 copies sold out. "I wouldn't say we were especially surprised by that, but it was good to get some outside verification that we were on the right track," Samios notes.
More importantly, that first issue affirmed Luxury Homes' credibility at a time when new consumer titles are launching, hyping themselves to death and disappearing at a borderline alarming pace (see under Radar). Of course, Luxury Homes isn't exactly hurt by having the Reed name and dollars behind it. "It's not like you're taking a bet on a fly-by-night outfit," Samios says. "When we go into advertisers, we can not only talk about our resources but we can also throw that first issue onto the table. It has a lot more impact than a dummy [copy]. It shows that we've done this before."
For ad support, Samios and newly hired national sales director Steven McDonald are mostly going after shelter-magazine mainstays like home furnishings. While Samios is optimistic that Luxury Homes will be able to snare its share of auto, hospitality and high-end liquor companies as well, he concedes that "we're still working on our hit list. There's a lot of stuff in play right now." He also seems confident that luxury products that don't often appear in shelter magazines, like watches, will prove a good fit in Luxury Homes.
If the magazine's projections about its readership hold true, he might be right. A survey in the first issue of Luxury Homes, returned by 250 readers, revealed the title will likely skew slightly female (60/40 ratio). Fifty-eight percent of respondents were in the 35-to-54 age range, while 56% boasted a household income of more than $100,000.
Editorially, Samios believes Luxury Homes will distinguish itself with its regional focus. He envisions the magazine being less lifestyle-oriented and more expansive than local titles that feature the luxury homes in a narrow geographic area, but more informed than national publications attempting to do the same on a broader scale. "I think we're in the sweet spot between them," he adds. To this end, Luxury Homes will publish four regional editions, each of which will tap into The Ashley's Group's localized resources for the most current market-specific trends and information.
Ashley plans to distribute 150,000 copies of Luxury Homes on newsstands, and is currently exploring the possibility of having it distributed through less traditional channels (real-estate agencies, etc.).