«It is practice for bookstores across the United Kingdom to charge publishers to place their books in the store. At Magazine Heaven we do not practice this». In conversation with Bill Palmer
Located one hour away from Central London is Rushden Lakes, an environmental-conservation area owned by the Crown Estate. The locale emphasizes the preservation of its surroundings – reducing waste while co-existing as a shopping hub. Within the confinements of the area is Magazine Heaven, founded and owned by Bill Palmer. Leading up to the opening of Magazine Heaven, Palmer took on a variety of positions in the publishing world, once partnering up with Comag, a joint-venture between Condé Nast and Hearst as their head of Sales and Marketing. «I travelled learning and witnessing the conditions of the publishing world». Palmer then formed Pineapple Media with business partner Steve Hobbes. «Steve was once a client. We spent forty years in the publishing industry. While he carried on Pineapple Media, I worked on roles alongside that». Upon getting funding and the concept nailed down, Palmer hesitated to initiate the store in the greater Central London area. He shares that eighty percent of magazine stores located in Central London experienced foreclosure. «Profit margins are not enough to ensure survival. It does not bring in a steady-amount of income. If the items on sale were designer goods, we could have placed ourselves in London». The size of the store he had in mind would not have fit the budget allocated for rent, coming from a self-funded business. «Rent would have cost us millions in London». Location wise, choosing an area for Magazine Heaven where he could commute from his home to the area within an hour was the idea. «The Crown Estate, a landmark in the property business in the United Kingdom, had completed a retail concept with an environmental-ethos». The environment of the shopping complex was built to look modern, minimal and sleek. A visitor could eat outside with nature, take a walk in the park, cycle around the estate or take a canoe out on the lake. «It happened that the area was fifteen minutes away from where I live. I stumbled across it by-chance and was enthralled by it». Being forty minutes away from Central London by train, the owner set forward to establish Magazine Heaven in the Rushden Lakes area. «Apart from people who come to our store from countries for pilgrimage, our set demographic is based in London and parts of the United Kingdom». Palmer shares that his idea to form a magazine store came from his adoration for magazines and what magazines as an entity can offer people. «Bookstores can become a segregation to the people around it. People are not conditioned to go into bookstores as the surroundings make them feel out of place». The genesis of Magazine Heaven started out as an idea in the year 2012 but was brought to life in March of 2018. The name of the store served to explain what the store carried and resembled. «We tossed a few names around and came up with ‘Magazine Heaven’. It rolls off the tongue». They are able to appeal through genres and interests. «We do not want to be a boutique bookstore with white tables and a minimalist environment». Giving space and opportunities to stand-alone publishers and authors, Palmer is open to accepting categories of magazines to be sold in the store. «We do not refuse to stock magazines as we are no judge or jury. Publishers globally contact us to sell their magazines in store. Names include F.A.E Magazine that focuses on fairy lifestyle, and Scorchin’, a magazine based on nineties nostalgia. We are here to support publishers». Learning on how to set up a bookstore, a café and understanding what its customers wanted was a challenge. Magazines vary in print and quality, «Some magazines look like they have been made on a kitchen table. We put them on stands, giving them a chance, and there are customers who buy it. The magazines we carry have been sold at-least once».
Magazine Heaven culminated from when Palmer was involved with the publishing business. Borrowing concept ideas from his travels during his tenure as an executive in the business, he has incorporated them into the store. Publishers are able to splay their books to a customer base. «It is practice for bookstores across the United Kingdom to charge publishers to place their books in the store. At Magazine Heaven we do not practice this». Their focus lies in print media, stocking magazines titles and publications. «We do not intend to limit what our customers could read. That is why we carry a volume of books». The store is stretched out over three thousand square feet on the ground floor. The building that hosts Magazine Heaven has a floor above, amounting to a total of four thousand and five hundred feet. The space allows Magazine Heaven to display over one-thousand-and-eight-hundred magazines, face front, at once. Carrying a total of three-thousand-five-hundred magazines at a time, the remainder of the publications are kept alongside the display as stock. Magazines are curated side by side, following a genre to allow access for a customer to choose. Sections are not split up according to magazines that cater to gender, interest and sexualities. «We are witnessing customers purchasing magazines that are not of their interest. The arrangement encourages customers to purchase newfound-magazines on impulse». Design aspects were drawn from Palmer’s mood board. Shelves were made from timber – designed 1.2 meters wide to ensure the magazines on display had enough room between each other for focus on each title. Steel is lacquered and colors are muted in blacks and dark-browns to shed emphasis on the magazines being sold. «Magazine covers are a work of art. Walking into the store, the focus should be on the colors and covers of the magazines». On the first floor is Artisan Café that goes hand in hand with the identity of Magazine Heaven. «We offer vegan food options at the café for our customers. Milk is sourced from a nearby-farm and coffee beans are roasted two miles from the store. Cakes are made by bakers in the area». Magazine Heaven makes an effort to partner with small-businesses familiar in their surroundings. Customers who have invented sandwiches for the store have given rights to Artisan Café to use the name. In the evenings, before the pandemic, the space at Magazine Heaven transformed into a community hub, offering yoga classes, game nights, live music and hosting book signings. The store is a tool that drives traffic to Rushden Lakes. Operating beside retail outlets, Magazine Heaven is a destination area that has positioned itself in the minds of the locals and international audiences. «If we were based in London, patrons would likely take a peek and not come inside».
Utilizing social media pages and curating a space that incites audio and visual senses through radio and TV, the space caters to book signings, appearances by local-celebrities, and workshops in cooking and singing. «We have received help from people in the industry. We offer spaces for upcoming artists and comedians to use our platform». Back issues and old-copies are sold, giving an opportunity that other magazine and book retailers don’t offer. «Being connected in the industry allows us to sell copies of magazines that are niche to an area or country». While focusing on a home-based scale, Magazine Heaven caters to their customers abroad, by shipping magazines across to them. They sell graphic arts and manga books for select customers who are interested in the topic. Hand thrown clay pots, beeswax scented candles and repurposed cotton wrapping paper sourced from a charity affiliated with the Dalit community in India can be found here. «We stick to doing this as it fits our ethos. It is for a cause. Those who come in for our yoga night sessions are enticed to buy these items». Customers have the option to purchase tea made from a tea brewer who infuses them in the neighboring area. The frequency in magazine publications urges customers to come back to the store on a regular basis. Relying on word of mouth and their social media presence, customers purchase additional magazines on their visit. In their third year of being in business, Magazine Heaven is looking to expand internationally. «In the case we were to open in Berlin, for example, we would be in collaboration with bakeries and roasteries within the locality». In the near-future, when the pandemic has dampened, Palmer intends on holding a sound bath within the confinements of the store for customers.IMAGE GALLERY
Rushden Lakes Shopping Park
South Terrace Unit A1b