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Face to Face with… Hearst UK

We chat to the company’s Josie Lahey-James about its ambitious licensing plans.

Talk about brand engagement. Hearst UK’s brands reach one in three UK women and one in four UK men every month, a penetration that most brands would only dream of.

It sells four million magazines every month (Good Housekeeping, Country Living, House Beautiful, Red and Men’s Health, just for starters) as well as its thriving live events programme. So it is little wonder that Hearst’s licensing activity is building, not just metaphorically but literally, as the House Beautiful showhome in Shoreham, built by Futureform under licence, testifies.

The Source flicked through the pages of the media giant’s licensing plans with Josie Lahey-James, licensing manager of Hearst Brand Services.

It is somewhat mind blowing to try and get your head round just how many millions of people Hearst UK connects with each and every day, through its magazines, live events, digital content as well as the endorsements from its Good Housekeeping Institute. No wonder then that the company’s licensing activity is already on a grand scale, but is set to build.

From House Beautiful to ELLE Decoration, Country Living to Cosmopolitan, Hearst publishes 22 consumer magazines – which collectively touch a third of the entire UK female population every single month.

Add to this its digital activity – 17 million UK digital unique users, reaching 22 million people through its social media platforms, including Snapchat Discover, and there is no denying that this is a company that talks to a mega fanbase, through the different ‘voices’ of its brands. And licensing is part of this ‘speak’.


It is easy to see why the award for Best Brand Licensed Homewares Product or Range in the Brand & Lifestyle Licensing Awards went to DFS for its House Beautiful sofas.

This is such a winning collaboration in so many ways and perfectly illustrates how licensing echoes and perpetuates a fan’s affinity for a brand. DFS’ extensive marketing support for the range (through its TV and press advertising) is reinforced by the products being featured editorially in House Beautiful magazine, featured in room set lifestyle shots, on front covers and inside pages.

This is no ‘shoe horn’ in, as the editorial team are involved in the product design, drawing on their innate knowledge of House Beautiful fans’ tastes and expectations.

Ideally positioned between licensees and the magazines’ editorial teams is Josie Lahey-James, licensing manager of Hearst Brand Services. Josie, who has been with the company on the licensing side for the last couple of years, reports into Laura Cohen, licensing director and sales director of the Good Housekeeping Institute, who sets the commercial strategy.

Although some of the Hearst magazines are represented by licensing agents (Cosmopolitan, Harpers and Esquire are with IMG and Men’s Health and Women’s Health are handled by Golden Goose for example), the licensing activity for the heartland of its lifestyle and home titles comes under Josie’s wing.


Explaining why the arrangement works so well at Hearst, Josie says: “The editors of the magazines are effectively the creative directors of the brands, which means that licensees can tap into the knowledge they have of the people to whom they are aiming their products,” elaborating that the home editors get involved with the interiors products while the food editors have input on that front.

It is an approach which has served all parties well, especially as this involvement has seen many of the licensed products featured editorially in the respective magazines’ pages – be it a DFS Country Living sofa, flooring from the House Beautiful range from Carpetright, a floral arrangement from Flowers Direct’s Red collection or Good Housekeeping kitchenware from Sainsbury’s.

“We arguably have a closer working relationship with licensees than other brands as we are so close to the end user which brings benefits to all parties,” believes Josie. As well as developing the ongoing relationships with the existing 11 licensees with whom Josie currently works, the strategy is to grow the programme significantly, “but the fit has to be right” she stresses reinforcing that this ‘fit’ may be with companies that have never done licensing before.

“We work superbly well with Charnwood Stoves, a family-run business based in the Isle of Wight that produces a high quality Country Living stove in beautiful colours that will appeal to the aspirational tastes of Country Living readers.”


As she points out: “Each of the brands has their own character which the resultant licensed products need to match. The Prima reader is all about crafting, the Red fan is into entertaining, the Country Living reader is in tune with the idea of idyllic rural living for example. It is about meeting the expectations and aspirations of each brand.”

There is one licensed product that lives up to its name and is definitely set to build on Hearst’s licensing programme big style – House Beautiful Homes. This ambitious real estate development project is being driven by modular housebuilders, Futureform.

This forward thinking company has worked with Hearst to develop a whole collection of different modular homes, in different configurations and sizes, that can be built in the company’s factory in Shoreham-on-sea and then shipped to any site.

And not to miss a trick, the show homes are superbly furnished incorporating many House Beautiful licensed products.

So, you’ve read the magazine, bought the products, now live the dream!

Face The Facts

•    Good Housekeeping enjoys an incredible 1.3 million readership and a total monthly audience reach of 2.7 million
•    The Red brand reaches 1.1 million UK adults every month
•    71% of Country Living’s readership are ABC1 adults
•    House Beautiful has a readership of 421,000 people
•    ELLE Decoration has a combined social media following of 2 million people
•    Prima has a readership of 415,000 people

This feature originally appeared in the autumn 2017 edition of Licensing Source Book. Click here to read the full publication.

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