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Robb Report editor on UK launch

Robb Report has a 40-year legacy in the US as the definitive authority on modern luxury, but it’s new UK edition is unique, produced for Britain’s new “classless rich”. Editor-in-chief James Collard spoke to Piet van Niekerk.

A well-designed magazine printed on quality paper is a luxury object in its own right, says editor-in-chief of Robb Report’s new UK edition, James Collard (pictured above).

Available on newsstands since the end of April and published as a joint venture between publishing house and creative agency Brave New World and Robb Report Media, the quarterly costs £6 and has a print-run of 52,000. Hot on the heels of the UK launch, will be Robb Report Germany, which will be published from October pushing the combined global circulation of the magazine past the 580,000 mark. First established in the United States 40 years ago, Robb Report now boasts 16 international editions.

Collard says London and the UK present an interesting “lab for luxury because you’ve got a great deal of foreign wealth but also have a great deal of British wealth”. It is in fact the subject of one of the columns in the launch magazine which deals with Britain’s so-called “classless rich” - a British luxury consumer who would not define him or herself as from old money or new money. “Perhaps, for the first time in the country’s history, it is cooler to be an entrepreneur than an aristocrat, which is a big change,” says Collard.

This could be one of the reasons why Robb Report’s UK content differs so greatly from the US edition, without departing from the power of the Robb Report brand. The conversation with Robb Report (for the establishment of a UK edition) started back in June 2015. “We had a lot of time to think about what Robb Report

UK should be by the time we produced a dummy copy towards the end of last year. Those ideas crystalised while conceiving, producing and then fine tuning our UK launch issue.” Collard says his team had to work out what to keep and what to change when bringing Robb Report’s unique insights to the UK market. They also had to take advantage of possible gaps in the UK market. “We think the DNA of Robb Report is incredibly strong. You would not play with that. Yet, in the UK we have a particularly competitive newsstand market and very design savvy readers.” Those thoughts would naturally stand central when deciding which cover images you need, the way fashion is shot or any decisions around the design.

As it turns out, while the DNA and many of the flatplan sections remain, all of the content in the UK launch edition is entirely unique. The cover brings the Britishness across immediately featuring the McLaren 570S supercar, shot in the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking where the magazine’s first fashion shoot was also photographed.

“McLaren is a great UK luxury brand. British luxury often goes retro and there can be great old fashioned narratives about it. But I also think there is something thrilling about contemporary luxury,” says Collard.

One of the most exciting new sections to the UK edition is called ‘How it Works’. This section is best described as being geeky about luxury, explaining in technical detail - with illustrations - how luxury yachts and watch movements actually work or bespoke shoes are hand stitched. “People want to know how things are made and why they are made that way. A Robb Report reader will spend a lot of money on a product but they also want to know why it is better and more expensive than something else,” explains Collard.

But why a new print venture in the age of digital disruption? Collard feels good quality magazines are consumed in a completely different way from digital…People do gather lots of information from digital products but it is not necessarily a submersive experience. “A good flatplan becomes a bit of a journey between the different kinds of luxury products from style, to cars, to watches, travel, wine, food, business, culture, art and design, collectibles, jewellery, technology and property.”

Collard, who previously worked as Times Luxx editor, is assisted by Paul Croughton (formerly of The Sunday Times and Arena) as editor and digital editor. While all the other Robb Report country editions are licensing deals, the UK edition is a joint venture, which creates a different publishing model and opens up the opportunity to print larger amounts of content unique to the UK market. Yet, the UK website edition runs almost all of the US content as well, says Collard. “Some of it may be slightly tweaked. We continue to work out what kind of content works for a slightly different audience.”

Collard concludes with a taster of things to come: “The next edition will see more collaboration with the US edition in combining some photo shoots and we can also look forward to a UK version of the very successful and much loved themed issue in the US, “Best of the Best”.

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