Our 100th issue for that spirited adventure motorist
After glancing at the cover and opening the magazine, you will have realised that there is something special about this issue of Leisure Wheels.
It is the 100th issue of a publication I started 15 years ago with two dear friends, Adri Bezuidenhout and the late Johann van Loggerenberg.
It was two years after severing my connection with Wiel magazine that I first contemplated the launch of a new publication, and found willing partners in Adri and Johann.
The rest, as they say, is history. Because of other commitments, Adri cut his ties with Leisure Wheels about a year after our first issue hit the shelves, and Johann died tragically three years ago.
When we first decided to launch Leisure Wheels, a new breed of South African motorist was awakening to the spirit of adventure motoring. The great outdoors was beckoning, new 4×4 models and Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) were popping up all over the place, and we were convinced the time was ripe to launch a publication that explored what, for many South Africans, was a new way of life.
Mercifully it was the right decision at the right time, and a couple of interesting figures support what we anticipated would happen down the line:
In 1994 there were six manufacturers in SA, selling 15 4×4 models
When Leisure Wheels was launched in 1997, there were 11 manufacturers offering 32 4×4 models
Today there are 31 manufacturers offering 74 4×4 models.
While Adri, Johann and I realised we were taking a bold step, we were committed to producing a publication that would combine class and quality. The magazine had to look and feel different and the content had to be informative, entertaining and stimulating.
As fate would have it, we nearly floundered at the first hurdle. We printed 12 000 copies of our first issue and would have been happy to sell 8000.
Then readers started complaining that the magazine was literally falling apart. Our printer admitted to a binding problem and agreed to print an extra 4000 copies at no charge.
At that stage the magazine, as a quarterly, had a shelf life of three months and the additional print order was used to restock selling points that were running low. The upshot was that we ended up selling more than 12 000 copies and a potential disaster had worked out in our favour.
That early experience also taught us the minimum print order had to be 16 000 copies. Our current print order runs at 30 000 copies and audited sales figures hover between 20 000 and 23 000 copies month.
A growing circulation, along with a number of awards, saw Leisure Wheels continue to prosper. In 2005 we decided to increase publication frequency from quarterly to every second month, and the move found favour with both readers and advertisers.
The next milestone came in May 2006 when RamsayMedia (at the time Ramsay, Son and Parker) acquired a 50% share in the magazine. It was a move that heralded new and exciting possibilities for the publication.
The RamsayMedia move opened up new marketing avenues and provided an infrastructure that took over advertising, accounting, subscriptions and other administrative functions. The Leisure Wheels editorial team could now concentrate solely on producing a fine magazine.
An early benefit of the new link was a decision to publish monthly. Again the move found favour with advertisers and readers and the continued growth of Leisure Wheels suggests that we must be doing something right.
Perhaps part of the magazine’s success lies in the fact that while the editorial team is small, we love what we do and draw huge satisfaction from our efforts. We owe a debt of gratitude to our advertisers and readers, but one thing we have learned through the years is that there is no substitute for hard work.
A couple of parting shots to again illustrate just how far we have come since that first issue in 1997:
The cost of a Toyota Land Cruiser 4200 GX VX Turbo has gone from R383 000 to R968 000
The cost of a Range Rover 4.6 HSE has gone from R458 250 to R1 460 000 (now the 4.4TDV8)
The first issue of Leisure Wheels cost R9.95. Today the cover price is R26.95
We believe the buyers of the 4x4s, and of our magazine, feel they are getting value for money!