DM News Essential Guide to Lists and Databases: UK List Market Offers a Springboard Into Europe

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As a company working with many U.S. firms helping them either source lists or resell their lists into Europe, we're often in a position to make our clients aware of trends in the British and European list markets. Recent mergers and acquisitions have decreased the number of larger single-source suppliers in business to business and business to consumer. List users have less choice than ever - and despite a few startup companies, there are fewer list suppliers since the peak in the late 1990s.

This has been reinforced by research from Lloyd James Group last year highlighting that the total number of lists on the British market declined 8.1 percent from 2003 to 2004.

In an effort to decrease data collection costs, list owners have collected data online in Britain as in the U.S. for some time. This has led to large-scale databases of varying quality. So while the overall volume of names on the list rental market has decreased, the quality hasn't necessarily increased.

In the mid- to late 1990s, the British market was buoyed by a continual stream of market entrants in addition to those multinationals already here since the 1970s and 1980s. Both BTC and BTB mailers, especially catalog mailers, made their first expansion outside of North America to Britain. Some struggled, but most succeeded and now operate successful businesses. A current trend is the lack of new entrants, particularly from North America. Many thought about expansion but decided in recent years that the time is not right for overseas development.

This surprises me. Despite a smaller list marketplace than five years ago, we still have one of the most developed list markets outside of the United States. Now more than ever, Britain is a great place to enter, what with widespread adoption of direct marketing techniques, many skilled DM practitioners, adoption of DM programs in educational establishments and, above all, one of the largest economies in the world and arguably the most buoyant in Europe.

While increasingly the retail business shows signs of slowing, the British mail-order and online sectors continue to grow. Research from Britain's Direct Marketing Association backs this up: $24.5 billion and 504,000 people (excluding call center staff) are employed in DM. Though the challenges remain similar for U.S. marketers in terms of sourcing the right lists, advantages remain for those prepared to expand overseas and use Britain as a springboard into mainland Europe. n

Richard Gibson is commercial director of London-based list and data consultancy RSA Direct and partner in Reach him at


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