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ACE opens its doors to retail

ACE has been with us for almost sixty years, hosting awards, Christmas lunches, raising money and bringing the disparate elements of the industry together. It is also moving with the times, and here, Christopher Collins outlines some of the changes taking place.

By Christopher Collins

The Association of Circulation Executives (ACE) is going through a period of subtle, but nevertheless, significant change. Any organisation which tries to speak for and represent the media world, in whatever form, and is nearing its 60th anniversary, has clearly done most things right. But, as we all know, the world of print, publishing, distribution and sales is changing and changing fast, and any organisation associated with the industry needs to develop accordingly. ACE has recognised the need to change many times in its long history by speaking with and listening to the people it strives, through its events and activities, to entertain, inform and educate.

Through all the momentous change that has and is occurring within our industry, ACE has always remained true to its founding principles of fellowship, friendship and the free and open exchange of ideas. It appears that within a rapidly changing and evolving media landscape, these tenets remain more important than ever. As some have observed, in stormy seas it is always important to have some solid land nearby!

But to these key foundation stones ACE is adding others that equally importantly reflect and mirror the needs and requirements of the modern publishing world; awareness, relevance, credibility and value.

Everything that ACE undertakes, whether a social, fun or business event or activity aims to have at its core these four values. An awareness of the needs of the people we represent, a relevance to their day to day activities and aims, a credibility in terms of quality and detail and an added value to the wishes and needs of our membership and friends.

Our business is a serious one. The whole supply chain, from printer to the end-user (the reader or purchaser), involves numerous inter-related pieces and parts. Each has distinctive roles to fulfil and yet none can satisfactorily achieve their goals in isolation. Each part needs the others to function well. Each part needs ultimately to be successful and make money but see its neighbour succeed as well. ACE has a part to play in this, possibly a small part but certainly a significant one.

As an independent, not-for-profit organisation, ACE can not only provide some of the ‘glue’ to help bind the constituent parts of the supply chain together but also the ‘oil’ to help the whole to function more smoothly. A big claim? Possibly. A realistic goal? Certainly.

Opening up

As a major step-forward in this direction, ACE has decided after more than half a century, to open its doors to membership from the retail sector. Why? Because it has felt out-dated and somewhat anachronistic that ACE has, until now, represented the interests and tried to reflect the wishes of the industry up-to but not including the point of sale. Therefore, despite being an organisation for ‘circulation executives’, ACE has in effect had a barrier in place between its members and the ultimate customer, the reader! That was then. This is now.

With retail members joining ACE, the picture is complete and ACE can truly feel it has something to offer all parts of the supply chain.

What can ACE offer the retail sector? Well, as with all clubs, it is a two way thing. Membership brings with it certain responsibilities, but the more you put into any club (sporting, social or business), the more you get out of it. As a starting point, ACE still remains true to the values of fellowship, friendship and the free and open exchange of ideas. Not a bad start! But it offers practical guidance as well.

The Ashridge Programme

The ACE Ashridge Executive Development Programme will enter its fourth successful year in 2009. Already, fifty two young executives from the fields of publishing and distribution have entered the programme, researching, studying and presenting on important topics relevant to our industry. Next year, there are twenty five places available on the Programme and a number will be set aside for ACE’s new retail members. At a time when so many companies and organisations are curtailing and cutting their training budgets, the ACE Ashridge Programme offers young executives and their company sponsors the experience of world standard education at a top business school, challenging project work, the experience of group work with individuals from different disciplines across the industry and a chance to present their findings in front of the industry’s leaders. We hope our new retail members will join this exclusive and privileged group. (For more information on this programme, visit or contact me directly.)

Having said that this is a serious business, which it is, ACE also recognises that we should not, indeed must not lose sight of the fact that there must be fun and enjoyment with the day-to-day business of making money. ACE will therefore continue to organise wonderful award evenings (the ACE International Circulation and Distributor Awards is coming up on Tuesday 2nd December at Vinopolis) and, of course, the famous ACE Christmas Lunch at Grosvenor House Hotel remains one of the first dates for our members’ diaries.

So ACE appears to be doing the impossible. It is changing and it is remaining the same. It is embracing the new and dynamic whilst at the same time retaining what is solid, stable and dependable. If you are not already part of this, join us now. For more information on all of the above, and more, visit the ACE website ( or talk to me, Christopher Collins.