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Yell grows its eMarketplace with websites for SME customers

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Directories business Yell has almost tripled the number of websites it runs for customers as it works to position itself as a leader in eMarketplaces.

The company, which published its first-half results today, said it now has 355,000 live websites for customers, up from 124,000 at the same time last year. Chief executive Mike Pocock said the figure showed its ability to develop new digital products – which include ecommerce capabilities – that appeal to its SME customer base.

At the same time its total number of digital customers grew by 11.1% to 940,000 in the 26 weeks to September 30, compared to the same time last year, and the average total digital revenue for each customer rose by 3.2% to £523. In all, income from its digital services grew by 149.1% to £63.6m and total digital revenue by 9.1% to £236.3m.

During the period, Yell bought multi-store ecommerce company Znode, using its technology to build its own digital services. It also struck partnerships with Microsoft, Bazaarvoice, and Netbiscuits so that it can offer features from analytics to reviews, ratings and app development to its SME customers.

The success in digital services was a welcome bright spot for the company, which today said its total turnover was down by 12.2% at £787.2m. And the rationale for the move towards this new market was underlined as the company said visitors to its online directories, principally, fell by 15.1% to 42.9m. Revenues from digital directories fell by 9.7% to £172.7m, while income from print directories and telephone directory enquiries fell by 19.3% to £550.9m. Pre-tax profits were at £69.2m, up from £33.2m last time.

Chief executive Mike Pocock said: “We continue to make significant progress in transforming Yell from a provider of print and digital advertising to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to a leader in the emerging local eMarketplace. Since announcing our strategy in July, we have succeeded in cementing key strategic relationships in critical areas including eCommerce, mobile, social media and with Microsoft. Before the end of the year, we expect to begin to realise the potential of these partnerships through our expanded range of sophisticated digital solutions.”

Yell is currently renegotiating its banking agreements to create ‘more headroom’ and says it also plans to reduce its net debt by as much as £108m.

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