It’s no secret that magazines have historically been a time-consuming category for retailers to manage, but new research from the Magazine Publishers’ Association shows that magazines are earning their place on the shelves in ways that might not be obvious.
The latest report from the Magazine Publishers’ Association (MPA), Scale at retail, reveals that customers who purchase magazines shop more frequently and spend more per shop than non-magazine purchasers.
“Physical magazines are alive and well, and the benefits they bring to the retail product mix are not just the sales of the magazine,” says MPA executive director Pip Elliott.
How magazines promote increased frequency and basket size
Magazines’ frequency of publishing drives customers into stores on a regular basis – 72 percent of all magazines sold in supermarkets in 2018 were mass-market weeklies. Despite this regularity, 75 percent of magazine shoppers arrive in-store with no title in mind and selecting a title on impulse. This tendency towards “impulse basket building” means shoppers who buy magazines also spend more across other retail categories.
The exact value of magazine shoppers’ extra spend varies per retailer, but Countdown, New World and Pak’n Save all reported to Scale at retail that shoppers whose basket included one or more magazines outspent non-magazine-purchasers in their stores by at least 25 percent.
Kirsten Smith, category manager, merchandise, grocery non food and liquor for Foodstuffs North Island, says it’s no secret that media consumption has evolved in recent years towards digital, but many Kiwis still prefer to hold and read print media – and they’re willing to pay for the privilege.
“Magazines continue to have a place in our stores for shoppers who still enjoy a hands-on reading experience, and the strength of demand for magazines in different parts of the country can be seen in the shelf space individual stores choose to give them.”
Compared to those who don’t buy magazines, Scale at retail says, magazine shoppers at supermarkets spend more on high-value products, including pet food, sun care, oral care, hair care, facial care and personal care products.
In bookstores, Gordon & Gotch, which distributes magazines to retailers, reports that up to half of all consumers who purchase a magazine also purchase another product in store. Books, stationery and cards are the most common companion products.
Scale at retail indicates that magazines can improve shoppers’ perception of their retail experience as a whole. Buying a magazine is considered a treat that makes the shopping experience more pleasurable – in fact, customers report that just browsing the display racks or looking at the latest covers while queueing for the checkout adds colour and enjoyment to their trip.
While sales have fallen from a peak, New Zealanders are still buying magazines in retail with great enthusiasm. Over 20 million magazines were sold at New Zealand retail outlets in 2017, and in any given month, an average of 2.9 million Kiwis engage with a magazine brand.
Stocking magazines is getting easier
The magazine category has been complex for retailers in the past, says Gordon & Gotch general manager Tony Edwards, but distributors and publishers are now working together to make it easier and more cost-effective for the 3,000-plus retailers selling magazines in New Zealand to enjoy the category’s benefits.
Gordon & Gotch is currently investing in a more sophisticated demand forecasting and allocation system, Spectrum, which will address issues with oversupply and undersupply. Allocations isn’t an exact science, says Edwards, but if retailers assist by providing accurate returns data, the new technology will more accurately allocate the appropriate levels of magazines to each retailer.
The distributor is also tackling oversupply by reducing the volume of copies it distributes, especially those imported from the UK and USA.
Magazines add innovation
For Sam Shosanya, chief executive officer of Paper Plus, magazines are a changeable source of “constant innovation” which has a beneficial effect on the chain’s 100+ stores as a whole.
“Magazines are important to us because they offer us unique access to celebrities and fashion which we wouldn’t get with the same frequency and availability in any other category,” Shosanya says.
At Paper Plus, magazines aren’t a top-selling category, but Shosanya says that’s not indicative of their real value to the business: “You can’t just look at magazines themselves.”
They appear in a high proportion of customer baskets, and are a “great foot traffic driver”.
Shosanya says Paper Plus has driven sales by engaging in promotional activity to encourage customers to broaden their repertoire. This activity represents a “serious investment” in an already-stretched category, but he says the rewards mean it’s worth exploring.
Paper Plus’s work with Gordon & Gotch around reviewing allocation quantities regularly has also helped it manage magazines better, says Shosanya.
“There’s no two ways about it, things have improved.”
How can retailers better manage the magazine category and sell more copies?
Gordon & Gotch general manager Tony Edwards has contributed some suggestions for retailers who’d like to better leverage their magazine offering.
Keep your returns up to date.
Don’t ‘fix’ your allocation orders to a set quantity because you may end up selling out.
Put the new issues of magazines out as soon practical. Magazines are a perishable product so they need to go on the shelf as soon as you receive them.
Merchandise the magazines in a high traffic area because magazines are highly impulsive purchase.