MAGAZINE DISTRIBUTORS WIDENING ROLE

NEW ORLEANS -- More periodicals distributors have become category managers rather than delivery agents. They are helping their retailers cut costs rather than inventory to become more efficient in today's competitive environment.Several examples of how periodicals distributors are working with their retailer partners were presented here last month at a workshop on retailer trends held during Marketplace

NEW ORLEANS -- More periodicals distributors have become category managers rather than delivery agents. They are helping their retailers cut costs rather than inventory to become more efficient in today's competitive environment.

Several examples of how periodicals distributors are working with their retailer partners were presented here last month at a workshop on retailer trends held during Marketplace '95, a conference and trade show sponsored by several independent distributor associations.

Pacific Periodical Services, Tacoma, Wash., which supplies 625 retail customers, including the Safeway Seattle division, Fred Meyer Inc., Top Food & Drug and Mega, developed in conjunction with Safeway what it calls a "predelivery interbody system." The delivery system assures that weekly orders are delivered to the chain midweek so less expensive night personnel can be used to check in the orders at the retailer's convenience.

The wholesaler's district supervisors also meet quarterly with each retail customer to review sales figures, discuss specific needs and opportunities for category growth, and solve problems. The result of one such meeting produced a chainwide display building contest for a Danielle Steele book at Fred Meyer, Inc. Bud Truebenbach, president and chief executive officer of Pacific Periodical, said that current trends in retailing have afforded distributors opportunities to go beyond their traditional role of delivery agent. "We'll get involved in the retailers' strategic thinking. We'll sell turnkey programs that don't require the buyers' time to develop," he said.

Commenting on the partnership he has built with the distributor, Mike McGowan, owner of Mega, Tacoma, Wash., said, "Pacific Periodical's commitment in serving us has been a significant factor in our very generous allocation of space for books and publications. When you receive free fixtures and excellent service along with great turnover, sales and profit, what more can you ask for? Quite simply, the vendors that give us the most get the most."

A Safeway district manager said that for new stores "Pacific Periodical offers a turnkey publications operation from planning and installation of fixtures to product selection and merchandising."

Another periodicals supplier, Gemco, in Tuscaloosa, Ala., has developed a secure return system that will allow its customers to cut down on costly time checking products in and out.

"We are providing a turnkey approach so our retailers don't have to do anything but pay the bills. Buyers today have more and more coming to their plates, and the more we can take off their plates, the better off they will be," said David Moman, executive vice president of Gemco.

Instead of becoming efficient by cutting inventory, Gemco is helping its retailers cut costs in other areas such as receiving and accounts payable procedures. This will allow Gemco "to reinvest the time as far as merchandising racks, reordering and making sure we maximize the profit for sales at the checkout end."

Within a retail environment ever more technologically driven, Truebenbach views the magazine and book category as having "strategic benefits that are nonfinancial.

"Magazines help present an image to customers that the store is an exciting place to shop. Magazines cater to a huge variety of customer interests. The category lends itself to cross-merchandising, value-added marketing programs, creation of exciting displays, demographic marketing, and tie-ins to local events and point-of-sale programs that are tied into advertised products. Author and character appearances also offer tremendous opportunities to promote," he said.