THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX

Retailers at last are beginning to mine the infinite potential of cross-merchandising magazines throughout the store.While efforts are young, they already touch perishables, center-store and nonfoods areas. Measures are scant, but the trade is setting plans to document the effectiveness of outpost merchandising -- both in the sales of publications and relevant categories.Benefits have so far been

Retailers at last are beginning to mine the infinite potential of cross-merchandising magazines throughout the store.

While efforts are young, they already touch perishables, center-store and nonfoods areas. Measures are scant, but the trade is setting plans to document the effectiveness of outpost merchandising -- both in the sales of publications and relevant categories.

Benefits have so far been observational, but there's powerful conjecture that the strategy makes sense for many parts of the supermarket.

"Magazines are analogous to batteries. It's the best category I can think of for secondary displays. Titles add value to whatever a store is selling in that department. They mean something different to every part of the store, they're always made new again in a month, and they're one of the strongest cross-merchandising opportunities for the supermarket," said Ellen Gussin, president of Northfield, IL-based Allen Levis Organization, a consultancy that facilitates the Magazine Retail Advisory Council, New York.

"The synergies are good for everybody. It's the publisher's challenge to make point-of-purchase signage very explicit to consumers," she said.

Chains across the country are experimenting in diverse ways, aiming to leverage the power of publications into incremental sales across many merchandise categories.

Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans Food Markets began tapping the expertise of Prevention magazine last year to convey useful information to shoppers within its Nature's Marketplace area. Wegmans has run small bits of health news once a month in chain circulars, which relate directly to the upcoming issue of Prevention. In turn, Prevention is sold adjacent to the stores' vitamins and herbs displays.

Stevens Point, Wis.,-based Copps Corp. is experimenting with publication racks to anchor its Whole Health Resource Center initiative. The cross-merchandising effort began in 10 stores in October and went chainwide to 22 stores this year. The center of the endcap rack holds magazines, the right wing has trade paperbacks, and left wing is devoted to slots for free educational brochures from Copps. "It has had immediate impact both visually and performance-wise," said Dick Glassman, director of retail sales, Weider Publications, Woodland Hills, Calif. "We picked titles for the racks based on listings from a distributor to health food stores. It's not just an auxiliary mainline selection. It is specifically tailored. We wanted niche titles that are popular in health food stores, to make the supermarket more of a one-stop for food, supplements and reading materials."

Ukrop's Super Markets, based in Richmond, Va., has gone so far as to launch the bi-annual Ukrop's Magazine, a slick 48-pager focusing on Whole Health topics and produced for the chain by Rodale Press, Emmaus, Pa. Free to all consumers in its 27 stores, issues are displayed by pharmacy or service desks and additionally are mailed to Valued Customer cardholders.

Ukrop's also had Rodale editors explain to its staff how to most effectively communicate the whole health message to its customers.

Within the first issue of the magazine, advertising tie-ins include McCormick spices, Tylenol and V8 juice. The publication also cross-references Prevention magazine, which the chain sells, and lists a schedule of in-store "Wellness Days" special events at Ukrop's.

Landover, Md.-based Giant Food, a division of Ahold USA, recently completed its third straight annual promotion, giving shoppers a free issue of Weider Publishing's Shape magazine, priced at $2.99, with the purchase of two 12-oz. Kellogg's cereals, specially priced at two for $5. Circular ad space and an endcap made shoppers aware of the offer in all 176 stores. Steed Edwards, category manager-breakfast cereals at Giant, told SN, "the intent is to stimulate sales with reduced promotional expense and to add variety, spice and value to the shopping trip."

Hastings, Mich.-based G&R Felpausch sells gourmet food, home decorating, health and wellness magazines in and around the produce area.

Norristown, Pa.-based Genuardi's Family Markets uses freestanding displays of Conde Nast's Bon Appetit and Gourmet to enhance its solution selling image.

Matthews, N.C.-based Harris-Teeter displays a rack of parenting, child care and women's career magazine titles within its baby aisle in each of its 139 stores.

Indianapolis-based Marsh Supermarkets finds synergy in displaying Wine Spectator in its wine-and-spirits departments and Cigar Afficionado in its smoke shops.

San Antonio, Texas-based H.E. Butt has partnered with Shape magazine to develop Shape For Life special events in different Texas cities during two weekends in May and June. Marketed on its Web site as "a free women's health event focused on the balance of mind and body," activities include dance aerobics, kickboxing, walking, running, strollercize, Tai Chi, plus dietary, cooking and weight loss lessons. Co-sponsors are Leiner Health Products and Procter & Gamble.

Shape magazine will be displayed with related packaged goods on freestanding kiosks or endcaps in H-E-B pharmacies chainwide. The special events will coincide with in-store placement of the displays, beginning with the first issue of Shape reaching stores in early May. Bob Callahan, category management director for H-E-B calls the events "an opportunity for mothers to bring their daughters to share important facts of health that she'll encounter through life."

This program follows H-E-B's co-marketing effort in 1999 with Primedia's Seventeen magazine. Its Look of the Century special events included model calls, a rock band concert and more, in an effort to reach teens. The promotion sparked a 35% jump in cosmetics sales, said Callahan, noting H-E-B has "begun to develop life-long relationships with each of these teenage girls, which means when they grow and mature and perhaps have families, they'll become extremely valuable customers."

What's going on here? Why is the year 2000 becoming a turning point in the strategic use of publications to advance food and nonfood categories?

Supermarket executives are using outpost magazine and book displays to help offset a flat grocery environment, instill shopper excitement in every aisle, and upgrade their stores as destinations by educating customers and inspiring new product usage ideas.

Observed Bill Bishop, president, Barrington, Ill.-based Willard Bishop Consulting. Ltd.: "Retailers are increasingly trying to figure out how to market their stores. There's almost a limitless number of opportunities to integrate publications with other product and store offerings. All three have to work together. For example, retailers who want to cultivate young mothers start baby clubs and display titles appealing to new moms or pregnant women.

"The beauty of the magazine business," he added, "is that publishers understand the demographics of their products better than any manufacturer, and they play to it with editorial and advertising content.

"So the question becomes, 'what are the potential in-store executions a retailer will encourage, that a branded product manufacturer will fund, that will be synergistically implemented through a magazine?' The industry will document the power of these efforts, he said.