Exposure is the strategy being pursued by supermarkets to retain their 70% share of the single-copy magazine market.
Greater exposure is being achieved mainly through customization of titles to appeal to the store's core demographics, to cross merchandise publications in food aisles and to improve display fixtures.
Through these merchandising techniques, many retailers are seeing a 5% to 25% jump in magazine sales, according to magazine wholesalers polled by SN.
At Kroger Co.'s KMA in Columbus, Ohio, for example, magazine sales shot up 20% to 25% over the past year after titles like the National Enquirer and Country Music were cross-promoted on a six-tiered rack near a frozen-food aisle. Copies of Skiing and Snow Country are duplicated at the beginning of the cereal aisle.
"Spreading 25 to 30 titles to other sections and perimeter aisles is driving higher magazine sales for Kroger," said an official at the chain's news wholesaler, who asked to remain unidentified. "The idea is to increase customer exposure at other areas of the store for greater impulse buying." To keep interest high, titles are changed every three weeks.
The program has worked so well that Kroger expanded it to the Detroit and Indianapolis KMAs in January. Those stores plan to install the new six-tiered racking by September, said the distributor.
Some grocery chains also are stepping up the cross-promotion of selected books and magazines in related grocery aisles to boost their visibility.
For the past six months, Winn-Dixie Store's Orlando, Fla., division, and Boise, Idaho-based Albertson's, have ignited 15% to 20% more sales of Pillsbury Classics cookbooks. Copies are now cross-merchandised on a shipper in the baking aisles of stores with above-average sales in baking supplies. Priced at $2.99, the digest-sized publication was previously displayed by the chain exclusively at checkout racks, according to industry observers.
Retailers like Ralphs Grocery Co., Compton, Calif.; Vons Cos., Arcadia, Calif.; Stater Bros. Markets, Colton, Calif.; and Lucky Stores, Dublin, Calif., are customizing titles by store demographics, according to Paul Swogger, field manager at SCN Services, a news distributor in San Bernadino, Calif.
"This definitely helps pull sales," he said. "These retailers increasingly are widening titles in fitness, gourmet food and cooking magazines merchandised on their mainline magazine racks. These titles, more than ever, are growing because people are more aware of the connection between diet, food and exercise."
Magazine sales in the reading center space (averaging 24 feet) at B&R Stores, Lincoln, Neb., climbed 5% with a new mainline presentation enhanced by fixtures that allow covers to be displayed in an open-face style. The new reading department fixture, the latest of which was installed six months ago, contains overhead lighting with a Plexiglas reflector above the titles that draws attention to that area.
"Customers can see the full covers," said Barb Zugmier, nonfood director. B&R's magazine wholesaler, Palmer News, Topeka, Kan., which will become part of Anderson News, Richmond, Va., this month, remerchandised the reading rack.
"To create room for displaying full covers, we eliminated the space that used to be taken up for fanning out as many as six copies of each magazine," explained the retailer.
B&R also boosted reading-center selling space, with the largest section now running 32 feet. In some cases, sections were moved closer to the front of the store from the back. "Placing the mainline near the front checkouts exposes the titles to customers waiting to check out, which helps impulse sales," added Zugmier.
This spring, Ukrop's Super Markets, Richmond, Va., boosted visibility of its magazines with new 24-foot-long oval-shaped shop-around mainline magazine racks, according to Charles Messina, general manager at Anderson News, the chain's news wholesaler.
"It's too early to tell results," said Messina. The larger fixture added variety within existing categories. Women's magazines and craft titles are the most popular segments for the chain.
Devoting additional selling space for magazines is in keeping with the expansion of chain book stores in the area, like Barnes & Noble, Borders and Waldenbooks, Messina said. "People are reading more, and magazine and book sales in the food trade generally seem to be on the increase," he added.
In the Richmond market in particular, publication sales are being fueled "by population growth, and increased store displays devoted to magazines and books," said Messina.
The chain uses floor shippers to call attention to hardbacks. This month, Ukrop's began to promote Danielle Steele's new hardcover novel, "Special Delivery." Harvey Sutton, the chain's nonfood director, did not return phone calls.
"Ukrop's is very conservative as far as title selections," said Messina.
"They don't take horoscope magazines. Cosmopolitan isn't approved for their stores, and they don't carry the news tabloids."
American Stores Co., Salt Lake City, is expanding its corporate effort of remerchandising checkout magazine stands with publications targeted to Hispanic and African-American shoppers in its Lucky, Jewel and Acme divisions.
"Checkstand magazine sales at completed stores have increased 5% to 10% after ethnic publications were placed on the racks," said Michael J. Porche, executive vice president of Distribution Services Inc., a publications sales and marketing firm based in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Lucky Stores started revising its checkstand periodicals schematics this month, and plans to expand the concept to its northern California stores at the end of summer, he said.
Jewel Food Stores, Melrose Park, Ill., developed a similar program in its checkstand racks in the first quarter, and experienced a similar increase in sales, Porche added. Acme Markets, Malvern, Pa., is scheduled for the program during the first quarter of 1998. The chain divisions declined to comment.
Store demographics, scanner data and frequent-shopper information are used to make title selections of ethnic magazines for checkout planograms at American's grocery divisions, said Porche.
The chains created ethnic title pockets on checkstand racks by dropping slower-moving general titles, he explained. "Some stores had some of these titles sporadically on the mainline," Porche added. Titles merchandised at Lucky and Jewel checkstands include Heart and Soul, Essence, Ebony, Black Enterprise and Jet.
Hispanic selections displayed at stores in Lucky's southern California division range from Vanidades, Christina and Cosmol Espanol, to Fura, TV Novelas, Selecciones, Enterese, Erese and Muy Interseant.
American expanded the base of stores for this program beyond ethnic neighborhoods to areas where ethnic customers also worked and shopped. "These magazines also moved well in these other areas," Porche stated.
Checkstand magazine sales have soared at least 10% at Safeway's Eastern division, Lanham, Md., after six ethnic titles were duplicated from the mainline fixture to checkout.
"Moving about eight titles like Heart and Soul, Essence, Ebony and Jet, targeted to African-American shoppers, to the checkout lanes at about 35 Baltimore and Washington stores helped increase front-end magazine sales," said a division official who asked to remain anonymous.
The titles' strong shelf turns on the mainline rack where they were regularly displayed motivated the chain to add pockets at the registers.