BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- The rumored exclusive magazine launch by Time Inc. in Wal-Mart Stores here will take place in August, according to a Time executive.
Wal-Mart and Time, New York, confirmed they have entered into a partnership for limited distribution of a women's service magazine called All You. The "value-priced" magazine will be available only in Wal-Mart stores from mid-August through January 2006, said Ali Zelenko, director of communications, Time.
Neither Wal-Mart nor Time has plans to support the launch with special advertising or promotional attention, said spokeswomen at both companies.
"We are basically handling the magazine as we would any other merchandise in our stores," said Karen Burk, spokeswoman, Wal-Mart. "Right now, we are very excited about it. We think it's something our customers will enjoy."
All You will be positioned to reflect the real lives of its female readers, with little or no celebrity treatment, sources said.
This deal marks the first distribution arrangement of its kind for Time and Wal-Mart, and in the industry at large. While custom publishing ventures are a familiar retail marketing tool, All You marks the first example of a magazine launch with a limited distribution in one retailer, said Peter Kreisky, chairman of Kreisky Media Consultancy, New York.
Industry observers, most notably other retailers, have met the announcement with apprehension.
"It will affect our relationships, and I'm very concerned about the precedent this sets. We're very concerned about being treated equitably by publishers. We're just not very happy with it," said an executive with a prominent supermarket chain, who asked to remain anonymous.
Wal-Mart's size gives it the clout to make this kind of move, industry observers pointed out.
"Clearly, Wal-Mart has the scale and the store traffic to justify an exclusive relationship. It's way ahead of its nearest competitor," said Kreisky.
There are potential benefits for Time because of Wal-Mart's size, said Kreisky and other industry observers, because profitability for magazines is very dependent on the degree of distribution.
"Given Wal-Mart's scale, this venture allows Time to dispense with a lot of circulation acquisition costs for a women's magazine follow-up to Real Simple and InStyle [other recent Time launches]," said Abe Peck, professor of journalism, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.
The retail focus of the All You launch is not entirely new, said Peck, pointing to the early supermarket alliances of Family Circle and Woman's Day when they launched. In recent years, however, most supermarket and magazine partnerships have focused on custom-published retail magazines.
Custom publishing has emerged as a sophisticated and viable marketing tool in recent years. For example, Kreisky said chains like Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla., and Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester, N.Y., have excellent house magazines.
Retailers faced with competing against Wal-Mart daily in categories throughout the store are drawing a clear distinction between those publications and the distribution arrangement for All You, however.
"I don't view this as custom publishing. I view this as a national rollout of a magazine that is being offered exclusively in Wal-Mart, which is very different. If they want to go out and make a Wal-Mart magazine, I'm fine with that. That is not what this is," said the anonymous supermarket executive.