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MAGAZINE BOUTIQUE INTRODUCED BY MARSH

INDIANAPOLIS -- Marsh Supermarkets here is testing a prototype mainline magazine rack designed in conjunction with Gibson Greetings, Cincinnati, and Time Distribution Services, New York, at two of its units.The 32-foot-long ash-wood frame rack with black shelving is concave, similar to Gibson's boutique card racks, and displays 443 titles full face. Magazines are positioned in the center of the store

INDIANAPOLIS -- Marsh Supermarkets here is testing a prototype mainline magazine rack designed in conjunction with Gibson Greetings, Cincinnati, and Time Distribution Services, New York, at two of its units.

The 32-foot-long ash-wood frame rack with black shelving is concave, similar to Gibson's boutique card racks, and displays 443 titles full face. Magazines are positioned in the center of the store in 12-foot-wide aisles with greeting cards, books and stationery. Two 6-foot-long benches have been provided for shoppers to sit and read.

According to Bill Mansfield, vice president of general merchandise, sales are surpassing initial projections since introducing the new merchandising scheme at stores in Carmel and Lafayette in July. He declined to provide more specific details.

Plans are to roll out the racking concept to 16 stores in the 88-unit chain. A third store may be added in February, said Mansfield.

Mansfield said the retooling of the mainline reading rack in a concave design breaks up the traditional straight-line presentation, which was crammed with titles that overlapped each other. "We wanted to develop a customer-friendly title selection," said Mansfield. "Mainline racks are usually crowded with three and four times the number of titles actually needed. This forces customers to really work hard to find the magazines they want."

The number of titles on the new fixture is about half of what is stocked at the chain's other outlets.

The title selections were made based upon category analysis, store-level demographics and customer data, said Mansfield. The goal is to have "the right magazines in the right store for customers."

Titles are arranged by subject and backlit headers call out the subject groups, which include sports, cooking, exercise, family, finance and business, lifestyles, teens, home, arts and computers. "What I believe made the numbers improve was the presentation, because it's so easy for the customer to identify the category that they want to browse, and to identify the product within the category," Mansfield said.

"The new design directs shoppers to the areas they want to read about by using large signs set at and above the racks," said Joe Bivona, director of trade relations for TDS, which is Marsh's news distributor-wholesaler.

Titles also are slotted to a dedicated planogram. "The new fixtures follow a planogram so that Runners World, for example, is in the same spot along with the other running titles every month," said Mansfield. Without a dedicated planogram, titles are subject to being moved around based upon those who service the racks. "It makes it tough for shoppers to make a purchasing decision," Mansfield noted.

Marsh wants to produce the fixture in an injection-molded design to lower production costs. The prototype was made of hand-tooled wood. "We've got to take the cost out of the fixture to allow us to duplicate it in modular, plastic sections," said Mansfield. This will allow the chain to add additional modules to other stores.