NEW YORK -- Shaw's Supermarkets has a fresh idea. The East Bridgewater, Mass.-based retailer is distributing its own magazine. The publication strengthens the image of the store as a brand and also provides an account-specific vehicle for brand marketers to reach shoppers with targeted advertising. Called Fresh Ideas, the magazine is produced through a unique co-marketing relationship with E.W. Communications L.P here, publisher of Eating Well magazine. It is the first in what the publisher hopes will be a network of similar magazines at supermarkets across the country. "The editorial premise of the magazine is built around the supermarket," said Scott Mowbray, publisher and editorial director of Fresh Ideas.
"A lot of magazines have been in flight from the supermarket, and consequently the supermarkets are not well served. The supermarket represents a huge market, with so many people spending time and money in them, and a dynamic marketplace, with each consumer facing 20,000 or more products during every visit," he said. Fresh Ideas, sold exclusively at the checkout counters of Shaw's for $1.75, contains independently produced editorial matter about food, shopping, recipes, health and home, and national-brand advertising. Some of the national advertisers include Glad Trash Bags, Kraft Dressings, Pillsbury, Louis Rich, Dannon Yogurt, Post Cereals, Advil and Centrum. The first issue also included some custom editorial pages about Shaw's and Shaw's advertising and coupons.
Mowbray said that it is up to the retailer to decide what to do for the custom editorial pages. In the premier issue, Shaw's produced the editorial items and E.W. Communications packaged it.
"If they want a complete turnkey operation, we can do that. Or if they want to produce it themselves, with the photography and everything, they can, as long as their pages meet the quality standards of the magazine," said Mowbray. E.W. Communications plans to roll out Fresh Ideas with other geographically exclusive and progressive supermarket retailers across the United States. "The next phase is to assemble a network of at least 600 stores, each in its own region, and roll out nationally," said Mowbray.
The Fresh Ideas contract states that each supermarket chain gets regional exclusivity within its particular geographic zone. If the chain expands into a competitor's zone, it won't be able to carry the magazine in that particular store, Mowbray said. "At the time they sign the contract, they'll get exclusivity within 20 miles of each store."
With 30,000 copies of the debut November/December issue displayed in 1,000 checkout racks of Shaw's 100 stores in the New England area, Fresh Ideas is sure to help strengthen and reinforce the crucial customer-retailer bond.
Shaw's reported that Fresh Ideas got off to a good start and is competing with national magazines at a very competitive price.
"That's consistent with Shaw's own-label program," said Bernie Rogan, spokesman for Shaw's. "Our label is as good as national brands or better, for at least 10% less."
The magazine allows Shaw's to showcase recipes that include Shaw's own-label products and re-reinforces the concept of Shaw's label as a brand.
"We're looking at Woman's Day and the rest as competitors," said Rogan. "But we have more recipes, with good writing, good photography and good production. And it seems to all be working at the shelf."
Said Mowbray: "The fundamental concept, which is customer buys house-brand magazine, is just about the same." Shaw's and E.W. Communications became acquainted through the latter's award-winning, five-year-old Eating Well magazine, and the Eating Well test kitchens.
"We did some recipe development for Shaw's in our test kitchens," said Mowbray. "We really liked them and they really liked us. When this project started to develop, we went to them. They seemed like progressive, co-marketing-type people. Not all supermarkets are."
Shaw's parent company, Sainsbury, a national upscale supermarket chain in England, has had previous experience and success there with its own high-end magazine, named The Magazine.
Mowbray said there are many benefits to co-marketing with a supermarket chain. "You get distribution and marketing muscle, and someone who will back the magazine with promotion," he said. "Shaw's is already reaching its customers through freestanding inserts, in-store demonstrations and coupons. At the same time, the stores are incredibly eager to rise above the lowest everyday price battle. They don't want to become 'commoditized,' which drives prices down. They want to raise their profile so they can reassert their image with the consumer as a quality and service retailer.
"With Fresh Ideas, you know that the consumer is buying a magazine specifically about shopping and the products in that store. So you know you have a consumer who is oriented toward the messages," he said.