NEW YORK — Although today's consumers take in much of their news and celebrity gossip via the Internet, they are still buying magazines. Single-copy unit sales were up 1.5% in 2006, according to a 2007 report released by publishing consultancy Harrington Associates, Norwalk, Conn. For supermarkets, a regular destination for even the most harried shopper, the chances of doing what interactive media can't — physically engaging the consumer in a way that leads to magazine sales — are good. “Because of the cluttered messaging environment, it is up to the supermarket to provide value and to connect with the customer's life,” Diana Pohly, president, the Pohly Co., a media sales and relationship marketing consultancy in Boston, told SN. The variety of products carried in supermarket aisles also presents a variety of cross-merchandising opportunities, yet bookstore sell-through percentages are slightly higher than those of grocery stores, said Jim Gillis, president and chief operating officer of magazine distributor Source Interlink, Bonita Springs, Fla. “Generally, bookstores do a good job of merchandising and have a good selection of magazines,” he said. To find out how supermarkets can better leverage the many product categories and many shoppers in their stores with an eye toward selling magazines, SN spoke to Anne Finn, vice president of consumer marketing, Magazine Publishers of America, here.
SN: What opportunities do you see for supermarkets in cross-merchandising magazines and books with other products, especially entertainment products like DVDs?
AF: There are several very progressive supermarket retailers who are looking to other retail formats — bookstores, for example — for inspiration in planning their “entertainment” centers. They include magazines and books as well as music, DVDs and all the peripheral products that go with “entertainment.”
SN: How can supermarkets do a better job of promoting magazines and books?
AF: Supermarkets can do a better job of promoting magazines and books by really zeroing in on the category. While magazines are usually merchandised by outside personnel, ownership at a store level can only improve sales. For example, if some checkout lanes are closed, move titles to the active lanes, where replenishment may be needed. Or, if a title is selling particularly well on the mainline, move it to a more dominant position on the mainline [the magazine section in the main part of the store]. Additionally, there are always tremendous opportunities to cross-merchandise magazines throughout the store: parenting titles in a baby center; car titles in auto supply areas; beauty magazines in HBC; and food magazines throughout the store.
SN: The magazine industry has been facing the challenge of self-checkouts for a couple of years now. How is it progressing?
AF: Self-checkouts are now a reality in the retail experience. Many retailers have created specialty racks around the self-checkout fixtures to promote magazines. Other retailers have created endcaps opposite checkouts to promote magazines. And those retailers who have developed “entertainment” areas at the front end have had terrific sales.
SN: How can supermarkets take advantage of the idea of creating a reading center?
AF: As I mentioned, those retailers who have tested and are now rolling out “entertainment centers” are those who understand that consumers are looking for an elevated shopping experience, and know that magazines and books provide just that.
SN: The celebrity category of magazines has been the fastest-growing lately. What does this mean to supermarkets?
AF: Consumers' passion for their celebrities means that they are coming into supermarkets week-by-week, month-by-month, with a hunger for access that so many of our magazines excel at providing. As long as consumers want their showbiz news and gossip, celebrity titles will continue to ring up sales for supermarkets.