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Retail strategies: 5 minutes with… Emma Carey

What’s selling? Where’s it selling and at what price? Where are the opportunities for publishers? We grab five minutes with Marketforce’s Emma Carey to find out…

By Emma Carey

Retail strategies: 5 minutes with… Emma Carey

Q: Which magazine categories are performing well at the moment and why?

A: Markets performing well tend to be the high-priced niche markets targeting consumer hobbies and interests. For instance, the motoring and motorcycling sporting divisions are doing exceptionally well. Other niche markets displaying year-on-year growth include military, boating & yachting, antiques and a few music markets like country, jazz, dance and heavy metal – all with high price points.

These markets had a tough time during Covid and have taken a while to recover. One of the main reasons for growth is WHS Travel bouncing back. During the pandemic, the majority of WHS Travel stores closed. When they reopened, they were selling a tenth of magazine sales. In the present market, consumers are happily travelling again, and this mirrors our data. This retail group has a while to get back to pre-pandemic numbers, but magazines, especially niche sectors, are reaping the benefits.

Events and topical subjects influence magazine performance. For instance, after the Lionesses won the women's Euros, this helped boost sales in the football category. Not only did it boost sales, but it also opened up a new target audience.

The jubilee was an astounding success for magazines. We saw various magazine sectors capitalise on it and bring millions of additional revenue into the magazine market. There were plenty of women’s interest titles marking this occasion but some less obvious sectors such as TV listings, countryside & county and equestrian.

We are seeing healthy sales for the domestic news & current affairs sector. With the ongoing UK credit crunch and concerns around the UK government, brands covering this content are seeing a boost in sales.

Q: What type of retail outlets are proving most fruitful for magazine sales?

A: I’ve touched on WHS Travel already but their sister company, WHS High Street is another retailer doing better than last year. Both these retailers are core for the specialist brands. Consumers flock to these stores, knowing they will find magazines covering specific content that meets their expectations.

According to our latest data, there is a commonality between Waitrose and M&S whereby high-end monthlies are driving the magazine performance. This goes to show, high-quality magazines are perfectly placed, targeting the more affluent consumer.

Supermarkets are still our biggest retail channel. Women’s weeklies and TV listings are seen as affordable treats and cater for the mass market.

Q: Are there any consumer behavioural trends that publishers need to be aware of?

A: The rising cost of living is forcing most to adopt a mindful approach to spending, meaning they will be on the lookout for cost-effective options. Magazine brands offering discounted deals, sustainability initiatives and value for money will continue to appeal and contribute to brand loyalty.

But it’s not all about price. There remain consumer groups who have not been as heavily impacted by inflation and who have built up savings during the pandemic. Brands should take into account these consumers’ pent-up desire to invest in higher quality and premium products.

Q: In terms of the type of product that publishers are selling through retail, what is working well?

A: Regular magazines are our core business. However, we do see other categories pick up during seasonal periods. For example, partworks are showing good results across multiple retailers. Lockdowns and restrictions created ideal conditions for hobbies and partworks play a key role by continuing to tap into this high demand.

Bookazines are our fastest growing market, not just for the UK, but globally also. A bookazine is a combination of a magazine and book, with a hefty cover price. These are what we would like to call evergreen products. I guess you could say they are a bit like Pringles, once you start, you can’t stop. Bookazines are no different and can be reprinted over and over, drawing in new consumers every time it is released.

We can’t forget about the World Cup and Premier League collections. We are already tracking strong sales for these two collectables alone. Combined, retailers are reporting growth and they’ve only been available for a few weeks.

Q: When it comes to pricing, what should publishers be considering?

A: There are three things you should consider. Firstly, I suggest looking at the frequency of your product, monthlies versus weeklies.

Weeklies are by far the largest market and make up nearly 75% of overall sales. Mass-market weeklies tend to be more price sensitive. If pushing price higher, smaller and more often increments will help you achieve your targets. As for high-end weeklies, consider upping the price a little higher. It shouldn’t damage sales, however to be on the safe side, testing this theory beforehand will be your best option.

Monthlies work differently. Consumers are less price sensitive, allowing publishers to increase prices higher and bolder than previous price movements. If you continue to offer good quality content, people will continue to buy.

Secondly, be mindful of the cost of living. Pushing price is important but the fact remains, people are hard-pressed. Offering consumers value for money, like extra pages or a supplement goes a long way. But remember to shout about it on the front cover.

Thirdly, think about dynamic pricing. If you want to stay clear of a permanent price increase, pushing the price on strong-selling issues while the demand is high, might work better for your magazine. Just remember to plan ahead.

As with any price movements for products or services, sales usually dip, while revenue will likely remain stable or show positive growth.

Q: What advice would you give to publishers who are looking to optimise their sales performance over the next twelve months?

A: To maximise magazine sales, we often refer to the four marketing p’s, also known as the marketing mix. They are product, price, place and promotion.

  • Product: Ask basic questions about the magazine - Who needs it and why? Does your magazine have a competitive advantage? Is your magazine keeping up with the consumers’ wants and needs? What benefits will the retailer get if they stock your magazine? If you can answer these simple questions, you are guaranteed success.
  • Price: Consider how much consumers are willing to pay for a magazine. In this current climate, research is key. It allows you to benchmark your product against the direct competition. If the price is too high, consumers may look elsewhere. If too low, consumers may think the quality of the magazine is too basic. There needs to be a balance, finding the correct price point will make all the difference.
  • Place: The place is where magazines are stocked and available for consumers. For magazines, there is a sell-in process. We provide compelling evidence to retailers on why brands are the right fit for their shoppers. This is a collaborative process between publisher and distributor. Strong-range arguments will make all the difference between being stocked or not.
  • Promotions: Promotions are a chance to target core and impulse audiences. Promoting at retail allows magazine brands to raise awareness and draw attention to the category. Knowing what works best for your brand is fundamental. Think about your consumer. What would they like to see? Ask questions like, are they more or less price sensitive? This can determine if you should run ‘3 for 2’ promotions or cut-price activity. Publishers are also working together, creating cross-category promotions. It’s a way of opening the door for consumers and giving them an option to purchase brands they haven’t yet already considered.

Q: What in the pipeline from Marketforce?

A: We never sit still at Marketforce. We are constantly on the lookout for inspiration and can’t wait to discuss our newest research with our publishers. Our webinars are a way to communicate our latest trend and audience research. This gives publishers the chance to digest and implement insights into their own strategies.

Over the coming weeks, we are launching our very own client portal. This fast and easy-to-use web-based platform provides publishers with instant access to our full suite of market intelligence and insight reports. This wealth of reporting will help support publishers understand magazine market trends as well as access to our industry-leading insight research. This will inform and inspire thinking on product development, consumer behaviour and opportunities across the magazine market.

Another development focuses on efficiencies. Our next-generation allocation system allows us to take control of supplies, making sure retailers have the correct copy but also minimising waste.

About us

With more than 30 years of experience, Marketforce leads the way in global sales, marketing and distribution for a wide range of publishing and media businesses. Owned by Future PLC, we are backed by one of Europe’s largest and fastest-growing media companies.

We are the #1 independent publisher newsstand distributor. Distribution is our core service, but our focus is also on helping publishers build their businesses through adding value. We aid product development, help determine optimal pricing and deliver customer marketing for brands that grows sales. If you would like to hear why more publishers are choosing Marketforce, call us for a chat about getting the distribution you need.



Tel: 0330 390 7498