Things Placed in Front of The Magazine Rack: Part 6 of…

No, I haven’t run out of things to write about. There is so much to discuss about the single copy business. Over the past few weeks I’ve received some some remarkably good material from correspondents around the country. It is nice to get these pictures and stories in a “I wish it wasn’t so” kind of way. It’s clear that my griping about things getting placed in front of magazine displays isn’t restricted to my little neck of the woods. But I guess I already knew that.

Consultant Linda Ruth of Publishers Single Copy Sales and Magazine Dojo was recently reviewing some magazine displays on behalf of one of her clients and sent along some of the things she witnessed. She also wrote a very engaging blog post on Magazine Dojo entitled, “Retail’s Failure to Honor Their Display Promise” and I encourage you to go and read it.

Strike One!

Part of the issue here is that store managers rightly have a lot of freedom to put displays where they see fit. They don’t have an enormous amount of room, magazines are at the front end, they’re already in pockets. For the most part store managers don’t have to worry about merchandising them and these one shot pre-packs need to go somewhere. So they go in front of the checkout.

As Linda points out, when pre-packs get stuck in front of a mainline, it’s the price we mainline publisher’s pay for just paying our discount and RDA. But the checkout is another animal because publishers pay discount, plus RDA, plus the rack construction cost. More importantly, it’s a three year commitment.

This would be way cooler if Barbie had made the front cover of People
Well, tea is low cal, but the aisle is closed so…

Barbies, wiffle balls and herbal teas are at best, a one week commitment.

The recent developments in the industry, most notably the purchase of Comag by News Group, the investment of Hudson News into the deal are supposed to be a “watershed moment” where we will see the elimination of overlapping marketing and distribution activities and a smoothing of the waters in the distribution channel.

From an accounting and staffing perspective, I get that.

Having all kinds of  junk dumped in front of checkout and mainline display space is nothing new – it’s been happening for years upon countless years. In the 21st century, though, it feels a little different. Magazines at retail are being challenged. Our distribution systems are fragile because there are so few avenues to market. All of them are stressed. Cost of entry has risen, not gone down.

Clearly we’re not making our case well enough to the retailers. Do they feel an obligation to maintain the space that our publishers pay a premium for? Our wholesalers are supposed to merchandise. Clearly our wholesalers are under pressure to get the job done and facing enormous amounts of competition for the space they do manage.

Years ago, the wholesalers used to maintain an industry trade group that tried to speak for them with one voice. Publishers and national distributors have IPDA, the MPA and the PBAA. There is a joint “Retail Conference”. Is it time for publishers, wholesalers and national distributors to try and speak for magazines with just one voice? Most of our disagreements are so much inside baseball. But the profitability of the product we represent is not up for argument.

Want some reading material on your picnic?

We need to do a better job engaging the retailer, checking up on our own distributions, and fighting for our space. How do we do this with circulation staffs and budgets that are shells of what they once were?

Increased “efficiencies” of all types is a noble goal. But ours is a sales oriented business.

Let’s sell something.

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