By helping 500 independent stores with their magazine branding, H Bauer has helped them beat the declining sales trend. It is one of many initiatives the publisher has had success with, explains Managing Director David Goodchild. Here we bring you the Retail Newsagent interview in full.
What are the three most significant things you have done to help independents in the past 12 months?
Firstly, getting our in-store category branding programme in place. It’s the culmination of three years work and that’s now showing strong results. Secondly, the 500 stores we’ve refitted. When the refits began earlier this year it halted the decline of magazine sales in those stores. Thirdly, we launched our six mini-puzzle range in July and have had fantastic results. For the first issues, independents made up 51 per cent of share of sales on average.
How have you been involved in the work Frontline has been doing with independents?
Paul Sadler, the field sales controller at Frontline, used to work at Bauer, so his philosophy is our philosophy. He’s created a pool of 5,000 proactive independents and we call on 2,500 stores a month.Independents have to trust distributors to really help them work their range. A retailer will only ever see what goes on inside their store, whereas distributors, publishers and wholesalers see the whole picture and, therefore, are much better judges of how best to optimise sales potential.The one thing retailers are much better at than us is knowing their customers and that’s where the concentrated work we’ve been doing with independents comes in.
What’s the biggest challenge you need to tackle with independents?
Visibility. Frontline has been doing trials with independents where their ranges are cut down and the performance is fantastic. If you have customers who regularly buy a title, but you only have one customer for it, do a shop save so it’s always there for them but isn’t taking up space on the shelf.In the next 12 months we’ll be looking further at range management, by working with the NFRN in selected areas for example, in addition to the branding exercise.
We’re not into retail promotions, but we do focus on making sure we’re giving our readers the easiest path to continue buying their magazine every week.
How do you promote your magazines?
We’re not into retail promotions, but we do focus on making sure we’re giving our readers the easiest path to continue buying their magazine every week. If you imagine going into a shop and a magazine is in a special unit on promotion, that’s fine for that week, but the following week they’ll go back and it’s not there. We’d much rather a retailer had three facings on a normal shelf to build readers into a regular habit. If the readers’ preferred destination purchase is their local shop, you have to give them every opportunity to buy that magazine in that shop, in the same place every week.
What are your thoughts on the pressure retailers are putting on the OFT to refer the industry to the Competition Commission?
The OFT is there to protect consumers and today readers have more opportunity to buy. If anything, they’re better off than they were because of price promotions and multipacking. I haven’t seen the submission, but I think it’s difficult to have a case because consumers aren’t losing out. And, because of all the systems wholesalers have put in place, they are actually doing a better job for both independents and multiples than they were before.
You’ve spoken about price promotions. What are your thoughts on the removal of cover prices?
It would be a disaster because cover prices give the consumer absolute certainty. If a retailer decided to put the price up, the supermarkets would say “the gloves are off” and would sell it cheaper. It’s not like a convenience product where if its 10p or 20p more it doesn’t matter, because the customer needs it. They don’t need magazines – they’re a luxury and you shouldn’t give customers an excuse to not buy them.
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