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Jerry Lynch – President, Magazine And Books, Retail Association – Explains Why “Magazines Are Still A Viable Product In The Marketplace” At The ACT 7 Experience…Linda Ruth Reporting…

May 3, 2017

With unit sales of 12.1%; the retail space allocated to the category down; the quality of space under fire, and a continuing buzz of negativity associated with print, it is no surprise that the sale of magazines at retail continues to be challenging. Jerry Lynch, the president of Magazine and Books, Retail Association (MBR), spoke with the audience at ACT 7 last week to analyze what is happening to magazines at retail, what the implications are, and how publishers might most effectively respond.

Retail is, in fact, under fire, not only for magazines but for all categories. E commerce is challenging brick and mortar sales. Trips to the store are mostly down, and, when at the store, the shopper basket size is down. While some growth is expected, most will come from stores less than 20,000 square feet—which could be a problem for categories fighting for attention in stores.

Efforts by stores to add departments have not been universally successful. Target, for example, invested in food, but people still don’t go to Target for food. “Just putting a product category in doesn’t change who you are,” Lynch said. Stores are getting people to go through the added departments, but not getting them to buy when in those departments.

How does digital contribute to the mix? Smart retailers are looking to digital commerce as their top place to add revenue. Another approach is to look to the categories where the internet can’t compete—for example, fresh foods and perishables. Retailers are reinventing the front end to move customers through and out quicker. And one promising venture is click and collect: the shopper can order online, and pick the order up at retail. The brick and mortar store locations provide instant gratification and a cost advantage through savings on shipping.

Still, publishers continue to be frustrated by retail, and find themselves asking: should I continue to invest? What is the opportunity?

Print magazines, Lynch told us, are still a category selling over $2 billion annually. We continue to sell over a million copies a day in 121,000 outlets. And there is hope to be found in other measurements as well. Magazine product is still profitable to retailers, the supply chain has dropped out costs, and retailers are looking for help. Magazines still make the retailer 62 cents per sale, compared to other categories, many of which are considerably lower.

And, Lynch said, we have great product. We might not talk about that enough, but we have value to offer our customers. Magazines offer many brands across the category, and our readers believe in the brands and are swayed by advertising. These are the customers retailers want.

What publishers can do is, instead of retreating, to seize the offensive. We can seize the opportunity, embrace retail, raise our expectations. We still have the opportunity to grow. To do so, we must establish our expectations and identify opportunities through benchmarking; we must collaborate with our partners across the supply chain, leading with the consumer in mind. We must communicate what we sell, attacking the impediments to opportunity. And we must celebrate what we have.

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