Knowing your retailer is key to newsstand success: Circulators

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NEW YORK - How magazines can become more efficient on the newsstand is the perennial question for publishers. Some answers came forth this week at the Direct Marketing Association's annual Circulation Day.

Discussion topics included setting, executing and evaluating initiatives, and better targeting and merchandising at retail.

"Sales fluctuate from issue to issue depending on the news topic," said Camille Pellino, newsstand director at U.S. News & World Report. "But with freight charges and increases in postal and paper costs, we have been backed into a corner to look at everything to keep costs down."

Ms. Pellino suggested examining a magazine's distribution at the store level to see which dealers are selling and how many copies per title are being purchased.

"We may give a retailer five or six copies and that issue of the title had a half-percent sell rate," Ms. Pellino said.

The key is to find productive dealers.

"If you reduce the draw too much to retailers you will get order regulation problems," said Dale Oehler, senior vice president and client group of Time Warner Retail Sales & Marketing. "Reduce the draw to manageable levels."

Mr. Oehler has taken the clustering approach on the newsstand.

"We organized our approach according to the store level data," he said. "We want to educate people to not want to expand dealers, but to focus on what you have."

Justine Kawas, vice president of communications for Universal News, agreed.

"If you fight for specialty dealers and retailers than you get across what your publication is all about," she said. "It's important to zone in and see what's left of that local retailer."

The circulator should aim to be more creative and to marry different departments. Being unified, yet sensitive to the exposure of a title will allow it to be taken as far as it can go.

Circulators also need to know their retailer.

"You have to come to terms with the fact that you're not going to sell a lot of copies at certain places," Ms. Pellino said. "You need to think of ways that your magazine can be displayed throughout the retailer and not just on the newsstand."

Suggestions in being more creative included working with the retailer to have a title placed with a best-selling book or indoor displays and promotions.

"Retailers are driving what's going on and you have to be aware and understand that in order to survive," Mr. Oehler said.

Circulators should not worry about competitors or let that affect their newsstand approach.

"The more you express your goals to the retailers, the better the chance is that they will understand you," Ms. Kawas said.

The newsstand is still considered to be the most valuable arena for magazines, yet circulators cannot assume that their distributor understands all their needs.

"Make sure you properly communicate your needs and have a set agenda for a certain period," Ms. Kawas said. "Then, renew yourself and replenish your ideas."

The key is for circulators to better use what they already have.

"You have to be able to grow," Mr. Oehler said. "In the end, people vote with their wallets."

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