Early returning would be less necessary if magazine distributors supplied more closely to what newsagents actually sell and if they did not load new titles without newsagent permission. Yes, the failure of the magazine distribution system requires that we early return.
Here is how I approach early returns.
- Gross oversupply is dealt with on the day of arrival. This would be where we have received four or five times what we could reasonably sell.
- I review the magazine shelves myself outside of the arrival process – checking title placement and looking for early return opportunities.
- The magazine label is crucial as it shows arrival date and quantity received. I focus on titles that have been on the shelves two or three weeks and more.
- If we have more than 60% of stock left I consider the title for early return. We’re in a shopping centre and need a sell-through of 60% to break even on magazines and if we’ve sold 40% or less in three weeks then the title is not achieving what we need.
- Sometimes I will early return everything supplied and other times I will early return some stock. It depends on space needs and sales to date.
- Whether I early return is a decision made on the day taking into account these factors. I try and not be swayed by overall distributor behaviour. I don’t seek to use early returns as retribution.
- If we have sold more than 75% of a title and there are weeks for it to run we will consider ordering more stock.
So, early returning is not black and white. I see it as a senior management function that requires careful attention to the opportunities of each title and the needs of the newsagency business.
I have been working with a newsagency recently where they did not early return at all. This business has been losing a considerable sum of money in part because of gross oversupply of magazines. My implementing a structured and considered early return process we have stemmed the losses and made magazines financially appealing to the business again.
I am confident that there are upside opportunities with magazines. It’s unfortunate that we continue to be oversupplied in a way that forces us to waste time on early returning instead of investing time in growth opportunities.