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Are partworks set to be a thing of the past in Australia?

Mark Fletcher
September 28th, 2018 · No Comments

With the unexpected liquidation of partworks importer and distributor Bissett Magazines, the question is: do partworks have a future in Australia?

The closure of Bissett came as a shock to magazine professionals. Bissett had what was effectively a monopoly on partworks in Australia. They had been in this position for many years, supplying newsagents through distributors as well as fulfilling subscriptions to the public directly.

I and others I have spoken with in our channel were shocked by news of the closure and still can’t understand how or why it happened. One guess is that they wanted out and could not sell the business. Who knows!

How Bissett operated with partworks regularly frustrated newsagents as they provided their direct customers what looked like better service and greater benefits than were available to customers who purchased partworks through newsagencies.

Subscribers usually got bonus gifts or items we could not access.

There were stories of newsagency customers calling Bissett’s offices with a query and being told to switch to a subscription from them rather than buying through a newsagency.

Then, there was the problem of not being able to get sufficient stock to satisfy cutaway requests. While newsagents often blamed the distributor for supply issues, it was the supply to the distributor that setup supply challenges from the outset. It became unclear if the supply issue to distributors was an Australian issue or a UK publisher issue.

I appreciate there are plenty in the channel who would be happy for partworks to disappear. My view is not as straightforward. A good partworks title launched with a solid TV campaign is good for our channel. It generates traffic and can set people on a path of return business, more deeply connecting them with our businesses.

On top of the closure of the Bissett business in Australia is news of challenges in some partworks businesses overseas. I hope those issues settle and a new model is determined to make partworks successful in Australia.

Financially, the opportunity is considerable. However, for it to work requires a reset around the processes, more certainty for newsagents to encourage their engagement, greater efficiency in the supply model and a tech-backed solution to better connect retailers and customers to retain more in the pool supporting a partworks title.

Unless partworks publishers work with people here in Australia to provide a more relevant to today route to market I do fear partworks will fade and eventually disappear from Australia. I’d prefer the challenges to be confronted and addressed.

What happens over the next few months depends on what the UK publishers want to do in our small market. We are a small market and that is part of the challenge. However, we have been viable for the UK publishers for many years. That can continue. The ball is in their court.


Category: magazine distribution · magazines · partworks

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