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How to do a magazine relay in your newsagency

I first shared advice on how to relay magazines to drive growth in sales back in 2006. Over the years I have shared updated advice here.

While magazines are not as important as they were, and some newsagents don’t have the category at all, I revisited the advice. I share the revised advice below. This is one of 200+ articles on the newsXpress member knowledge base.

In editing the advice, I did a relay two weeks ago in the business I just bought, which does close to $300,000 a year in magazine sales. I read the earlier advice, did the relay and edited the advice. I mention this to make the point that I am writing from current experience. The relay in this business was the first step. next, coming soon, is a trimming of space taken by magazines, to reduce their occupancy cost and thereby improve their profitability. But, the relay had to be the first step.

How to do a magazine relay in your newsagency

A magazine relay is the process of recasting, improving, the layout of magazines in your business, with the main goal of increasing sales and a secondary goal of improving retail space efficiency.

Typically, a relay of 1,000 magazine pockets can be completed in 4 hours. This time investment can add 5% and more to sales. (I did this recently (December 2021) in a shop that had never had a magazine relay.)

In an older version of this advice we advised what to place where. That is not what we consider best practice today. No, today’s approach is more organic, more what you want for your business.

Think of it as starting with a blank canvas and no plan as to what the final art will look like.

DO IT YOURSELF, DO IT ALONE.

A magazine relay is a statement about the business, a marketing and management activity. It sets the tone and says this is who we are, what we do and what we stand for. Doing it yourself is a leadershipstatement. Doing it alone means less conflict, less noise. And remember, the relay is not a destination … because regular change in magazine layout is essential.

PLACEMENT.

Magazines are best located on a wall of the shop, and not in a centre fixture taking up premium retail space best allocated to higher margin and business differentiating products.

VISUAL NOISE.

Magazine covers are colourful. Adding more noise, such as product headers, can detract from the products. Consider a less is more approach, allowing the products to speak for themselves.

FULL FACING OR NOT.

Full facing is a term used in 2 ways: where 100% of the cover of a magazine is shown (true full facing) and where you have 1 magazine title per pocket in a tiered magazine fixture.

If you have the space on a wall and have less than 500 magazine titles, true full facing, showing 100% of the cover, can deliver best results.

In tiered fixtures, while full facing, one title per pocket works best, fitting 2 or 3 titles in a pocket can work with low volume special interest titles people will seek out.

BEACON BRANDING.

This is the process of using magazine mastheads to draw attention to a category of magazines. Use the top 2 or 3 pockets for a single title, allowing it to draw attention.

OWN THE RELAY.

There is no right or wrong. In our experience doing relays in. many different situations, the best approach to a relay is to start … just start. You will soon find your groove and see decisions you can make.

DOING THE RELAY.

Start at one end of a fixture. Take off all the titles for between 3 and 6 columns and rebuild, with purpose, to draw attention, tell a story and drive sales.

As you build up a column, take off magazines from another 1 – 3 columns, always keeping empty space between where you are working and the old layout.

Look ahead, read the categories on display and think about where you are at compared to where you are headed.

ADJACENCIES.

This is a bit of secret sauce. It is where you can make editorial decisions, business decisions to guide your shoppers. What works best with what. You don’t know, not for sure at least, how can you. Ok, there is basket data you could read … but that only tells you what is happening. What about what could happen? Who knows. Experiment!

For example, should you put model plane magazines next to flying magazines? Or, should model plane magazines be in a distinct section of all model titles?

Do puzzle shoppers shop by brand or puzzle type. Publishers want you to layout based on their brand whereas your shoppers are, in our opinion, more likely to shop by interest. For example, all sudoku titles could work better together, or all large print titles could work better together.

ADJACENCY SUGGESTIONS.

Here are some adjacency suggestions. They are not rules. They are shared here to help you think of your own.

  • Cricket, golf and swimming go well together. Wrestling, boxing and buff-type fitness go well together.
  • Soccer is not rugby or AFL. Don’t mix them together.
  • Classic car titles need to be distinctly separated from regular car titles.
  • Classic car titles work well with classic trucks.
  • Car lovers do shop by brand. Place branded magazine titles together.
  • People interested in home renovation could be interested in any renovation title.
  • Creative arts go well together: painting, writing, craft.

EASE OF SHOPPING.

If you have a tall fixture, think of your customers. There is no point placing titles targeting older shoppers up high or down low as reaching or bending could be challenging for them.

WORKING THE RELAY.

Work your way down the fixtures, creating the placement and adjacencies that you want.

Ideally, get it done in one session.

So people know you are focussed, put headphones on. Ignore everyone asking you questions.

Get it done.

HAND OVER.

Once you are done, walk the new layout with others working in the shop. Explain your decisions. Given them a response for customer comments. Make sure that everyone in the business is on your page.

WATCH AND MEASURE.

Next, watch shoppers and listen for feedback and, after a couple of weeks, look at the sales results. The results could guide adjustments, or not.

BE READY TO DO IT AGAIN.

If you have more than 300 magazine titles in your shop, a relay at least every year is a good investment … because magazine shoppers are usually loyal and that loyalty can benefit other, higher margin, parts of your business.

If you have made it this far, thanks for reading.  Magazines really are a point of difference which we need to work harder at embracing – despite the challenges of the distribution system.

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