by Karlene Lukovitz
The magazine and book categories have compelling, timely reasons to invest resources in evolving their relationships with retailers into true, multidimensional partnerships.
That was one key point of agreement among executives on a wrap-up panel at the close of the 2017 MBR Conference.
Brian Beaudry, EVP, circulation, Bauer Media U.S., pointed out that several retailers who spoke early in the conference about their overall strategies and how magazines and books fit in—including executives from Barnes & Noble, OTG, Dollar General, Harris Teeter and HEB—expressed real excitement about the potential for these categories.
“We get focused on the problems and tend to forget about the opportunities out there,” Beaudry stressed. “Our retail customers are basically begging us to partner with them. This is not the time to take a step back or look to save nickels and dimes. There’s a great opportunity here to move transactional relationships to partnerships. We have to do more than just ring magazine sales at the register.”
He pointed to the many examples offered by conference speakers of potential ways to use the categories’ expert content and consumer insights to drive loyalty, sales and basket sizes for retailers and expand magazine and books’ retail revenue sources. (See the conference area of MBR’s site for article summaries of all of the sessions, as well as Powerpoints and audio.)
“We in this industry have the best content in the world,” which can be used, for instance, “to help retailers make their loyalty programs and apps ‘sticky’” and to help them create in-store events that draw consumers and strengthen their customer relationships, he said.
Because of the untapped opportunities that it sees, Bauer—which has always been heavily committed to the retail channel—plans to increase its investment at retail going forward, Beaudry reported.
“The retailers have offered us guidance and challenged us, and it’s critical that we as an industry come back to them with new ways of helping them navigate” the rapidly shifting consumer and competitive environments, concurred Dave Forsman, SVP, Marketing, TNG. “We need to be intellectual partners with them, and support them with data.” TNG is eager to team with other stakeholders in the channel to go out and help present a "one voice" story to retailers, he said.
“We also need to fish in all [retail] ponds” and work as stakeholder teams to devise and implement more cross-merchandising and other promotions, Forsman added.
John MacKethan, VP, sales and circulation, National Geographic, emphasized that, with consumers being “barraged” with promotions of all kinds online, the magazine category needs to step up the merchandising and promotion around its retail mainlines. “Yes, now is the time to invest,” he said. “Any investment in merchandising is going to pay off in sales.”
Michelle Ingenito, SVP, publisher services, Curtis Circulation, singled out “being where consumers are shopping today” as one of the key takeaways from the conference. With trips and traffic down in many sectors, it’s increasingly important that the industry works on getting authorization and display in highly trafficked venues such as dollar stores and Trader Joe’s, that presently don’t carry magazines.
She also noted that infusing the category with new magazines is crucial to driving sales, and suggested that channel partners find viable ways to somewhat lower the barriers to retail entry to enable launches by smaller publishers.
MBR president Jerry Lynch pointed out that the industry now has just-updated category performance statistics—including the new Willard Bishop SuperStudy, and new research on how best practices boost sales on the mainline—that can be used in meetings with retailers for partnership-building and sales purposes, once channel partners form a task force.