Magazine article Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

Specialty Stores: Missed Opportunity?

Magazine article Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

Specialty Stores: Missed Opportunity?

Article excerpt

Specialty stores: Missed opportunity?

NEW YORK CITY--Will Money magazine sell in banks? It's an obvious match. All the MBAs at Time Inc. Magazines thought it would fly. But it didn't.

The reason: no cash registers. "You can't sell magazines if there's no one around to collect the money," explained Susan Ollinick, who has had extensive experience in specialty outlet distribution. Ollinick, now director of retail sales for Entertainment Weekly, had developed the record store distribution system for Rolling Stone.

At the Magazine Publishing Congress, she explained that publishers won't make a lot of money selling magazines through specialty outlets. "It's a marginal business; break-even at best," she said. Most magazines enter specialty stores to attract core readers or to lure and support advertisers with point-of-purchase displays for their ads.

By and large, specialty retailers don't understand magazines, she said, even though the Magazine Publishers of America has been very good at "pounding through" the message that magazines deserve the space at larger retail stores. The specialty retailers "never heard of magazines--no one's approached them--so you are starting from the ground up."

Other problems: The retail account base is limited; only high-traffic stores will work. And then there's bad debt. "If you have the manpower and you stay on top of it, your debt can be 5 percent to 8 percent," Ollinick said. "Bad debt can and has killed many programs."

Some basic rules about attempting specialty-outlet sales:

* Provide a special interest title. "From my experience, if you are a mass market magazine, it's very difficult to get the attention you need," Ollinick explained. "You have to match that retailer's concerns pretty closely for it to work. Retail stores carry magazines basically because they support the sales of their primary product."

* Know that retailers dislike magazines with mail-order advertising. "They see it as competitive," she said. …

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