MagWorld Mag World











Small magazines Pushed Aside


By James Shea

Shot of Gateway Newstands
Photo Courtesy: Gateway Newstands

Since a magazine has only a fraction of a second to catch a potential customer’s eye, especially the eye of a fast-moving commuter, a magazine’s location on the rack can make all the difference.

Several elements must come into play for a magazine to be successful on the newsstand, says Genevieve Gately, marketing manager at St. Joseph Media.

Innovative approaches such as clever cover designs or customer-friendly promotions go a long way in determining newsstand sales.
Gateway Newstands, a family-owned and operated magazine retailer since 1983, boasts more than 400 outlets across North America. The stands can be found in transit systems as well as in malls and office towers. The company, which also sells snacks, beverages, candy and tobacco, generates much of its revenue from magazine sales.

Arlene Shepard, vice president of press management at Gateway Newstands, says as the newsstand sells primarily to people on-the-go, consumers generally spend less time browsing the newsstand at Gateway than they would at a bookstore. To combat this, the 539 titles listed and sold at Gateway’s Toronto Transit Commission subway locations must be especially creative if they hope to sell.

Shepard says covers are what influence most magazine sales. “If there is a really hot cover, such as the issue of People with Heath Ledger and his tragic death, copies will fly off the shelves. Covers really drive the sale of any magazine and impact its success on the newsstand. The number we use in the magazine industry is 90 per cent impulse sale,” she says. “When they see the magazine, and the cover catches their attention, it will trigger a purchase.”

While a sexy cover will likely aid in newsstand success, so will placement. And whether an issue of People magazine is placed in front of an issue of Vogue, behind it, or beside it, comes down to who will shell out the money for that premium spot on the rack. According to Shepard, a primary magazine pocket at a Gateway newsstand in the TTC has a list rate of $11,500 per year. The company’s most expensive location is Toronto’s Union Station, which sells primary pockets at annual rates anywhere from $12,000 to $30,000.

“If a title has the budget to market itself on the newsstand, they typically aim to get better placement by bidding for checkout positions, purchasing promotional space and putting together special newsstand initiatives,” says Gately. “Retailers such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Loblaws, and Wal-Mart all have checkout positions that publishers bid for. A combination of the dollars offered and history of sales on the title determine which publication gets on the checkout and which doesn’t.”

For predetermined spots, companies like Gateway have guidelines they adhere to. “We have specific magazine displays and pockets within our stores that publishers purchase for a month or a full year to display and sell their magazine,” says Shepard. “That is why you tend to see the strongest magazines at the checkout from those publishers with the deepest pockets. It can be a very costly venture to secure these prime positions.”

According to Shepard, weekly celebrity magazines such as People, Hello, and In Touch are currently the most popular and profitable at Gateway.

Shepard says a paid contract with a publisher will take precedence over an unpaid contract, putting smaller publications at a disadvantage. However, some retailers try to lend a hand to small magazines.
Book City, an independent Canadian bookstore chain, provides its customers with a wider variety. Titles such as Harper’s, The Walrus and The New Yorker, and smaller but reputable Canadian publications such as Geist and Taddle Creek,are popular with the bookstore’s clientele.

“We might sell a few more copies of Star if we have it in the same prime location as we have a local literary minded publication like Taddle Creek. But for a magazine like Taddle Creek to thrive, they need the face-time from local, independent bookstores like ours, and we try our best to provide that,” says Nick Thran, a sales associate at the Danforth Avenue location.