What’s the best-selling impulse item in a store? If you answered confectionery, crisps and snacks or soft drinks dock yourself a point, because the surprising answer is magazines.

About 43% of UK shoppers buy magazines on impulse, according to the PPA. And that’s not all. Barry Allaway, MD of niche and specialist magazine distributor WWMD, says that in addition to driving footfall “in a retailer that takes magazines the average basket spend is 25% higher than a non-magazine retailer”.

Yet despite such compelling evidence, a large number of UK convenience store owners still don’t stock them. Of the 250 independent retailers questioned by JWT for this month’s business barometer, 17% said they didn’t stock magazines or newspapers (see below). When you consider that two-thirds of shoppers make all of their magazine purchases in the same store [PPA], there’s a tremendous opportunity for retailers who don’t currently stock magazines or newspapers to cash in. So what do you need to know to ensure you make money from magazines?

The first thing to consider is ranging. As Peter Martin, head of magazines and retail at Menzies Distribution, points out: “The top 100 magazine titles generate 57% of the overall retail sales value for the category. It is therefore important to stock a core range of the top-selling titles. However, customer base and local demographics should also be considered.”

In addition to tailoring titles to your store’s demographics, you should also be aware of the latest hobbies and societal trends, says Allaway. “Part-works always sell well and at the moment craft titles - particularly knitting - Health & beauty and fitness titles and cycling titles are very popular,” he explains.

While it might be relatively straightforward selecting a range for your store, the hard part is getting the magazines to fly off the shelves. To aid this process, Allaway suggests putting your magazine rack in high footfall traffic areas or in and around the tills “because this market is all about impulse”.

It’s vital that the category is also visible from the store entrance, adds Martin. “Where grocers have moved their magazine display to the back of the store sales have declined,” he explains.

Presentation is key

You also have to make the area look presentable. According to PPA data, 51% of shoppers want to see improvements made to magazine fixtures in stores, 88% of shoppers say it’s important that they find their magazine quickly and easily and 45% of shoppers say they would go elsewhere if their preferred title was out of stock.

While these figures may sound a little daunting - especially when it comes down to forecasting sales - the good news for magazine sellers is that the risk of overstocking is minimised by the fact that the magazine market for retail is still sale and return, which is unusual in a lot of categories.

“Essentially you’re getting a fresh product every week of every month,” says Allaway. “So it’s not like selling tins of beans where I send you 10, you sell five and then I send you another five to top you up. The reality is it’s 10 in and even if five don’t sell you still get a brand new 10 the next month.”

Plus the margins are the same for all retailers across the piece, adds Allaway. “From Land’s End to John O’Groats, it doesn’t matter if you’re a large multiple or a small store - everyone gets treated the same so at the end of the day it comes down to who sells magazines the best.”

top tips - selling magazines

Consider the way customers pass the magazine fixture as this should influence how the display is merchandised. Women’s interest titles should be first in the flow, then general interest and male interest titles, says Menzies’ Peter Martin.

TV listings titles are big revenue generators, but they’re generally a planned purchase so they can be placed further into the display.

Consider category links - there is a connection between the purchase of comics and women’s titles, for example, as mothers often buy for their children.

Use PoS to attract the attention of shoppers. This can be used to highlight promotions or to flag up a new title.