The puzzle magazine sector is one to which retailers tend to pay extra attention in the summer because of the traditional uplift in sales. However, while the holiday season is certainly the peak period, retailers should not underestimate the sector's year-round performance. Puzzler Collection for example, the bestselling title in the market, sells more copies each month than titles such as She, Smash Hits and What Car? The Beap title has a news stand ABC of 202,652 (Jul-Dec 01) and was one of few titles in the sector to increase news stand sales in the last ABCs. Beap's sales director David Sergeant puts the success of Puzzler Collection down to factors that include its status as part of the Puzzler brand (the UK's original Puzzle magazine); value for money; high quality puzzles, strong marketing and high listings in supermarket and retail groups. Indeed, Beap says Puzzler Collection has a larger share of supermarket sales than any puzzle magazine, with more than 40%, while supermarkets generally account for 22.6% of sales of puzzle titles. H Bauer's Take a Crossword is the second-highest selling puzzle title with a news stand ABC of 137,703. The title is a good example of the sector's strong alliance with the women's weekly market and, unlike traditional puzzle titles, has the look and feel of a women's weekly. Spike Figgett, publishing director at H Bauer ­ which publishes 16 puzzle titles, many of them under the Take a Break brand ­ says retailers should capitalise on this association by placing puzzle magazines near the women's weeklies to prompt sales. He explains: "Branding is very important as a badge of quality, especially to a new reader. And Take a Break is by far the strongest brand in the UK's weeklies and puzzle market. The weekly sells more than 1.1 million a week while the puzzle titles combined can sell more than 900,000 per month during the summer." Figgett adds that the link is further strengthened by cross-advertising in the weekly titles: "Being part of a large consumer publisher gives H Bauer Puzzles the advantage of in-house advertising across all our weeklies ­ not only Take a Break but also That's Life!, TV Quick, TV Choice and on occasions Bella." Meanwhile Beap, which has 32 puzzle titles in all, holds the licence for the puzzle version of the UK's bestselling news stand title ­ What's on TV. What's on TV Puzzles is licensed from IPC alongside Chat Puzzles and Woman's Weekly Puzzles. Beap also holds licences from Emap including Yours Puzzles, a puzzle version of Emap's weekly title for the older consumer ­ a shrewd move when the publishers agree that older consumers are key buyers in this market. Beap, for example, says a typical reader of puzzle titles is women aged 50-plus. And Bob Paynter, business manager at Nexus Media, which publishes titles such as Puzzle Monthly and Logical Challenge, says: "Although the male audience is clearly growing, the bulk of the audience is still made up of women of 40-plus." Puzzle publisher PWA Services, which says some of its readers are aged 90-plus, even tailors some titles to suit the profile of the reader, publishing large print puzzles titles, such as Big Puzzles, alongside its standard titles. As a rule, Beap's Sergeant advises retailers to avoid placing puzzle titles on the top or bottom shelves where older readers may find them hard to reach. Other key puzzle purchasers are those looking for something to occupy them on a journey, and for these Beap produces a range of pocket-sized puzzle books. While the puzzle sector is outperforming the general magazine market by one per cent, many individual titles dropped sales in the last audit. Bauer's Figgett puts this down to expansion in the overall market. He says: "The market has held up pretty well over the past few years, recording slight growth in contrast to decline in other areas of magazine publishing. However, there have been new launches that have impacted on sales of the established titles." Indeed, with consumers always on the look-out for new puzzles, launches are common in this sector, with many publishers planning new titles this year. Beap, for example, will launch Puzzler Kriss Kross on June 14, with a print run of 150,000 and the commercial backing of the Puzzler range. In such a competitive sector marketing is key, and current titles are backed by big spends, particularly in the summer. Beap, for example, is spending £1.8m promoting its puzzle titles in 2002. This will be split between consumer promotions (covermounts, supplements etc), with half a million pounds going towards trade promotions, with retail activity the main beneficiary. One marketing tool that's common to puzzle magazines is offering prizes. Bauer's Figgett says: "Big prizes are an important inducement to buy for the prize puzzler and can be a valuable tool in encouraging casual purchase." And Beap's Sergeant explains: "Cash prizes and big prizes are an important element for certain consumers and titles. These are primarily the compers' who enjoy magazines such as Chat Puzzles (with more than £10,000 in prizes each and every issue) and Free n' Easy Puzzles with more than £8,000. "Thereafter we use big prize competitions tactically to attract both new readers and occasional readers." But Sergeant adds that the challenge of the puzzles themselves remains key to traditional puzzle titles: "We find that traditional puzzle consumers buy their favourite magazines largely for the quality of the puzzles, and any prizes we offer are very much a bonus." Similarly, Nexus' Paynter says: "In Puzzle Monthly we prefer to offer more prizes of smaller value ­ and the formula has worked well enough for more than 20 years. Our titles are first and foremost puzzle magazines. Solving satisfaction is our priority." PWA, meanwhile, frequently uses celebrities on the cover to draw readers in. Publisher Will Wilson says that celebrities and personalities help attract attention to the title. A similar tactic is employed by Nexus. Bob Paynter says: "Models used to regularly adorn the covers of puzzle magazines, but these days there is more variety ­ and personality pictures form part of the mix." Covermounting is also used to boost sales. Nexus' Paynter says: "Our strategy is to offer branded pens (Stabilo) and the response has been positive." Bauer limits covermounting, but agrees that in the right circumstances it is a valuable marketing tool. Figgett says: "Although unpopular with retailers, covermounts on children's magazines can make a critical difference to their performance. Our own title Kids' Stuff increased sales by more than 66% on the previous issue when we used a popular water pistol camera as the free gift." When it comes to seasonal sales, Bauer's can shoot up in summer by between 15% and 20%. Figgett says: "Last year we increased the pagination of Take a Puzzle to 80pp for issues 7 and 8 and were rewarded by an increase in sales of 25%." And Beap's Sergeant says: "On average sales can increase by 26% for summer (July issues). However, the seasonality curve is more extreme on the smaller titles rather than the larger, better established titles." Certainly those retailers in holiday areas should adjust their orders more than most. Bob Paynter, says: "Enormous improvements have been enjoyed in some areas. Three or four hundred per cent sales improvements have been reported." Puzzler Collection £1.75 M Marketforce Latest news stand ABC 202,652 Take a Crossword £1.50 M H Bauer Latest news stand ABC 137,703 Word Search £1.65 M Marketforce Latest news stand ABC 74,305 Kriss Kross £1.65 M Marketforce Latest news stand ABC 71,311 Take a Puzzle Selection £1.70 M H Bauer Latest news stand ABC 98,248 Puzzler £1.10 M Marketforce Latest news stand ABC 129,876 Take a Puzzle £1.70 M H Bauer Latest news stand ABC 104,947 Free n Easy Puzzles £1.55 M Marketforce Latest news stand ABC 39,758 Pocket Puzzler Crosswords Collection £1.40 Bi-monthly Marketforce Latest news stand ABC n/a Chat Puzzles £1.55 M Marketforce Latest news stand ABC n/a Just Wordsearch £1.90 M MMC Latest news stand ABC n/a Puzzle Monthly £1.80 M Comag Latest news stand ABC n/a {{CTN }}