Magazine and newspaper wholesalers come in for a fair amount of criticism from c-store retailers.
A telephone survey conducted by The Grocer found that 40% are not happy with their newstrade suppliers. "Our magazine wholesaler is pretty rubbish at the moment since we've moved from a bundle to a box system," complains one retailer. "Instead of using bundles we get heavy boxes, which the drivers are not happy with. It seems like a lot of work for everyone, with very little gain."
Retailers also have a gripe with their wholesalers' approach to their business needs. One says his wholesaler seems to have no idea or interest in what his shop needs or wants. "There's no input from the wholesalers, who don't care how big your shop is or how much you sell," he explains. "They just send 50 copies of the Tweenies magazine when I know we'll only sell a few."
Others are also unhappy with the sale or return concept. "Wholesalers send what they feel like, which means we're constantly handling papers and magazines," says one. "You get invoiced the same day, so if we send copies back we won't get credit until three or four days later. This doesn't help your cash flow."
Wholesaling issues aside, it seems the category is important for smaller retailers, who report that papers are a good footfall driver. Those who had done recent refits say this had helped boost sales, because the area either looked better or had more space devoted to magazines.
Others cite how important it is to keep shelves tidy - particularly when the section may be used by some customers as a place to shelter from the rain or as a reference library.
Browsing is a key part of the category's success and retailers say they rely on magazines' content. With a glut of celebrity magazines on the market, consumers are exposed to celebrity information all the time and are becoming increasingly demanding of magazines to give them information they don't already know. "Sales of newspapers are good but magazines tend to fluctuate a lot," explains one retailer. "Some people come in to browse and will only buy a magazine if they like what's on the cover."
Although the majority of those surveyed report that newstrade sales have increased over the past year, most were fairly pessimistic about the next 12 months. "I think the price of some magazines can be a deterrent," says one. "Some cost more than £3 and there's not much of interest in them. I certainly wouldn't buy them."