PBAA Canada 2013 yielded many good news/bad news tidbits. The Canadian magazine industry still outpaces the U.S. on newsstands, yes, but also nonetheless continues to lose ground.
Speakers took to the podium Aug. 14 at the Old Mill in Toronto to serve up insights and statistics to a full house of publishers, retailers, wholesalers and distributors. For those who couldn't be there, here are some takeaways.
FOOD/RECIPES IS THE ONLY CATEGORY HOLDING STEADY
Coast to Coast's Glenn Morgan reminisces with an early edition of the Canadian Magazine Box Score report at PBAA Canada 2013
Tom Worsley, general manager of Retail Support Services, reported that nine out of the top ten categories, representing 64.5% of total sales, saw double-digit declines for 2012. The only one posting an increase was Food/Recipes (No. 4), which gained a tiny bit of ground with a 0.5% increase.
As for the top three, Celebrity (No. 1) fell 12.9%; Women's Lifestyle (No. 2) went for a 17.8% tumble; and Fashion/Beauty (No. 3) sank 30.3%.
MAGAZINES ARE A SHRINKING PRESENCE AT CHECKOUT
Worsley pointed out that Shopper's Drug Mart dropped from 35 to 12 pockets, part of a growing trend where publishers are turning down checkout space. "We have situations where even medium-tier titles are turning down pockets, and no other titles are lining up to take their place," he said. "It's not sending a very good message."
"IT'S NOT ALL DOOM AND GLOOM"
Christa Blaszczyk, co-owner of Mags & Fags in Ottawa, noted that while her store has seen a 19% sales decline in May-July, certain titles continue to perform strongly. SIPs, quarterlies like Uppercase
, and high quality imported titles from Australia and Europe sell well at Mags & Fags, and overall magazine sales always ramp up during winter. "Fourth quarter is huge," Blaszczyk said. "Magazines are the ultimate stocking stuffers."
DIGITAL WON'T STOP, AND IT'S NOT (NECESSARILY) THE ENEMY
Dave Anderson, vice-president of vendor management at Kobo, touted Kobo's reputation
for making nice with publishers and retailers. "We don't want to shut out the industry," he said. "If retailers go out of business, that helps no one." Kobo has garnered goodwill by partnering with outlets
around the world to share profits from ebook sales, and Anderson teased that further hand-in-hand developments were on the way.
Kobo's Dave Anderson talks about print and digital working together
THERE ARE SUCCESS STORIES
Glenn Morgan, president and chief executive officer of Coast to Coast Newsstand Services, and Covers Sell
's Scott Bullock initiated a game of Jeopardy to deliver interesting figures
and newsstand snapshots. For example: "This magazine lit up the Twittersphere with their May 21, 2012 cover by featuring an attractive blonde mother breast-feeding her three-year-old son. Sales spiked by over 85%." (What is Maclean
's?) Things aren't what they used to be, but some titles, like Chatelaine
according to Bullock, have been able to muscle forward and make headway
IT'S TIME TO GET CREATIVE
But don't take any 2012 bright spots as assurances of sun-dappled days ahead. Both presenters and attendees were frank in addressing overall sinking sales. Michael J. Fox, publisher of Garden Making
magazine, stressed that it's time to warm up your pitching arm and aim for new ideas. Check out his suggestions on a new newsstand model here
CONSUMERS ARE CHANGING
And not just their buying habits. IPDA president Jerry Lynch lists longer life expectancy, growing multiculturalism, and people waiting longer to have children as just some of the ways the consumer of the future is not necessarily the consumer of the past. "Customer retention is absolutely critical," he said, meaning it's time to get to know your consumers, again. And probably again after that. Retailers will have to compete using personalization and service instead of price, he said.
MIDDLE GROUND? WHAT MIDDLE GROUND?
Lynch said retailers have to either be low-cost destinations, or differentiated and specialized. Anything in the middle is getting washed out. "And that gap, the valley of death, is getting wider all the time," he said. To work in this new reality, Lynch said manufacturers and retailers will have to be much more collaborative than they have been in the past, and that magazines have to find a way to move from being an impulse market to being planned purchases. "I think we're all responsible. I think we can drive this business if we choose," he said.