The decline of newspaper sales…


newspaper, wholesaleThe May newspaper Audit Bureau of Circulation figures were recently published and show an annual decline in sales figures across the board for dailies. Core Sales (read here for explanation) had an average daily total of 8.34 million copies sold through the newstrade on Monday to Friday during the month.

Newspaper circulations have been falling for years so for retailers it is more relevant to look at cash profit. In May 2012 Retail Newsagent estimates the total retail margin to have been £1,096,500 per day. This surprisingly is the same figure as RN reported for June 1999 when daily sales numbers were 43% higher than today.

Newspaper publishers have used substantially differing pricing strategies for their titles since 1999 so the raw figures don’t give a fair view of how the performance of each title since then. The Daily Telegraph has been the best performer on retail cash margin followed by the Guardian. The worst preforming title has been the Daily Mirror followed by the Sun.

Another way to view these figures is to look at the different types of newspapers. Because of the significant increase in price and cash margin on the ‘Broadsheet’ titles their poor sales performance has been more than offset by the cash margin increase. With the mid market showing a cash margin just down on their 1999 position and tabloids well down. But when you take the 38% retail price inflation that has happened during the last 13 years into account the position that newspapers today are in is starkly revealed.

With a 7.2% fall in newspaper circulation numbers in the past 12 months UK newsagents need to look closely at how they manage the category in their stores and plan for a future where the category has a small place in the business.

What are you doing to manage this change in your store?  My simple advise is to find the relevant publishers phone number either from the newspaper or the Internet and make the call. When they answer ask for circulation and start the conversation.  It's important for the retailer  to know what they want to do to promote sales, the publisher may well have tried and tested support tools though.

Steve Denham
Steve worked in retail for more than 40 years. For more than half of his career he ran a village newsagent with his wife. Steve blogs about all different aspects of retailing from community development to government legislation. He can be contacted on He is always looking for an interesting debate so leave a comment on this blog or tweet him to share your views.



  1. it is sad but true and this trend will continue with the growth of mobile technology, Ipads etc, specially with the younger generation.whether we like it or not online is the future but Newspapers are here to stay for generations. The retailers have to diversify into non News and mags side of the business. May be click and collect and thousands of ohter products which are on the market. It is a challenge and I am sure Convenience sector will thrive and prosper.

  2. Hi Steve, here in Australia as a 33 year newsagency I have been slowly changing my mix and I now only have 5% newspapers in my profitability
    We are in a mall in a reasonably affluent suburb and we have dropped the
    word “Newsagency” and just call ourselves generically by “Browns of Burnside”.
    We have changed our mix from a traditional newsagency to specializing in
    gifts (up to $300 which has amazed us) and upmarket cards together with
    magazines – specializing in airfreight copies.
    We were in distribution for many years and once we opted out and went for
    retail only we have gradually become accepted as almost a specialist newsagency.
    We source mags for customers but if we run out of newspapers for the day
    we don’t get harried about it anymore.

    Gifts, stationery and cards are much more profitable and we are hoping that
    we are on a new trajectory here in Oz.
    I was surprised when I checked UK newsagencies to see how many had
    groceries, milk, bread, pizzas etc.
    Here in Oz the local Service Station handles that sort of product and we used
    to have lots of convenience stores but they are not as strong in South Aust.
    as they are on our Eastern seaboard – Sydney, Brisbane etc with larger populations.
    It is interesting to watch Murdoch and Fairfax (2 main publishers) changing
    their world and impacting on ours.
    More to come I’m sure.
    I guess the Levenson report isn’t helping the poor old newsagent in UK?

  3. How interesting to hear from our Aussie cousins. Do we believe the wind of change will blow from down under and we will see an increasing mix of non-news and magazines and innovate new products like June Carter. yes, why not?

    It is already happening. I am not sure dropping the name ” Newsagents” will help. WPP stands for wired and plastic products but today WPP is one of the largest advertising agencies in the world.

  4. Hello, I have just read the depressing editorial in your Guardian newspaper
    about newsagents and their future.
    We are all undergoing massive change which we have known about for a
    decade and we need to do what we do better than anyone else e.g. supermarkets.
    I firmly believe that service is the answer.
    The supermarket is very close to me in the mall but I consider that my
    staff and I offer a “destination store” where you can chat about community
    things and see familiar faces who actually know your name.
    I call it “my village” and I am convinced that people like to be in their own “village” where they are recognized and appreciated.
    I thank my customers for shopping with me and I encourage (it doesn’t always work) my staff to do the same.

    I don’t think I have all the answers but hopefully we will flourish and not merely
    survive into the future.
    I would have thought that the UK would be much more profitable than the Oz
    newsagencies but I think the different mix brings different margins and margin
    is the be all and end all for us to maintain viability.
    Small percentage items are simply not enough for us to flourish because
    volume has reduced in the marketplace.
    We have to think big product and big margins IMHO