EXCLUSIVE: Frontline and wholesalers supplying DVDs to Tesco stores

Magazine distributor Frontline is supplying Tesco with DVDs as part of trials aimed a diversify­ing Frontline’s business into non-print categories. 

Smiths News and Men­zies are understood to be delivering a limited range of new-release DVDs into the supermarket along­side the retailer’s standard newspaper and magazine deliveries. 

Sources told Better Retailing the tri­als involve high-volume deliveries to a limited number of stores, with the DVDs displayed at the front of stores. 

Three DVD launch campaigns have been completed as part of the trial and are thought to include blockbuster brands such as Spider-Man and Jurassic World. Two more campaigns are underway. 

While the trials are in their early stages, Better Retailing understands Frontline will be exploring how the results can be applied in other retailers, including independent local shops. 

An expert on the home entertainment market told Better Retailing the scheme comes in a year where tradi­tional space for DVDs on shelves in supermarkets is diminishing. 

For example, Tesco and Sainsbury’s removed their DVD ranges altogether at the end of 2021. 

DVD and Blu-Ray sales have declined at a dramatically faster rate than Frontline’s home ter­ritory of magazines, but statistics from the British Association for Screen Entertainment show the home-screen media disks still account for £234.52m in annual sales in physi­cal stores alone. 

Frontline back in profit 

The distributor’s annual results for 2021, released this month, show Front­line Group is back in the black after suffering from the fallout of the pandemic in 2020. 

Turnover remained flat at £182m, but pre-tax profit swung from a £1.55m loss in 2020 to a £790,000 gain last year. 

In good news for local shops, the distributor said magazine subscrib­ers were returning to their traditional in-store purchasing. “A consider­able number of magazine consumers switched to subscription services. As these subscriptions come up for renewal, we are seeing a slow return to the newstand,” it said. 

The Frontline Group also benefitted from Lidl’s rapid store-count growth last year. 

Its subsidiary, Routes to Retail (R2R), handles the magazine category in all Lidl outlets. 

Frontline said this has driven “much of the growth” in R2R’s revenue. 

More worryingly for the group and for stores, Frontline admitted that its partnered publishers were closing titles at a higher rate than the over­all magazine market. 

It also predicted a “sharper” rate of maga­zine sales decline in the short-term as altered commuting habits con­tinue to hamper casual magazine sales. 

Headcount across the group also fell by more than 8% year on year.

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