Convenience stores are the only retail sector showing magazine sales growth as customers look to local stores for their entertainment needs while in self-isolation during the coronavirus lockdown.

New data from distributor Seymour revealed a month of dramatic results, with weekly sales in March across all retail types down 9% year on year. Airports and other travel retail sites fared worse, with magazine sales falling by around 85% and 60%, respectively. 

Top 100 magazines

Supermarkets recovered from a more than 7.5% year-on-year fall to be down 4.75% year on year. Oppositely, in convenience, sales rocketed from a 9% annual decline to a 15% annual increase in the space of just one week.

Commenting on the changes, Seymour’s client services director, Duncan Shearer, told betterRetailing: “Grocery sales for magazines have been very volatile, with consumers bulk-buying on one day, causing the availability of stock to disappear on others. The sales figures have gone up and down.

“The great thing is we’re seeing people still loving magazines in this challenging period, and in particular, we can see growth coming through from convenience stores.”  

EXCLUSIVE: Smiths News India call centre shut down over coronavirus fears

Asked which categories are delivering the best sales for convenience stores, Shearer shared the areas stores should be focusing on. He explained: “Puzzles and children’s magazines have done well. A lot of people are feeling anxious and worried, and these kinds of magazines offer a sort of escapism and an opportunity to relax while stuck at home for long periods of time.”

TV titles also reported sales success, though this was hampered by Menzies failing to distribute these titles to Smiths News’ Nottingham depot. The wholesaler blamed “a print delay and a vehicle breakdown”.

Despite the winners, there were also losers from the new consumer trends. “For other categories out there, it’s been really challenging. Some publishers cover certain sports or pastimes or other things that people can’t get out there and do,” Shearer added. 

Coronavirus: Costcutter launches social distancing guide

“The whole sporting calendar has come to a grinding halt, so there’s a lot of magazines out there that can’t publish results or take pictures of the latest developments.”

Several major publishers are understood to be halting future editions until normal trade returns. 

The Racing Post’s last edition until racing returns was published on 26 March, while Playboy announced the coronavirus had sped up its decision to exit the print market altogether, with its last-ever edition out now. 

Auditors ABC announced changes to its processes, which will see magazine editions released over the shutdown period disregarded from the standard six-month circulation certificate.

Read the latest ABC circulation figures

Find out more on our coronavirus information hub for retailers