sainsbury's magazine margin

Convenience stores continue to buck the downward sales trends in news and magazines, remaining the only format to show positive growth, despite store closures across the UK.

Data from distributor Seymour showed convenience stores fell from an initial peak of 15% year-on-year sales growth to 10%, the convenience market continues to thrive during the pandemic, providing a lifeline for hard-hit publishers.

Magazine sales on the high street, in airports and in other travel sites were down 90% year on year for the second week in a row.

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Supermarkets were down 25% annually, a three-percentage-point improvement from last week.

Other sources revealed the trends at individual retail brands to betterRetailing. On 4 April, EPoS data showed Tesco and Sainsbury’s respectively sold 19.2% and 21.5% fewer magazines than for the same period last year.

Oppositely, sales at convenience chains One Stop and Co-op were up 25.6% and 6.6%, respectively.

Commenting on the data, NFRN news operations manager Peter Williamson said: “Convenience stores are doing well because of their locality, and we have seen a movement of shares of sales from supermarkets to newsagents and convenience stores.”

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News wholesalers and distributors are also understood to be reallocating copies destined for supermarkets and travel sites over to convenience stores in an attempt to mirror the market trend highlighted by Williamson.

As well as major footfall reduction in multiples, magazine sales at supermarkets have also suffered as third-party merchandising teams that take care of magazine rangings have been unable to visit stores.

Tesco head office staff were redeployed to help with merchandising, while Morrisons’ third-party merchandisers were told to work on “essential categories only”, and Asda shut its online magazine section.

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Lidl’s third-party merchandising has been undermined by staff absences and Sainsbury’s is currently reviewing whether to allow merchandisers to continue accessing stores.

betterRetailing understands that distributors are in talks with supermarkets to set up new measures “aimed at easing operational pressures in store and securing continuation of magazine category”.

Meanwhile, McColl’s has sent letters to all its newspaper delivery customers advising that it is now also providing magazines delivered to the doorstep.

Total store closures began to drop off at the beginning of April, with 5,000 multiple and independent stores now having suspended their Smiths News and Menzies supply accounts.

Find out more on our coronavirus information hub for retailers