Publishers and wholesalers are cutting down on the frequency of partworks to try to prevent issues with the sector during the coronavirus crisis.

However, retailers have called for more communication to ensure they have the latest information to hand when customers call in for regular purchases.

Despite the growing trend of consumers turning to hobbies and activities while stuck indoors during the lockdown, experts said lower shop-visit frequency was making it challenging for customers to keep up with partwork and collectable releases.

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The impact of the lockdown on partwork sales was hinted at in the latest quarterly results from Hachette UK’s parent company, Lagardère, which reported a 6% global drop in partwork sales.

Rob Humphrey, who looks after partworks at distributor Marketforce, explained: “For lots of people, lockdown has been a great opportunity to re-engage with their hobbies, and partwork publications have been there to meet this demand.

“In this context, though, we understand customers have not been able to get to the shops as often as usual and we took the decision to keep issues on sale for longer, so they don’t miss out on their collections.

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“Weekly titles are currently being published fortnightly, and fortnightly titles every three weeks for some of our clients’ publications.

“We are reviewing the situation regularly and hope to return to normal frequency very soon.”

Publishers have taken steps to alter covers to let customers know.

Mark Dudden, of Albany News in Roath, Cardiff, said: “A title such as the Rossi motorbike one has revised on-sale dates stickered on the front. It’s great that people know what’s coming, and it seems to be working out.”

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Bhavesh Patel, of Watties Newsagent in Horley, Surrey, said: “In the past week or so they’ve started putting notifications saying when the next issue is out.

“But not all of them are doing it – it should be in every issue. If it’s on the front cover, they can see it and it saves time for everyone. If shoppers ask when the next issue is in, we have to look it up, which takes time. It’s difficult if we have a lot of customers in.

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“Communication has been very poor. People keep coming in and asking for their partworks, but we don’t know when they’re coming in. Customers don’t want to keep coming in and out of the shop at the moment.”

Patel said he was working with the NFRN to try to urge publishers and wholesalers to further improve communications.

All future dates for parts can be found on nationaltitlefile.co.uk

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