Convenience retailer Alkesh Pankhania has worked hard to build a fantastic store over the past 10 years. His community work, range, in-store services and relationships with suppliers helped him earn a place in the Independent Achievers Academy Top 100 stores last year.

Yet he admits he is struggling with magazines. In the face of falling sales he has halved his fixture to three metres in the past year and cut his range back to include just five monthly titles, banishing it to the back of his store.

It’s a familiar story for many local shops, which lack specialist knowledge on this category, but Alkesh says he regrets the cuts. Although slow-selling motorbike and modelling magazines were removed, he now questions the wisdom of losing popular titles such as Vogue.  To the rescue comes newsagent extraordinaire Peter Wagg, who invited Alkesh to his Canary Wharf stores, where magazines never sit long on shelves.

ALKESH PANKHANIA I find managing magazines a challenge, but I now really want to improve my range and sales. I’ve been giving control of my range away to a Best-one contractor who offered to manage it for me, but I’m missing titles which I know sell elsewhere. I now only stock a basic range of five monthly titles, for example – four for women and one for men.

PETER WAGG I manage magazines in the same way that I manage the rest of my store. Through my EPoS system I know every magazine I sell, what time I sell them and when I sell out. I give that data to Menzies, which means they can run a sales-based replenishment (SBR) system. So, if I get lots of copies of Grazia because it’s got a promotion or a gift inside and I sell a big percentage, I automatically have more sent. You and most retailers would need to sell out to trigger another order.

AP We need to get on the phone and immediately try and reorder it. It’s not always easy to find time to do this, though.

PW Ranges planned by wholesalers are based on averages, not on what each shop sells. My best-selling magazine is the Economist, but how many shops in the UK would say that? The way that SBR works is that when supermarkets or customers like us buy in bulk, they’ll give you 75% of your allocation on the first run and keep 25% back as the sales data comes in. Tesco might not sell a lot of a particular title, but Sainsbury’s will, so Sainsbury’s dips into the bumper stock. The system leaves most independents at the bottom of the pile for replenishment.

 <figcaption>Ranges need to be based on individual stores, says Mr Wagg</figcaption>” width=”250″ height=”250″ /> Ranges need to be based on individual stores, says Mr Wagg</figure><p><strong>AP</strong> Is there a minimum order to take advantage of SBR?</p><p><strong>PW</strong> There is a threshold and you won’t sell as many Economists as me, but I probably don’t sell as many Radio Times as you. So you could get SBR on Radio Times, whereas I don’t sell enough to do that.  Since the supermarkets have come along, the magazines market doesn’t encourage retailers to actively manage their stock. Cigarette manufacturers encourage you to have a full gantry to maintain sales. It’s the same with magazines: If you don’t have a particular magazine, customers will go elsewhere, and they may never come back.</p><p><strong>AP</strong> My sales have gone downhill over time and, last year, I cut my range by half to make room for more profitable core categories.<br />PW I’m not surprised. Companies that advise convenience stores about magazines go on national data, using averages to create one-size-fits-all planograms that don’t work. There are 100,000 potential customers working at Canary Wharf, with an additional 30-40,000 people visiting every day. Predominantly these are aged 25 to 40, ABC1s, 53% female: I know my customers and it counts!</p><p><strong>AP</strong> Now I know a bit more I will contact my wholesaler and discuss tailored fixtures and ranging. I’ve got old-style metal shelving, but yours are all Perspex, they hold more magazines and look more appealing. I’m going to look into changing this too.</p><h2>Conclusion</h2><p><strong>ALKESH PANKHANIA</strong> It is a real eye opener to see what a newsagent does and how much pride he takes in his magazines range. The newsagent near our store doesn’t maintain their range so I believe I can capture that market. I’m now working with Best-one to develop a new planogram that will take account of my sales, sales in the local area and my fixture. It promises to use this 3m fixture, but to increase my range of weeklies by 10% and double my range of monthlies to reintroduce titles such as Vogue. I’m then going to get all of my magazines into my EPoS system to see what is and isn’t selling, and look into SBR. I’ve not kept a close record of my magazine sales up to now, and that’s now going to change.</p><p> </p><p><img src=A retailer for 10 years, Alkesh is still hungry to develop his 800sq ft Best-one convenience store in Sunbury-on-Thames, in Surrey. As well as refocusing on his dwindling magazine range, Alkesh is planning to give his village store a revamp this year with assistance from Best-one, as he looks to transform it from a top-up store for residents, local workers and school pupils into a fully-fledged mini supermarket.

PETER WAGGFor 21 years Peter has run newsagents in and around Canary Wharf. Ranging from 1,450sq ft to 465sq ft, he now has seven stores which serve the busy workers and holidaying tourists who visit the area on a daily basis. Where space allows, he stocks 1,200 magazine titles, redirecting customers in his smaller stores who wish to buy a particular title that cannot be stocked there to his larger outlets.