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In a tough market, finding areas where magazines are doing well is a challenge. Marcello Perricone guides you to a solution to that riddle
Puzzle magazines are one of the few segments in the magazines market to experience annual growth.
According to wholesaler data, while magazines overall lost 7.7% of their total year-on-year circulation between March 2017 and February 2018, puzzles defied expectations, with copy sales up by 1.7%.
But sales of puzzle titles are influenced by the seasons, and there is no bigger sales period than the warmer months of June, July and August.
“People prefer to spend time outside or travelling, and puzzle magazines are a great way to relax,” says Melanie Hyde, newstrade marketing manager for Bauer. “Summer is a really key time for puzzles, delivering around 32% to 35% of the total revenue for the year in just a quarter of the time period.”
With more than 200 titles in the market, however, retailers face a challenge deciding which titles to stock. So, as summer sales pick up and customers begin to put down their devices and head off on holiday, RN looks at three ways publishers are investing in independents to help drive sales, and the titles they advise them to focus on.
Innovation & in-store support
“It’s important to keep innovating and responding to changes in the market,” says Guy Haslam, managing editor of Eye to Eye Puzzles. “We’ve launched the easy-to-carry PuzzlePad format and expanded every sub-genre with new titles, increasing our market share in the past five years from 4% to 15%.”
Like the rest of the sector, Eye to Eye sees a huge uplift during the summer, and it focuses on addressing retailers’ and customers’ needs to capitalise on it.
“We always listen to customers and retailers, and a big part of it is putting out formats that suit their lifestyles, like the Puzzle Annual Summer Special and our new PuzzlePads with tear-off pages which are perfect for puzzles on-the-go,” Mr Haslam says.
Independents play a key role in these sales, and Eye to Eye is, therefore, investing in support for them: “Our new sales manager’s primary goal is a stronger and more profitable relationship with independents, to drive the fundamentals of distribution, availability, visibility and sales volume. But having a presence in-store to develop relationships with retailers is key,” Mr Haslam says.
Part of that relationship, he says, is supporting independents with products and in-store fixtures.
“We colour-code sub-categories to make it easy for readers to find the puzzle types they enjoy, and we see good results when retailers use our clip-on shelf units for regular titles or pads. We’re always on hand to offer advice on planograms and displays.”
A big part of it is putting out formats that suit their lifestyles
Great magazines and ranges
“We concentrate our resources to ensure we create the best titles, such as Puzzler Collection and Puzzler Q Word Search. People know and trust the Puzzler brand,” says Shameem Begg, promotions and innovations manager at Puzzler Media.
Like other publishers, Puzzler invests in free pens and competitions to create more appealing magazines, but it leans on more than 45 years of experience and in-house editors to create the best possible content.
“We know the key things puzzle fans look for, including lots of quality puzzles and value for money. Over the summer, we have double-pagination in most mags to give customers more of what they love,” Ms Begg says. “This means we’re able to increase the cover price of bumper issues, as quick, low-profit sales do no favours to newsagents.” »
However, with five titles in the top 10 bestsellers list, Puzzler is especially aware of the importance of strong ranges.
“Retailers have to provide choice – consumers tend to shop by genre, so it is key to represent all puzzle genres to capitalise on sales,” says Ms Begg. “Several titles from the same genre cannibalise sales from each other. That means retailers miss the chance to profit across the board from someone who might come in for a mixed puzzle for grandad, a sudoku for mum and a puzzle magazine for each of the kids.”
Sales support for independents
“We’ve delivered store-specific range solutions to 1,000 independent newsagents, and their sales performance increased by 4% with the new range,” says Bauer’s Melanie Hyde. “We’ll be rolling this out to more stores over the next year, as our biggest focus now is working with independents collaboratively.”
Up to 85% of the publisher’s puzzle customers are women aged 50-plus, meaning its family of puzzle magazines from women’s interests brand Take a Break has been largely successful. Four of its magazines appear in the top 10 puzzles list, and those sales rocket during summer.
“TaB’s mini puzzles had a 20% year-on-year increase, and pocket and mini format titles do really well during our peak selling periods,” says Ms Hyde. “They’re the perfect size to slip into a handbag or beachbag for travelling.”
“Our summer titles include additional pages and increased cover prices, and 17 of them are covermounted with a free pen or mechanical pencil, as we discovered covermounting during the summer increases sales by 15%,” she says.
Have your say
Graham Doubleday Newsmarket, Ashton under Lyne
Best-selling category: Mixed puzzles
We sell loads of puzzle magazines – we have nearly 20 options for customers, and about half of them sell out. Women in particular really like them, and we have one girl who knows what she likes and comes by every month for crosswords.
Mark Dudden Albany News, Cardiff
Best-selling category: Criss Cross
We’ve got quite a few of these magazines – we have a four-foot shelf with more than 10 different puzzle titles on it. We have regular customers who know exactly when the magazines come out, and they come over to buy them every month.
Manish Mehta Williams News, London
Best-selling category: Sudoku
We sell around 10 puzzle magazines a week, and a quarter of them are sudoku titles. A lot of young people have moved into our area in the past few years, but we’ve still got our regulars – mostly older people – who buy them often.