Waterstones’ magazine range reveals opportunities for local shops

Analysis of one site showed it had ignored the four bestselling magazine categories: children’s, puzzles, TV listings and women’s weeklies

Waterstones’ newly introduced magazine sections eschew the standard range, highlighting new opportunities for local shops, according to experts. 

In December, Better Retailing broke the news of the bookseller’s introduction of magazines in 53 sites, while store visits made by RN last week revealed its approach to the category for the first time. 

Analysis of one site ranging 39 magazines showed it had ignored the four bestselling magazine categories – children’s, puzzles, TV listings and women’s weeklies – in favour of a selection that complements its book ranging, such as travel, cooking, current affairs and history. 

The shop did not stock any of the top-20 most-commonly-stocked magazines in independent shops according to data from Smiths News

Mary Hogarth, managing director of publish-ing consultancy The Magazine Expert, told Better Retailing the concept showed the potential in integrating more niche magazines to complement other areas in store. She said: “Part of the reason behind the resurgence of print titles is because of the focus on niche and specialist markets. Readers want tailored content, relevant to their interests, so it makes sense that Waterstones has picked titles suited to its customer base. 

“More retailers will closely monitor the sales of magazines they stock and follow Waterstones’ strategy.” 

Store owners such as David Worsfold, of Farrants in Cobham, Surrey, have been using the strategy in children’s titles to great effect, such as by cross-merchandising comics with sugar confectionery. 

However, Richard Lamb, managing director of magazine ranging experts Lucid Retail, said the approach should not be to the detriment of bestsellers. “There is a message about getting the range right for your audience, but I think the key for indies is providing the core range of bestsellers and providing customers with the opportunity to request titles,” he said. 

He added that the use of niche titles must be targeted, stating: “The days of range retailers offering 500 titles that would have included some of these titles [listed by Waterstones] has obviously gone.” 

Other experts betterRrtailing spoke to suggested Waterstones was experimenting with different categories and that its range will see significant changes in the coming months. 

Staff at the Waterstones store told Better Retailing the introduction of magazines followed frequent requests by shoppers struggling to access related titles. 

The full list of ranged titles in the outlet was: Royal Life, Country Life, Decanter, BBC Gardeners’ World, Wanderlust, Gardens Illustrated, National Geographic Traveller, BBC Good Food, Vegan Food & Living, Woman & Home, Homes & Antiques, Literary Review, Spectator, Private Eye, The Critic, Classic Rock, The Oldie, The Week, Sight & Sound, The Ultimate Music Guide, Idler, Sky at Night, New Scientist, Science Focus, The Week Junior Science + Nature, Art Monthly, Monocle, Art Review, FourFourTwo, All About History, BBC History, The Automobile, Classic & Sports Car, Wallpaper, Writers Forum, Ideal Home and Homes & Gardens. 

Read more news and advice about the newspaper and magazines category and click here for the latest ABC circulation figures


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