Not all your newsstand circulation needs to go through a distributor. There are plenty of independent retailers or small chains that you can reach directly. At a recent MPA forum on circulation and retail trends, Richard Alleger, vice president at Rodale, said his company delivers newsstand copies to 2,500 outlets comprised of single independent shops and small chains made up of seven to ten stores. The direct store delivery accounts for 13 percent of overall revenues and this portion of newsstand sales has grown 56 percent since 2002.
However, there are guidelines to keep in mind when initiating a direct-to-store delivery program. "Directs should be a very organic source of circulation," said Alleger. "You want a direct connection with the store." Also, be sure the audience that shops there is properly targeted and not a fringe audience. Conversely, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate that direct connection. Rodale’s Bicycling, for example, fits well with the many independent or small-chain bicycle shops.
Once that connection has been established, get creative with marketing projects. Use your magazine’s editorial expertise and depth to keep shop employees up-to-speed on new products and trends. Alleger’s team sends editorial packets to the stores to apprise them of new products and performance. Staff educated on a manufacturer’s product are able to sell it better, and it’s an easy way to keep in touch with the store. Plus, Alleger says, it closes the loop between the reader, retailer and manufacturer.
Make sure your P&L takes all variables into account. These include: Paper; printing; acquisition costs; promotional costs; display vehicles; fulfillment (including picking and packing); shipping; invoicing; return handling costs; personnel costs; and bad debt.
Some of these elements can be outsourced, says Alleger. Picking and packing can be done at the printer, for example. Bad debt can be handled by a collection agency, but establish a bad-debt minimum and stick to it.