Why are Australian Magazine Sales Up During Coronavirus?

We’ve all seen over-picked and under-populated magazine racks in supermarket stores during Coronavirus shopping ventures. Are more Australians turning to magazines during these times and if so, why?

Director of magazine distributor Ovato Distribution, David Hogan, commented early April: “In regards to sales, we are seeing the magazine market still quite resilient with sales especially strong in the two main channels newsagents and supermarkets.” Highlighted categories doing well are Women’s Weeklies, Puzzles, Special Interest/Niche Publications, Craft, Kids, Food, plus Health and Fitness.

So why are magazine sales going so well? Partly it is the ability of magazines to move with retail populations, and partly the fact that those who have money now have more time to spend according to their interests.

1.) Quick Adaptation to Movement in Retail Populations

Magazines sell where the people are. Suddenly, within about six weeks starting March 2020, the people were no longer found in city food courts or eat streets but were in suburban supermarkets and on High Streets.

The change in retail foot-traffic in Australian cities has been profound, but relatively easy for nimble products like magazines to adapt to. Magazines are fast-moving, short-term, sale-or-return assets supplied algorithmically in proportion to sales. Quick feedback changes supply to the right locations – coastal regions in any normal summer season, supermarkets and High Street suburban newsagencies right now. Replenishment operations on medium-term products (anything on sale for longer than four weeks) makes stock auto-adaptable.

2.) Owner-Managed Newsagencies

The independence of Australia’s newsagency system comes into its own here. Independent newsagencies everywhere in the last 10 years have become diverse businesses, mixing gifts and computer peripherals with traditional ranges such as instant gambling, magazines and news. It is these large diverse businesses that have adapted well – picking up new work-from-home floor traffic, and home-delivering all kinds of products to established customers. Some have gone to the extent of registering as ‘essential service’ businesses – keeping their communities supplied with peripherals and news press.

3.) The New Impulse Buyer Workers with ‘Shopping Time’

The people entering suburban newsagencies and supermarkets now are different – they are workers, relocated to working at home.

This community is used to the constant rush of work/home/dinner, but the more flexible current working arrangements have them going for a walk at lunch and buying what they need when they need it.

This is a new kind of impulse buyer – one with cash to spend on hobbies, ideas, and the curated experiences offered by magazine media. At UMCO, that means sales of publications like Homespun – a general craft magazine, or Good Organic Gardening – have never been higher.

4.) The ‘It’s-All-Part-of-the-Grocery-Bill’ Effect

Grocery bills are up, right? Does it matter if a copy of EatWell is thrown in the cart? Not really.
And it’s about healthy cooking after all…
Justifications like this are happening in the minds of shoppers everywhere. What’s another $8.95?

5.) A Time to Read and Explore Interests

For those who aren’t cash-strapped, this is certainly a time to read and explore interests.
For those who haven’t read a book in years, a magazine might just deliver the quality ‘in-mind’ time and ability to explore an interest that they’ve left dormant for years. Book and magazine sales are up for both March and April 2020 in Australia, the UK and USA.

6.) Research Without the Hassle

Magazines arguably offer a better user experience than the internet. Think about it – for less than $10, you get a comprehensive and curated experience that delivers inspiration and information, without all the click-back-and-forth-high-sales-pitch-drama of the World Wide Web.

While magazines will continue to point to the web as a next step in pursuing that hobby or getting that project done, there is something clear, calm and effective about the magazine as a point-of-departure.

7.) Magazine Media is in Print, Online, Inbox and on Social Media

Internationally, magazine brands are among the most engaged on social media.
Publishers generally are good at beating their own drum and pushing their audiences to buy magazine products via retail or online. This hasn’t stopped since Coronavirus, and most publishers are reporting a recent increase in online sales of print magazines.

Of course, it’s not all roses out there for magazines – airport outlets have almost disappeared, and at the end of March 2020, 32 out of 3800 newsagency outlets had closed their doors. But magazines as a sector are decidedly robust in these difficult times.
The merger of the two largest corporate publishers in Australia in May 2020 will no doubt lead to headlines of difficulty in mass-market publishing, but the big dollars in mass publishing stem from celebrity gossip rather than quality in-mind time.

What consumers want now is a comforting, quality reading experience. For niche publishers that understand this, there is opportunity in the Coronavirus world. The newly available time and cash of established Australians is proving a boon for the Australian magazine industry.

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