Magazines and Books at Retail (MBR) Conference Canada Takeaways

…”one of the best yet!”
… “valuable shopper insights”… “

These are just a few of the comments that came out of the recent Magazine and Books at Retail (MBR) conference in Toronto on October 23. The conference packed in some powerhouse speakers who had real value to offer.

Dr. Dave Williams, astronaut, aquanaut, pilot, surgeon, CEO and author of Defying Limits: Lessons from the Edge of the Universe, was so inspiring with the message that we all want to make a difference and we just need to step up to do it. Jeff McNulty, Vice President at Presse Commerce spoke passionately about how magazines continue to take a central role at their retail stores and how they are important to consumers. Amar Sing from Kantar Retail provided some valuable insights into the Canadian retail landscape.
So many nuggets of information and value provided that we could write a book. (or at least a lengthy paper). However, we know people are busy, so here are the Industry Action Group’s Top 5:

Magazines are still very important to retail
It was great to see that magazines are still very important and relevant to retailers in Canada. This was evident in listening to Jeff McNulty of Presse Commerce and looking at the pictures of the winners of the IAG Retailer of the Year Awards. Retailers appreciate recognition of their efforts. The category responds when there is a supportive supply chain and engaged retailer. And yes, category has legs but it requires attention. We as an industry have a publicity issue. Magazines and books, must find a way to celebrate and publicize their successes.

Consumers like them too
From the CTC Boxscore we found it very exciting that 588 magazines saw an increase in total retail $ sales in 2017. A statistic that is both impressive and dramatic to me is that on average over 112,000 magazines are sold every day at retail outlets in Canada. That’s a magazine every 2.6 seconds. It was great to see that so many Canadian-published magazines are realizing sales increases through retailers in Canada. It’s interesting that over 13,000 different issues of magazines are delivered to Canadian retailers every year. This is a tremendous amount of fresh, new product made available to consumers on Canada’s magazine racks.

Online shopping is growing, but bigger in mind-share than in reality
There is so much talk of online shopping today, one gets the sense it has taken over from Bricks and Mortar retailers. We were surprised to see that currently online shopping accounts for only 2.8% of all product sales in Canada, according to Amar Singh of Kantar Consulting. Online shopping provides convenience and competitive prices, whereas brick-and-mortar stores are evolving to provide a sensory experience. We can play in both. It’s a growing category and we must view ecommerce and digitally enabled consumers as an opportunity to expand our business. Online shoppers will continue to grow and traditional retailers will be pursuing omni-channel strategies. Magazines and books have an opportunity to align and participate in that effort.

Diversity, an aging population and new economic realities are influencing where and how people shop
We gained valuable Canadian audience insights about the aging population and immigration. There are opportunities for editorial as well as retail placement. Changing demographics begs the questions: Are we creating editorial content for these audiences? Are we placing magazines in the right retail environments to attract these audiences? Does the product(s) match these consumers? Diversity is an opportunity to find ways to align product for the retailer and consumer.

We need to include older and new Canadians in our thinking. We need to consider rising retail formats and should explore a way to address testing distribution into the “discounters”, the ‘Dollar’ stores. Perhaps we explore the possibility of a “Magazine Light” version, that would be cost effective for all partners.

While the retail landscape is changing, there are ways to align with retailers’ core customers
Many great examples of how magazines could be integrated into that retail experience and also potentially to the retailer’s online experience. Just imagine, a magazine-sponsored recipe that is available on a retailer’s site or in an app where the shopper clicks on it and the ingredients are added to their shopping list.

Finding ways to bring retailer/ magazine/ magazine advertiser together is critical. Finally, our discussions must bring content and its consumer value more to the forefront in our discussions with retailers. Content provides opportunity.

Throughout the conference and apparent in side-discussions, what was also clear that there are some passionate industry advocates out there. It’s important to remember that magazines are desired by consumers and we see again and again that shoppers always respond positively by purchasing when the content is relevant. The print product is truly a more trusted medium, which has benefits at retail far beyond the purchase of a particular title. And to circle back to Dr. Dave Williams, we must look at what we thought was impossible as eminently possible and build from there.

Click here to access the MBR presentations.

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