Alex Smith is head Of client and retailer services at Ovato Retail Distribution.
As the COVID-19 pandemic affected lives around Australia, the newsagent has endured as the centre of many communities.
One of the few businesses declared an essential service when the first wave of infections hit, newsagents opened their door daily, supporting local communities by supplying the news and entertainment that kept many people company during a challenging time.
Despite lockdowns, border restrictions, a challenging economic climate and everything else over the last 12 months, newsagents and magazine sales have remained steady, and in some categories increased.
Location, location, location
While airport stores selling magazines closed as a result of travel restrictions, the local community newsagent has stayed open and operating.
People are sticking closer to home right now. Even as some states re-open and businesses come out of hibernation, there’s an understandable desire to stay away from crowded indoors spaces and large gatherings.
Instead of spending hours commuting to work on a train, driving into the office, or hanging around in a shopping centre, people are staying local. So, newsagents are staying busy as people stay within their suburb to do their shopping and embrace local stores and community.
At the same time, trawling social media for hours on end or binge-watching Netflix has quickly became more of a chore than a welcome break from a confined reality. Getting offline and unplugging has become an enjoyable change for a lot of people. Relaxing and reading a magazine has become a popular choice for those seeking some down time away from online media and with over 2,800 magazines in Australia there really is something for everyone.
Children and craft rule the roost
Children’s magazines have performed extremely well over the last 6 months, with sales rising a staggering 40 per cent prior to COVID. With kids stuck inside and parents keen to make sure they don’t spend their days staring blankly at a device, magazines have come to the forefront.
There’s a huge variety of titles aimed at different interests, fads and age groups, many of them including gifts or toys as a complimentary offering. With plenty of information about the things that kids love and a free thing to play with, kids magazines became very popular with harried parents looking for something to entertain. Bauer Media took advantage of this increased interest by launching Bluey magazine, based on the award-winning ABC TV show for 3-6-year old’s, in May.
With the rise of indoor leisure time, sales of craft magazines covering knitting, crocheting and papercraft also increased by an impressive 32 per cent during COVID as consumers seek to keep busy and be creative. Magazines with a focus on that kind of pursuit were the ideal source of inspiration.
Puzzles and the home
Home interest titles also performed strongly during and after the initial COVID wave. With more time spent at home, people started planning or working on home improvement projects they’d been dreaming of.
These magazines gave many the inspiration needed on what to do and where to start. They also gave plenty of advice for the DIY enthusiast, partially explaining the immense lines found at many Bunnings across the country.
Likewise, puzzle magazines continue to be a strong performer, up 12 per cent against the previous year. This continues the similar success that the segment was showing last year. Consumers want to reduce screen time and keep their minds sharp with something more tactile than online puzzles.
National Newsagent Week
Ovato are also also proud to support the 2nd year of National Newsagent Week, running from the 19th – 26th September. This is a chance to show our appreciation for the local newsagent and the significant role they play in the community.
In conjunction with major magazine publishers, we are running a promotion. If you buy any magazine from any newsagent up to the 27th of September, you can enter the competition for a chance to win $50,000. The promotion is being supported with point of sale material, social media and advertising across major magazines, as well as national and metro newspapers.
COVID has required people to re-evaluate the lives they lead and the things they spend time doing. With travel largely off the cards, even on public transport to and from work, people are spending more time at home and in the local community.
Newsagents are embracing these opportunities and are selling magazines that appeal to the things that people want to focus on. Mindfulness, relaxation, creativity, and entertainment across all ages continues to sell well and help people through these challenging times.
This piece was brought to you by Ovato.