New AudioMag: Philip Scrutton on Who’s Buying at Retail

Philip Scrutton
Philip Scrutton

Canadian magazine readers see tremendous value in the printed page, and there remains great opportunity for publishers in the retail purchasing of magazines according to new research from Magazines Canada and BrandSpark International.

The survey was commissioned in order to better understand how to position magazines in-store. As well, it turns the page on assumptions about the current impact of magazines at supermarket and drug store retail, and reveals how retailers can leverage magazines to enhance the overall shopping experience.

Key takeaways:

  • 2 in 3 readers are willing to pay for content in a physical copy and are subscribers or purchased a magazine at least every 2–3 months.
  • Among household shoppers and across titles, retail purchase of magazines reach as many readers as do paid subscriptions. It’s still a very important channel to reach readers.

“We wanted to understand who are buying magazines at retail now and what is triggering their purchase, particularly at supermarkets and drugstores,” says Philip Scrutton, VP of shopper insights with BrandSpark International. “The goal was to learn how retailers can merchandise magazines to enhance the experience at their stores and optimize their sales.”

The survey and its findings are featured in the latest episode of Magazines Canada’s podcast, AudioMag.

“We found that retailers are best served with a mix of popular content with titles to appeal to both women and men. Men are often underserved by the title selection, but are increasingly likely to be completing the household shopping. So yes to the celebrity titles and cooking, but also news titles, sports, and broad interest special editions,” Scrutton says.

BrandSpark conducted an online survey in English and French in July 2017. They surveyed Canadian household shoppers who read a magazine at least each month, whether or not they purchase them. The household shopper is any Canadian 18+ who has primary or shared responsibility to shop for groceries and household goods. Respondents were representative of a national profile of magazine readers.

Scrutton will be presenting the results of this survey at MagNet 2018 on Wednesday, April 25, in the session “Magazine Resilience: Who’s Buying at Retail?

In the session Scrutton will demonstrate household shoppers’ path-to-purchase, the role magazines play, and how retailers and magazine sellers can leverage these insights to improve their business.

Footprint at Retail

There is a perception that the demand for print in the retail environment is shrinking. However, these results counter those assumptions.

There is a lot of competition for space at retail, with merchandising dollars for packaged food brands winning retail space. As profit margins narrow for grocery retailers, these revenues are increasingly important and often decide which products are featured at the front-end of store.

Overall trends that Scrutton notes include:

  • Book stores and newsstand remain destinations for magazine buyers, but a larger number of Canadians are purchasing occasionally from grocery & drug stores. These stores are especially important in continuing to reach less frequent readers and buyers.
  • Almost half of these magazine purchases at grocery & drug stores are impulse buys, or “basket builders” for the retailer.
  • Magazines also remain one of the hardest working categories of goods at the checkout lane, with conversion from “noticing” to purchase similar to that of chocolate bars and soft drinks, and stronger than that of other print goods: books and cards.
  • For the shopper, it was interesting to see that buying a magazine at grocery correlated with greater satisfaction with the trip overall.

Scrutton will expand on these key strategies, identified within the research:

  • Don’t lose space as it drives topline sales declines and starts a vicious cycle
  • Leverage merchandising opportunities
  • Paid merchandising can drive sales apart from the $/sq ft calculation
  • Fight the perception that print is dying—millions of Canadians are still buying magazines regularly
  • Aim for zeitgeist-capturing cover content
  • Currently a small set of top-selling titles account for a large portion of sales
  • Need to show the benefit of more variety and turnover of titles
  • Look for opportunities to win space with titles that support retailers own brand initiatives and can enhance their shopping environment

Listen to the entire conversation with Philip Scrutton.

Read more about the “The Role of Magazines at Retail: A Reader-and-Buyer Study from Magazines Canada and BrandSpark.”

To sign up for “Magazine Resilience: Who’s Buying at Retail?” head to the MagNet 2018 website.

Find more episodes of AudioMag in our resource centre. AudioMag is available to download and subscribe to on iTunes.

AudioMag is produced by Tina Pittaway, an award-winning independent writer and broadcaster. Tina has been a contributor to CBC Radio and Television for more than 20 years. Her radio documentaries have been recognized with honours from the Canadian Association of Journalists, the Canadian Science Writers’ Association, the New York Festivals, Amnesty International and the Gabriel Awards. Visit Tina online to learn more about her work.

Subscribe to our Cover Lines biweekly industry newsletter for magazine media, and we’ll let you know when we release a new AudioMag episode. Or sign up for our RSS feeds on or on iTunes.

Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC)   Logo for the Government of Canada Canada Council for the Arts / Conseil des arts du Canada

AudioMag is made possible with the support of the OMDC.

Magazines Canada acknowledges the support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Periodical Fund of the Department of Canadian Heritage, as well as the Canada Council, for this project.


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