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Supermarket distribution: 5 minutes with… Andy Barker

People spend a lot of time in supermarkets, even during lockdown, and the free magazine racks are an important route to market for many titles. We grab five minutes with Andy Barker, sales and marketing director at Self Select Distribution, to talk about trends in this sector.

By Andy Barker

Supermarket distribution: 5 minutes with… Andy Barker

Q: What practical steps can publishers take to maximise their free supermarket distribution?

A: To maximise the effectiveness of supermarket distribution, we try to understand each publication’s target readership and socio-economic / demographic profile and then select stores with a proven pick-up history for that profile and publication type. We also look at advertisers’ profile and location to make sure the coverage and stores selected ensure local advertisers receive good levels of response and regional relevance.

The front cover design and image is also important as it needs to be bold and appealing to the target shopper in store, so they make a conscious decision to pick up titles from the range in store that are relevant to them.

The content needs to be well written and interesting with a good ratio of articles and features in relation to advertising so it has enough appeal to build brand loyalty, thereby ensuring pick up of the next edition.

Copy management is also a vital element to ensure every copy works as hard as possible. We provide proof of delivery reports with photos and a detailed pick up analysis by store, which allows publishers to actively manage copies to meet demand by store for future issues.

Q: Typically, what types of title do well on the pickup stands?

A: The titles that are most popular are the ones with broad appeal including established weekly free newspapers, lifestyle magazines, travel magazines and what’s on entertainment publications. We also distribute a wide variety of ethnic magazines that target the wide and diverse range of shoppers in the UK. We use detailed shopper profile information to ensure these titles are distributed in the correct stores. The trend for local publications published by small independents makes them popular with shoppers as the information and articles are very specific and relevant to them.

Q: Have there been any titles or sectors that have surprised you with their performance?

A: We distribute some quite niche specialist titles that target people with disability, and they have proved popular along with titles that focus on the menopause. Over the last few months, we have done a couple of regional publications that focussed on local Covid-19 related health information and they have proved very popular as they offer info on local services to those shoppers who may not have internet access. We were initially surprised by the demand for education guides and school / college prospectuses, but this market sector has significantly grown year on year as providers try to fill available spaces and make people aware of their services.

Q: When it comes to demographic targeting of copies, what are the most commonly used profiles and are there profiles which, in your opinion, could be used more?

A: Demographic profiling is clearly a very important part of the job, so we try to match specific stores that fit the brief provided by the publisher. We have access to detailed information that is shared by the store groups as well as external information from the census and postcode breakdowns. In terms of the most popular profiles, they tend to be ABC1 affluent professionals age 25-45 as the advertising in this kind of title is relatively premium priced and is attractive to publishers and advertising agencies. As a nation, we have an ageing population so I feel the ability to target 55+ shoppers with high levels of disposable income will become more important in the next few years as advertisers try to capture these people using a diverse media mix including free regionalised publications.

Q: In terms of overall circulation strategy, where does supermarket distribution typically sit?

A: Clearly publishers have a variety of different options for free publications which includes door to door, hand to hand, pick up from a wide variety of places including transport hubs and miscellaneous points like coffee shops, libraries, and local employers. We consider supermarkets as a foundation element to any circulation / distribution strategy as they provide brand credibility, 7-day copy availability and a dependable high footfall outlet, even during lockdown. We work with several partner companies to offer other methods to give our clients the coverage and copy volumes they require to drive cost effective advertising response and repeat sales.

Q: As lockdown restrictions start to ease, what can publishers do now to take advantage?

A: During lockdown, we have been busy supporting a range of new free titles who have had to change their distribution mix due to the closure or reduced consumer footfall in places they had traditionally used. We hope to retain a good percentage of this business as lockdown eases but realise that a lot of copies will be put back into these original options. Publishers will be able to realign their distribution strategies as lockdown eases.

The pent-up consumer demand for holidays, entertainment and family fun will offer companies lots of options to target people who may have accumulated significant lockdown savings. We know that travel companies cancelled all their traditional marketing activity in January and February waiting for guidance on the easing of lockdown and travel restrictions. They are desperate to capture the families who have been yearning for a holiday in the sunshine and to finally relax after such a stressful time for lots of people.

About us

Self Select Distribution (SSD) offers publishers of free magazines and newspapers a distribution service into the UK’s leading supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrison’s and Co-op.

Supermarkets offer a high weekly footfall of local shoppers as the majority of consumers still visit a major store at least once per week. Every free copy is taken by conscious choice by discerning shoppers from a range of free titles which helps to deliver good quality response to advertisers. Publishers can either target by socio-economic profile, by postcode, by town or by region depending on their individual strategy.

Tel: 01204 667123



This interview featured in the 18 March edition of our weekly e-newsletter, InPubWeekly, which you can register to receive here.