We published the results of the January – March 2010 vs 2009 Newsagent Sales benchmark study this morning.  The results have been sent to all newsagents who participated. Here is part of the report we have published:

Retail sales were down in newsagencies in January through March 2010 compared with the same period last year on a same-store basis according to the latest Tower Systems sales benchmark study.

The sales benchmark study, another in a series of sales performance studies in newsagencies for many years by Tower Systems, relies on data from a pool of 135 newsagencies using the Tower Systems Point of Sale software.

The process is time-consuming, accurate yet simple. We collect data for all sales for the periods being compared and analyse these in terms of unit sales (magazines, cards and newspapers) and revenue (stationery and ink & toner). Only data from trusted stores is used.

The key newsagent departments of magazines and newspapers are reporting concerning declines – especially on the back of declines in 2009 over 2008.

What differentiates this study over those from late 2009 and January 2010 is that green shoots are more evident – more newsagencies are showing growth, the difference between those performing well and those performing poorly is greater. For example, there were plenty of participating newsagencies reporting sales growth with magazines. These were pulled down by stores reporting double-digit declines.

Thinking about magazines for a moment, what is it that differentiates those stores showing growth or even 0% change and those showing double-digit decline. Once you take out stores growing or declining for one-off local factors such as construction or severe weather as well as stores more heavily affected by changes in magazine sales patterns (the decline in partworks for example) the difference can be put down to engagement.

Looking at magazine categories, weeklies have had a challenging quarter – leading the decline in stores reporting a decline and showing only modest growth in the stores reporting growth. The categories showing the most significant growth are food, cars and special interest.

Newsagencies showing growth are more likely to have the owner or the most senior manager personally involved in magazines, making strategic and opportunistic decisions. These stores are also more likely to be engaged in external marketing which is designed to drive traffic.

The benchmark study is used by newsagents and suppliers to ass ess business performance and look for change opportunities.