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7-ELEVEN CHAIN TO CUT NUMBER OF MAGAZINES;WEAKER' TITLES WILL BE SCRAPPED; MORE HEAT PLACED ON MEN'S MAGS

By Published on .

Southland Corp. will trim the number of magazines sold at its 6,000 U.S. 7-Eleven convenience stores, and at the same time put the squeeze on men's "sophisticate" titles at franchised outlets.

The moves add further momentum to the nationwide consolidation of magazine wholesalers and may hurt slower-selling magazines and start-ups, in addition to titles such as Playboy and Penthouse.

DISTRIBUTION CENTERS KEY

Southland has sought to thin the number of vendors supplying its stores by establishing Combined Distribution Centers, now operating in nine regions. The plan, originally designed to handle milk, baked goods and produce suppliers, was extended to magazines last spring in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

CUTTING WHOLESALERS

As part of tthat consolidation, magazine wholesalers were cut from five to one. This fall, the Denver distribution center began handling magazines and that region cut wholesalers from three to one.

Further consolidation is expected in January in Orlando and the northern Virginia/Washington, D.C. areas. As that happens, 7-Eleven is also expected to trim the number of titles it carries.

"We'll look at the unit movement and the profitability [of each magazine], and eliminate the weaker ones," said Clifford Smith, Southland's category manager of publications.

He added that management is undecided on how many magazines to drop; the 7-Eleven chain currently carries about 195 titles.

Southland has banned the sale of so-called men's sophisticate titles in company-owned stores since 1986, and has recommended that franchisees also stop selling them. But many stores have ignored the corporate guidelines.

Franchisees account for about 60% of 7-Eleven's stores.

"So many franchisees still handle the men's magazines that [7-Eleven] franchisees remain the largest retail sellers of both Playboy and Penthouse," said John Harrington, editor and publisher of industry newsletter The New Single Copy.

NO TO 'SOPHISTICATE' TITLES

But the distribution centers will not be allowed to distribute the men's sophisticate titles to either owned-stores or franchisees, Mr. Smith said, making it significantly harder for those titles to reach independently owned outlets.

Mr. Smith sent a letter early this month to magazine wholesalers stating that Playboy and Penthouse would not be on the recommended list of periodicals as the company rolls magazines into its Combined Distribution Centers.

"We were disappointed to see it in writing," said Larry Djerf, VP-retail marketing and sales at Playboy. "But at the end of the day, I think franchisees will continue to stock the magazine."

Mr. Smith said he would not bl

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