As the newspaper industry adapts to an evolving landscape, creating beneficial partnerships is key to finding success. For many newspapers, their relationships with retailers have helped them stay one step ahead.

Some of these collaborations were honored by the Newspaper Association of America’s 2011 Tony Mineart Merchandiser of the Year awards. Named after the former Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune circulation director who passed away in 2006, the awards recognize partnerships that yield positive results for retailers as well as for newspapers.

According to the NAA, the awards “honor retailers that demonstrate a long-term cooperative effort to sell and market newspapers in their stores …. In each case, the promotional program was supported by effective newspaper advertising designed to drive readers into stores, along with distinctive point-of-sale materials and eye-catching merchandising displays. All of these promotions resulted in significant increases in single-copy sales and store traffic, plus additional revenue for the participating stores.”

Judges looked for retailers who were open to ideas, such as co-promotions and newspaper-specific promotions, and for the retailer who did the best overall, ongoing job of promoting newspapers in stores. Awards are given annually to retailers in the following categories: convenience stores, grocery stores, drugstores, mass merchandisers and restaurants, and other non-traditional retail outlets.

This year, judges selected retailers in four categories for national recognition.

Chicago Tribune and Walgreens
Not only was Walgreens honored in the drugstores category, the company was also named 2011 Merchandiser of the Year. The retailer was recognized “based upon both quantity and quality of individual nominations. It was apparent to the judges, given the large number of nominations for Walgreens coming from multiple markets, that the retail chain encourages its district management to develop partnerships with local newspapers.”

Walgreens was also recognized specifically for its successful promotions with the Chicago Tribune that included an exclusive offer between the newspaper’s events group and Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla. The Tribune’s daily weekday circulation is 437,205 with a Sunday circulation of 780,601.

Tribune retail sales development specialist RaMeka Johnson said the promotion took place in April 2011. It included a free CD-ROM inserted into a Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune that offered special videos and interactive content featuring the theme park’s newest ride, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The exclusive offer was only available at 463 Walgreens locations and resulted in the sale of more than 15,000 papers.

“With more than 400 outlets, Walgreens has been growing in the area over the last 10 years,” said Tribune director of audience and consumer revenue Don MacGregor. “It’s a good combination that has resulted in more customers for both of us.”

Johnson said the Universal Studios promotion targeted families. “We saw a lift in newspaper sales, and store managers saw an increase in sales.”

MacGregor said he was confident the rise in numbers contributed to the drive in store traffic, and as people came in to buy the paper, they were also picking up store items, and vice versa. “Papers provide a reliable customer base,” he said.

He said the CD-ROM promotion added value to customers who were finding the Tribune and paying for it at full price. “We always try to maintain the full price whenever we can.”

The Tribune and Walgreens partnered again this year for a similar promotion; this time offering a DVDROM showcasing more new rides from Universal Studios.

“(With marketing), we’re heavily focused on new business developments,” MacGregor said. “We have a very mature product, and we’re always looking for new opportunities to build new outlets.”

The Post-Standard and Dunkin’
Donuts Dunkin’ Donuts was honored in the dining category for its partnership with The Post-Standard in Syracuse, N.Y. The Post-Standard is published daily with a circulation of 77,000 and a Sunday circulation of 136,000.

In September 2011, Dunkin’ Donuts offered a monthlong promotion: a free Post-Standard with any breakfast combo purchased Monday through Friday. The paper also provided promotional advertisements that helped drive traffic to 45 Dunkin’ Donuts locations.

Post-Standard
direct marketing sales manager Mike Dooling said he approached the five area Dunkin’ Donuts owners about collaborating when he started noticing more and more of the dining establishments “popping up in the market.”

“I presented them with different promotions we had to offer and the total market we covered,” he said. “I showed them that by inserting the promotional ads in our daily paper we could drive traffic to their business.”

The paper also ran a 15-second television commercial about the promotion. Dooling said it was a way to promote the store and the paper at no cost to the store owners. The paper also offered a premium subscription in which new subscribers received a gift card to establishments such as Dunkin’ Donuts.

During the promotion, Dooling said there was a dramatic increase in single-copy sales. Each location sold about 100 papers at full price. After the promotion ended, Dooling still saw strong sales during the months of October, November, and December. According to Dooling, the promotion was so well received by store managers that some decided to purchase permanent newspaper racks.

“The paper was bringing customers to the restaurant,” he said. “They want to get their coffee and paper together, instead of making an extra trip to the gas station.”

Dooling said for the paper, this kind of promotion would most likely lead to paid advertising down the road.

“In our area, print advertising is still very strong,” Dooling said. “We’re building partnerships and marketing promotions … there is still a crowd out there that still wants a print edition and still believes in the product and value.” Value is one reason Dooling said this type of promotion was successful.

“Ten years ago, we would have heavily discounted the paper,” he said. “But the paper has value, so we sold it at full price and instead added a bonus like the premium subscriptions.”  

Times Union and Price Chopper
Price Chopper, the leading grocery chain in the Albany, N.Y., region, was honored in the grocery category for its close relationship with the Albany Times Union. The paper has a daily circulation of 66,274 and a Sunday circulation of 128,225.

According to the NAA, Price Chopper is one of the paper’s largest single-copy retailers and advertisers, offering newspaper kiosks inside its stores and sponsoring some of the paper’s events. This year, Price Chopper was recognized for participating in a successful internal contest for management of individual stores that resulted in an increase in Sunday paper sales.

Director of subscription sales Neal Shapiro said 31 stores participated in the contest that ran from the beginning of April to the end of May in 2011. A circulation manager was assigned to three stores who would work with the general merchandise manager on the display and signage. The contest resulted in a growth of more than 1,000 Sunday sales.

“To see any growth is a plus,” Shapiro said. “But to see more than 1,000 was a positive thing.”

Shapiro said the incentive was to look at the baseline over the course of eight to nine weeks and compare the growth. If stores saw a growth in numbers, each winning store would get paid additional profits from the sales, and each winning store manager would win two tickets to any event in the Albany region. At the end of the contest, six winners were named.

The contest returned this year with the same incentives and with additional store displays at checkout lanes. Shapiro said he thinks the program will continue next year. “Price Chopper has been pretty receptive to it.”

Shapiro said store managers are mindful of the newspaper displays, checking to make sure the signage is there and the displays are put together nicely.

After this contest, Shapiro said, “Retailers recognize the mutual benefit of working with a newspaper as an advertiser and as a partner … it’s well-proven that papers help drive traffic to stores. There is a wild array of people looking for the paper, and these merchants are the ones who have the newspaper.”

Lexington Herald-Leader and Traxx Shell
Traxx Shell, which operates 25 stores in the greater Lexington, Ky., area, was honored in the gas and convenience category for its partnership with the Lexington Herald- Leader. The paper has a weekday circulation of 207,805 and a Sunday circulation of 313,407 in its designated market.

The NAA said Traxx Shell was honored specifically for its program that rewards loyal customers with points redeemable for fuel and other items including the Herald-Leader.

More information about the awards and winners is at NAA.org.

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