Price cuts fail to halt sales drops

By Dominic Ponsford Cover price cuts of the Daily Express by 10p and the Daily Star by 5p have not stopped both titles shedding sales fast.

The Express discount alone is costing owner Richard Desmond about £500,000 a week, but it was down 12.7 per cent year-on-year to 827,905, although the stripping out of multiple copy give-aways accounts for about half of this decline. The Daily Star’s 7.32 per cent drop to 791,900 is in stark contrast to the rapid growth it was achieving two years ago when it seemed to be forging ahead to the million mark.

The Evening Standard’s strategy of targeted one-off 20p price cuts appears to have helped it slam the brakes on a sales decline that had been running into double figures until recent months.

Its 3.36 per cent drop year-on-year to 334,144 is believed to be ahead of the national press in London.

The Financial Times’s 5.11 per cent headline rise to 440,837 mainly reflects an increase in foreign sales, from 286,488 year-on-year to 302,852, and an increase in UK bulk give-away copies from 25,446 to 35,000.

The Guardian was one of the top daily newspaper performers – up 4.44 per cent year-on-year to 382,931 – showing that the switch to Berliner format in September is still having an impact. But the paper still has to make up the ground lost in 2003 when The Independent and The Times brought out tabloid versions. The Guardian’s figure for February three years ago was 408,983.

Among the Sundays, The Independent on Sunday was the big winner – up 17.13 per cent year-on-year, to 244,287.

It is apparently still feeling the benefits of its switch to tabloid format on 16 October.

But sales were probably helped more by a particularly popular free Spanish language book promotion on 5 February.

The Observer, which relaunched in Berliner format on 8 January, was unable to continue the extraordinary 21 per cent year-on-year growth of that month. But Guardian Newspapers has stressed that February’s 8.96 per cent rise to 484,357 reflects a month when there were no DVD give-aways.

Chief executive Carolyn McCall said: “In its second month in the Berliner format, without any promotion, The Observer sale is 484,357, an increase of 39,848, or 9 per cent, year-on-year – a sales success based entirely on its editorial strength, demonstrating its appeal to readers.”

The Sunday Telegraph’s sales figure for February sheds no further light on the reasons for the abrupt sacking of editor Sarah Sands last week after just less than nine months in the job.

The 0.44 per cent year-on-year decline to 683,741, showed the title was out-performing its main rival – The Sunday Times – which was down 2.09 per cent to 1,371,545. And it was an improvement on last month’s figure, which was 1.35 per cent down year-on-year.

The News of the World’s small 0.52 per cent drop to 3,630,390 was well ahead of the average 4.06 per cent drop experienced by its competitors in the red-top Sunday market, and reflects a month in which the paper had a major scoop – the Iraq torture video – and gave away the DVD Clockwise.

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