Is there a MyWaitrose effect?

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 20.58.45Good news! trumpets an email from Waitrose. From tomorrow the minimum spend needed to get a free broadsheet paper falls back to £5.00 between Monday and Friday; at the end of April they’d increased this to £10 (this price point stays for Saturday and Sunday papers).

If you don’t know Waitrose’s promotion it’s quite a simple deal. If you’re a MyWaitrose card holder then as long as you have £5.00 of groceries in your basket (believe me, not at all hard at Waitrose) you can add one of the papers in the offer for nothing (they ring it through the till and then deduct the amount off the total bill).

I’m fascinated by this promotion and whether it might be connected to a recent slowdown in the sales fall for some newspapers. In April the Guardian was down just 0.3% on its sales in April 2013, The Telegraph down 2.5%, The Times 2.2% and the Mail 5.5% (the Independent was down a whopping 14.4%). Compared to the huge falls of the past few years these almost seem like good news for the print press.

Could this be a MyWaitrose effect? There are more than 3 million card holders (that’s a figure from November, it’s certainly more now), if we say that these people visit the supermarket once a week on average then that’s a potential 3 million newspapers being bought, but if we’re conservative and say only 25% redeem the offer we’re still looking at 750,000 papers each week.

The total weekly sale of all the newspapers in the promotion (including Sundays) is around 20 million units according to ABC, so the MyWaitrose scheme could be accounting for around 4% of total sales. Of course some of those people would have bought a paper anyway (the NFRN are complaining about Waitrose stealing sales from independents) so if we halve the figure to represent additional sales then we might have a MyWaitrose ‘mitigation factor’ equivalent to 2% of broadsheet circulation.

I have no way of knowing whether this figure is anywhere close to the actual amount (I actually suspect I might be undercooking it given the number of papers I see in Waitrose shopping carts – and the fact that I’m now reading 2-3 newspapers a week when last year I bought nil, zero, none in the entire year). I also think it might have significantly higher effect on Sundays and that certain papers will be doing better than others.

But unless and until someone can let us know how many papers Waitrose were selling before the promotion and now, or until the ABC splits out the figures (don’t laugh) it’s all speculation, hypothesis and guesswork. This is my first guess – over to you.



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