X-Ray Spex show just how mag buyers shop

By Alyson Fixter

Supermarkets have long begrudged magazines shelf space, seeing them as a marginal purchase, but now shoppers wearing "X-Ray Spex" have revealed that picking up a copy of Heat or Nuts is somehow linked to a 36 per cent bigger shop.

In research commissioned by the PPA and due to be unveiled at its conference next week, customers kitted out in hi-tech camera glasses revealed detailed information about the way they approached the newsstand and how it affected their other purchases.

Whether they became depressed by Vogue’s stick-thin models and reached for the Krispy Kremes or were inspired by Men’s Health to buy more soya products is unknown, but the study did reveal that magazine buyers took far bigger baskets to the checkouts than other shoppers, averaging £30.84 per visit, as opposed to £22.50 for nonmagazine buyers.

The glasses, which recorded their fields of vision as they shopped, also collected information on which sections of the newsstand they viewed first, which covers caught their eye and how often they reached out and picked up titles.

The report, to be presented at the PPA Magazines 2006 conference on Wednesday (3 May), also determined that, apart from food, magazines were the most important purchase for supermarket shoppers, and that stores such as WHSmith owed most of their customers to the pull of the newsstand.

The research will be used by publishers in their campaign to get big chains to give more space to magazines as they take on an increasing share of the retail market.

A spokesman for the PPA said: "The study will provide important ammunition for publishers in the fight against further retail space reductions in favour of other products, showing that 20 per cent of people added magazines to their main purchase, way ahead of products such as newspapers at 9 per cent, flowers at 10 per cent and confectionary at 5 per cent.

"Magazines are also viewed by supermarket shoppers as ‘the most enjoyable retail product’ in stock, alongside CDs and games."

A spokesman for Dipsticks, which carried out the research, said: "The ‘XRay Spex’ can be simply described as a pair of comfortable and visually unremarkable spectacles that have been fitted with an unobtrusive surveillance video camera. The device does not track precise eyeball movements, but it does reveal everything that appears within the subject’s primary and secondary fields of view as they walk about in a normal way.

"An image is transmitted to a video recording device, which can then be reviewed to determine, among other things, the way a respondent searches the newsstand, the sections and covers that arrest the respondent’s attention, the way a respondent browses a title and the total length of time a respondent lingers at the newsstand."

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