Originally published in Masthead Magazine, Monday May 11, 2015
The 2014 version of Harrowsmith’s Garden Digest is a great case study in not giving up. But first let’s talk about the regular Harrowsmith Almanac that competes directly with the American Old Farmers Almanac.
When Yolanda Thornton brought back the classic Harrowsmith Almanac in 2013, the venerable name/brand was enthusiastically embraced by readers. The magazine sold-through at a very strong 37% on a huge draw. This confirmed that the Harrowsmith brand still had pulling power.
This success encouraged Ms. Thornton to bring out a Gardening Almanac the following Spring season. The cover was an almost identical replica of the regular Harrowsmith Almanac cover, but was labeled Spring. It was also priced a $5.95 and the distribution was replicated. Unfortunately, the sales of the Spring Almanac were just 22% of what the Regular Almanac sold.
Once again, the classic 2014 Harrowsmith Almanac was a huge success, selling-through again at a solid 37% efficiency on a sizeable draw.
But for the 2014 Gardening Digest we needed to make some radical changes. In 2014, to differentiate it from our regular Almanac, we re-named the issue the Gardening Digest. We increased the size from a small digest format to a larger digest format (5.125 X 7.5 to 5.125 X 8.25). We replaced 75% black and white pages on newsprint in 2013 to 100% full colour on glossy stock in 2014. We lowered the price from $5.95 to $4.95. We scrapped the illustration and went with a photograph instead. We added a cover slash. We added a starburst button. We moved the UPC code to the lower right. And we massively cut back the draw by 45%. This allowed the title to invest in quality upgrades and promotions. We invested in some targeted retail promotions that bore fruit:
- Sales at Canadian Tire promo up 73%
- Sales at Home Depot promo up 27%
- Sales at Lowes promo up 958%
- Sales at Metro Richelieu up 418%
- Sales at Loblaws promo up 123%
- Sales at Federated floor display up 144%
- Sales at Overwaite floor display up 424%
- Sales at Sobeys floor display up 78%
Overall, sales were up by 48% an efficiency improved by 16 points. The 2015 Digest is now on stands and is sporting another new look.