Q & A with Tony Edwards

27 Sep

Last month Ovato Retail Distribution – the business that gets NZ magazines into supermarkets and bookstores – was sold to publisher Are Media. From November it will be renamed Are Direct. We talk to the man at the centre of the change, ORD general manager Tony Edwards. 

How will the change in ownership change your job on a day-to-day basis? 

It won’t really change my job. We will still operate independently. Having some support services in Sydney will mean getting use to the time differences. I’m still getting meetings set up for 6.30pm at night; or worse Friday at 4pm.

Will you still be based in Wiri? Or will you move to Are Media’s Kingsland offices?

We are staying where we are. We are reconfiguring our warehouse and office space so that we can operate autonomously.

Some independent publishers have expressed anxiety that Are Media’s ownership of retail distribution will mean they get less focus on their products. Is this a valid concern?

Not at all. The way we operate won’t change. We have always operated at a title and a category level. It’s all about what is the right title for that retailer. Retailers don’t look at magazines at a publisher level. Each title lives or dies on its own sales performance. Our job is quite simple – we need to put the right title, in the right quantities, to the right retailers. Our job is to sell as many magazines as possible.

The advantage of being owned by a publisher is they have skin in the game. They have a vested interest to ensure we can maintain a cost effective and sustainable route to market.

The last few months must have been pretty weird for you – with managing a new ownership structure on top of a lockdown. What was the hardest bit? 

Funny thing is, this lockdown, from a business point of view, hasn’t been as difficult as the first lockdown. The experience gained from last time has given us a template on what to do (or not do). A couple of weeks prior to lockdown, we started planning for how we would manage another level 4 lockdown. So this time is definitely not as stressful. Being allowed to continue to operate - and not having a major publisher close -  is also helping. The hardest bit – in that it’s still going on – is that I’m sick of working from home.

 You’ll have an Aussie boss now. Does that mean a whole lot more Zoom meetings?

Yes lots of Teams/Zoom calls. But like everyone else, I’m used to it. I’m hoping to get to Australia two to three times a year. Not just to see the head office, but also see my Australian publishers.

What about your team? Any changes there?

No changes. It really is BAU. Just a new name on the pay slip.

What’s the main thing you want to achieve in the next year?

Change the narrative of magazines with the retailers. Help them understand the value of the magazine category isn’t just the dollars it generates through the tills. A magazine shopper is very valuable to retailers – be it for regular foot traffic; or because these shoppers spend more. We need to ensure all retailers understand that.

And I’d like to launch a new website to make interactions between us and our publishers and retailers more effective.

Are the issues facing Australian magazines at retail the same as they are here?

From what I know, yes, very similar. For most countries around the world, the biggest challenge is protecting the retail space for the magazine category.