When an anxious patron searches the heavily laden newsstand at the Wrigley Building for PEOPLE, proprietor Sam Wigoda just shrugs his shoulders and says, "I don't sell it. It's gone before I have a chance." At the main street newsstand in Evanston, Sue Moss says: "If I had any issues left at the end of the week I wouldn't return them. We're getting as many requests for back issues as for the current. PEOPLE is selling more than any other weekly except TV Guide."
At the Ambassador Hotel the clerk said, "I'm looking at the rack now and I can't believe it—PEOPLE's all gone already. I just got it yesterday."
And at O'Hare Airport: "It's what people read on airplanes now."
Our Michigan State University correspondent saw a huge stack of PEOPLE in the Student Union newsstand. "Gee," he said to the fellow in charge, "the magazines must not be selling too well." "On the contrary," replied the newsstand guy, "They're selling like hotcakes. This is the second big stack I've put out. The others sold out." "This has been one of the best kickoffs for a new magazine that you'll ever hear about," said Bob Edgett, Detroit merchandising manager for Select Magazines, our national distributor. "We've had more requests for and interest in PEOPLE than any magazine in the last three years." Edgett recalled that when the magazine first came out the reaction of many dealers was, "Oh no, not another one; there's already enough magazines crowding the racks." Now the dealers all ask for it.
PEOPLE is handled by 1,274 retailers in the Houston area. But the number grows each week as more persons become aware of the magazine and ask for it. A shopping center reports it sells out every copy it gets long before the new issue arrives. At Ekards drugstore an official warned that PEOPLE must be purchased within a day or two after delivery—or there won't be any left. The University of Houston bookstore sells all copies delivered within a few days. The same is true at Rice University.
"Everybody asks me for it—it's like unbelievable," says Jerry Goldberg, manager of the Universal News Agency, an outdoor newsstand at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Las Palmas, which stocks every conceivable magazine. He sold 100 copies of the first issue in two hours and has a hard time keeping it in stock at all. The manager of another mammoth outdoor newsstand, at the corner of Robertson and Pico, calls PEOPLE "A real live item. The price is right."
The Westwood Book Store near the UCLA campus sells out every week. "There's nothing else like it," says one of the saleswomen, Margaret Winkler. She recalls that one of Paul Getty's ex-wives came into the store looking for the issue with her ex-husband on the cover, and they ordered the back issue for her. And the manager of a Ralphs supermarket in West Los Angeles said, "If I owned it I'd be pretty thrilled about the way it's selling."
Bill Russell, of Atlanta News Agency, says: "We had some wasted copies at first, but we think our new distribution is right. We have added new accounts and so far we have been very pleased. PEOPLE sells across the board, it doesn't sell better in supermarkets than in drugstores, it just sells in all the locations." Russell expressed a negative reaction to the Tatum O'Neal cover. "The grape color didn't have much newsstand appeal," he said. "That just wasn't a newsstand cover." (Nonetheless, Mr. Russell should know that the issue sold very well elsewhere.)
Jim Poulos, owner of The Book Worm, a downtown newsstand, says he sells all his copies. He finds that PEOPLE has very loyal customers. "I have them asking me to hold back a copy for them."
In the Seattle area, where PEOPLE is selling at a clip even above the national average, it seems only natural that this incident should occur. A suburban housewife, browsing through the latest and last copy of PEOPLE at her supermarket newsstand, had it wrenched from her hands by another woman, who marched off to the cashier with it. In a supermarket this week a man picked up a copy and waved it to show his wife he had bought it.
A psychiatrist said: "My wife and I fight over this magazine to see who gets it first, and she always seems to win."
With 10 issues of PEOPLE behind us, we asked some of our correspondents last week to talk to newsstand dealers and supermarket managers to see how the magazine was being received. Their reports were very encouraging.