8 Feb 2024

New Plymouth's last remaining specialist magazine shop to shut its doors this weekend

7:40 pm on 8 February 2024
Mainly Magazines co-owner Les Marshall says the store hadn't recovered after Covid.

Mainly Magazines & Lotto owner Les Marshall. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

It is the end of an era in New Plymouth this week, with the city centre's last specialist magazine shop closes its doors for the last time.

Mainly Magazines & Lotto - which once carried more than 1200 titles - is putting a full stop on business, saying the numbers just do not add up.

To step inside the store is to walk into a browsers heaven.

The shelves are heaving with magazines on everything from railways, military history and vintage cars, to the fashion staples.

But Les Marshall - who has run the store with wife Wendy for about a decade - said the writing had been on the wall for a while.

"Things changed quite drastically after Covid and magazine sales, card sales have been trending downwards ever since. Some of it is to do with availability, magazines are dropping off all the time as well and a lot of the specialist imported ones that come from the Northern Hemisphere are getting more expensive."

Things have not always been this way.

"We had probably well over 1200 titles and the place was pretty active both for magazines, cards, Lotto. There were a lot more employees of shops and other places around the CBD, a lot more office workers. We could open at 7.45am and be quite busy from the get go."

Mainly Magazines co-owner Les Marshall says the store hadn't recovered after Covid.

Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Marshall - who bought the store as a going concern - said there were about half the number of titles today.

Alan Johnson, a customer for as long as he could remember, said he found his reading material elsewhere nowadays.

"I've been in New Plymouth coming up 43 years and I think this place has probably been here almost as long. Historically I would've been in for magazines, usually motoring magazines, the odd item of stationary, a notebook, pens occasionally, but more recently to buy Lotto tickets.

"The paper publications have all that competition online now including newspapers. I think it is very much an end of an era and I think it is a shame that the paper publications seem to be losing traction as against the online stuff."

The shelves at Mainly Magazines once heaved with more than 1200 titles. Today the number is half that.

Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Mainly Magazines also does a sideline in English confectionery and puzzles.

Monica Welton went to the store to buy supplies for her husband.

"Double Decker is a type of chocolate bar that's from England. So, because they're so unique and special we could only find them here and the first thing when we saw the post on Facebook that they are closing down my husband was like 'Where can I get my Double Deckers now?'."

Welton had no luck with the sold out chocolates but was able to find a copy of Fly Past for her husband - who as well as having a sweet tooth - was also an aviation buff.

She was upset to see the store go.

"Absolutely, you can see what a big variety of magazines they provide and the owners themselves are very lovely people. It's sad to see such a special place and special people is closing down."

Monica Welton was after English chocolates and an aviation magazine for her husband at Mainly Magazines & Lotto when RNZ visited.

Customer Monica Welton. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Retail New Zealand chief executive Carolyn Young could not speak specifically about the magazine sector, but said retail in general was feeling the pinch.

"The information that's come out from Stats NZ is that we've seen a 30 percent increase in liquidations in the retail and the building industry in November compared to previous years, so certainly a significant increase in those two sectors that are being really hit hard."

Meanwhile, Marshall said he and Wendy would continue to operate the nearby Bookstop Gallery - which specialised in secondhand books.