Australian Newsagency Blog

A blog on issues affecting Australia's newsagents, media and small business generally.

Weekend penalty rates deal in South Australia does little for addressing the problem

Mark Fletcher on March 27, 2015 7:19 AM

The weekend penalty rate deal between union and government in South Australia announced this week does not appear to be as good as pitched in my view. At its heart, the deal shifts labour costs from penalty rates to the base, thereby not reducing the cost of labour to a business. Further, the deal is voluntary and that is problematic.

At a small business round table with retailers and Minister for Employment Eric Abetz – before he was minister – I was part of a conversation about weekend penalty rates. While employers in the room were keen to achieve a lower operating cost on weekends, the risk of a change which was voluntary was clear as it could make competing for employees more difficult.

Speaking for my own business, an hourly cost of $40.00 on a Sunday is not justified in my view. There is no difficulty in finding people to work on a Sunday – because of the pay. I sense that cutting this to, say, $28.00 an hour would not alter availability of employees. That saving would add $9,984 to the bottom line of the business over a year.  All of this would be reinvested in a mixture of marketing, stock and more hours. This reinvestment would improve the business which would require hiring more people.

While I am no economist it seems simple to me. If the government wants to address unemployment, addressing the out of date weekend penalty rate structure is one of several options to consider.

The bigger picture here is overdue economic reform. The issue of penalty rates needs to be considered along with taxation (all of it – personal and business), government services and other economic levers available to government to stimulate the economy and reflect equity for all Australians. In other words, as part of a complete package of economic reform which deals with all participants in the economy and not one or two sectors. Unless this is done, selling any real penalty rate change would be impossible.

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Why a newsagency is a good business to buy #5

Mark Fletcher on March 27, 2015 6:02 AM

This week I am going to publish a different reason each day on why a newsagency is a good business to buy – in no particular order.

#5 you are trusted by the community

Ask anyone on the street to rank retail businesses they trust and I bet newsagencies rank high on the list. People trust us.

They come to us for advice on all manner of things from pens to use in certain situations, glues appropriate to a task, how to get a magazine on a particular topic or what card to give in an unusual situation.

They come to us for help – like where some place is in town or how to deal with a tax matter or even how to deal with an everyday situation.

We are approachable as in most situations the person who owns the business is the person working in the business.

Trust is bankable. This trust is something we can build on as we transform our newsagencies.

To anyone thinking about buying a retail business I’d say – for trust, it is hard to go past a newsagency and the newsagent running it. The bond between newsagent and newsagency employees and customers is deep and difficult to copy. This is a bond, a trust, you can trust. It’s another thing which makes our businesses good to buy.

All of us in this channel need to work on respecting the trust we have and nurturing it for the future.

Newsagencies are good businesses to buy. We newsagents need to do more to demonstrate that this is the case. It starts with us making our businesses more appealing and is assisted by stories we tell about being a newsagent.

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Differentiating yourself in a competitive situation

Mark Fletcher on March 27, 2015 5:53 AM

competitionIn Auckland Monday at Beresford Square I could choose to get a sandwich and coffee from six outlets, all within a minute of each other. I chose The Station because of the single difference on their sign over the others – good tunes.

All the outlets promoted good food and good coffee. The good tunes message was different. It suggested a funkiness which appealed. Sure enough, inside, they had tunes playing a perfect backdrop for a break from the day.

Sometimes two words on a chalk board are all you need to pitch the difference of your business over the others nearby.

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Insight into how publishers promote magazines to advertisers

Mark Fletcher on March 27, 2015 5:48 AM

pmagsMy software company received a note from Pacific Magazines recently promoting advertising in Total Girl and K-Zone. The pack was sent to all companies that exhibited at the recent Toy Fair in Melbourne – as I software company had.

I like the pitch from Pacific even though it was not relevant to a software company as it provided insight to how they solicit advertising. I’d been at Toy Fair as a newsagent, buying, meeting suppliers. The note from Pacific got me taking more notice of suppliers who support the magazines we sell in the newsagency. It reinforced the relationship between publisher, supplier and newsagent.

In our toy departments we have products from suppliers who advertise. I am sure we can find other product connections between magazines and other departments. Looking for these in the pages of magazines we sell =can enhance the relationship we have with magazines.

If you are contemplating similar products from different suppliers and one advertises in magazines you sell while the other does not there you have additional information with which to make your buying decision.

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Understanding our customers through Zayn Malik departure from One Direction

Mark Fletcher on March 26, 2015 5:45 PM

The reaction online to the announcement overnight that Zayn Malik has left boy band One Direction is a lesson in knowing your prospective customers.

Younger shoppers are important to the future the newsagency channel and, indeed, all retailers. Attracting them is challenging for our businesses. This is why how the world reacted to the news of Zayn leaving 1D is important. We can learn about these potential shoppers y reading their reactions.

Sure, some responses are over the top but who are we to judge potential customers? Today, we have access to plenty we can sell these customers. Understanding them can help us do this. Their tweets, facebook posts and the like can help us understand them.

See coverage at Mashable (excellent) and SMH

We could see a magazine sales jump next week if publishers react to the opportunity.

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Adelaide Advertiser alienates SA newsagents

Mark Fletcher on March 26, 2015 11:22 AM

10339753_10206610007111836_5067282049814408090_nCheck out the ad in the Adelaide Advertiser promoting a Crows sticker. What the ad does not say is that it’s available in all newsagents. Promoting Newspower is disrespectful to other SA newsagents – branded and unbranded.

Newspower location numbers are down in SA so why News Corp. would hitch this promotion to only that brand does not make sense.

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Newsagency customers can surprise you

Mark Fletcher on March 26, 2015 6:04 AM

A newsagent who was adamant they could not sell gifts priced above $50.00 is now regularly selling gifts priced at $100.00 and more, much more.

After being encouraged to give more expensive gifts a go, they discovered their customers would happily spend more than the limit they had set themselves.

Sometimes we hold our businesses back by deciding what our customers will purchase and how much they will spend on an item.

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Why a newsagency is a good business to buy #4

Mark Fletcher on March 26, 2015 5:56 AM

This week I am going to publish a different reason each day on why a newsagency is a good business to buy – in no particular order.

#4: you have permission to change

Unlike many retail business formats people purchase when getting into small business for the first time, what your newsagency does is very much up to you. That’s right, if you have ideas, if you want a business you really can make your own, a newsagency is an ideal starting point. I say that because you have good base traffic and traffic is vital to any business.

In fact, I’d say you have more than permission to change. The owner of a newsagency has a mandate to change – in areas appropriate to your local situation

While some will find comfort in a highly regulated franchise, say in the food sector, more entrepreneurial types will prefer the freedom of a newsagency.

Sure there are regulated areas like magazines, but they are but part of our businesses.

Many people buy businesses because they want to work for themselves -think for themselves, fulfil dreams. Buying a business within which you can have the freedom to do this is important. Newsagencies are such a business – if you are the type who likes change.

Newsagencies are good businesses to buy. We newsagents need to do more to demonstrate that this is the case. It starts with us making our businesses more appealing and is assisted by stories we tell about being a newsagent.

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Fascinating retail forum looks to the future

Mark Fletcher on March 26, 2015 5:50 AM

touchsummitI was fortunate to be at the Touch 2015 Retail eServices Forum in Sydney yesterday. Speakers ranged from the visionary to the practical, all offering insights into how retail is changing and opportunities for retailers, like newsagents.

I found Dan Gregory particularly fascinating when talking about how businesses engage versus how they can engage. O. Schmitz from Amazon Europe was challenging with his vision of the reach of that company across the globe.

Speaker after speaker spoke to common themes of the importance of engagement with the customer, the need to embrace change and the importance of the value add.

Talking one-on-one to some representatives of some of our competitors, it is clear that over the counter services is a hot area of interest to them. This is where Touch plays a role for newsagents and why being at this session was insightful.

I expect Touch will have more news to share on opportunities as 2015 unfolds.

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Discounting Easter … why?

Mark Fletcher on March 26, 2015 5:46 AM

In a national discount variety store yesterday I noticed that half their Easter chocolate is being discounted lower than their already discounted price. Some of the lines are selling for less than the wholesale price paid by newsagents if they purchased these lines. I notices a nearby Coles, too, was discounting some Easter chocolate lines.

I don’t get businesses disrespecting brands during peak season by discounting. It speaks to their poor point of difference that it comes down to price.

Shoppers who purchase on price are less like to come back, unless you entice them on price.

Our Easter offer in the newsagency does not compete with these other retailers. Deliberately, we have an offer which cannot be price compared, an offer which appeals for reasons beyond the traditional everyday Easter product. In one category we are already well up on last year.

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Smart tablet offer from News Corp.

Mark Fletcher on March 25, 2015 1:26 PM

tabletWhen I first wrote about digital subscriptions by newspaper publishers years ago I noted that if I was doing it I’d bundle the offer with a tablet. This explains why I like offer promoted in the Herald Sun today – and, I am guessing, other News Corp. products.

This is a smart offer and essential to uptake and engagement. I’d be surprised if it does not work.

Own your route to market is key for any newspaper selling digital subs to consumers who could be challenges with other channels. It’s also a terrific ‘gift’ to drive up-take.

Thinking ahead and considering the disposability of mobile devices, a free tablet with every year-long subscription has to be on the horizon.

yes, I understand newsagents are not part of this story. It does;t matter as we have an abundance of opportunities of our own and print for titles like the Herald Sun has a good future for the foreseeable future.

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Newsagency of the Future workshop tomorrow in Perth

Mark Fletcher on March 25, 2015 10:50 AM

Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 12.26.48 pmIf you’re in Perth and are interested in considering what your future could be, I encourage you to book for the first Newsagency of the Future workshop. It’s on in Perth next Thursday at 10am. Attendance is free.  I promise you will be challenged and encouraged.

Perth. Thursday March 26. 10am.  Country Comfort Inter City. Great Eastern Highway Perth.

Any newsagent is welcome to attend.

Click here for the booking form, or email your details to bookings@towersystems.com.au.

This Perth event is the first of a national series that will include Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide, Hobart, Cairns, Townsville, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Newcastle, Parramatta, Geelong, Launceston.

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Why a newsagency is a good business to buy #3

Mark Fletcher on March 25, 2015 5:59 AM

This week I am going to publish a different reason each day on why a newsagency is a good business to buy – in no particular order.

#3: you’re part of something bigger

Even though newsagencies are independently owned and operated, vary significantly in range, service and location, trade under different brands and vary in terms of local community connection, they are all part of something bigger.

Whether this connection is seen or unseen, at the very core of every newsagency is the common connection of newspapers, magazines, cards and stationery and for many, lotteries. These product category cores provide newsagents with reasonable base traffic today and this is what you can leverage for success.

This about it. Buy a retail business selling gifts and you have one category on which to rely. Buy a newsagency with gift or one you plan to add gifts to and you have a base on which you can build thanks to being part of something bigger.

Even with declines in some categories we carry, being part of it is better than being in a retail category without this. I know of retail categories which would love even half the daily traffic of an average newsagency.

So, yes, newsagencies are part of a bigger, sometimes unseen, network and this can be leveraged to our success.

Newsagencies are good businesses to buy. We newsagents need to do more to demonstrate that this is the case. It starts with us making our businesses more appealing and is assisted by stories we tell about being a newsagent.

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If you sell Easter eggs in your newsagency

Mark Fletcher on March 25, 2015 5:41 AM

colesukchocolateIf you sell Easter eggs in your newsagency and you compete with Coles, make sure you staff know that the Thorntons range sold by Coles is imported from the UK. Know the source of your eggs. If they are made in Australia, pitch this and have your staff ready to let customers know. Locally made eggs are better for our economy that the Thorntons eggs from the UK.

I am finding shoppers more engaged than ever with locally made products in certain product categories. Food is one such category. You can drive this engagement with promotion of locally made.  Even a simple sign LOCALLY MADE = LOCAL JOBS works a treat. Coles can’t say this with their Thorntons products.

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Good gift with purchase for It Girl

Mark Fletcher on March 25, 2015 5:39 AM

itgirlgiftI like the bookmark gifts with the latest issue of It Girl magazine. The gift is slim and does not hinder display of the host product. It encourages reading. The designs suit the target shopper. Kudos to everyone involved in selecting gift to accompany It Girl. Newsagents: have the full cover on show to leverage the gift in-store.

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What concerns newsagents? magazine supply of course!

Mark Fletcher on March 24, 2015 9:37 PM

Every time my newsagency software company runs a workshop on how to cut your magazine bill it fills up. Newsagents want this training more often than anything else. The popularity of the training goes to show what matters to newsagents.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 9.35.30 pm

Magazine publishers and distributors should take note. They won’t but they should.

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Time called on selfie sticks

Mark Fletcher on March 24, 2015 10:30 AM

I have noticed a couple of newsagency suppliers have recently started offering selfie sticks – for use with your phone to take photos. Early-adopter newsagents started offering these more than two years ago. Getting into this space now is late in the day. Plus, there are challenges with more venues declaring their use unsafe.

If a supplier is pitching selfie sticks to you as the next big thing, be suspicious as they were big between a year and two years ago. Today, they are another readily available gadget.

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Why a newsagency is a good business to buy #2

Mark Fletcher on March 24, 2015 6:04 AM

This week I am going to publish a different reason each day on why a newsagency is a good business to buy – in no particular order.

#2: there are processes to guide you

Newsagencies are structured businesses at their core. Lotteries, cards, magazines and newspapers have considerably structure around them. You can learn from suppliers so you operate within the required structure.

Stationery is less structured but there is structured support if you seek it.

Gifts and other more general retail items, which not structured, are supported through suppliers who can guide and advice.

If you want help, it’s there.

If you are new to retail, there are plenty of sources of assistance and advice if you seek it out.

Buying a newsagency you are buying into a business for which there is as much support as you seek.

If you are someone who likes to complain you will have plenty to complain about in terms of structure, training and support – but that would be a choice you make. However, such complaints are not justified in my view given what is available for you out there.

For an independent small business channel, newsagencies offer more structure than most This is good news for buyers!

Newsagencies are good businesses to buy. We newsagents need to do more to demonstrate that this is the case. It starts with us making our businesses more appealing and is assisted by stories we tell about being a newsagent.

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A free-standing paper stand ideal for newsagents

Mark Fletcher on March 24, 2015 5:58 AM

nstandHere’s a free-standing newspaper stand I saw in Auckland yesterday. I like that it is easily moved and easily reconfigured. Note the unit for magazines hung off the side – a bonus use of the space.

Newsagents who put this type of stand in own the space for themselves. This is better than a newspaper publisher owning a stand controlling placement of product on the stand.

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Smens helps newsagents take stationery out of the stationery aisle

Mark Fletcher on March 24, 2015 5:51 AM

smensSmens from GNS are the type of pen I’d expect to see in Typo. They are pens which smell. You can choose the scent you want. It’s a cool idea appealing to someone who is probably not looking to purchase a pen.

I am writing about Smens today for two reasons: to show that GNS offers products that appeal to the Typo shopper (and I understand that range will expand) and to illustrate how we can sell more stationery in our newsagencies to people who are not shopping for stationery.

We have opportunities in our newsagency supplier relationships often beyond what what we assume. A bit of research can unlock these.

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The value of a Lay-By service in the newsagency

Mark Fletcher on March 23, 2015 1:38 PM

laybysoldWe have sold three items via Lay-By in the newsagency over the last five days – with a total sale value of over $800. That we offer Lay-By makes selling more expensive items easier.

The Lay-By facility enables the shopper to see a $500 item as $50 a week rather than $500 paid at once. This makes the product accessible to more shoppers.

I expect any newsagency software would have a Lay-By facility through which you can properly manage the process and meet your legal obligations.

FYI: we leave the items in the cabinet with a SOLD tag. This helps us get more value from the item until it’s paid for.

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Why a newsagency is a good business to buy #1

Mark Fletcher on March 23, 2015 5:51 AM

This week I am going to publish a different reason each day on why a newsagency is a good business to buy – in no particular order.

#1 – A newsagency is a good business to buy because of the community connection.

Small and independent retail business struggle for relevance in a local community. Your local newsagency fares better than move because of the regular traffic for everyday items like newspapers, magazines, cards, lottery tickets and home stationery. While some of these categories may face challenges, sales continue to be strong, traffic continues at a level other small and independent retailers would love.

Newsagencies are traffic rich. Smart newsagents are leveraging this to the max and chasing new sources of traffic.

Ask anyone in town where the local newsagency is as they will know. This is an awareness base on which you can rely.

Anyone buying a newsagency can leverage this awareness, they can build on it. This puts you ahead compared to if you purchased some other local independent retail business.

At an ANF conference on the Gold Coast a years ago I asked the question of newsagents what do you stand for? The vast majority said being community connected in the most important point of difference. This is true for many today and it is a good reason to buy a newsagency.

Newsagencies are good businesses to buy. We newsagents need to do more to demonstrate that this is the case. It starts with us making our businesses looking more appealing and is assisted by stories we tell about being a newsagent.

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Shaun The Sheep opportunity for newsagents

Mark Fletcher on March 23, 2015 5:41 AM

shaunthesheepI received a unit of Shaun The Sheep flockstars from Network – timed to connect with the release of the movie. On their own these may do okay. Add to them the Shaun The Sheep merchandise from Jasnor and I can tell a story.

This is an example of opportunities newsagents can leverage, ways we can connect products from multiple suppliers to drive a 1+1+1=4 result.

Promoting products around a movie release can be terrific for driving new traffic as well as driving impulse purchases. Your marketing is easier thanks to hype and marketing for the movie. I saw this with the first Despicable Me movie and more recently with the Paddington Bear movie.

Of course, Frozen is the best example but everyone was in on that. What I like about Shaun The Sheep is that it is not as big and as widely available as Frozen product. This presents us with an opportunity.

I first saw the Shaun The Sheep opportunity last year. This new product from Network arrived at a good time.

if you are not convinced about the appeal of Shaun The Sheep – the brand has 2 million fans of facebook.

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Disappointing to see the AFL support Coles

Mark Fletcher on March 23, 2015 5:35 AM

colesaflI have complained to the AFL over their exclusive promotion of Micro-Figures with Coles timed for the start of the AFL season. Local newsagency businesses are key supporters and sponsors of local grass-roots football teams. The AFL should be careful about supporting Coles as it will make us wonder about the respect given to our local team support.

Given its reliance on local teams to feed passion for the game, the AFL should focus on local businesses for retail partnership.

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Lucky Dips help sell magazines in the newsagency

Mark Fletcher on March 23, 2015 5:32 AM

ldipWe are leveraging Lucky Dip promotions for K-Zone and Total Girls with full cover placement next to each other. My thinking is that placement next to each other makes sense as they have a similar promotion. Our placement respects that this issue is different.

Whereas our competitors operate in a robotic way when it comes to magazine placement, we can think and act locally based on title cover and other local factors. This is part of what separates us as magazine retailers, it is an opportunity for us to show off our point of difference to shoppers and to magazine publishers.

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