Mark Fletcher on August 28, 2015 6:13 AM
A few weeks after we opened a newsagency in a shopping centre almost five years ago, an ink kiosk opened out the front, less than three metres in front of us. The landlord had kept this from us as we negotiated the lease.
Over the years our ink sales have been good. Now the kiosk has closed, ink sales are enjoying a boost.
Competition is tough across most product categories. Sometimes, being the last man standing can give you the win you have been hoping for in a category.
The key to outlasting competition is tight cost control, a relentless focus on efficiency of stock (stock turn) and achieving the best possible margin on everything you sell.
Single category shops like the ink kiosk will always struggle because people shop with them for one purpose. These and type types of businesses we are better positioned to ultimately beat thanks to a more diverse mix of destination purchases in our businesses.
The base traffic we have in our businesses today are a competitive advantage over narrow focused businesses. This gives us better staying power.
Category: Newsagency management · Stationery
Mark Fletcher on August 28, 2015 6:08 AM
I was reminded success in retail can come from better understanding your customers last week at a a breakfast buffet where they had a separate toaster for toasting gluten free bread. I asked someone using this about the need for a separate toaster and discovered even a crumb from bread with gluten can be harmful .
This conversation played on my mind over the next few days as I thought how we handled gluten related titles and other titles serving specific dietary needs. I have resolved to be more careful in placement of gluten related titles not only to make them easier to find but to also demonstrate the type of respect coeliacs tell me they will appreciate for the misunderstood condition.
This type of attention to detail can be beneficially differentiating for us.
Category: Newsagency management · Newsagency opportunities · retail
Mark Fletcher on August 28, 2015 6:02 AM
I decided to give the latest issue of Reader’s Digest a few days next to newspapers to see if it lifts sales. I did this because I think this cover is particularly good – id is eye-catching and easily understood. I created the space by moving papers across by 10cm. I’ll check Sunday and if sales justify the placement we will keep it here for longer.
Reader’s Digest is a title that sometimes (cover depending) responds well to promotion.
Mark Fletcher on August 27, 2015 10:35 AM
I have been at the Bauer Connections Conference in Cairns this week. It was good to see the inclusion of several of the newsagency marketing groups at the conference as they offer platforms of consistency, marketing, management and optimism for newsagents. I think Bauer inviting representatives of the groups was a smart move as it is only the groups that have a hope to drive consistency among all businesses trading behind a brand.
The theme of the conference was Fit for Purpose. Each speaker spoke to the theme, aiming to equip attendees with tools for being more fit for running your newsagency.
In the breaks plenty shared good stories about changes in their businesses and the optimism they had for the future and, specifically, their future. It was a thrill to see and hear this optimism.
One of the speakers talked about choosing to be happy. I have written about this here before when I have said we choose to be optimistic.
It is too easy for some to stay in the rabbit hole barely able to see in front of you and as a result lose the opportunity to look at the sunrise on the horizon bringing on a new day that you can make your own.
Today in and newsagency business is about change as is tomorrow and the next day. We can choose to resist this, be grumpy about it and duck down into the rabbit hole or we can choose to lean in and embrace, even chase, change. This latter mindset is, for me, at the heart of being Fit for Purpose.
I think any newsagent in any situation can find optimism and through this make decisions that guide new traffic into the business. Size of the business does not matter. What matters most is the choice you make about your mindset.
Category: Newsagency challenges · Newsagency management · newsagency of the future · Newsagency opportunities · Optimism
Mark Fletcher on August 27, 2015 5:03 AM
Newsagents being confronted with tighter trading terms from suppliers have other newsagents to thank. Some recent financial collapses and a higher cost of collection from some newsagents have led to newsagents experiencing tougher terms from some suppliers.
I know of some suppliers charging more for freight, others increasing their margin and others introducing a penalty for late payment of even a day.
While I understand suppliers seeing these moves as a response to the poor behaviour of some, a better approach would be a discount for payment up front. This incentive could help some suppliers attract attention from newsagents prepared to back themselves for a margin benefit.
Punishing everyone because some have not honoured your trading terms is, in my view, unfair.
Category: Newsagency management
Mark Fletcher on August 27, 2015 4:55 AM
Last week I saw Treasurers of the earth on sale for the equivalent of 70% of the cover price charged in Australia. The price difference leaves me wondering where the costs are in Australia compared to elsewhere? Is it the magazine distribution model, the newsagent margin? Regardless, we look expensive for partworks as it was not only Treasurers of the earth for which I noticed this price difference.
Category: magazines · partworks
Mark Fletcher on August 26, 2015 2:31 PM
Check out this Instagram post mentioning the sold-out issue of Marie Claire and the latest issue of Shop Til You Drop. The post got 25 likes. I found it because it mentions newsagents – raising the profile of our channel a bit on Instagram. Theses a good thing. What is even better is that this post shows us an good example one way we can talk about magazines on Instagram.
Category: magazines · Social Media
Mark Fletcher on August 26, 2015 2:03 PM
The Drover, a photography book by Al Mabin is a perfect Father’s Day or Christmas gift. I first wrote about it here last year and newsagents embraced the opportunity. Contact Al directly to purchase. You can be part of a terrific local publishing story.
Category: Newsagency opportunities
Mark Fletcher on August 26, 2015 5:23 AM
This comment piece by Michael Woolf published by USA Today is fascinating reading. It explores the different strategies of The New York Times and News Corp. In some respects, it offers insights useful in comparing Fairfax and News Corp.
At the heart of the Woolf piece is consideration of disruption on the publisher model of technology driven change in consumer behavior.
Woolf compares the strategies of Mark Thompson, CEO of The New York Times Co., and Robert Thomson, CEO of News Corp.
Both CEOs are trying to thread the finest of needles: to find a way for print news organizations to profit in a world that has undermined the basic business models and relationships that newspapers have always counted on for success, reader loyalty and advertiser interest in those readers.
This is a fascinating piece that will interest newsagents given the declining but continuing importance of print to our businesses.
We need to watch publishers carefully and consider their moves in the context of moves we make in our businesses and with the knowledge of the margin we make from newspapers.
Category: Media disruption · Newspapers
Mark Fletcher on August 26, 2015 5:12 AM
We have sold more than forty premium plush items each priced at $100 and more in the newsagency so far this month. Also so far this month, sales of $9.99 plush items targeted at girls 8 to 12 are up 22% with sales at over 500 units. A carefully planned and executed strategy attracting new shoppers to the business is working.
I mention this today to encourage all newsagents to plan for and chase new traffic as a key business activity, to encourage your own optimism.
Years ago I used to think I could not sell $200 and $300 plush items. Not I know it is easy with the right buying, planning and execution.
These are the things newsagents could do if they are concerned about falling traffic for traditional items.
This post is not designed to encourage you to get into high end or low end plush. Rather, it is a call to action to chase new traffic opportunities for your business through products and services that are appropriate to your situation and to the needs of your customers. It is about having a go and not sitting on your hands expecting others to find new traffic for you.
We do make our own success.
Category: Newsagency management · newsagency of the future · Newsagency opportunities · Plush
Mark Fletcher on August 26, 2015 5:09 AM
In a recent episode of Family Feud on Network Ten the top answer to the question name something your would expect to find in a joke shop was Whoopee Cushion. This fun product from decades ago is still popular. But it not a destination product – so we take the product to the people with placement at the counter. Some purchase it on impulse as a prank gift while others purchase for nostalgia. Either way, the Whoopee Cushion is a good item to have in the newsagency – and at the counter from time to time.
I am finding more success with items like this at the counter than old-school lines such as confectionery you can find at convenience stores and supermarkets.
Mark Fletcher on August 25, 2015 5:44 AM
Graduation Gifts sell all through the year with people purchasing for more than what has been traditional. We now pitch graduation gifts all year round. One successful engagement is this placement of the Korimco graduation Beanie Kid with cards. It is the right size and price point to be purchased as an add-on to the card.
What I have described here is action we can take in our shops to chase above-average performance.
The average approach to graduation gifts is to concentrate these toward the end of the school year and to promote them together, usually away from the cards.
My suggestion in this blog post is to promote them through the year and to pitch some of them in with your card fixtures. By doing this you are guiding your customers to make a more valuable purchase.
Here are some examples of all year graduation gift opportunities: a puppy graduating from obedience school, someone graduating from vocational training, a driver graduating from P plates, someone moving up a level in living circumstance.
We need to not restrict when we can sell items by making assumptions that to not reflect how shoppers could behave.
Category: Gifts · Newsagency opportunities
Mark Fletcher on August 25, 2015 5:41 AM
The latest issue of Title Tracker was delivered yesterday and found myself wondering about its value.
Given the data we get from the distributors through XchangeIT, that this includes accurate title data including industry standard categories, the value of Title Tracker is diminished in my view.
Title Tracker feels to me like a service that is passed its use by date. I’d love to know what others think.
Category: magazines · Newsagency management
Mark Fletcher on August 25, 2015 5:39 AM
If your newsagency is in a Catholic area consider placing the latest issue of National Geographic in a high profile location with newspapers or weekly magazines to make the most of the Pope Francis cover.
Mark Fletcher on August 25, 2015 5:38 AM
Newsagents using the Tower Systems newsagency software have access to this coupon promoting the Pacific Magazines Win a $5,000 Shopping Spree! competition to be automatically included on shopper receipts – providing another touch point for this newsagent-only promotion by Pacific Magazines.
Experience shows competitions like this work best in the newsagency if you connect with the opportunity through multiple touch points.
Category: Newsagency management · newsagency marketing
Mark Fletcher on August 24, 2015 12:46 PM
The Shopkins products available through GNS are worth stocking. Having these on display and promoting them through Facebook pitches your business with a relevance that pushes back on the community perception of newsagency businesses. They display well and offer an up-sell for people purchasing Shopkins products sent through a magazine distributor. We have then in a couple of locations: at the counter and in our toy department.
From a category perspective, Shopkins is in a category called building sets. In a recent confidential toy industry report, building sets overtook outdoor & sports toys in sales. Sales for the building sets category is up 8% year on year. Shopkins is the top property,. It overtook Barbie. Shopkins has added $6.5 million of value in the year to 30 June.
This is why the GNS range should interest proactive newsagents.
Category: Newsagency opportunities · Trends
Mark Fletcher on August 24, 2015 7:06 AM
Thinking about my challenge to newsagents yesterday about choosing optimism, I have this morning been looking through new marketing from my POS software company where the team put a call out for Tower Systems customers who would like to be professionally photographed in their shop for a national postcard marketing campaign.
These two photos from businesses in South Australia, a bike shop and a specialist confectionery shop, show small business owners happy to be in their businesses and happy to be promoting them. The photos exude optimism.
In each photo you can see pride in their faces. In the background you can see good visual merchandising and professional retailing principles.
The owners of these businesses excuse pride and confidence with justification. They are terrific small businesses having a big impact.
We choose ourselves how happy our shop is. We do this in our heads as well as on the shelves of our businesses.
How would you and your look if this photo was taken in your shop? Thinking about that could guide you to changes to make.
I appreciate there are challenges for the traditional newsagency business. We choose impact of those challenges on our mindset and demeanour and this plays out on the performance of the business.
While there is nostalgic appeal the traditional newsagency, you will make more money breaking free from that history and focussing on representing a bright and happy future.
Category: Management tip · marketing · marketing tip · Optimism
Mark Fletcher on August 23, 2015 6:43 AM
It is too easy to play the victim in small business, especially in the newsagency channel with challenges surrounding us and growing almost weekly.
It is too easy to become pessimistic and blame others.
Your situation is yours to own as I have written here many times before.
Your mindset is yours to own too. This is why I say choose optimism.
I appreciate it is not easy to choose optimism but I urge you to try, set this as your goal and work back from there figuring out what you need to to to be optimistic about your business and your situation.
For you to be optimistic you need to see a future where your business is profitable and saleable should you wish to sell in the future.
Both these goals require the business to be attracting new shoppers.
Attracting new shoppers starts with smart buying and involves out of store marketing to people who do not currently shop with you.
Smart buying involves you in buying from suppliers you do not deal with today.
Out of store marketing involves you in using new platforms that get you in front of people you have never seen.
I promise, it will only take one or two sales of new products to new customers to open your heart and mind to optimism and once you are there new ideas and fresh energy will well up and encourage you to engage with your business differently.
Optimism is a choice we man make.
Category: Management tip · Newsagency management · newsagency marketing · Newsagency opportunities
Mark Fletcher on August 23, 2015 6:24 AM
How many greeting cards do you personally send each year? If the number is under ten then you are below average. In the UK, the average is just over twenty per person.
So how many cards do you send each year?
The best reminder you can give to someone to send more cards is to send them a card. From a newsagency management perspective, the best way to get people sending more cards is for you to send cards for fringe occasions such as thanking a coach, thanking a teacher, welcoming someone to a new home, saying bon voyage, welcoming a soldier home or just because.
Your newsagency probably has the best card range in your area. (If not, why not?) Play to your strength by being aware of card giving opportunities and engaging with these with your customers and others you connect with through your business.
Think of every card you give as part of marketing of your business.
I knew a newsagent years ago who would pick a birthday card for his wife, take it home and show her and put it back in the pocket in the newsagency the next day to sell.
Send more cards.
Category: Greeting Cards · marketing · marketing tip · newsagency marketing
Mark Fletcher on August 23, 2015 6:21 AM
People purchasing their first newsagency come with fresh ideas, energy and enthusiasm. My experience of some is they talk about previous businesses or roles as a way of boosting themselves.
All that matters is what you do in your newsagency. Your past is your past. It is what you do today, tomorrow and the next day that matters. Not your talk about what you might do but what you actually do to make your newsagency more relevant and profitable.
While your previous experience could be an interesting story, in only rare circumstances will it be relevant to what you face owning and running a newsagency.
We are in interesting times where opportunities abound. These opportunities are only valuable is you act more than you talk.
Category: Management tip · Newsagency management
Mark Fletcher on August 22, 2015 6:41 AM
Reflex copy paper is regularly advertised as a brand consumers can trust yet in Coles this week you can see it discounted to below wholesale at $3.49. While the discounting may suit the Coles price positioning strategy, it does not respect the brand nor the retailers who respect the brand.
Major brands that allow their products to be discounted as Coles has done this week with Reflex risk losing the interest and support of independent and small business retailers.
I want to stock brands in my newsagency that respect themselves and their retail partners, brands that value long term relationships.
Category: Competition · Newsagency challenges · Stationery
Mark Fletcher on August 22, 2015 6:33 AM
Visiting a newsagency on Tuesday I was confronted by someone begging. Hey mate can you spare some change? they asked as I walked in. Half an hour later when I stepped out of the business they tossed our Got a dollar you can give me for a coffee?
This is in an inner suburb of Melbourne. They were the only person on the strip begging. I suspect they chose the newsagency because of the OzLotto $60 million jackpot.
While they are not attacking the business, their presence could be confronting enough for some to encourage them to shop elsewhere next time they may want to shop at a newsagency.
The challenge for the newsagent is what to do. Calling the police results in a we’ll get to it if we can response. A call to the local council ByLays department results in I don’t think this is our issue. Two calls with plenty of waiting on the line and the newsagent frustrated.
The offer of money for a coffee shows that this is not what the person wants. They are looking to ‘earn’ a certain amount. The only way to move them on that Tuesday is to pay them $50 or more which, of course, no one would (or should) pay.
This scenario is difficult to handle. Maybe a more lateral approach could work. I recall seeing all shops on a street in Los Angeles had identical signs in their windows asking people to not give money to beggars and noting that the chamber of commerce supported a local homeless shelter and included details on the sign. It took a while but beggars stopped requesting that street.
I don’t like seeing people begging. I wonder about their situation. While I am sure there are some who do it because they make good money I am sure there are others who do it because they see it as their only option. Either way, when it reflects on your business you need to have a plan for mitigating the siuation.
Category: Newsagency challenges · Newsagency management · Social responsibility
Mark Fletcher on August 21, 2015 9:17 PM
UK newsagent group WH Smith says sales this year have been boosted by strong sales of adult colouring titles. I know of newsagents in Australia recording $20,000 in sales for this niche segment alone.
Category: Newsagency management
Mark Fletcher on August 21, 2015 9:12 PM
UK newsagent group WH Smith is receiving bad press over claims it did not pass on VAT (Value Added tax) discounts to people shopping at its airport stores. There is talk in some reports of a customer revolt over this.
Category: Newsagency management
Mark Fletcher on August 21, 2015 8:22 AM
Credit Suisse has today published analysis of the latest Tatts Group results. This is a must-read document for newsagents with lotteries. Here are some key points of interest:
- Higher-margin online sales grew 22% in FY15 and represent 10.4% of all sales including South Australia.
- TTS is trialling lottery products in 54 Woolworths convenience/fuel outlets
- Tatts will need to grow the dollar value of commissions over time, in our view. Tatts’ agency network is responsible for nearly 90% of sales and therefore an integral part of its distribution. It would not be in Tatts’ interest to see falling commissions contribute to agency closures.
This last point is a solid statement from Credit Suisse. Newsagent representatives could use this if they are smart. The Credit Suisse document is for investors. Tatts is a servant of investors.
While the Woolworths trial will be seen by some newsagents as the headline, I think it is not. The first and last points in my list of highlights are the most important in my view.
On the first point, 22% growth in online, newsagents have to consider what they are doing to drive in-store sales. It is too easy to be a victim and much harder to drive sales in-store.
FYI here is my post from June 17, 2013 about the Coles trial.
I expect Associations will express dismay, frustration and even anger at the Woolworths news. It should not have shocked them had they been doing their job. I have moved on from concern about this as I see it as inevitable and do not see value in investing newsagent funds in pursuing a reversal. Newsagents ought focus on what they can do ti improve their businesses.