Australian Newsagency Blog

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

Petty theft in the cafe

Mark Fletcher on December 18, 2014 3:33 PM

stolenI love this sign I saw in my local coffee shop today. It reminded me that petty theft is everywhere, not just in the newsagency where I see it regularly as people help themselves to items. I like the direct communication on the sign by the frustrated cafe owner.

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Time Out Sydney in Melbourne

Mark Fletcher on December 18, 2014 1:34 PM

tosydWe don’t have room for Time Out Sydney. had we been asked if we wanted the title ewe would have declined. Instead, we’ve brought it in, unpacked it, processed it and then returned it. As newsagents become more angry magazine publishers will see an increase in early returns.

In case you are unsure about newsagent anger – it is fuelled by being held accountable for indebtedness with insufficient control over this.

MAGAZINE PUBLISHERS AND DISTRIBUTORS: FYI, it’s 2015. Technology is advanced. We ought to have control over title range and volume in our businesses. Give us this and we become accountable for indebtedness and we have a reason to look at magazines as more than what they have become because of your inaction.

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→ 3 CommentsCategory: magazine distribution · Magazine oversupply

Brilliant newsagency social media campaign from newsXpress Eli Waters

Mark Fletcher on December 18, 2014 6:11 AM

10849875_893312614026317_1066965200899235886_nThis is a Facebook post from newsXpress Eli Waters Tuesday this week putting out a challenge – seeking likes to get Allan Wickham, one of the owners, into a Mrs Claus outfit. The post generates 1,475 likes with more than 20,000 seeing the post thanks to viral sharing.

This is excellent use of Facebook – it’s fun (for most) and engaging … without being commercial. It’s the type of post that facebook as a company likes to see from businesses. Their new rules and policies for 2015 indicate they prefer this to blatant business advertising in their free posts.

10624639_893781173979461_5422717257427816872_nThis photo shows the result of the post. Allan was dressed as Mrs Claus for the day and from all accounts customers loved it. It certainly made for a different experience in the shop yesterday – probably a welcome break to what is usual at this busy Christmas time of the year.

I thought Al was going with a more risqué outfit but I suspect he decided to go conservative and protect the eyesight of his customers.

What I love about this is the business, the owners and customers all getting in on some fun.

Well done everyone involved. It has been executed well. As I said: brilliant use of Facebook.

Newsagents can learn a lot from what they have just done at newsXpress Eli Waters. The best part? It all cost nothing except, as Al told me – his dignity.

FYI newsXpress Eli Waters are the newsXpress Retailer of the Year. This facebook campaign is a small example of how they play outside the pack and why they deserve kudos.

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→ 1 CommentCategory: marketing · marketing tip · newsagency marketing · newsagency of the future · Social Media

Checking out WH Smith Express at Adelaide airport

Mark Fletcher on December 18, 2014 6:03 AM

whsI got to check out the WH Smith Express on the forecourt of Adelaide airport yesterday. I’ve seen it previously but not had time to look inside.  This business is more a convenience than traditional newsagency. It’s a variation on what’s at Melbourne airport.

Newsagents passing through Adelaide airport should take a moment to look at the business as it reflects a consistency and professionalism WH Smith will bring to our channel as they continue to expand their footprint inside and outside the newsagency channel.

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→ No CommentsCategory: Newsagency challenges · Newsagency management · newsagency of the future

I like this magazine stand

Mark Fletcher on December 18, 2014 6:01 AM

tmagsI like this low-profile magazine stand at one of the news outlets on the departure level at Adelaide airport. It holds plenty of stock with full face display and allows good sight lines across the business. It’s ideal for high volume titles – like our see in these transit newsagencies.

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Vogue Australia gift failure

Mark Fletcher on December 18, 2014 5:59 AM

voguedamageHere’s how Vogue Australia looks after a couple of days on display. The bag holding the magazine rips easily. I have seen this in several stores. While you can still see the cover, the package looks damaged. Makes me wonder: will it hurt sales?

Publishers need to do better.

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Marie Claire top heavy

Mark Fletcher on December 18, 2014 5:56 AM

marieclairefoldHere’s how the top-heavy (with the free sunglasses) current issue of Marie Claire looked in one supermarket yesterday. Not a great ad for the magazine. In our own case we had to allocate double the space to the title to accommodate the gift. Publishers need to do better.

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→ 1 CommentCategory: magazines

Newsagents helping to make The Drover a best seller

Mark Fletcher on December 17, 2014 6:02 AM

drovAlice Mabin’s book, The Drover, is doing stellar business for Australian newsagents after bookshops rejected it. I have it in my newsagencies – it’s an excellent book. Some customers are buying it for the history. Others buy it as a gift.

The Drover is an excellent opportunity for our channel. I urge more newsagents to stock this – for the sales and to prove what we can do.

I asked Alice today for an update on how the book was going. Here’s her response:

So I have just counted up my newsagent stockists.

I have 92 newsagents stocking it that are not newsXpress newsagents. There are 21 newsXpress newsagents.

Newsagents that have done ‘outback’ displays to showcase the book have done super well with it- most selling between 60 and 200 books per shop.

To date I have sold just over 11,000 copies.

I am more than willing to book in authors talks or book signings with newsagents for next year. I had my first newsagent signing today in Kerang in Vic at newsXpress Kerand. The newspaper and radio did interviews with me pre the event to promote it and both showed up again today and interviewed me again which was great. The shop had a great little display up where I sat for the day and talked to people as they came in to the shop. We had 52 books go out the door in three hours!

It would be good to highlight the good margin in the book for them and the value that a display has to double figure sales. I find that a lot of newsagents are reluctant to stock it because they see it as a high priced item and are scared they wont sell it. And then they say they don’t have room for a display but as I try to advise them- the shops that have done displays have sold boxes and boxes of books.

I am currently running a display competition with newsagents- if they send me a photo of their display their display will be judged by an independent judge to win a half day photo shoot with me- an $800 prize.

I am also offering free freight on two or more boxes and orders than come in before the 19th of December I am offering deferred terms to the 30th of January 2015. (My distribution centres go on holiday on Friday until the 5th. I have pallets I can get to and send them out via other methods over xmas, but they wont be as efficient as my distribution) I have great point of sale posters I have also been sending out to stores free of charge.

I have attached a bit of a story on me and my journey to doing this that might give you some stuff to play with also.
If you would like some images to go with it, let me know and I can flick a few your way.

I think people are worried sales will stop after Xmas also. I think they will slow down but they won’t stop- it’s such a timeless piece of outback Australian history that will appeal to people until such time as a bigger better event is undertaken.

Book signings next year will help reinvigorate the story in shops where sales have slowed down.

I plan to have gift cards and a few other smaller, lower priced items for shops to sell next year which will follow the same outback theme to complement the book.

I am so grateful for your continuing support with my book!

If you would like to order this book please contact Alice on 0499 559 399 or visit her website Http://almabinphotography.com.

FYI I have no commercial connection with Alice. I’m promoting it here because it’s a good story and a good opportunity for all newsagents.

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→ No CommentsCategory: Book retailing · Newsagency opportunities

Coles discounting cheap plush

Mark Fletcher on December 17, 2014 5:54 AM

cplushIn several Coles supermarkets this week I have seen their large $20 plush bears cut back to $15. Based on locations I have seen, Coles is offering these products to extend the basket as opposed to making any significant statement to the plush shopper.

I am sharing the photo to show: placement to drive basket depth and their discounting to quit a line. Both are management actions from which we can learn.

While we can’t easily stop supermarkets extending their reach, we can learn from what they do and be smarter ourselves in competing with them.

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Leveraging Star Wars interest

Mark Fletcher on December 17, 2014 5:52 AM

starwarsMega brands offer an excellent pathway for newsagents to drive sales and attract new traffic. The Star Wars Itty Bitty pack from Hallmark has been terrific for us – popular with male shoppers and those buying for males.

What is especially exciting is other Star wars products we have that we can pitch to these same shoppers.

Brands like Star Wars are an excellent opportunity. Smart newsagents look for brand opportunities based on magazines they sell.

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Unfair demands from Tatts on retailers at the busiest retail time of the year

Mark Fletcher on December 16, 2014 6:02 AM

In addition to the challenge of the $30 million OzLotto jackpot tonight taking some focus from Christmas product sales, some Tatts retailers have been yelled at by their Tatts regional territory manager in an email. I say yelled at because the email font is larger than is usual for a business email and the typeface is bold. It’s yelling in email terms.

Read what the Tatts manager wrote to the retailers yesterday:

Today I began visiting outlets to help promote the End Of Year Megadraw with them. I had [XXXX] (a territory manager from a different area) with me today and I was very disappointed that almost every outlet we visited had non Tatts products in the Tatts dedicated area. I understand that you all have a great deal of Xmas stock you are trying to clear, but you cannot use the Tatts area for this. I will be visiting many other outlets before Christmas and [XXX] will accompany me everywhere I go. Please clear your Tatts area – No 1 because we don’t want customers receiving too many “mixed” messages and No 2 it can make the Tatts area look very cluttered, untidy and uninviting. Remember, it is part of your franchise agreement to keep the Tatts Dedicated clear of all non-Tatts products.

This is appalling communication. Tatts should be leaving retailers alone at this time of the year. They should be doing everything possible to ensure retailers make the most money possible. This means selling higher margin gift lines, cards and Christmas decorations.

When I had a Tatts outlet, for ten years, I saw no evidence that a Tatts compliant counter and Tatts dedicated area delivered better results than a Tatts dedicated area with other products in the space. 

Tatts demands no other products in their space without any business performance justification. All they have on their side is an unfair agreement.

In my own case I actively promoted Tatts products outside the Tatts dedicated area. That support did not win thanks of support from the company. All they cared about was their space, not their results, but their space. A fairer relationship would have seen them appreciate my extra support and thereby allow flexibility in how I used their space as long as it did not hurt their sales.

I think Tatts is a selfish company that cares little for its retail network. 

I am happy I don’t have Tatts products in my business. It makes for a business over which I have more control.

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→ 4 CommentsCategory: Ethics · Lotteries · Newsagency challenges · Newsagency management · Social responsibility

Australia Post offers timely help to licenced post offices

Mark Fletcher on December 16, 2014 5:55 AM

Here is a media release from Australia Post yesterday in which Australia Post makes statements of unequivocal support for its small business licenced postal network. Other newsagent suppliers could take note – Tatts, state transport offices and similar agency product suppliers. Well done Australia Post.

15 December 2014

Australia Post announces further support for Licensed Post Office network

Australia Post today announced a wide range of initiatives to further support more than 2,900 post office licensees.

Benefits will start flowing through the post office network early next year, with more than $41 million in post office box payments brought forward by three months to help manage the ongoing sustainability of licensed post offices in the face of declining mail volumes.

Other key measures include establishing a third-party independent study into the sustainability of the licensed post office network and a new formal working group with licensee representative bodies to help address strategic challenges facing the network. This group will be independently chaired by former Senator Helen Kroger.

Managing Director and Group Chief Executive Officer, Ahmed Fahour, said Australia Post was committed to maintaining its extensive post office network, in which licensees played a large and critical role, as part of its reform program.

“In more recent times, with overall customer numbers and letter volumes declining, the business environment for both licensees and Australia Post has become more challenging and we are looking at a number of ways to address this,” Mr Fahour said.

“We are currently establishing an agreed terms of reference for a formal independent study into our licensed post office network, to be conducted by a third-party. The findings of this study will form part of a broader review into the structure and value of payments to licensees.

“I’m confident that by also extending our consultative arrangements to include formal meetings with licensed post office representative bodies, such as LPO Group, APLAC and POAAL, we are well placed to help address the strategic challenges facing the traditional mail business.

“This working group has already met with senior Australia Post executives and will continue to meet to discuss ways we can work together to address issues affecting the network.”

Already Australia Post, in consultation with licensed post office representative bodies, is proceeding with a range of initiatives including:

• Expedited credit applied to January statements for returned excess Christmas postage stamps
• A revised dispute resolution process for licensees to streamline the process, as well as the early identification of any systemic network issues. Details on this revised process will be communicated to licensees once finalised

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Boxed Christmas card sales strong in the newsagency

Mark Fletcher on December 16, 2014 5:46 AM

cardscountWe are seeing strong boxed Christmas card sales ten days out from Christmas. Boxed cards are currently tracking at 37.40% of total card sales over the last four weeks and that’s up 21% on 2013.

FYI we are not discounting them and will not until after Christmas.

Boxed cards are on the lease line, facing into the mall. Plus we have a small selection at the counter for impulse purchase – as shown in the photo. This counter range is adjusted every couple of days.

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Promoting Birdee magazine

Mark Fletcher on December 16, 2014 5:43 AM

birdeeWe have placed Birdee so that it is easily seen. In a couple of stores I have seen it folded and placed on its side – making it harder to be seen and understood. Being a new title for us I want to make the most of the opportunity. I’m using Frankie and Russh to keep it upright.

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Daily Telegraph response to Sydney siege

Mark Fletcher on December 15, 2014 4:56 PM

B433kl8CIAAlHVSThe Press Council says they already have one complaint about the coverage from The Daily Telegraph in a special edition published in response to the siege in Sydney today. The image is from Alex Hayes, editor of Mumbrella.

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→ No CommentsCategory: Ethics · Newspapers

News Corp. newspaper billing error hits newsagents with an expensive Christmas gift

Mark Fletcher on December 15, 2014 9:51 AM

newscorpbillNews Corp’s Queensland outpost Queensland Newspapers has admitted a billing error affecting newsagents going back, in some cases, eight months. They advised newsagents by email over the weekend and have indicated they will add the amount they are clawing back as a miscellaneous line item in the Dec. 14 bill.

This is appalling behaviour by News Corp. It’s the sort of big business vs. small business story you would read about in a News Corp. tabloid.

I urge newsagents to request News Corp. to provide an itemised accounting of the amount sought, to provide thirty days for verification and to agree that newsagents may take as long paying off any amount they agree to as it took the News Corp. system to allow the amount to build.

News Corp. should also compensate newsagents for the time it will cost to verify their claim. I’d suggest a discount of 25% to the additional amount the company says is owing is fair.

If News was being really fair, however, they would credit the whole amount owing. The goodwill such a move would generate would be well worth it – far better than what they are doing now.

News Corp. is wrong to seek full recovery in one week. There is a useful precedent in how energy companies can recover adjusted amounts owning where there as been a billing error.

Further, it is wrong of News Corp. to publish only a total owing in a short email. The company needs to provide affected newsagents with a full and thorough accounting and them to provide newsagents with reasonable time to verify the claim.

The company appears to have discovered the billing error early in November. Why it has waiting until now to communicate is odd.

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→ 9 CommentsCategory: Ethics · Newsagency challenges · Newsagency management

Here’s another reason competing on price is a no-win game

Mark Fletcher on December 15, 2014 6:36 AM

Competing on price is not good for business as it is often a race to zero GP and below. The best competition is through a service, product range or some other factor over which you have more control.

Some UK retailers who sell through Amazon and use a service called RepricerExpress discovered Friday that competing on price could close their businesses. repricedExpress automatically drops the price of goods in response to the price of others. It seeks to ensure a retailer remains competitive. There was a glitch last Friday that saw the items of many small and independent online retailers drop to 1p.

Check out The Independent for the story.

On the broader issue of competing on price, the customers you win based solely on a price offer will not be loyal unless you maintain the low price (low GP) offer. Usually, that’s not good for business, especially if it is a big business with a bigger ad budget you’re up against.

I’d rather go the other way – have an offer so compelling that I can charge more and customers will pay happily for the privilege.

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Showing off pens drives impulse purchases in the newsagency

Mark Fletcher on December 15, 2014 6:00 AM

pensWe are showing off what people can do with the white, gold and silver pens at the counter of the newsagency with this simple display of art on a red envelope. Christmas is the perfect time o the year to drive impulse stationery purchases of pens and tape and having these ar the counter displayed in context is the best way to drive sales. This display adds value to plenty of purchases.

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Breast education in the newsagency from a nana

Mark Fletcher on December 15, 2014 5:55 AM

breastLook nana I made a breast a young boy called out to his nana in the newsagency on the weekend, wanting her to see what he has made with our display of kinetic sand.

Nana’s response was quick and cheeky – if you think that’s a breast you’ve got a lot to learn. Judging by the look on the grandson’s face there would have been some interesting questions on the way home.

You hear some funny things on the shop floor.

The kinetic sand is especially good at getting people talking. Although, this ‘breast’ is the most risqué of things made with it so far.

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Throwing away the newspaper

Mark Fletcher on December 15, 2014 5:52 AM

trashpapersI noticed a customer rifling through our stand of the Sunday Herald Sun yesterday. I offered to help. They said they wanted one with a TV guide. Sure enough the copy on the top had the TV guide – as they all do. They paid for the newspaper, walked out of the shop and over to the bin in the mall in front where they retrieved the nTV guide and threw away the rest of the newspaper. I am shocked they would pay so much for the TV guide. Customers can be a mystery.

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→ 6 CommentsCategory: Newspapers

Helping magazines be noticed in the newsagency

Mark Fletcher on December 15, 2014 5:49 AM

coversellingWe adjusted the magazines on the back wall yesterday with double facings given to four carefully selected titles.

Inside Cricket is featured because of the David Warner cover – why not given the Adelaide test success?!.

Next is Smith Journal as it continues to be a good read for intelligent blokes.

Then we have Triple J because it’s now an annual and makes a good gift.

Finally is Sneaky as we like this title a lot and want more people to notice it.

Placing the four titles into two pockets in a column like this in the middle of our magazine wall makes them stand out as well as the titles around them. We will leave them allocated like this for a week.

Regularly changing your magazine placement and display form what is usual helps people fine titles the might otherwise miss. It’s a way to drive sales growth.

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Sunday newsagency management tip: getting rid of a bad employee

Mark Fletcher on December 14, 2014 6:29 AM

I know of a newsagency where a full time employee is dreadful, they are pulling the business down. They are lazy, doing the bare minimum necessary and less than that where they are not being watched. They take no initiative and offer nothing special in the way of customer service. They do not deserve the good pay they are on thanks to an the award. They ought to be sacked.

This business has just over fifteen employees – meaning tougher obligations on the owner in terms of dismissing employees under Australia’s Fair Work legislation.

I’ve been in the business a couple of times recently and it appalls me to see how this lazy selfish employee treats the business that provides them with a good income. I have seen efforts to engage and encourage and each time they have been ignored.

In the US the employee could be sacked without cause. My experience there is that this encourages better engagement by those employees who do not naturally want to do a good job.

We are not in the US, we are in Australia where employees have considerable rights.

One reason employees treat a business and the owner poorly is because they can get away with it. Fixing a situation of a bad employee starts with being clear to the employee their behaviour is unacceptable. This actually starts with a job description. A  good job description outlines the tasks and expectations relating to the role. It is the framework through which you can performance manage an employee to better behaviour or to exit the business – the choice is theirs.

If you have good position descriptions for employees, the next key is to have good communication. This with a good position description could avoid the situation I have seen recently.

This is my management tip today – set yourself up for more effective employee management, have in place position descriptions that lay out your expectations and the measurement points for performance.

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→ 1 CommentCategory: Management tip · Newsagency management

Sunday newsagency marketing tip: don’t jump with the crowd

Mark Fletcher on December 14, 2014 6:19 AM

When everyone else is promoting back to school maybe it is a good time for you to promote something else that could be relevant to the season.

If you do promote back to school and jump with the crowd the challenge is being noticed as the market is crowded with similar pitches. As these things go, the business with the biggest budget is the one what people notice,.

Newsagents are not likely to have the biggest budget.

So how do you get noticed in a big season dominated by big businesses with massive advertising budgets?

Jump out of sync. Be the business not swimming with the crowd, the business with a different message, the business with a different offer that gets noticed, the business that engages in a fresh and exciting way.

It could be that you promote something other than back to school while still doing back to school in the business. Or that you run a wonderfully engaging competition that brings more generations into the back to school opportunity. Or that you make your BTS sales about raising funds for a local school and thereby engage families from that school more effectively. Or that you focus on selling to parents who will be free of their kids (finally).

I think we have within our selves in our own newsagency businesses and in different clusters and groups working together the capacity, and creativity to think and promote differently, away from what big business competitors do and non a way that is more engaging and appropriate to our local customers. 

On the idea of the competition: ask your customers to write on one page their own back to school story. Put these on a wall. Invite customers to vote. Make it a gold coin donation to a local school to enter. Done well, this could drive traffic from all ages and the school community. It shows your business as locally concerned and connected compared to the big business that spends more money saying they do good than actually doing good.

Stand out by being different and not jumping with the crowd.

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→ No CommentsCategory: marketing · marketing tip · Newsagency management · newsagency marketing

Managing Saturday newspapers

Mark Fletcher on December 14, 2014 6:11 AM

satpapersHere’s how we have our newspapers placed right now. I took the photo yesterday. It’s not a display newspaper publishers will like. However, our sales are up so it’s working.

I wanted to post the photo to also call out re The Saturday Paper. It’s outselling The Weekend Australian and the Weekend AFR for us – hence the placement on the shelf with them. As I noted, it’s working, sales are up.

This aisle end display is in the back third of the shop. It’s seen or passed buy 75% of those who enter the business. So it;’s expensive space for us. I am considering moving it in 2015 because of the paltry margin on newspapers.

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Tatts reps are wrong to use newsagency closures as an excuse for expanding retail channels

Mark Fletcher on December 13, 2014 6:24 AM

A newsagent recently told me what their Tatts rep said when challenged by the newsagent about Tatts moving into other retail channels: with so many newsagencies closing we have no choice.

Newsagents who hear this need to not let whoever says it get away with it. Ask for evidence. Ask for a list of newsagencies that have closed and resulted in other retailers being engaged.

Maybe the Tatts rep was sharing a private opinion. Regardless. they were in the business representing Tatts. They should have been more careful with their words.

Tatts needs to own its decision to expand into other retail channels.

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