Australian Newsagency Blog

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

Sunday newsagency marketing tip: find your voice

Mark Fletcher on January 25, 2015 6:31 AM

Talking with a newsagent last week they mocked social media as irrelevant. If I want to say something to someone I’ll call them or speak to them face to face. While that works for personal communication, social media is used by too many people and relied on too much now to be ignored.

Every newsagent should have a business page on Facebook, an account with twitter and a Google+ page as a minimum. I know newsagents who had had this for years and who use it very effectively to reach out and discover new customers.

Used well, social media offers you a platform from which you can demonstrate relevance to your local community and through which you can offer services that speak to the type of business you wish to run.

Saying you are too old or don’t understand or don’t have time is unacceptable. If you own a newsagency or any retail business you need to embrace these platforms and speak to your community. You have new customers to gain and very little to lose.

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Sunday newsagency management tip: know the trends for your business

Mark Fletcher on January 25, 2015 6:22 AM

There is no better indicator for understanding trends in your retail newsagency business than comparing revenue and unit sales performance for a recent period to the same period a year, two years and three years ago.

In my own newsagency I undertake this type of comparison every month on a rolling basis – looking at the most recent three months of data with the same three months from a year, two years or three years ago. Since I look at my data regularly I have a good feel for trends. If you do not regularly look at data, start with a three year comparison.

The best decisions newsagents can make about changes for their business will be best guided by what they see i the trends.

For example, if magazine sales have dropped 25% over three years, what is the space allocation today compared to three years ago? Or, if gift sales are up 500% over the three years, what is the space allocation today?

Trend analysis is not about knee-jerk reaction. No, it is about thoughtful assessment of the dataset and consideration of future plans based on the shifting traffic and product interests as reflected in the data.

Here is a video I participated in last year for newsagency marketing group newsXpress that shows the report I use and how I use it. This report is something anyone could create for their business regardless of the software they have.

In each of our businesses our future can be explored more easily by thoughtful analysis of historical data. I urge you to do this for your newsagency.

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→ No CommentsCategory: Management tip · Newsagency management · newsagency of the future · Newsagency opportunities

WH Smith magazine offer

Mark Fletcher on January 24, 2015 10:26 AM

whsmindWH Smith in Australia is promoting an offer with Mindfood and their Mindfood Style megabuck discounted to $20 when you purchase both titles.

Note the branding on the promotional card placed to the side of the stock. Network wide discipline is the key to other groups offering similar deals.

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The latest Cleo stands out

Mark Fletcher on January 24, 2015 10:22 AM

magcleojan15Sometimes a magazine cover stands out more than usual, making it the hero of the section. This is the case with the latest issue of Cleo. The cover looks stunning. The green is a break from the usual colours featured on women’s magazines, this is a key reason it stands out.

We are leveraging the cover with the full cover on show – to benefit from the green.

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Checking out the Officeworks Back to School catalogue

Mark Fletcher on January 24, 2015 6:14 AM

owcatNewsagents doing Back to School should get their hands on an Officeworks BTS catalogue for when they do a post-season review. At 64 pages, the Officeworks catalogue is comprehensive. You read it thinking you’ll find what you need. The design connects with the marketing collateral in-store from the display to the posters to the dump bins. It all visually connects in an entertaining and compelling way.

The catalogue also pitches in an accessible way. For example on pages 22-23: Books to help young students learn and grow. This focuses on the outcome. It’s a clever and engaging pitch. On pages 10-11 the pitch is: All the tools for big ideas. Again, smart. then, on pages 60-61: File and store all their big ideas. The narrative is clear and encouraging.

Officeworks supports creativity and helps you as a parent to help your kids with their big ideas and then helps you store them for the future.

I’m not here to champion Officeworks but rather to draw your attention to this competitor and to recognise that they did BTS well this year. Our channel can learn from this.

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→ No CommentsCategory: art supplies · Book retailing · Management tip · Newsagency challenges · Newsagency management · newsagency of the future · Stationery

How Officeworks wins parents in the Back to School battle

Mark Fletcher on January 24, 2015 6:04 AM

growingmindsThe Growing Minds App offered by Officeworks is a smart piece of their Back to School pitch. The games are what any parent of young kids would want their kids to be playing. Being free makes the App appealing too.  The hook for a return visit to the store is the opportunity to unlock more free games:

Growing Minds features three different games with an additional three games able to be unlocked within Officeworks stores. Customers simply head into an Officeworks store, and the app will geo-locate the device, unlocking the remaining three.

This pitch from Officeworks shows how the free App plays into their retail traffic and sales strategy. It’s smart and targeting the right people for the BTS season – the parents.

Newsagents could have opportunities like this if we were more commercially unified. Strength starts with us buying together.

There are newsagents and newsagency marketing groups supporting buying outside out channel, away from GNS. My view is GNS offers the single best opportunity for commercial unity for this key season. Sure they could do it better. the way to encourage that is by buying from them. The groups and newsagents buying from newsagent competitors do our channel no favours.

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

Customers loving the new Forever Friends range from Hallmark

Mark Fletcher on January 24, 2015 6:00 AM

ff-relaunchThe re-launch of Forever Friends by Hallmark has brought new people to this greeting card brand. The cards look fresh thanks to current colours, they stand out in the card department and off-location where we are introducing them to shoppers not specifically looking for a card.

We tested the new Forever Friends range with younger staff members and the reaction was excellent – this is what encouraged us to promote them outside the card department.

Based on shopper feedback, this is a new card range I’d encourage newsagents to consider.

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→ 1 CommentCategory: Greeting Cards

Social media support for newsagents welcome

Mark Fletcher on January 23, 2015 3:14 PM

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 3.01.30 pmSabra Lane from the ABC posted this cool tweet about her visit to a newsagency in Bermagui.

I love the photo of the cat on the counter as it personalises the newsagency business. You wouldn’t see this in a competitor outlet.

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Why do people buy more Back To School items at supermarkets than newsagents?

Mark Fletcher on January 23, 2015 6:12 AM

wbtsWoolworths and Coles are doing well with Back to School because they do it well. Just check out your local Woolworths to see the consistency in all their floor display units.

Their consistent corporate branding takes precedence with the product brand secondary. There is an excellent visual connection between the units and this strengthens the shop floor presence. It says – we own this space.

Compare this to a local newsagency with six to eight posters and no visual consistency between displays and it makes sense that the supermarkets are doing well.

I wish this was not the case. The best way for us as a channel to compete with the big supermarket chains is to do it better and this means a consistency shop floor pitch across the channel.

Hang on, we are 3,500 businesses with 3,500 companies each owned separately and each not wanting to be told what to do. The independence we love is our weakness.

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→ 14 CommentsCategory: Newsagency challenges · Newsagency opportunities · Newsagent representation · Stationery

Smart Officeworks charity campaign enhances their Back To School pitch

Mark Fletcher on January 23, 2015 6:06 AM

owhelpchildThe teaming by Officeworks with The Smith Family as part of their Back To School promotion is smart. People will see it and automatically think that by shopping at Officeworks they are helping needy kids with school supplies.

The collateral I saw in-store at an Officeworks yesterday provided no details. Indeed, it looked like a request for shopper donations to the campaign. But shoppers will not think about this.

The connection by Officeworks of the BTS season with a charity is smart as it plays into the social responsibility / charity pitch we see so much now.

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3D gaining traction in retail

Mark Fletcher on January 23, 2015 5:54 AM

3dpOne of the shops I got to see in New York last week was 3D printing outfit Makerbot. On the back wall you can see 9 3D printers. Elsewhere in the shop they have items for sale that they have ‘printed’.

While I’ve written about this previously, I am revisiting it today as I think about products and services we might offer in the future and whether they are viable for us.

3D printing is still in its infancy with the printers of any strength and value costing thousands and the products they produce of questionable commercial value given printing times. However, there is an extraordinary curiosity value and this gets people interested – even if they don’t buy.

Today, my interest in a 3D printer in store is as a magnet attracting people who may purchase other items. At Makerbot, the shop is primarily used to sell the printers as this is what their parent company makes. There are plenty who visit the shop to watch the printing – it is mesmerising.

3D printing is a space to watch. yes, I know harvey Norman and others are in the space. The units I am looking are superior and not yet retail friendly.

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Unhelpful commentary from Michael Pascoe on newsagents

Mark Fletcher on January 22, 2015 7:59 PM

Fairfax published a comment piece today by Michael Pascoe, BusinessDay Contributing Editor, about the decision being faced by the NSW government on where Tatts lottery products can be sold and the lobbying by NSW newsagents for continued protection.

While I agree with some of what Pascoe writes on this topic, his commentary is ignorant in some areas. For example:

Newsagencies are blighted businesses, hundreds joining the thousands of newspaper company employees who have lost their jobs. That’s capitalism for you – things changes, markets are disrupted, opportunities arise and fall. Like the local Blockbuster store, they are collateral damage of our technological evolution. They are no more special than every other business that is special in its way.

I’d prefer Pascoe to have commented that there are newsagents with growing businesses, newsagents who saw the changes coming and fundamentally changed their businesses. In the hands of a good retailer, a newsagency is not a blighted business.

For a long time, the newsagencies were a protected species – as pharmacies still are. They enjoyed a monopoly on newspaper distribution that was eventually broken down by the newspaper publishers. That the business of publishing physical newspapers also is rapidly breaking down is immaterial.

I’d prefer Pascoe to note:  deregulation of print media left newsagents disadvantaged, with less control over supply than those they now compete with. We have gone from being protected to being deliberately disadvantaged.

Newsagents used to be a powerful little lobby group, as pharmacy owners still are. They’re not any more, but might be worth a few votes for a policy as vague as an “extended moratorium”.

Pascoe could have noted: attention newsagents have attracted on this issue is more than achieved in recent years.

On the central issue in Pascoe’s piece, I agree – lottery sales need to be considered in the context of a tax, revenue raising for the government. Governments will ultimately choose revenue.

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→ 1 CommentCategory: Lotteries · Newsagency · Newsagency challenges · Newsagency management · Newsagent representation

Newsagents will close unless… stories unhelpful

Mark Fletcher on January 22, 2015 6:53 AM

The stories in media outlets this week that newsagents will close unless they are protected on the matter of lottery ticket sales are unhelpful in my view.

Research by journalists would reveal that in states where there is no such protection newsagencies not have closed as a result. research would also indicate that there are many growing newsagencies without lottery product whatsoever.

I don’t want to be part of channel that survives because of protection just as I do not want to be of a minority and only get a job because of that and not because of my skills.

The stories infer that our businesses are uncompetitive and need help, weak and need life support are out of date yet don’t want to be relevant to today.

The bigger challenge newsagents with lotteries face is not from other retailers getting the products, it is from online. Win the political lobbying on retail and it’s no win at all given the extraordinary growth of online sales and the better service experience for things like ticket checking online.

The newsagents who think their business would close if other retailers like supermarkets got lotteries should think now about how they would react, about the business plans they would implement to survive. Indeed, this is what they should have been doing for years.

Protection is dangerous. It can make you lazy. It can make you feel entitled.

I run businesses in unprotected marketplaces. Competition makes me more focussed and more committed to my own actions for the success of the business. Competition drives me to explore efficient new customer generation – so I am not relying on one path to my door.

By all means lobby the politicians – but in the meantime, act like a professional retailer, make your business more appealing, generate net new traffic for other products and services, make your current traffic more valuable and exert more control over your future than ever before.

While the history of our channel as protected businesses is rich and wonderful, it is history. Our future is in an unprotected market where we are successful because of what we do and not because a politician wants the small business vote.

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→ 9 CommentsCategory: Lotteries · Newsagent representation

What’s behind the counter in your newsagency?

Mark Fletcher on January 22, 2015 5:43 AM

knox-bbdispHere’s what customers see when they come to the counter of my newsagency at the moment. As the biggest outlet in our region for ty product, we take pride in promoting it differently to promote the brand and to drive impulse purchases. The lines on show at the counter are new and therefore highly sought after by the valuable ty collectors.

This is another way to attract new shoppers, get existing shoppers spending more and growing overall business GP. It ties bank to many management and marketing tips I have published here.

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Shocking behaviour by a retail landlord

Mark Fletcher on January 22, 2015 5:38 AM

I heard a story earlier this week about a new newsagent  opening a new business who has been told by the landlord they cannot open their shop until all magazine pockets are filled.

I’d never stand for this unless there was a provision in the lease which gave the landlord such power – but I’d never sign a lease with this.

My advice to the newsagent is to ask the landlord to show where in the lease there have such control over the opening and operation of the business.

Footnote: this is not a major landlord, it’s a small operator overstepping their authority to the detriment of the small business newsagent.

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→ 5 CommentsCategory: Ethics · magazines

It’s not too early for Valentine’s Day

Mark Fletcher on January 22, 2015 5:32 AM

vday2015Talking with a newsagent yesterday they said they don’t put up Valentine’s Day until after Australia Day. We’ve had it up for a week.

I know of supermarkets that have had it up since the start of the new year. Supermarkets would do this because it works.

We have it on the lease line to attract shoppers who like to embrace seasons early. It’s working, product is moving. I think a four week on-sale is the minimum required for a season like Valentine’s Day if you want to position yourself as a specialist card retailer.

 

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→ 7 CommentsCategory: Newsagency management

Confectionery businesses dropping like flies

Mark Fletcher on January 21, 2015 4:15 PM

Last week it was Earnest Hillier falling into administration. Today, it’s liquorice maker Betta Foods appointing an administrator. The ABC has the report. I wonder how much of this is brought on by supermarket pressure on supply terms. Or, is it bad buying as the businesses were only recently acquired.

With some Hillier stock in newsagencies it will be interesting to see how their administration plays out – given the extraordinary changes following the Darrell Lea wash up.

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Sneaky with newspapers

Mark Fletcher on January 21, 2015 4:10 PM

sneakA newsagent called me today to ask how I was placing Sneaky magazine with newspapers following my post earlier today. I said I’d post a photo. Here it is. Click on the image.

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WH Smith on the move again in Australia?

Mark Fletcher on January 21, 2015 5:51 AM

2015 is not even a month old and I’ve heard rumours from two sources of another newsagency channel related WH Smith acquisition being imminent.

WH Smith had a busy 2014 with acquisitions of Wild, Kennys Cardiology and Supanews. This latest rumour, if true, will be the biggest yet.

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How one newsagency can drag the whole channel down

Mark Fletcher on January 21, 2015 5:42 AM

namktgSpeaking of stationery, here’s how one newsagent is promoting stationery at the moment. I have suggested it would not be hard to make a more professional sign. They were not interested.

We are only as strong as our worst colleague newsagent.

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→ 12 CommentsCategory: marketing · newsagency marketing · Stationery

US stationery shops reduce stationery floorspace

Mark Fletcher on January 21, 2015 5:29 AM

staplesI have been visiting US stationery retailers like Staples for years, most recently last week in New York. Staples stores I know well have less floor space allocated to stationery products today than at any time I can remember.

What was stationery space now hosts everyday grocery items one could purchase for office or home use. Toilet paper, paper towels, snacks, cleaning products and more are on the shelves and in the aisles.

There is also an increase in gift lines on offer.

I put the changes down to two factors: overall paper based stationery is flat or declining and more repeat purchases are being made online for convenience.

With the retail space to fill, it makes sense that Staples expands its everyday offer, especially in New York with a large residential population within walking distance.

I compared what I saw at Staples with my local Officeworks yesterday and I can see the trend here in Australia too. I suspect the reasons for the shift are the same.

All this makes me wonder what newsagents are doing about stationery? Is the floorspace and inventory investment the same and how do they compare with sales revenue?

In my own case, stationery revenue is up 33% year on year with no change to space allocation. Pens continue to be the most important stationery category accounting for 28% of sales and growing 21% year on year.

With a tight allocation of space for stationery I don’t feel pressured to reduce the allocation at the moment. Officeworks and Staples, with massive retail spaces to fill, will have to evolve their offers to appeal to more shoppers if they are to maintain revenue targets.

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Put Sneaky magazine next to your newspapers and gossip magazines

Mark Fletcher on January 21, 2015 5:26 AM

msneakWith the Edlesten and Gekko train-wreck engagement in the news this week, the timing is perfect to put Sneaky magazine out where more people will notice it and, hopefully, purchase it. No other magazine retailer would engage like this.

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How can a new newsagent not know about returning magazines?

Mark Fletcher on January 20, 2015 5:50 AM

A new newsagent was shocked last week to discover that they could not order the magazines they wanted and that they had to bundle up and return magazines which had not sold.

No, I am not making this up.

I am shocked that such a fundamental part of the operation of a newsagency had not, apparently, been outlined prior to the purchase of the business and that the purchaser had not been tested before being allowed to take over the business.

Years ago, in the highly regulated and protected era of the Newsagency Councils, people wanting to buy a newsagency had to present to there Council and pass their interrogation about the business, their plans and their knowledge about how to run the business. While there were aspects of the old system that were wrong, there was no doubt that people being permitted to purchase a newsagency actually did know how to run the business before they took over.

Those trading under a shared shingle are only as strong as the weakest link. The fewer controls over who can trade under the shingle the greater the risk for the future of the channel.

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→ 16 CommentsCategory: Newsagency challenges · Newsagency management

Here’s how we use a magazine aisle end

Mark Fletcher on January 20, 2015 5:44 AM

aisleendYears ago this aisle end would have hosted Connections or other magazine promotions. Now, it hosts prorudcts. Magazine sales are up. Not using it for magazine displays is not hurting. Products we place here sell – generating a better return on the space.

To newsagents still doing big aisle end displays promotion magazines I’d ask why? In my own case I’ve stopped the displays and continued to grow overall magazine sales.

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→ No CommentsCategory: Gifts · magazines · newsagency marketing

Different Valentine’s Day gifts

Mark Fletcher on January 20, 2015 5:40 AM

aynilWhen selecting Valentine’s Day gifts we have given preference to gifts we can carry outside the season – like this officially licenced music themed cup and saucer. It will sell easily outside the Valentine’s Day season, appeals to magazine shoppers and fits well with our retro offer from other suppliers.

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