Australian Newsagency Blog

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

Standards are only standards if they are enforced uniformly

Mark Fletcher on June 30, 2016 12:57 PM

IMG_0848Given the ‘fines’ I have heard being imposed on some newsagents by Tatts in their compliance visits I have been taking more notice of lottery counters and whether they have non Tatts products on them.  Across several states and in plenty of newsagencies I have personally seen anything from counters with only Tatts products through to counters filled with other items. This is a problem.

This photo is of a counter I saw recently with two candy products in the Tatts dedicated area. Personally I doubt the two candy displays would harm Tatts sales yet when this newsagent is visited the Tatts rep will have to ‘fine’ them and have the products removed.

Given what we see in convenience stores with tatts products, the company has to address the inconsistency as to what is permitted. It also have to ensure that all in its compliance force stick to one agreed standard as too often I am seeing differences between what is acceptable and what is not.


→ 1 CommentCategory: Lotteries · Newsagency management

Marketing tips for election day

Mark Fletcher on June 30, 2016 4:10 AM

On my POS software company blog I posted these marketing tips for election day – suggesting easy ways small business retailers could make the most of the opportunity of the extra traffic out and about. I hope the ideas are useful to newsagents.

In writing the post I have sought to show ways we can be non-traditional so our businesses are enjoyed more and in order to provide a more memorable shopping experience.

We can’t rely on the usual for our businesses, we can;t rely on the usual shoppers. We have to find new shoppers and one of the best opportunities is when more people are out in the streets – like on election day.

Election day in Australia is a terrific opportunity for small business retailers with a spike in the number of people who are out and about. Smart retailers will embrace this opportunity as well as the opportunity of people standing in line waiting to vote and on their phone.

Here are some tips to get you thinking about marketing opportunities for any small retail business this weekend on election day:

  1. Set the front of the shop so it looks completely different – make the most of the extra people out and about. You want people seeing the shop for the first time ages to be surprised at the changes.
  2. Have a party. Plenty of music, activities, drinks and food. Make the day a celebration – to celebrate the end of the dreary campaign.
  3. Have an election sale – but make it fun. Do better than a straight sale. For example, in good Asssie tradition call it keeping the bastards honest sale.
  4. Setup sale tables in the name of local candidates.
  5. Give a discount to any customer who tells you and everyone in the shop a joke about politicians.
  6. Have a game of pin the tail on the politician in the shop.
  7. Declare the shop an election free zone. Maybe have a fine jar for anyone talking about the election on the day – raise money for a local charity.
  8. Promote your business online all Saturday with a series of social media posts so those out and about in lines waiting can see you are engaged.

All these ideas are about having fun on the day and offering a different shopping experience to usual. We hope they get yo8u thinking of what you could do, thinking of ideas of your own.

Here at Tower Systems we are not your usual POS software company. We are engaged with our customers deeply on a range of fronts to help them enjoy their businesses more and to get more from their businesses every day. In addition to excellent POS software for specialty retail businesses, we provide business management advice and support – way beyond the POS software itself.

Whatever you do this election day, have fun.


→ No CommentsCategory: marketing · marketing tip · newsagency marketing

The commercial marketing campaign pitched as an olympic fundraiser – for which newsagents are the fundraiser

Mark Fletcher on June 29, 2016 11:16 AM

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 7.37.32 PMNewsagents will earn 10c for each official Olympic scarf sold on redemption of a coupon from a participating News Corp newspaper. That is 5% gross profit from a $2 purchase price. 10c to store the stock, collect the coupon, reconcile coupons, process sales and return unsold stock.

News Corp will argue this is a fund raiser for the olympic team. I disagree. This is a Swisse marketing campaign designed to get punters to pay money to newsagents to hand to News Corp to hand to Swisse for them to make a donation, maybe a tax deductible donation? Read this from the News Corp. communication to newsagents:

Swisse are an official Australian Olympic sponsor and as part of that sponsorship they raise money that goes directly towards supporting our Olympians. Newsagent commission and GST will be deducted from the $2 price point and any remaining profit will be returned to Swisse to donate directly to Australian athletes.

Swisse is not directly raising money here. Newsagents are. We collect the money from the punters.

But lets look at the mechanism for the fundraising. It is a scarf with the Swisse brand. We are selling a marketing product for them, they are the key beneficiary. We have to police it too by collecting coupons, to ensure News Corp. gets its newspaper sales. News Corp. is a key beneficiary of the campaign. Not so much newsagents as people wanting a scarf can get their newspaper from anywhere.

So, while Swisse gets its brand further out there and News Corp sells its papers newsagents get nothing from this campaign. This is why I say we are the ones doing the real fundraising.

News Corp. owes newsagents an explanation about their commercial terms with Swisse. Newsagents need to be told how much News Corp is charging Swisse so we can better understand the request that we do our bit for 5%. Without this, it is open to speculation that small business newsagents are being exploited by News Corp. and Swisse, that our contribution is greater than either News Corp and Swisse in terms of the value being delivered to the olympic team.

It is unfair to couch this as a fund raising campaign. Swisse and News Corp are in this to make money for themselves. It seems to be that newsagents are the ones making the real donation here yet News Corp and Swisse have set the campaign so they get all the glory and the knock-on commercial benefits.

I like the idea of the scarf and that it is a fundraiser. I just wish the terms on which our small business channel is engaged with the opportunity were more transparent and fair.


→ 8 CommentsCategory: Ethics · marketing · Newsagency challenges · Social responsibility

Is the ANF using newsagent funds in support of big tobacco this federal election?

Mark Fletcher on June 29, 2016 5:13 AM

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 9.04.18 PMThe ANF is claimed as a supporting organisation of the Association of Australian Retailers, a group that appears to have been established to support the interests of big tobacco. Read what sourcewatch says about the AAR. Read what tobacco tactics says.

AAR sent some newsagents a pack of materials to be used during the current federal election campaign – promoting Senator David Leyonhjelm, a politician who supports big tobacco.

I was alerted to AAR in a comment by Gregg on this blog:

We have just received a parcel from Alliance of Australian Retailers with a letter accompanying signed by a Chiang Lim General Manager. The parcel has flyers and posters promoting Senator David Leyonhjelm and his stance on Tobacco products.
I have just rewrapped and sent it back as a RTS. But who are Alliance of Australian Retailers and who is Chiang Lim?

Chiang Lim is a former General Manager of NANA, the NSW newsagent’s association. Chiang left the organisation quickly under an apparent cloud. Lim appeared before a parliamentary committee in March claiming his organisation represented 3,000 small business retailers including newsagents.

My name is Chiang Lim. I am the AAR’s general manager. Since 2011, the AAR has represented up to 3,000 small businesses across Australia and its member retailers. They include newsagents, corner stores, small supermarkets, mixed businesses and other independent retailers.

I would be interested to know whether newsagents have directly joined AAR or whether the claim of 3,000 is a leveraging of ANF member numbers and members of other organisations.

I am not an ANF member and so am not across their statements to members. It would be good to know if they have made any statement about involvement with AAR and whether any newsagent funds have been used in this federal election campaign.

This is important because Lim in his evidence to the parliamentary committee made claims on behalf of newsagents, claims for which I am not aware of any evidence:

Whether they are newsagents, corner stores, small supermarkets, mixed businesses and other independent retailers, these small business retailers are universally owned by families who have mortgaged their homes and tipped their life savings into the businesses. They rely on customers who buy not just tobacco products but other items in their shopping baskets. Since the introduction of plain packaging and cumulatively high excise taxes, these retailers now operate in a current environment where customers more than ever are actively seeking the cheapest available tobacco products, legal or otherwise, knowingly or unknowingly. With the loss of such customers to those who sell illicit tobacco, our small business retailers lose the sales of those many other items in those customers’ shopping baskets. They are putting at risk overall revenue, their profitability, their ability to employ staff, pay themselves, the future value of their businesses and not to mention their home mortgages that cover their businesses.

Anyone claiming to represent our channel needs to do so armed with irrefutable facts and to do so on issues about which those they claim to represent have been full consulted. I don’t think that has happened in this case.

If you are an ANF member and are concerned about this, contact them and ask for information about their involvement with the AAR – they are listed on the AAR website.


→ 6 CommentsCategory: Newsagent representation

Double standards from Tatts for On The Run stores?

Mark Fletcher on June 28, 2016 5:48 AM

IMG_0809Here is a photo from an On The Run store in the Adelaide CBD from last Friday night. Within walking distance of this store is a newsagency with a different looking counter, more space allocated and tougher rules for what can be displayed with or near Tatts products.

Having seen both shops first-hand Friday, it appears greater flexibility is given to the On The Run operator in terms of the use of space and even the total space allocated.

While I am no lawyer, I do wonder if this apparent double standard is something that newsagents could challenge. While the Tatts defence could include a claim that On The Run sells a limited range of products, that could be countered with an analysis of sales data to see the percentage of tickets purchased that fall within the range of what can be purchased at an On The Run.

The folks running the One The Run group are smart, they have built an excellent business in South Australia. Their stores are impressive. I expect they have Tatts in their business because it is successful and not because of a limited range of products. They have it because the product mix works for them.

Making money in retail comes down to the numbers: return on floor space allocated, return on labour and basket efficiency (what else you sell with an item). The Tatts model in On The Run focuses on all three.

My concern here is not that On The Run has Tatts. No, my concern is that On The Run appears to have it on terms considerably more favourable than any small business newsagent nearby. It appears as if On The Run has been given a competitive advantage, leaving newsagents with an operating cost that disadvantages them, that makes them less competitive.

Thinking about the two very different space allocations, shoplift requirements, product adjacencies and operational trading rules I am left wondering why Tatts is allowing this. I am also wondering whether those representing newsagents in this area have taken any action to test the difference in rules, to test the difference in competitive situations.


→ 2 CommentsCategory: Ethics · Lotteries · Social responsibility

Previewing the new Marvel part series

Mark Fletcher on June 27, 2016 12:25 PM

IMG_0839I have been fortunate to receive part one of the new Marvel Movie Figurines part series due to go on sale July 11. The Marvel branding is strong, which is vital for this partwork to be successful. It will appeal to Marvel fans. Placed at the front of the store, this is a product that will attract shoppers into the business.

IMG_0840Here is the figurine that comes with issue #1. Iron Man, Tony Stark. We took it out of the box to check quality. It is excellent. A collector I showed it to in the office just now gave it his blessing saying the quality good, it has a good weight and the finish is good – in fact, better than usual for  a partwork.

I urge newsagents to get behind this opportunity in-store and online as it could generate excellent new traffic for this and to connect with the national News Corp campaign starting soon.


→ 1 CommentCategory: partworks

One week to go

Mark Fletcher on June 27, 2016 6:13 AM

Thankfully, we have reached the last week of what has been a painfully long election campaign here in Australia. I say painfully because most small business retailers see sales through the till slow in an election campaign for no other reason than people being uncertain and when they are uncertain they spend less. While is may have suited the Prime Minister to have a long campaign I am sure there are plenty of small business retailers who would have preferred the shorter possible campaign.


→ 8 CommentsCategory: Newsagency challenges · Newsagency management · Social responsibility

Pitching Australia’s Sporting Heroes in the newsagency

Mark Fletcher on June 27, 2016 6:09 AM

FullSizeRender 5We have the first issue of Australia’s Sporting Heroes placed between our two major newspapers. I think this is the best place for it as it gets it is front of plenty of eyeballs. We also have a second placement with sports magazines.


→ 1 CommentCategory: magazines

Pushing more ad material for News Corp.

Mark Fletcher on June 27, 2016 6:05 AM

FullSizeRender 6This weekend just gone newsagents were again asked to give away The House of Wellness magazine as a bonus with the newspaper. The thing is, this is not a bonus. It is an advertising catalogue that is part of a broader ad campaign for Chemist Warehouse. I have no issue with it being a catalogue – I wish News Corp. would all it what it is rather than pitching it as a gift.


→ 4 CommentsCategory: Newspapers

Sunday newsagency challenge: stop letting reps order

Mark Fletcher on June 26, 2016 6:33 AM

Set a policy for, say, three months. No reps are to order stock for your business. Instead, hand them a reorder from your software, based on what you sell. For card companies, because of their old-school processes, use the reorder report to set their reorder budget per visit.

The most common outcomes from this move will be a reduction in stock on hand and no negative impact on sales = more money in the bank.


→ No CommentsCategory: Management tip · Newsagency challenges · Newsagency management

Sunday newsagency marketing tip: leverage $150K in prizes

Mark Fletcher on June 26, 2016 6:28 AM

IMG_0687The best newsagency marketing campaign on right now is the Pacific Magazines newsagency channel exclusive $150,000 competition. If you are not actively promoting this in your business you are missing the opportunity. In-store, on social media, through flyers to shoppers in your area – this campaign is one to leverage as it separates your business from Coles and Woolworths. Pacific is promoting the competition widely – your engagement leverages this.


→ No CommentsCategory: marketing · marketing tip · newsagency marketing

Sunday newsagency management tip: compare the market

Mark Fletcher on June 26, 2016 6:26 AM

For your everyday overheads, annually, compare. There are savings that can be made on insurance, internet access, electricity, finance and more. Given the average GP% in the newsagency channel, every dollar saved is worth three dollars through the till.


→ No CommentsCategory: Newsagency management

Marvel part series timed perfectly for engaged newsagents

Mark Fletcher on June 25, 2016 3:17 PM

This Marvel part series launches July 11, just ahead of the News Corp. national Marvel promotion. Newsagents who have pop culture covered are in for a treat. Here is a video promoting the part series.


→ No CommentsCategory: magazines · marketing · Newsagency opportunities

Are you promoting national thinking of you week?

Mark Fletcher on June 25, 2016 7:03 AM

IMG_0784I’d be interest to hear from any newsagents engaged with the National thinking of you week that is running this week. I saw it promoted in one newsagency I was in this week but nowhere else.

If you are engaged with this, how is it going for you? What are the learnings?


→ 1 CommentCategory: Greeting Cards

Pencils with crosswords – a smart move in the newsagency

Mark Fletcher on June 25, 2016 6:53 AM

IMG_0618I love the tactical placement of the $2.00 pack of grey-lead pencils with crossword titles in my newsagency at Southland in Victoria, by the manager of the store. Pencils are a perfect add-on to a crossword purchase. The placement does not get in the way of crossword titles.

These pencils, from Last Diary Company, also add good margin dollars to the purchase thanks to good buying and reasonable pricing.

I love the simplicity and professionalism of the placement. It is not what you see in the crossword section of a newsagency.

Every day in our businesses we have to try more ways to get more value from the traffic we have in-store.


→ No CommentsCategory: Management tip · Newsagency management

The return on investment question for newsagency associations, or any small business association

Mark Fletcher on June 24, 2016 6:21 AM

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 7.27.05 PMThe decision to remain a member of a newsagency association ought to be a business decision based on tangible benefits.

How much does it cost for a year? What tangible benefits have you achieved in the last year? What other use could you make of such an investment?

Talking with a newsagent recently, they cited access to award rates as the main benefit for their considerable cost a year. In less than a minute I showed them online access to a free service via Fairwork.

The ANF on their website (see image) lists annual membership at $876.00 per year. Think about what you could do with that $876. The new product range you could bring in, the ads you could run, the changes you could find in the business, the manager you could pay while you have a week off.

I can think of plenty of products categories you could introduce for this spend, categories off of which you can expect to make between $3,000 and $5,000 in GP a year.

Note: this discussion is about any association in any retail channel. The numbers and needs are the same.

Each of these benefits would be, I suspect, more practically useful to the business than what the ANF provides.

Associations need to justify the fees they charge. It is not enough to say support us and we support you as on the representation front they do a mediocre job at best in my view.

I estimate newsagents pour around $2,500,000 a year into their associations nationally. I doubt newsagents see a return equal to this flowing to their businesses.

Think about that. Can you identify $2.5M in value to the newsagency channel from any of all of the newsagent associations in the last year?

Now, think about what else that $2.5M could have been spent on your behalf.

I would love to see this debated publicly in front of newsagents with representatives from newsagent associations. Not to tear them down but to flesh out if they are delivering value. It could be I am wrong. If I am the associations ought to make the point and show it, they ought to show genuine bottom line value to newsagent members.

With the commercial future of newsagency businesses further removed from what the associations are interested in, I see little value in them.


→ 5 CommentsCategory: Newsagency management · Newsagent representation

Cards with gifts in the newsagency

Mark Fletcher on June 24, 2016 6:02 AM

IMG_0765 (1)Here is another smart move I saw in a newsagency this week showing placement of a greeting card with gifts in a display in a newsagency.

It is vital we pitch cards outside the card department in our newsagencies as this gets cards in front of people who have not entered the newsagency with cards as a destination.

Placements like this are simple to do and keep fresh. All it takes is a couple of minutes to change several. I’d love to see more newsagents do do this – place cards in with gift and other displays as appropriate.


→ No CommentsCategory: Gifts · Greeting Cards

Smart newspaper display in a newsagency

Mark Fletcher on June 24, 2016 5:58 AM

IMG_0764Check out the newspaper display I saw in a newsagency I visited earlier this week. I like that the stand is unbranded and is not purpose built for newspapers. The stand is functional. It is also visually warm in a way that is on-trend in retail today.

Newspaper publisher stands are highly branded and they stand out. While I understand why publishers like them, they tend to not be ideal for retail businesses where, today, we are going for a warm feeling with less visual noise.

The trend in retail now is less purpose built fixtures.

I like the stand I saw this week. It fit the business perfectly.


→ No CommentsCategory: Newspapers

The ridiculous distribution of Stationery News continues

Mark Fletcher on June 23, 2016 12:22 PM

stationaryWe received another issue of Stationery News magazine today. This is a magazine for stationery retailers. We did not order it. It has not been supplied for sale in the newsagency. It has been sent as firm sale – this means we cannot return it unless we jump through time-consuming hoops.

I think the supply of Stationery News in this way to small business newsagents is unethical and socially irresponsible.

Yaffa is the publisher. This is after advising we have no interest in this magazine and the subscription that is being unethically forced on small business newsagents around the counter. In addition to getting a credit we ought to be paid for the time this unwarranted supply is causing not only us but other newsagents around Australia.

Shame on all involved.

Checking the Yaffa website tonight I found this:

Each title at Yaffa Media is led by a team of experts in their respective field that are dedicated to providing quality products designed to inform, entertain and inspire.

It also appears Yaffa Media has people who push a title onto retailers despite the retailers saying they do not want the title, causing those sent the title to have to spend time and money to geta credit for the magazine they did not ask for and do not want.


→ 3 CommentsCategory: magazines · Media disruption · Ugh!

Newsagent pitching $1 magazines

Mark Fletcher on June 23, 2016 5:24 AM

IMG_0785I can’t think of any reason to have this dump bin placed at the entrance to the newsagency. It looks like trash, competes with the premium product inside and disrespects the broader channel. When publishers see this they question the value of dealing with newsagents.


→ 6 CommentsCategory: magazines

Marketing newsXpress businesses in New Idea

Mark Fletcher on June 23, 2016 5:23 AM

IMG_0758 (2)Check out the full page ad promoting newsXpress newsagency marketing group businesses in the latest issue of New Idea magazine.

This print campaign coincides with a national social media campaign, in-store campaign and an e-commerce campaign – all combining to drive ne traffic in-store.

The campaign leverages a highly sought-after brand with a demo appeal ideal for newsagents wanting to grow traffic.


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

The challenge of shoppers who leave trash behind

Mark Fletcher on June 23, 2016 5:19 AM

IMG_0753Seeing this used coffee cup on the shelf of a Coles supermarket reminded me of the challenges we face in retail of shoppers who treat our spaces as a dumping ground for trash. Too often we pick up all manned of things deliberately discarded by shoppers in-store. Scraps of paper, empty cans, used tissues, empty coffee cups, gum and, yes, even used nappies.

There is not much we can do about this unless we see the person trashing first-hand. Rather, we have to pick up the trash and ensure we offer a clean and healthy space for the majority of our shoppers who respect the place we provide for them.

I have sometimes gone back through CCTV footage to find the person who left trash in the shop but I soon realised it was not worth the effort – because once you have the vision, what do you do with it? They have not committed a crime. While you could post it on social media that could make you look worse than them.

Much as it galls me, I think the best approach is to suck it up and move on.


→ 13 CommentsCategory: Uncategorized

Boar It Up Ya closes, for now

Mark Fletcher on June 22, 2016 6:41 PM

I have heard from the publisher of this quintessential Aussie magazine, about the closure of the title:

3 weeks ago I made the tough decision to suspend further issues of both Boar it up Ya and Shoot Ferals Australia.

Sales have continually declined to a point every issue is a real gamble to produce, and being my main income I just couldn’t take the risk anymore.

I hope to be back in business next year sometime and am looking at possibly offering a PDF reader version on disc being distributed through Newsagencies.

It’s broken my heart after 13 years but can’t go on at this stage.

We need special interest independent magazines in Australia.


→ 3 CommentsCategory: magazines

Seven ideas for increasing card sales in the newsagency

Mark Fletcher on June 22, 2016 5:42 AM

2016 is proving to be a tough year for card sales in newsagencies regardless of the card company you are with. While I think there are some factors outside our businesses impacting this, there is more we can do to make our own situation better than average.

Performing above average starts with us being serious about cards. It is one thing to love the product and another entirely to be engaged. For too long we have relied on our suppliers to do work we ought to do.

The more we engage with our card department the better result for us as our customers.

Here are some tips that will lead to sales growth. The list is by no means complete. Consider it a starting point.

  1. Have your staff put out new card stock when it arrives. Knowledge drives sales.
  2. Have a card promotion at the entrance to the business, disrupting traffic. Change the range every few weeks.
  3. Have a loyalty offer than is different to what other card retailers nearby pitch.
  4. Feature a card of the week at the counter.
  5. Feature cards you love in your business Facebook page.
  6. Send cards to customers.
  7. Know your card sales by caption, comparing this year to last. Knowledge is power.
  8. Offer a deal to local community groups and businesses based on a volume purchase offer. For example, a local business sending cards to their customers is sure to want to save money. You seeing 100 cards in one go has to be worth a discount for them.

I think it is vital that your marketing of cards in-store and on social media reflects your business, that what you do is decided in your business and not corporately for corporate or national promotions serve one purpose, the points in this post are 100% about your business and its card pitch.


→ No CommentsCategory: Greeting Cards · Management tip · marketing tip · Newsagency management · newsagency marketing

Perfect placement of Home Beautiful in the newsagency

Mark Fletcher on June 22, 2016 5:20 AM

I love this placement of Home Beautiful magazine with gifts and homewares in a Brisbane newsagency I visited yesterday. Smart. Tactical. Best-practice.

IMG_0773 (1)


→ No CommentsCategory: magazines · Tactical display