Australian Newsagency Blog

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

Officeworks strategy explained

Mark Fletcher on January 28, 2015 9:38 AM

owbtsThe Australian Financial Review today has an excellent piece outlining an overview of the strategy that is driving excellent success for the business. I urge newsagents to read it as it explains why Officeworks cannot be ignored.

Officeworks management know what their business is, what it stands for and how to pursue this to their profit. The niche they are pursuing is a niche that used to be owned by newsagents.

While we can complain that Officeworks is not as cheap as they claim or that our service is more personal, there is no denying their commercial success and recent terrific growth.

Two reasons Officeworks has been able to grow is that newsagents underestimated them and newsagents expect more shopper support than they actually get.

People will go where they perceive value. Newsagents can more effectively promote value and drive traffic and sales as a result. Value does not mean discounting.

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→ 6 CommentsCategory: Competition · Stationery

The newsagency gift offer is changing: ignorant suppliers will lose out

Mark Fletcher on January 28, 2015 5:37 AM

Gifts in newsagencies can mean many different categories of products – from low price to high end, from simple predictable items like mugs to one-off decorative pieces, from under $20 price points to $500 and more.

The gift category is one which suppliers ought not make an assumption about.

This is on my mind today because of a debate I had yesterday with a circulation product supplier, what I’d call a legacy supplier. They derided newsagents for thinking their future lay in selling kitch gifts. If only they realised how good they have it with magazines the supplier said. We do all the work for them, yes they said that too. I suggested they get out more and into newsagencies where the gift offer is far superior than you would find in many specialist gift shops.

This supplier thought they had a good future in the channel because they thought newsagents were getting it wrong with gifts. It’s an odd way to look at it.

Our channel is changing and while there are some newsagents who think gifts are items priced at $20 and below and of a type you’d find in discount variety stores, the newsagents having the most profitable success with gifts are those who are specialising and making their gift offer a destination for their business.

It would be wrong to think that all newsagents with gifts sell the same items. Indeed, it is in the gift category where I see some of the most significant differences in newsagencies. Sure, this separates newsagency businesses – I say that is a good thing as the strength of an independent retail business will be its service os specialist needs.

The gift category is one through which we can leverage our Unique Selling Proposition through the products we offer.

Legacy suppliers need to spend more time in many newsagencies to see how our businesses are evolving and how diverse the channel has become. This evolution is another reason newsagents are becoming more demanding in terms of control and margin.

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→ 1 CommentCategory: Gifts · Newsagency opportunities

What a waste of energy sending out this unwanted cookbook

Mark Fletcher on January 28, 2015 5:34 AM

awweatwellWe early returned  Eating Well from Bauer Media as we have access to equally appealing cookbooks at 50% margin and more. The supply of the unwanted low-margin title is a good example of the waste in our channel. I suspect we are not alone in early returning the title. The cover price would have newsagents not wanting to hang onto it for long. A courteous question could have saved time and money.

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→ No CommentsCategory: magazine distribution · Magazine oversupply · magazines

How Starbucks connects locally

Mark Fletcher on January 27, 2015 3:39 PM

nhoodHere is how one of many Starbucks locations in busy Guangzhou (pop. 20m) shows its neighbourhood connection. It shows them thinking about the local area and supporting local activities. I see this local community connection / support in many businesses in China. What I like about the Starbucks approach is that it feels like something an independent retailer would do – yet here is this giant of a company offering support for a local community connection and thereby reinforcing their relevance.

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How Starbucks makes it personal

Mark Fletcher on January 27, 2015 3:34 PM

personalisingThe photo shows the sign at the counter of a Starbucks I visited on the weekend. It has a photo of the barista, their name and tells me a bit about them, making the experience feel more personal than one might expect from a worldwide chain like Starbucks.

While we could argue that we should be so well known that we don’t need something like this, there are plenty of newsagency shops serving first-time or infrequent shoppers where it could work: shopping malls, holiday destinations, transit location.

FYI, here’s the translation:

Hello I am Jacky!

A cup of warm of Toffee Nut Latte can warm your heart? If yes, please come to find me to share with you!

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→ 2 CommentsCategory: Customer Service

Inspiring shoppers

Mark Fletcher on January 27, 2015 3:30 PM

inspsignCheck out the sign I saw outside a shop in China on Sunday. It’s a simple feel-good message that pitches the business about being more than only selling products. Connecting with shoppers using a blackboard like this out the front of the shop is a good way to show that you are more than the products you promote.

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→ No CommentsCategory: Optimism

7-Eleven Australia Post lockers challenge newsagents on parcels

Mark Fletcher on January 27, 2015 6:03 AM

ap-boxesI got my first look at Australia Post package pickup lockers a few days ago – at a 7-Eleven store.

Located at the front of the business, facing the fuel pumps and the street, the lockers are noticeable. The branding achieved by Australia Post in a 7-Eleven location is extraordinary. The apparent strong partnership between these two businesses should concern newsagents. It surprises me.

The newsagency channel should have had the front running on a closer commercial relationship with Australia Post given the number of newsagencies that are Licenced Post Offices. However, for the parcel pick up model Australia Post would have sought a partner offering easy parking, discipline and the ability to deal on a network wide scale. Newsagents don’t offer any of these.

I see the link between Australia Post and 7-Eleven on this parcel pickup project as a sign of a deeper relationship between the two giant organisations, one that could ultimately impact on newsagency businesses – LPOs and others as it is the type of relationship others will notice and make their decisions on.

Newsagents unhappy with a closer Australia Post / 7-Eleven relationship need to think about what the newsagency channel could have offered Australia Post that would have been more compelling than a 7-Eleven pitch. To that I say we could offer them nothing.

We need to have a realistic view of ourselves when considering the channel. I think we are more demanding than we deserve to be. Newspapers and magazines are the only categories connecting us and even they are done differently right across the channel: to different standards, to different scale and with a different future in mind.

Our independence and local ownership which we see as an asset are what lead organisations like Australia Post to look elsewhere.

The sky is not falling.

The lights are not flickering.

But we need to take note of these changes happening around us. We need to be aware of the strategies of networks like 7-Eleven. We need our own plan for our future that we can build around our business or those we are commercially connected with.

We need to look at moves like Australia Post working with 7-Eleven and know we’re okay because we know where we are going and how we are going to get there.

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→ 6 CommentsCategory: Australia Post · Newsagency challenges · Newsagency management · newsagency of the future · Optimism

Woolworths adjusts magazine placement?

Mark Fletcher on January 27, 2015 5:59 AM

magsmiddleA Woolworths I visit regularly has changed magazine segment placement within the department. Weeklies are now in the middle of their magazine wall rather than at the right hand end. this is an interesting move. It’s making me wonder if we try something similar.

Right now we have weeklies at the entrance to our main magazine aisle. It could be worth trying them at the other end of in the middle like at this Woolworths I visited.

The change is also a reminder of the importance of change to the magazine offer. Every time you move a title to a different location you are likely to get it seen by people who do you usually consider the title. Sure there are some complaints, but not enough to stop embracing the sales opportunity of change.

In my advice on How to do a magazine relay in your newsagency I suggest major change at least every six months. I think this is wise advice – to keep the magazine offer fresh and combat store blindness by customers and employees.

I’ll be interested to see if this placement change is in other Woolworths locations.

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If your newsagency is open this Australia Day…

Mark Fletcher on January 26, 2015 6:13 AM

If you are open and trading today, maybe connect with the day with one or more of these ideas:

  1. Offer free beers. Maybe spend $20.00 and get a stubby. Or do beer tastings. While there will be local regulatory issues, you could fly under the radar.
  2. Play Aussie music in-store.
  3. Dress like you’re at the beach.
  4. Have a BBQ out the front of the shop.
  5. Give away lamingtons.
  6. Give away slices of toast with lashings of Vegemite and butter – put the Vegemite on first and cover it with slabs of cold butter.
  7. Give a shopping voucher to anyone who comes in and spontaneously recites all of My Country by Dorothea Mackeller. Promote this on Facebook this morning. You can check the words of this beautiful poem here.
  8. Ask your customers for local stories and pin them to your Australia Day wall.
  9. Embrace a meaningful and respectful way to connect with local indigenous Australians so their voice is heard this day as well. Storytelling in-store could be a good start.

I haven’t really thought about this list and realise now I could have put something together a week or two back so you could have better planned to make a bigger impact on the day.

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→ 1 CommentCategory: marketing

Happy Australia Day newsagents!

Mark Fletcher on January 26, 2015 6:07 AM

Today is another of those wasteland days in retail – for those who are open. Shopping centres will be pretty empty as they are every Australia Day. Many newsagents will be working to save the penalty rate cost of labour. It’s a good day for getting to things you have been putting off.

If you are working today and it’s quite, make some changes, move things around, re-set parts of your business so it shakes things up when 2015 really kicks off from tomorrow. Seize today as an opportunity. Change things. Clean up. Have surprises in store not only for your customers but for your employees tomorrow. Have fun!

While I am working today I’m not in the shop. I’m engaged in disruption of a different kind.

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→ 5 CommentsCategory: Newsagency management

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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→ No CommentsCategory: magazines

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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→ 1 CommentCategory: 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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→ 12 CommentsCategory: Social Media

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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→ 15 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