Australian Newsagency Blog

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

Sunday newsagency management tip: know what you can change

Mark Fletcher on April 20, 2014 6:29 AM

Regardless of your religious beliefs, the world-renowned Serenity Prayer is a powerful and inspiring guide for small business owners like newsagents:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

I have emphasised the most meaningful words in this from a business perspective.

We in small business spend too much time worrying about what we cannot change and the things we will not change. It seems that on some of these issues we prefer to expend energy and emotion complaining and being angry rather than either forcing change or moving on.

Magazines are good example. We burn through enormous energy complaining and being angry and most newsagents do nothing about it.

In the average retail newsagency business there is plenty we can change. My management tip today is to focus on what you can change in your business.

Start right away. Take out a note pad and write down the parts of your business which you can change: gifts, stationery, toys, plush, how you display magazines, hiring, firing, marketing, employee motivation connecting with the local community. These are all important areas than can impact your bottom line.

This list of what you can change is what you should focus your time and money on. For anything not on the list: do what you need to do, but don’t invest beyond this – save your best investment for the parts of your business you can change.

Think of this as you reclaiming your newsagency for you.

Narrowing your focus on what you can change could change how you manage your business and what you invest in it. I hope it boosts your business and gives you a fresh outlook. I hope that it resets your feeling to one of optimism and love for what you can do.

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Sunday newsagency marketing tip: knock on doors

Mark Fletcher on April 20, 2014 6:14 AM

If you want more customers act on getting them to do business with you. Complaining or wishing will not get them trading with you. Only your action through advertising, marketing or knocking on their doors will work for you.

I know of newsagents growing stationery and ink sales through knocking on doors. I know of newsagents growing toy sales through knocking on doors.

Yes it’s hard work and you probably did not buy your newsagency to be a door to door sales person but if you want to grow your sales this is one marketing activity you ought to embrace.

Every day you are not knocking on doors is another day a competitors could be doing it and grabbing sales that could have been yours.

Being in retail does not mean all your business has to be done in the shop!

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Oversupply of magazines to the home

Mark Fletcher on April 19, 2014 6:41 AM

While we complain about oversupply of magazines to newsagencies, in the US they are complaining about oversupply of unsolicited magazines to the home. Interesting problem.

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→ 1 CommentCategory: magazines · Newsagency management

Excellent Easter numbers

Mark Fletcher on April 19, 2014 6:26 AM

easterrefreshEven without what should be terrific sales today Easter 2014 has been an excellent season for us. Cards, gifts and chocolate are all performing well for us in terms of sales and in terms of detracting new shoppers to the business. We are thrilled with the results we are seeing.

For years Easter in many Australian newsagencies was a minor season. Now, for plenty of us, it equals and even passes Valentine’s Day. The key is a fresh offer promoted in a compelling way.

Seasons are vitally important as seasonal shoppers spend more in a visit than a regular shopper. We make our businesses appealing to seasonal shoppers through our displays and out of store marketing. What we get from these seasons is up to us.

We will not discount until tomorrow. No need.

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Who is the customer for this discounted magazine bundle

Mark Fletcher on April 19, 2014 6:23 AM

hoisthecustomerI always thought that Good Health and Women’s Fitness targeted different shoppers – hence my surprise to find them bundled together in a discount pack. While we have removed another title to find room for this pack I’m not planning on leaving it out for the full on-sale.

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Star Trek partworks hot

Mark Fletcher on April 19, 2014 6:21 AM

tartrekWe are loving the sales being achieved with the Star Trek part series. The customer it is attracting is good for us and the impulse purchases to existing customers are excellent. With easter and Mother’s Day we do not have room for a front opt store display at the moment. Our sales are being driven from in the newspaper aisle where we have given over twelve pockets to the title.

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Learning to let go of stock that is not working in your newsagency

Mark Fletcher on April 18, 2014 6:45 AM

How long do you take to quit products that are not working in your newsagency?  A few days? A week? A month? Six months? A year?

If a product is not working every additional day it is on the shop floor or in the store room is additional cost to the business. As this cost increases the value of immediately quitting the products increases. hence the need to quit non-performing stock quickly.

In my newsagency earlier this week we decided to give away for free and or bin two small display units of products that are no longer working. It was not a lot of stock, not even filling two dump bins. Under $100 at cost.

Just having the stock on the shop floor gave off a message I did not like. Hence the decision to quit.

When we decide to exit a product we like it to be done within seven to fourteen days. We usually start at 50% off. After a week days we move to a price, often in a $1 bin and or a $5 bin as appropriate. What is left at the end of two weeks we remove by either giving it away or throwing it away.

It is important we are ruthless in quitting non-performing stock. Important to keep our businesses looking fresh, important to embrace the consequences of bad buying and important to have offers for customers that show they can get deals from us.

I accept responsibility for product I have bought which has not worked. While I’ll ale a write-down deal from a spiller if available, I will not pressure a supplier into giving one that was not part of the buy-in.

Too often newsagents expect suppliers to be responsible for newsagent buying decisions.

If we buy the stock for our stores we must responsible for dealing with it if it does not work as expected.

All products likes come to an end. This is why it is important to have an established process for handling and quitting products that are no longer working as we need them to..

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→ 2 CommentsCategory: Newsagency challenges · Newsagency management · Newsagency opportunities

Extraordinary growth in newsagency card sales

Mark Fletcher on April 17, 2014 8:03 AM

Our Everyday Counter Card sales are up 17% year on year comparing jan-Mar 2014 to 2013.  This is off an excellent base. This category of cards accounts for 56.9% of all cards we sell.

17% YOY growth is an extraordinary result. It is valuable with cards delivering the best gross profit percentage out of all categories we sell in our business. I’d be happy to explain our process to anyone.

Talking with another newsagent today, their card sales are up 19% in the same period – a fantastic result.

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→ 4 CommentsCategory: Greeting Cards · Newsagency management · newsagency marketing · newsagency of the future · Newsagency opportunities

Storytelling as marketing drives newsagency sales

Mark Fletcher on April 17, 2014 6:32 AM

beggA customer told the manager of my newsagency the story of how she bought a dozen of these realistic looking bouncing eggs, put them in an egg carton and pretended to trip in the kitchen in front of her family. The reaction was priceless when they saw the eggs bounce.

A customer yesterday purchased one egg and the manager shared the story of the other customer’s prank. This customer left the shop and returned a short time later and purchased eleven more eggs to have enough for her to play the prank.

The story was shared a story, the way we often do over the counter in talking with customers – and not to chase a commercial outcome for us.  That was a surprise and delight … the sale of $43.00 worth of additional eggs to a customer who purchased one.

In addition to being retailers, lease negotiators, IR experts, buyers, parents, motivators and plenty of other things, we are story tellers. Sometime our stories are about local events and situations, other times we pass on dories from customers. The joy is when the stories connect with our businesses as this one did.

As I think about this I am reminded that it’s a situation unique to an independent newsagency business. A customer at a supermarket or a Reject shop would not usually be given the time of day for such a story. The experience is a reminder of the value of being in the moment with customers – listening and sharing stories you know will be appreciated and relevant.

These stories we share reflect on the narrative of our business. By that I mean that the stories we tell our customers are stories about and reflective of us. The stories, whether intended to or not, connect our customers with us.

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Tatts seeks to lock-in regular shoppers online

Mark Fletcher on April 17, 2014 6:18 AM

autoCheck out the marketing sent out by the Tatts owned SA Lotteries to customers this week encouraging them to sign up for the Autoplay service – repeat ticket purchases. This is exactly what the majority of lottery shoppers want – weekly purchases without forgetting.

Newsagents need to factor marketing like this into their own business planning. Tatts is doing here exactly what I would do if I were them. That doesn’t mean I like it, I don’t. Newsagents spend more than they should promoting Tatts’ brands and it is because of this the company can leverage more online business.

Tatts promoting online and not equally promoting its retail network is not socially responsible.

In saying this move is not socially responsible I mean that Tatts relies on its retail network for sales fur sure but they also rely on it for brand awareness. The retail network depends on regular purchases. This move to make weekly purchases easy through an online account will impact the retail network and this will put jobs and businesses at risk. This is not socially responsible.

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Tasty Delicious cover and excellent gift

Mark Fletcher on April 17, 2014 6:12 AM

deliciousgiftI love the cover of Delicious magazine. The chai cake with ginger cream looks, well, delicious. I’d love one to be delivered. The cover alone should sell this issue. Add to this the excellent chopping board gift with purchase and you have a terrific magazine opportunity.

We have this issue in prime location. It’s sure to sell out.

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Tapping into the Game of Thrones obsession

Mark Fletcher on April 17, 2014 6:07 AM

empirepromoWe have a pocket of Empire magazine with weekly magazines, next to TV Week because of the Game of Thrones cover. This is an excellent opportunity to drive impulse purchases of the title from shoppers who would not otherwise see it. Game of Thrones is huge – apparently.

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→ 4 CommentsCategory: magazines · Newsagency opportunities

AWW backing card covers the magazine

Mark Fletcher on April 17, 2014 6:04 AM

awwcoverupThe backing card supplied to promote the royal tour editions of AWW and OK! is big and covers the magazine behind it. This is okay if it’s a Bauer title as they are damaging themselves but if it’s a competitor product behind it’s unfair.

We have removed the backing cards as I don’t think they do anything to boost sales and, as noted, they detract from other product.

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Promoting Better Homes and Gardens

Mark Fletcher on April 17, 2014 6:02 AM

bhgpromoWe have been promoting (and continue to promote) the latest issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine in the usual location next to weekly magazines as well as with this position at the entrance to our main magazine aisle.

BHG always responds to tactical placement in high traffic locations like this. We’re using the old Win a Car stand.

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An amazing new product from Australia Post that bypasses retailers

Mark Fletcher on April 16, 2014 6:43 AM

auspostpostacrdIn doing some research for postcard products I discovered the Australia Post postcard App. Curious, I downloaded it and sent myself a postcard. I expected that for the $1.99 cost I’d get my photo on a think piece of paper looking good but not like a regular postcard.

I was wrong.

What I received was a terrific rendition of my photo printed on think card stock in excellent colour and on the reverse was everything I included. The photo shows the back side of the postcard. While I went with a particularly geeky message: Hello world, you can type a message of up to ten lines long.

This is an excellent product from Australia Post. It demonstrates how much the organisation is changing, how they are seeking out new revenue stream opportunities. They are doing what we all need to be doing – looking for new new traffic, new revenue and opportunities to leverage our past for our future.

While I am happy to whack Australia Post, this time they deserve kudos.

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The value of a hit retail product for the newsagency

Mark Fletcher on April 16, 2014 6:08 AM

kidssandThis photo shows kids loving the kinetic sand we have in front of the newsagency this week. Attract kids and you attract parents and grandparents – perfect for during school holidays.

Not only is the sand selling out but those attracted to it are purchasing other items in-store.

This is the value of a popular product, a product that generates net new traffic that often browses and spends.

The sand is part of a well thought through traffic generating strategy. It is performing well above expectations in terms of return on floor space, return on labour and return on inventory investment. It is working well with and for Easter products.

It is this success I think of when I compare being a retailer to being an agent. Success at traffic generation and success at selling an item with a GP of greater than 50% and powerful basket build factor. Attracting people to things they purchase rather than services they use is more beneficial for the business.

While it is hard work finding items as successful as the sand, the payoff when it works is well worth it. Plus – the success helps inform future buying decisions.

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→ 1 CommentCategory: Newsagency management · Newsagency opportunities

Promoting New Idea Baking Essentials

Mark Fletcher on April 16, 2014 6:01 AM

nibakingThe New Idea Baking Essentials title is proving to be very popular both in-store and in social media. In fact, it was the social media traffic that encouraged us to promote the title in a more proactive way. Customers told us they loved the title. We have New Idea Baking Essentials with weeklies as ell as with food.

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Advice for newsagents in handling the Heartbleed bug

Mark Fletcher on April 15, 2014 4:06 PM

There is plenty of noise about on the Heartbleed bug that puts personal information at risk. Here are links to three articles I trust for advice on handling the risk:

  1. Scientific American.
  2. Forbes.
  3. C NET.
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Anyone else have Woman’s Day supplies cut this week

Mark Fletcher on April 15, 2014 3:14 PM

We had our Woman’s Day supplies cut to below what we would usually sell. I’ve heard of a couple of others experiencing this too. Anyone else?

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→ 20 CommentsCategory: magazine distribution

Newsagent conference survey results

Mark Fletcher on April 15, 2014 6:10 AM

confsurvey114 people responded to the survey I launched a week ago seeking insights into trade shows and conferences.

Click here to download the survey responses.

Gift fairs organisers will be happy to see the popularity of their events.

Page 6 of the results shows how much newsagents spend attending conferences. The difference reflects the growing differences in newsagency businesses. 8.7% spend nothing while at the other end of the scale 13.16% spend $5,000 a year or more.

With 81.98% of responders noting that they like conferences and trade shows for providing access to new products, it is reasonable to expect a commercial pay-off from attending.

Newsagents clearly want relevant conferences with compelling content and trade shows with commercially valuable product opportunities. Those failing to deliver will suffer from falling and poor attendance.

The newsagency channel has been caught napping with gift fairs and the national toy fair attracting more newsagents in number than the traditional newsagency conferences and trade events.

I hope the survey responses are useful to those working with and for newsagents who organise trade shows.

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Magazine distributors should not distribute books

Mark Fletcher on April 15, 2014 6:01 AM

returned-bookI was surprised to receive this book with magazines yesterday. We don’t sell books –  not full price titles and not for 25% in gross profit. We need to be able to stop products like this being sent to us without out approval. As it stands we have to pay to send back this stock we don’t want. Some newsagents will look for other ways to strike out at Network for this scale out. This is what all magazine publishers need to understand when wondering about why newsagents early return stock.

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→ 10 CommentsCategory: Book retailing · magazine distribution · Ugh!

Promoting the the My Kitchen Rules cookbook

Mark Fletcher on April 15, 2014 5:56 AM

mkrpromoWe’re promoting the the My Kitchen Rules cookbook with this aisle end placement as well as placement with food titles and a run for a few days with newspapers.

We are happy to allocate the space based on the extraordinary and enduring success of the brand on TV and in print and the support in the media of this new title.

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Canada Post to stop home delivery of mail

Mark Fletcher on April 14, 2014 10:31 AM

The Guardian is reporting that Canada Post is to stop delivery of mail to homes and many businesses. Instead, community collectuon points will be used. Canada is the first G20 country to make such a move.

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→ 6 CommentsCategory: Australia Post

Exceeding customer service creates terrific memories and stories

Mark Fletcher on April 14, 2014 6:15 AM

exceeding-customer-serviceWaiting for your bags at the airport can be a frustrating experience. Often the only information you have is the carousel they will come out on. The wait gives you time to think about your bags being lost – as happened to me at the start of this trip – and other problems.

I flew from Kansas City to Los Angeles with Delta Friday (US time) and had a very different bag experience in LA. I scanned my ticket at the kiosk terminal in the baggage claim area and the resulting screen gave me certainty that my bag was on the flight I was on. Above the kiosk was a sign advising when the bags from the flight would start arriving on the carousel. They were on time.

The ability to get certainty that your bags were on your flight is a leap forward in customer service in baggage handling. The advice of bag arrival time it a leap beyond that. Overall it was the best baggage handling experience I have had and far more than I expected.

My low expectations have been set by mediocre experiences at many airports in Australia and elsewhere.

Giving customers a better experience than they expect leaves them with good memories of your business and wishing others were as good as you.

We have to ask and challenge ourselves – how is the customer service we deliver better than the average newsagency customer service experience.

Each of us in our own businesses can set the benchmark and deliver better customer service than other newsagents. We can be known for something over which we have good control in our businesses.

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Simple approach to promoting lotteries in New York

Mark Fletcher on April 14, 2014 6:11 AM

lottery-fitWhat you can see in the photo is the only promotion of lottery products in this news / convenience retailer I met with in New York. The retailer told me they met all the requirements of their lottery agreement with this placement of a promotional screen in front of the sales terminal. No actual shop fit is required of them. No major signage commitment.  Just what you can see in the photo.

The retailer was shocked when I explained that retailers in Australia were expected to spend anything at all on fixtures for promoting and handling lottery products. In this example they sell around $15,000 in lottery products a week from this terminal.

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