Australian Newsagency Blog

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

Talking down the newsagency channel

Mark Fletcher on September 27, 2016 5:34 AM

A tweet a few days ago to 12,100 followers of Steve Molk frustrated me:

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As no one had responded so I did last night. We had a conversation on Twitter. here is how it went:

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Fresh approach to Halloween generating foot traffic

Mark Fletcher on September 27, 2016 5:30 AM

Screen Shot 2016-09-24 at 7.31.05 PMThis Facebook post on the weekend pitched masks we have in-store for Halloween. The idea was to get people in our area thinking about is for Halloween party items. We deliberately are not promoting the cheap Halloween products discount stores and supermarkets carry. We have chosen a less cluttered space – and it is working based on the terrific response.

This approach is what they call a blue ocean approach – making a deliberate choice to place or pitch the business in a less cluttered ocean – a blue ocean of clean water rather than a cluttered red ocean full of blood from all the competitors swimming there.

While in-store we will pitch traditional Halloween, our external marketing right through Halloween will focus on innovative products through which we appeal to a broader audience.

Halloween is a wonderful retail season. We love it.

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Think of your newsagency as a start-up

Mark Fletcher on September 26, 2016 5:36 AM

Startups are all the rage. Politicians especially love them and love talking about financial support for them – as if they think there are votes in startups.

I think the interest is in part due to the new of the startup, the opportunity to create something new that could be a great big thing.

Thinking about the obsession with startups recently got me thinking of them in the context of the Australian newsagency. The reality, our reality, is that we are at a moment in time where we need to create the next model.

Tweaking the newsagency business here and there buys time but not a long term future. No, we need to bring the principles and clean slate view to the future of the newsagency business.

This is the key element of the startup world that I think applies to our channel today – the idea of building a business from scratch, with a clean slate and full of hope from looking forward and not looking back.

That is what I mean when I suggest you think of your newsagency as a startup. You stop thinking about the old-world things you do that hold you back or the old suppliers who now contribute only a fraction to your bottom line.

A good startup starts with a good idea, rooted in a mission for the business. What does your business offer? What does it stand for? What is its USP? What makes it relevant decades from now – rather than why it is relevant thinking about decades of history.

Too many newsagents spend too much time worrying about old-school things that add little or no value to the business. In many cases plotting business performance data shows where those old-school worries will end at some point in the future.

So, think of your newsagency as a start up. Work out the new business you want to create where you are currently located. Even if you don’t do it, the thinking can open you to change to your current business that could be beneficial.

Thinking is free. All you have to risk is some time. What you can gain is excitement for changes ahead that you can bring to the business as a result of being open to thinking like a startup.

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Animal Jam terrific at the newsagency counter

Mark Fletcher on September 26, 2016 5:19 AM

IMG_2980Animal Jam product is working a treat at the counter of the newsagency – as a destination purchase while others purchase on impulse. Key to the success is depth of range available. This display says we can satisfy most Animal Jam fans.

This placement is a good example of the moves we need to make at newsagency counters – moves that start with you looking for product outside your traditional suppliers.

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Marketing tip if you have cruise ships or tour groups in your area

Mark Fletcher on September 26, 2016 5:06 AM

IMG_2858This sign in the window of a Priceline on George Street Sydney is interesting in that a national chain would only do something like this if it worked. It looks like an opportunity for newsagents in areas where cruise ships dock or tour groups visit to try if not being done already. You can leverage the opportunity with discount vouchers or similar as the traditional loyalty offer would not work with these types of shoppers.

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Sunday newsagency challenge: respect your own time

Mark Fletcher on September 25, 2016 5:53 AM

When assessing the labour cost in your business ensure that you cost your own time at the going rate.

As a newsagency management benchmark guide, I suggest a labour cost equal to between 9% and 11% of revenue where revenue is product sales revenue plus commission earned from any agency sales.

If you don’t include the cost of your time it makes comparing your business performance against the benchmark.

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Sunday newsagency marketing tip: light your shop to be noticed

Mark Fletcher on September 25, 2016 5:49 AM

What does your shop look like when you are closed? Smart lighting and a good window display can help your closed hours be profitable. I saw the different smart lighting can make last week in Manchester in the UK. Here is a photo of a real-estate agency on Deansgate:

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Here is another real estate agency right next door.

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I took the two photos one after the other and from the same distance from each window – to facilitate comparison.

The first agency looks more appealing at night. It is the one of the two you are drawn to.

Take a look at how your shop looks at night time. Are you making the most of any night time traffic?

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Sunday newsagency management tip: clean up your signs

Mark Fletcher on September 25, 2016 5:43 AM

An out of date sign indicates an out of date business in my view. Take this sign I saw hanging over the front door of a newsagency on Friday:

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Valentine’s Day 2016 was more than seven months ago. This sing is out of date. It’s presence above the door does not put the business in a good light.

Take a look around your shop, remove eve out of date sign. Make your team aware of the importance of current signs to reflect the focus of the business.

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What do newsagents think about the Fairfax price increases?

Mark Fletcher on September 24, 2016 5:41 AM

The Fairfax announcement yesterday of 10% to 12% cover price price increases for its capital city mastheads is in line with how the company has been approaching cover prices in recent years.

Unless I am missing something in the announcement, the newsagent revenue increase is under 9%, leaving newsagents worse off in real terms compared to the publisher.

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Bagged magazines front of store in the UK

Mark Fletcher on September 24, 2016 5:37 AM

Here is a display of bagged magazines at a WH Smith in Manchester from earlier this week. I guess the publishers do this because the discounted bagged magazines sell. This discounting has been going on for ages. To me it makes the cover price meaningless.IMG_2953

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UK newspaper display looks like a junk shop

Mark Fletcher on September 24, 2016 5:32 AM

Check out the display of The Daily Telegraph at a WH Smith store in manchester two days ago. With the water stacked up and the book stand on the side it looks junk shop like to me. I guess it works though.

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Brutal newspaper competition in the UK

Mark Fletcher on September 24, 2016 5:28 AM

Saw this at a WH Smith this week in Manchester. Check out the Daily Star. We are not big enough in Australia to have this head to head competition between mastheads.

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Old-school newspaper publisher subscription obsession misses revenue opportunities

Mark Fletcher on September 23, 2016 5:33 AM

While I have no newspaper publishing experience, I am a consumer of news, especially on my phone, tablet and laptop.

But I don’t pay for it, I won’t pay for it. If there is a story behind a paywall that interests I wait or seek it out elsewhere – not because I am cheap but because the publisher wants me to sign up to a subscription.

The subscription model is an old media approach to a new media opportunity. It is out of date and not suited to today’s online and mobile consumer.

Screen Shot 2016-09-21 at 6.26.53 PMWhile in the UK earlier this week the Herald Sun had a story about the back room moves at Richmond Football Club. I clicked on the story and got this screen.

They wanted $10 for two months access before they would let me see the story. I love a good AFL back room story but it is not worth paying $10 to access it. That is how I saw it, a $10 fee because of this one story.

I suspect that is how plenty of people see it, especially those of us who travel overseas and want to catch up on stories back home for a short while.

Had the offer been, say, a fee for the story I would have been more interested. How much I’d pay would depend on the story. In this case, I might have paid up to 25 cents.

How much I would pay for future Herald Sun stories would depend on the trust that builds from earlier purchases. If the value is there I’d pay a few cents per article.

Imagine what would happen if publishers adopted this pay per story model. It would make the stories the thing rather than the current obsession with clickbait headlines. It would make journalism the thing as the better the journalism the better the value of the story and the more consumers would respect a masthead and the more stories they would buy. Hey they might even subscribe.

Today’s digital world is often about either free or low cost access to services and products. This is where newspaper publishers ought focus their attention – micro payments per story. The old subscription model is as old as the old paper model and ought to be discarded as the entry point for digital revenue.

Rather than pushing to lock people into long-term subscriptions, yes, two months is long-term, give is story by story access, take micro payments and get more value from each good story you publish.

This approach of a payment per story makes the journalists and editors more connected to the business model. It would make them work harder to develop content people want as they would want to be in the top grossing stories from the masthead.

I’d like to see News Corp. or Fairfax offer this pay per story approach today. I think a trial with fair pricing would produce a good result for them, their editorial staff and their advertisers. yes, I’d accept non intrusive advertising with any sort I purchase.

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→ 14 CommentsCategory: newsagency of the future · Newspaper distribution · newspaper home delivery · Newspaper marketing · Newspapers

Do not print vouchers for someone who calls your newsagency

Mark Fletcher on September 22, 2016 4:19 AM

Only ever print vouchers from Epay or Touch for phone recharge, gift vouchers or any other form of voucher when the customer is in front of you. Touch or Epay will never call your business and ask you to print vouchers. Tell your staff and protect your business against fraud.

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The future of newspaper distribution and distribution newsagency businesses

Mark Fletcher on September 22, 2016 4:16 AM

You only have to look at the pitch from News Corp. to understand where they are focused for their future distribution channel.

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The tablet is the distribution mechanism. It is faster, cheaper, more accurate in placement and more current than the current method of printing, stacking, putting in a truck, driving to the distribution newsagent, them unbundling, rolling, loading the delivery vehicle and going out on the road to deliver news that is hours out of date.

These are the facts.

Newsagents need to invest in distribution knowing the focus of publishers. Yes, there is enjoyment from turning the page, not needing a device to read the news and being able to easily dive into a section you like. The thing is, the distribution platform is no longer commercially viable.

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Fascinating Sydney Gift Fair

Mark Fletcher on September 22, 2016 4:12 AM

The September Reed Gift Fair in Sydney was fascinating on a range of fronts.

  • A greater diversity of retailers attended. This is no longer a gift fair.
  • A greater diversity of suppliers – if you looked hard enough.
  • Plenty of newsagents were only talking about side what has been traditional for their businesses.
  • Just about every retailer was optimistic.
  • Suppliers were optimistic.
  • Suppliers happily talked to newsagents and didn’t say: I’ve got the perfect product for newsagents … when they say this the product is not usually perfect for newsagents.

It was a terrific fair, important at this time of the year for making sure you have what you need for the next few months without the craziness of the larger fairs.

The biggest takeaway was the focus on change by the retailers I spoke with. Most retailers, from various channels, were focused on change in their businesses. Newsagents are not alone with the challenges of disruption in the channel. I got a lot from listening to, for example, the challenges faced by a jeweller or the challenges faced by a specialty garden gift shop being challenged by a new mass-market retailer coming to town.

One thing I didn’t like at the gift fair is the cheap China junk some wholesalers carry. I saw some dreadful products that mimic more expensive lines, products would retail at under $10. They look cheap. They give off a message in retail I’d not want for my shop.

We in our newsagency channel often see what has been and is happening to us as unique to us when it is not. Small business retailers in many channels face similar.

The key from the gift fair is how you face into the challenges.

Getting out of your shop and looking for opportunities beyond what is usual for your business is a good start. That is where trade shows like this are important.

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Lego at Officeworks

Mark Fletcher on September 21, 2016 7:05 AM

IMG_2639 (1)While independent toy retailers including newsagents struggle to get the Lego products they want, Officeworks has a range of Lego stationery. I saw it in the Sydney CBD store, at the front of the business in prime location. This range wold be ideal in newsagencies.

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Ten ways you can save money in your retail businesses that too many retailers ignore

Mark Fletcher on September 21, 2016 5:41 AM

Saving money is something all small business owners want to achieve, when it suits them, to make the business more profitable.

When it suits them is the key phrase. I don’t want to sound bratty but I often see situations where the retailer, maybe a newsagent, maybe not, chooses to ignore a money saving opportunity because it does not suit them.

The thing is, money saving opportunities need to be embraced without the qualification of it suiting. I get that some money saving opportunities have personal implications. However, if saving money matters, these personal implications will be parked.

Here are ten money saving ideas for any retail business:

  1. Buy better. One of the biggest overheads for a retail business after rent and labour is underperforming and dead stock. Buy better. It is easy yet often ignored because it is seen to be hard work. It’s not.
  2. Stop buying what you like.
  3. ‘Do not buy just because you like the rep. The numbers must work.
  4. Stop sponsorships of local groups that do not benefit the business.
  5. Stop advertising in the local paper unless you have measured success as a direct result from the advertising.
  6. Cut the roster based on the commercial needs of the business rather than keeping people on to maintain friendships.
  7. Don’t use a shopfitter. Next time you refit or even partially refit, use off the shelf materials and save money.
  8. Look at your hours. If you are not making money early or late in the day why be open.
  9. Cut with tradition. Traditional decisions often see a specialty retail business, like a newsagency, hang on to products and services to be true to the shingle, long after they made money. Break with tradition and cut these loss making activities.
  10. Stop suppliers ordering for you. Their need may not match your need. Use your technology to order and you should see a reduction in inventory investment by 10% or more. That is cash freed up for you.

If you are in a business where every cent counts, look carefully at this and go further, make your own. The best opportunity to cut costs is when the business is open. Once you have gone under or walked away it is too late.

Management decisions in retail need to be data driven. 100%. Take away the emotion, friendships and other non data related factors. Savings should follow.

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Oxford Street Newsagency location still empty a year on

Mark Fletcher on September 20, 2016 6:44 PM

Taylor Square Newsagency closed a year ago. The shop remains vacant today. I wonder if the landlord now wishes they had taken a different approach to rent negotiation for an empty shop is an expensive investment to carry.

When I drove past earlier this week I was keen to see what retail was now in the place. Under the Newsagency shingle is an empty shop.

Landlords need to understand the occupancy cost benchmark for newsagents and similar businesses: 11% of turnover where turnover only includes agency commission and not total sales.

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High profile Smith Journal ad

Mark Fletcher on September 20, 2016 6:01 PM

Check out the large and high profile ad for Smith Journal at Sydney airport. This is in a smaller Newslink outlet that features an excellent range of business magazines.

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The contradiction of a retailer worrying about $100 a month extra in eftpos fees when running a roster bloated by $500 a month

Mark Fletcher on September 20, 2016 5:41 AM

Some management issues get more attention than others in any business, especially in small business retail like a newsagency.

I guess it is the low hanging fruit philosophy – complain about and deal with the issues that are easier to reach an deal with rather than those out of easy reach.

The thing is, sometimes the pay-off is better for the more challenging issues to resolve.

Take eftpos fees. Newsagents love to bash their eftpos provider and will change in a heartbeat for what appears to be a cheaper fee. They see the move as an easy win.

Comments on this blog reflect the level of interest in eftpos fees. It is considerable.

Now think about the employee roster and the labour costs in your business. Again, comments here reflect the interest in this topic. It is minimal.

Trimming the roster can provide many times more savings to the business than switching eftpos provider yet many newsagents are reluctant to make any such move.

You either want to manage the business for lower overheads or not. The roster accounts for between 9% and 11% of operating costs yet it is usually only reluctantly considered.

Why is that? Why switch eftpos providers to save less than you could save by overhauling the roster?

I think the challenges with roster trimming are that it is personal – you are friends with employees and, it can affect your lifestyle as you might have to work more hours. 

The question has to come down to the motivation for any business decision. If it is about achieving a lower overhead for the business, then pursue that through the whole business and not just one part that makes you angry, such as eftpos fees. Be serious about your goal and reach for further away fruit that may provide you a better financial return.

I know of several retailers who have recently focused on eftpos fees to save around $100 a month while running a bloated roster that could be trimmed by between $6,000 and $25,000 a year.

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Hubbed partners with 7-Eleven

Mark Fletcher on September 20, 2016 5:27 AM

Hubbed has a stand at the Sydney Gift Fair where they are having out a brochure pitching retail outlets. The newsagent N is on the flyer on the same line as the 7-Eleven logo. The ANF has a stand at the trade show too, with no obvious mention of Hubbed. The ANF did at one stage have a financial interest in the Hubbed business – when they endorsed it and launched it to newsagents.

Also at this Gift Fair, Australia Post has a stand offering services to online retailers. This is not their first outing at a gift fair. What is different this time is their engagement with suppliers – they have visited each stand in a proactive move.

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A visit to the newsagent as part of the fitness program

Mark Fletcher on September 19, 2016 7:21 PM

I love this tweet from Liverpool council in the UK.

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When you think about it, for those with time available, walking to buy the newspaper is healthier than getting it from the front lawn.

Newsagents could run a social media campaign promoting fitness around this.

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NSW newsagents expressing concerns about the future of GNS

Mark Fletcher on September 19, 2016 6:13 AM

I have been in Sydney since Friday for the Reed Gift Fair and through the course of the weekend have spoken with plenty of newsagents. Several asked me what I thought would happen with GNS.

I have no insights and was interested in their views. Each expresses grave concerns for the future of the business.

One newsagent told me they could not even purchase a third of what they needed in a visit last week. Another said they have stopped buying because of supply inconsistencies.

These and other comments were from newsagents raising the issue. They were not prompted.  GNS leadership needs to communicate more with newsagents if they want tor stain their business.

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Retailer fined for misleading advertising on discounts

Mark Fletcher on September 19, 2016 6:06 AM

Shirt retailer Charles Tyrwhitt was fined $10,800 by the ACCC for advertising was / is pricing when the shirts were never sold for the was price. The Age has the story.

This is an important story as the obligations on retailers when it comes to price claims is clear. The ACCC website offers excellent guidelines on this specific topic:

Two-price comparison advertising
Businesses often make comparisons between product prices being charged and:

  • the company’s previous pricing (including ‘was/now’ or ‘strike through’ pricing or by specifying a particular dollar amount or percentage saving)
  • the ‘cost’ or wholesale price
  • the competitor’s price
  • the recommended retail price (RRP).

Businesses that use such statements must ensure that consumers are not misled about the savings that may be achieved.

Statements such as ‘Was $150/Now $100’ or ‘$150 Now $100’ are likely to be misleading if products have not been sold at the specified ‘before’ or ‘strike through’ prices in a reasonable period immediately before the sale commences.

Such statements are also likely to be misleading if only a limited proportion of a product’s sales were at the higher price in the period immediately before the sale commences. The volume or proportion of sales that may result in such statements being misleading will depend on the circumstances of each case.

The length of the period will depend on factors such as:

  • the type of product or market involved
  • the usual frequency of price changes.

If a business has a policy or practice of discounting goods when not on sale and uses two-price advertising in relation to sale periods, there is a significant risk that the use of two-price advertising will involve conduct that is misleading. The business would be representing to consumers that they will make a particular saving if they purchase the item during the sale period, when this is not necessarily the case.

Similar considerations apply to the specification of dollar amount or percentage savings such as 60% off.

I mention this today as I know of businesses that use was / is and discount pricing when the price promoted is the only price the goods have ever been sold for. As the story in The Age shows, you don’t want to be caught misbehaving as the financial penalty is considerable.

In our channel there are risks in the ink space particular.

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