Australian Newsagency Blog

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

Sunday newsagency marketing tip: engage with your customers

Mark Fletcher on July 5, 2015 5:14 AM

Screen Shot 2015-07-04 at 10.17.11 amI posted about the cute Frizzies from ty on Facebook last week and achieved more than 600 likes and plenty of comments in a couple of days. One person commented that a Frizzie looked like a selfie of their friend Luca. Other friends joined in. I responded with an offer of a free Frizzie for Luca. The Frizzie is in the post even though he’s in another state.

This simple engagement on social media humanised the business and took us from being a business to someone having a chat with friends talking about us – kind of the way you might in the real shop except this was only and with people who have not shopped with us before. The interaction encourages those in the thread to notice us, remember us and realise we can be fun in such discussions.

We need to be as engaged and human online as we are in-store. In fact, more so as online they have even less to go on about who we are. Facebook is a terrific platform for this engagement.

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Sunday newsagency management tip: be serious about your business data

Mark Fletcher on July 5, 2015 5:13 AM

In the two weeks leading up to the end of the financial year I saw more newsagents engage with their business data than for the other 50 weeks of the year. Through my newsagency software company I saw questions about stock management, stock-takes and the like all demonstrating an engagement as business owners scrambled to have accurate year-end data ready.

Sadly, for many immediately after June 30 they will leave data pretty much along for another 50 weeks.

I sad sadly as attention to data pays dividends.

  • Good data fuels accurate reports and accurate reports guide better quality business decisions.
  • Good data is essential to holding suppliers to account.
  • Good data stops you spending unnecessarily on stock.
  • Good data tells what you can’t see in your business.

I urge newsagents to be serious about data all year round. Stop being afraid of a bit of extra work caring for data. It may show you what you need to make your business worth a few more bucks.

Use your software company. Ask for their help. Seek out training. Set rules in your business and demand all who work with you to follow the rules.

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Tons of free Women’s Weekly magazines

Mark Fletcher on July 4, 2015 10:05 PM

IMG_8002At the Gift HQ trade show that opened in Brisbane today, two large stacks of Women’s Weekly magazines were available for people to help themselves for free.

The photo shows one stack before the show opened. The other was as large.

There was no sign explaining the context of the giveaway.

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Newsagency management tip: Apps you need to use

Mark Fletcher on July 4, 2015 6:03 AM

Here are Apps I suggest newsagents try to understand competition and improve their shopper experience:

  1. Officeworks. For price comparisons, especially ink. Essential for showing you are cheaper than this giant business than spends too much money saying they are cheap.
  2. Tatts. To understand the real threat to in-store lottery purchases. As I have written here before, the experience is eye-opening.
  3. Staples. To understand the moves of your toughest stationery competitor. In the US , they own small business stationery.
  4. Google maps. To check your businesses and others nearby selling what you sell – understand how you and they are found.
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Independence Day – one way to brighten the shop in Winter

Mark Fletcher on July 4, 2015 5:58 AM

While it is late notice, July 4 is Independence Day. If you have any American customers it could be a god day to quickly dress the shop in red, white and blue. Even without American customers it could be a bit of fun – if you have time this morning. I like the idea mainly for the bright look it can bring to a cold winter’s weekend (in some parts of Australia at least).

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Local jigsaw puzzles – a must for newsagents

Mark Fletcher on July 4, 2015 5:54 AM

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 8.41.22 pmAustralian city themed jigsaw puzzles featured on the front of Toy and Hobby Retailer magazine from Ventura Games should sell well. Jigsaw sales are soaring. Newsagents can do better than toy shops in this space. Toys were strong in newsagencies decades ago. As many toy shops have closed responding to pressure from majors, local toy retail opportunities have opened for us.

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Researching parcel trends

Mark Fletcher on July 4, 2015 5:49 AM

IMG_2770In addition to the Australia Post partnership with 7-Eleven offering parcel pickup lockers and Mailman, the parcel pickup lockers within Officeworks, newsagents looking into this ought to research Amazon Prime as they offer (in the US) a similar parcel pickup service.

I met with someone from Amazon recently who said the consumer interest in the Amazon Prime lockers was far exceeding expectations.

This parcel space serves many different needs and has engaged interest from some large players – all factors newsagents need to consider when looking at any parcel option with a capital cost.

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3AW airs Westpac story

Mark Fletcher on July 3, 2015 8:08 PM

Melbourne radio station 3AW today apparently covered the story of Westpac withdrawing from newsagencies to Australia Post. I did not hear it myself. Some colleagues called me about it. I can’t find any reference to it online.

While I understand the Westpac decision, how they are going about it disappointing and not in a manner I would expect from a bank that says it cares about small business.

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If you are in Queensland…

Mark Fletcher on July 3, 2015 6:51 AM

11257065_10155680813635142_6778371776875080452_n-3Gift HQ is a terrific trade show in Brisbane starting tomorrow. I am one of eight speakers speaking on business development and growth topics. I am sharing New Loyalty insights. Anyone visiting Gift HQ who would like to catch up let me know: 0418 321 338.

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Newsagency operational management advice for new newsagents and others

Mark Fletcher on July 3, 2015 6:11 AM

There is plenty to learn for the new newsagent and plenty an old hand can forget. I am often asked about important day to day operational tasks in running a newsagency so I started putting together a list. It’s an evolving work in progress, something I am happy to share with anyone – not as a definitive list of what you need to be on top of in running your newsagency business but something at least you can check against.

  1. MAGAZINES.
    1. Arrive invoices through XchangeIT – no other way.
    2. Only sell magazines by scanning. Never use department keys.
    3. Do not label all magazines. Do not label weeklies or high volume monthlies.
    4. When returning magazines, scan out returns. Do this at least weekly.
    5. Early return at least twice a month – based on what is NOT selling.
    6. If you have sub agents – only supply them through the sub agent facilities in your newsagency software.
    7. Check your magazine account as soon as it comes in to ensure you have received all credits.
    8. Pay your magazine bills on time without fail – avoid being cut off for weeks without magazines.
    9. You control where magazines are placed, it is your shop. Do not be told by publisher reps where magazines should go.
    10. You do not have to put posters in the window. I recommend against this.
    11. You do not have to do big magazine displays – it is your choice. I see no evidence of it increasing sales.
    12. I recommend against letting magazine companies set up display unless you think they will help drive sales.
  1. NEWSPAPERS.
    1. You control where newspapers are placed, it is your shop.
    2. If you are regularly undersupplied, complain to the publisher as well as the supplying newsagent (if you do not have a direct account).
    3. Scan all newspapers you sell.
    4. Scan all newspaper returns – accurate data will be your friend in the event of a dispute
    5. You do not have to put out newspaper posters or place newspapers in a certain position unless you have signed a contract with a publisher agreeing to this.
    6. Manage your exposure to promotions where you sell stock for a tiny margin.
  1. CARDS.
    1. Put out your own cards. Learn what you stock. Take ownership of this most important product category.
    2. Agree on an ordering process with your card co. account manager.
    3. Immediately report any over or under supply.
    4. Trust your data ahead of your gut.
    5. Pay on time or risk being cut off.
    6. Discount seasonal stock at the end of the season for a couple of days to p[ick up stragglers and make an extra few $$$.
  1. STAFF.
    1. Have a documented position description against which your employees are measured.
    2. Have a roster every week.
    3. Have a structured process for handling annual and sick leave.
    4. Use payroll software for record keeping.
    5. Pay always on time and preferably by electronic transfer.
    6. Pay super on time. Do not start someone working for you unless they have provided a super account number with their tax file number.
    7. Change your roster regularly for casuals.
  1. STOCK.
    1. Use your computer system to guide ordering of stock – order based on sales.
    2. Order to a budget.
    3. Scan everything you sell.
    4. Scan out personal use stock.
    5. Set your own mark-up policy for items that are not pre priced.
    6. It is easier to discount than increase prices.
    7. Do not pay for an external stock taker – do it yourself through the year.
    8. Check high theft risk items like cigarettes weekly or fortnightly.
    9. When arriving stock be sure to allocate accurately to departments and categories for accurate business reporting.
  1. SHOP LEASE.
    1. Pay on time otherwise you could be locked out.
    2. Do not agree to a new lease unless you have read the entire document and are prepared to agree to it in its entirety.
    3. Conduct discussions with your landlord in writing to maintain a paper trail.
  1. GST.
    1. Complete your BAS on time and make any necessary payment – to reduce the opportunity for you being audited.
  1. FINANCE AND OTHER MATTERS.
    1. If you borrowed to get into your business, start paying this off from the first week, make progress everyweek. This avoids you having a challenge when you come to sell the business.
    2. Pay yourself a wage or at least accrue this in the accounts.
    3. Integrate with accounting software like Xero – keep bookkeeper costs down.
    4. Ensure workcover (workers comp.) cover is up to date and maintained.
    5. Ensure you have appropriate council permits for what you sell – i.e. food.
    6. Have a structured banking process that ensures that cash is tracked at all steps and at all time.
    7. Take a data backup every day. The best approach is an automated cloud backup – ask your software company.
    8. Bank every day and bank the takings for each day separately to make reconciliation easier.
    9. Use your software to manage the end of shift process to drive consistency and accuracy.

As I said at the start, this list is evolving with time. I hope it is useful to new newsagents and would be newsagents, to understand some of the day to day tasks you cannot afford to get wrong.

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Good news newsagent story

Mark Fletcher on July 3, 2015 6:03 AM

It was good to see the Courier Mail publish a good story about newsagents with an article about Nextra Chermside yesterday.

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Another day of newspaper headline coverup

Mark Fletcher on July 3, 2015 5:43 AM

What’s the point of the headline?

IMG_7997

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Are you ready for an ATO audit?

Mark Fletcher on July 2, 2015 3:48 PM

An audit by the ATO can challenge any business. Are you ready? I know of a newsagent who has spend more than $5,000 on accounting fees to deal with a super audit spanning three years. The audit became problematic because of high turnover of casual employees and poor record keeping.

The newsagent told me the ATO auditor mentioned that the ATO is targeting small businesses like newsagents. While I have no evidence to support this, there is no harm whatsoever in the reminder to be ready for an ATO audit with up to date and accurate accounting records including super records.

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The opportunity of a new magazine

Mark Fletcher on July 2, 2015 2:49 PM

CI3KDnyVEAAQaqkSpaces is a new title out today from the people behind the popular Frankie magazine. As we did with Smith Journal, we are launching Spaces with Frankie as well as if what will be the usual home for the title. We are also speaking about Spaces on social media to tap into interest being generated by the launch of the title. This is a title we can pitch a point of difference with.

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Terrific June quarter for the newsagency

Mark Fletcher on July 2, 2015 6:03 AM

I’m thrilled with the June quarter results, especially for greeting cards – unit sales up by 20% and revenue up by 27%. Everyday counter, the core of the department say unit sales growth of 37% and revenue growth of 39%.

This is in a store with many competitors in the centre – major retailers with good card departments, specialty card and gift shops, supermarkets with cards as well as Typo, kikki.k and discount variety stores at the cheap end of the card space.

Cards account for 25.47% of our revenue – get them right and you know the rest of the business will benefit.

I think any newsagent can grow card sales in any situation. As I have written here several times recently, key to growth is promoting the category outside the business, to people who may not have considered purchasing cards from you.

I am starting to look at June benchmark study submissions and there are plenty of newsagents growing their businesses, plenty of results that challenge the stories of doom and gloom from some.

Gary commenting via this blog a few days ago saying: We have an industry in crisis. I am seeing data indicating for many there is no crisis.

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Magazine publishers: careful what you wish for

Mark Fletcher on July 2, 2015 5:54 AM

For years there have been differences between how magazine publishers with products in newsagencies and supermarkets treat these retail channels. While newsagents have complained, they have done nothing serious about it. I think we are approaching a time when we will need to act.

The challenges now are about much more than better gifts with purchase for supermarket shoppers.

The supply model used today disadvantages newsagents as it encumbers our businesses with financial,. labour and space costs that our competitors do not have. But even that is not why I say we are approaching a tipping point.

Price is the issue. More and more I am seeing different pricing in supermarkets for titles we sell in newsagencies.  News Life Media and Bauer Media are the main publishers engaged in this. They must be doing it to drive traffic to supermarkets and away from newsagents for their products. Why else would they make their products so much cheaper in our competitors?

  • Why price Inside Out $2.00 less in Coles than the newsagency 50 metres away?
  • Why bundle weekly Bauer titles in supermarkets at a discount to nearby newsagents?
  • Why financially support supermarkets where you discount titles to preserve full price margin while not offering the same to newsagents?

The only reason can be to drive supermarket sales.

Think abut the long-term implications – either newsagencies close or they reduce their reliance on magazines. What that may not hurt many of the titles sold by Bauer and News Life Media, it will hurt them and it will hurt many other publishers.

Today, the Australian newsagency channel is still the largest single magazine retail channel in the country. But for how much longer? Those who appear hell-bent on directing shoppers away from us need to consider the bigger picture for all publishers as well as for small business newsagents and the vital and quintessentially Australian role they play in there communities.

Publishers: every action you take against us makes magazines less profitable for us and informs our own actions. Every time you facilitate supermarkets presenting your product as better value from them you harm our businesses.  You’ll blame us when we are less interested in your products or quit as you have blamed us in the past, not thinking for a moment about the role you played in us deciding as we have done.

Every benefit you give supermarkets, every time you make them more appealing than newsagents is another decision against the future of the Australian newsagency channel. Shame on you as we have served you well. It is newsagents who have been key to your success and newsagents off of whom you make more money.

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→ 3 CommentsCategory: Ethics · magazine distribution · magazines · Newsagency challenges · newsagency of the future · Newsagency opportunities

Starting the new financial year off right

Mark Fletcher on July 1, 2015 5:33 AM

I urge newsagents to start this new financial year off right.

Make a decision this morning that this year will be better than the last and that through your actions you deliberately pursue the business you want.

I urge you to make a decision to not be driven by reactions to what has been traditional for newsagents, make a decision to chase what is right for you and your future.

Not sure where to start? Here are some suggestions to get you thinking:

  1. Set a sales budget by department. Take the 2014/15 figures and decide what you want to achieve by department in 2015/16.
  2. Set a GP% target for the year. It is vital newsagents break free from the channel average GOP of 28% to 32% of revenue as this is no future. I urge newsagents to reach for 40% and then 45% and then 50%.
  3. Set your top 10 overarching business goals for the year. This could be reduce debt; a transaction count target, basket value target, less hours worked; increased profit.
  4. List things you want to stop doing in 2015/16. Think of this as a clean up for the business, de cluttering. Moving the business away from the traditional newsagency and into a future over which you have more control.
  5. List what you need to achieve your goals, the resources.
  6. Now, and most important of all, list from the above lists your next five steps in order of priority.
  7. Start.

The alternative to this approach to starting a new financial year is to do nothing special, to operate in a mode of business as usual. Do that and you will have a usual result. For too many newsagents that result is flat or declining traffic, revenue and profitability. That is no future. It need not be your future.

If you plan to sell your newsagency at some point the best outcome will be achieved if you grow the business. Growing the business relies on steps such as those I have listed and other steps that will come to mind as you work through what I have suggested.

Now more than ever, embracing change in the newsagency is important. The start of a new financial year is an ideal time to commit to a plan of major change.

We can all grow our businesses and enjoy them more.

Make FY2015/16 your year!

Anyone wo wants help planning for next year let me know – 0418 321 338. I’d be glad to help.

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Optimism sells at the newsagency counter

Mark Fletcher on July 1, 2015 5:28 AM

IMG_7922This range of optimistic cards is working a treat at the newsagency counter. They are from Affirmations in NSW. Customers comment about the positive messages. I can tell these products make people happier at the newsagency counter. The images and words slow people. They also provide us with an opportunity to pitch a point of difference.

This is an example of how a thoughtful placement at the counter can be helpful beyond sales achieved.

You know it’s working when a customer picks up the product and smiles a genuine and heartwarming smile.

I like to have products at the counter that are not what people expect at a newsagency counter as this is another way to disassociate fro the traditional newsagency.

Product selection is a key activity through which to redefine your business to those who shop with you.

I think too often newsagents stock items and police them where they do because of they think is expected of a traditional newsagency business. Traditional activity will deliver traditional results.

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Facebook promotion of cards drives newsagency traffic

Mark Fletcher on July 1, 2015 5:27 AM

Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 9.26.07 pmThis post I put on Facebook two weeks ago to promote cards in the newsagency continues to attract new shoppers for us. People seeing the post have commented to us about the message of a handwritten message in a card lasting longer than a text message. While this sentiment is what they mention, I think it is the choice of cards for the post that drives attention – they are different and on point for the text in the Facebook post.

I encourage all newsagents to try this. It’s easy. For a few dollars you could attract new shoppers. Here are some tips based on my experiences:

  • Choose cards that are different and that stand out visually.
  • Order the cards with the most important visually places on the left.
  • Write in a relevant way about the cards.
  • Include details on your location in the post.
  • Boost your post – I suggest spending $2.00 for a day. Target your location.
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This is no way to treat a newspaper headline

Mark Fletcher on June 30, 2015 8:24 PM

IMG_7978

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News Corp. needs to treat all retail newsagents the same

Mark Fletcher on June 30, 2015 1:20 PM

The bundle offer pitched by News Corp. is good in that is offers newsagents something fresh to pitch. Unfortunately, News is not pitching it consistently in the channel as it does not have direct relationships with all retail newsagents through which to track engagement and manage the accounting side.

As I expect to see more retail offers News needs to sort out its engagement with retail only newsagents who do not have a direct account. Fix this and more will engage I am sure.

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How the tables turn – newsagents become the threat to niche retailers

Mark Fletcher on June 30, 2015 6:09 AM

I have been part of a discussion elsewhere over the last few days where a number of independent niche retailers are criticising newsagents for moving onto their turf.

Passions have run high in the discussion as the niche retailers and their fans have pilloried newsagents and claimed we don’t have the same care for their customers. There was anger as the niche retailers did not realise that some newsagents have been on their turn for over a year.

To an outsider, the newsagents now competing with the niche retailers are evil.

All through the several day discussion I felt on the wrong side as it is usually newsagents who are critical of others, like supermarkets, encroaching on their traditional turn. It felt odd.

Now, after the discussion has calmed down, it is interesting to look back with some perspective, to consider if there are learnings.

Reading the text of the discussion I am surprised at the lack of facts used to attack the newsagents encroaching on the niche retailers. Emotion is high in the comments, well ahead of facts. I think the niche retailers could have made a stronger case had they got their facts right as there are other factors at play besides newsagents taking on the products. For example, the active role of a key supplier.

I wonder if  newsagents and the complaints we make about supermarkets could benefit from a focus on facts ahead of emotion. I certainly think it is true when we engage in the issue of shop local or the issue of lotteries in supermarkets.

The facts in any argument support the why. If we simply say shop local we are not making a case. The same as if we say we will close if supermarkets get lotteries we are not making the case. If we say shop local and here practical reasons that affect you, we cover the why and make a stronger case. Or if we say don’t give supermarkets lotteries and here is why we make a stronger case.

We support too many arguments with an emotion and not facts. Maybe if we stick to the facts and bring our case back to the why for our customers we could have a better chance in making our case. But if we look at magazine oversupply we all know that no amount of facts are fixing that for us.

The experience of engaging with the niche retailers who feel threatened by newsagents has me looking at making the case from the other side. It is interesting and fascinating all at once. I think we can make a better case on a range of competitor issues.

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→ 1 CommentCategory: Newsagency management · newsagency of the future

An inspiring retail story from a toy shop in New Delhi

Mark Fletcher on June 30, 2015 6:03 AM

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Another magazine sent unnecessarily

Mark Fletcher on June 30, 2015 5:59 AM

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 11.44.54 amHere is another example from another newsagent documenting the consistent oversupply of Inside magazine by Network Services. There is no sense to this other than Network keeping their trucks full. Right here is why newsagents early return.

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How many new magazine titles from Bauer this month?

Mark Fletcher on June 30, 2015 5:55 AM

One newsagent told me yesterday they had received 27 new titles from Bauer Media’s Network Services this month and two reintroduced titles. 27 new titles is nuts. Performance data from the business does not support this expansion.

The result is cash, time, space and paper wasted as well as competitive disadvantage for the newsagent and, I suspect, plenty more like them in the channel.

At some point there will be newsagents who shut down their Bauer account believing it could be the only way to stop gross oversupply by the company.

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