Australian Newsagency Blog

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

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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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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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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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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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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Selling magazine subscriptions in-store – with magazines

Mark Fletcher on April 14, 2014 6:08 AM

masgsubsOn the retail tour in the US these last twelve days I have seen several versions of retailers selling magazine sin-store. This is the best and most tech connected – a tablet computer promoting subs in the magazine department and shoppers being encouraged to sign up on the spot. Now, this was in a transit location as were all I have seen. No high street magazine retailer was making a subscription pitch that I could see.

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Nanny state threatens Loom Bands sales

Mark Fletcher on April 13, 2014 1:58 PM

Fairfax reports today NSW schools are banning Loom Bands. Instead, the schools should consider congratulating kids for making something rather than watching TV or playing on their phone or tablet device.

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→ 2 CommentsCategory: retail · Trends · Ugh!

Sunday newsagency management tip: genuine customer contact vital

Mark Fletcher on April 13, 2014 3:34 AM

Good morning. No sooner has I stepped across the threshold into an independent card and gift shop and I was greeted with a warm smile and a happy Good Morning.  There was no pressure to say what I was looking for, no pitch of a special deal.

At the counter paying for a couple of items the sales associate said I hope you found what you were looking for – again with a warm smile.

None of this felt fake or forced. It felt like they cared about me and my experience with their business.

While your typical newsagency business has four or more times the foot traffic of the independent card and gift store I am writing about here, we have to find ways to engage in genuine customer contact.

I do understand that the experience is different in the country compared to the city, especially in smaller country towns – people are naturally more friendly and engaged with each other.

Imagine if every person entering newsagency was warmly greeted in one way or another without being over the top and if every person leaving the  was thanked for shopping today or asked if they found what they were looking for. Yes, it would be labour intensive. But executed right, you would have shoppers loving our channel more.

In surveys and when asked at conferences newsagents cite customer service as the most significant point of difference. I wonder if there is a difference between what we think and how we act. I know in my own situation we could do much better on customer interaction. It would require a bigger payroll investment but could / should deliver a bigger return.

If we want customers to remember our businesses we need to provide them with memorable experiences. Genuine and personal customer interaction is a key.

While this sounds like a marketing tip I have tagged it as a management tip as getting customer service right is a management function.

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Sunday newsagency marketing tip: show the value of gift wrap

Mark Fletcher on April 13, 2014 3:24 AM

showWrapping paper is a boring sale in many retail businesses. Okay, designs on the paper can look cool – but the product itself in roll or flat form is displayed in a traditional and boring way.

Smart retailers show what can be done with wrapping paper – like showing how many boxes can be wrapped from one roll of Christmas paper or wrapping boxes, using bows and treatments to show how wonderful you can make any gift look with items you sell.

We have an opportunity to bring some theatre to gift wrap and to drive traffic and sales as a result. Consider a stunning window display of your wrap by showing what your customers can do with it.

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Rupert Murdoch on life, business and print

Mark Fletcher on April 13, 2014 3:20 AM

Rupert Murdoch sat down for an interview with Pattie Sellers of Forbes magazine and media outlets the world over have reported on the Forbes article. The Guardian has a balanced take. The interview also covers print:

Turning to the newspaper business, Sellers asked Murdoch: why keep the loss-making New York Post going? “I don’t know what it lost last year, but I think that in 2012 it lost $40m…

“Advertising has been very difficult. We’re looking at various plans for the Post. We are working very hard on the digital edition.”

Are you suggesting that in the next five years the Post as a print newspaper could go away and digital would be it? ”I would be surprised. I’m not saying it’s impossible. I would think it might be quite likely in 10 years.”

What about the Wall Street Journal? Is that likely to exist in print form in 10 years? ”I think so. Maybe not in 20. A lot of people are very happy to read their newspaper either on their iPad or — startlingly and faster and faster the figures go up — on their telephone, on their smartphone.

“At the London Times a third of our circulation is on a tablet. And people who read it on their tablet are spending 20% more time than if they’re reading the paper.”

Newsagents relying on newspapers to drive traffic and revenue should take this on board.

Click here to see the full Q&A with Rupert Murdoch.

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WH Smith reminds the importance of newsagency space reconfiguration

Mark Fletcher on April 12, 2014 4:22 AM

This quote from the WH Smith interim (six month) report released a couple of days ago speaks to the importance of reconfiguring retail space:

Optimal use of space is a fundamental part of the strategy for High Street, as we look to maximise profitability today in ways that are sustainable for future years. We work our space to maximise return on every metre drop in every store through improving margins, reducing costs and driving third party income opportunities. Each individual store has a specific space reconfiguration twice a year driven by many years worth of detailed space and product elasticity data.

The highlight in the quote is mine. I urge newsagents to take note of this.

Remember, in the UK, where the company has most high street stores, it competes with businesses like newsagencies. This quote and others in the statement speak to how a competitor operates. It’s very relevant for Australian newsagents.

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