The Fairfax press yesterday ran an interview with Tatts CEO Robbie Cooke that all newsagents should read. In the interview to mark his first anniversary in the job, Cooke outlines what Tatts is focused on:
”In 12 months time the things I’d be looking for in the business would be a new lotteries website, new wagering website and the new brand rolled out,” he said. ”There will be marketing and investment put behind the brand and we are aiming for all those initiatives to drive online sales.”
Newsagents contemplating the required re-fit should seek clarification. There is no point spending any money today on fit-out changes that could be redundant in anything less than three years out.
Mr Cooke said he also intended to expand the distribution of Tatts’ products. The company is poised to begin selling scratch lottery tickets from supermarkets after a trial in Coles Express outlets. ”We’ve been testing to make sure that activity has actually increased sales rather than cannibalised sales from our traditional channels,” he said.
It’s not just scratch lottery tickets as I understand it. Coles Express has been selling quick picks. I’ve been told they plan to roll that model out to all Coles Express outlets – in Victoria to start and then nationally. This comment about scratchies in supermarkets is new.
I’m not a Tatts retailer but if I was I would be approaching Tatts, the ACCC and other government entry points, all at once, to argue the significantly uneven playing field on which independent small business newsagents are forced to operate compared to our competitors such as 7-Eleven, Coles Express and, now, supermarkets. The capital cost that has been forced on newsagents for decades has assisted Tatts to have the recognition it has. Every newsagent who has spent money on Tatts mandated fit-outs has invested in the brand. Now, to find that competitors are given lower cost branding options requires consideration by appropriate authorities.
I understand that various associations are pursuing these matters – as they should. Individual newsagents who are Tatts agents should, in my view, make their own complaints. This will only add volume to what the associations do.
If I was facing a fit-out I would request of Tatts an immediate pause pending their review. If the fit-out requirements have me investing more capital than, say, a Coles Express then I would seek to have that matter arbitrated by an independent authority.
The challenge for newsagents comes back to the brand. Coles is a strong brand as is 7-Eleven. Take the Tatts branding – Golden Casket, Tatts, SA Lotteries or NSW Lotteries – out of a newsagency and in many situations you are left with unrecognisable branding. I think this is why tatts has been so heavy-handed on branding for years – they knew that it was necessary given the weakness and confusion of newsagency brands.
It is good that Cooke has been open about his plans. Newsagents can either complain about what he has said or plan the future of their business on the basis of what he has said. The information can lead to action.
Footnote: the moves by tatts are not unexpected. I have foreshadowed them for some time for several years at the Newsagency of the Future workshops.