Australian Newsagency Blog

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

What if magazines drop from 2 days a week to 1 day a week

Mark Fletcher on December 10, 2019 6:07 AM

I would not be surprised if magazine deliveries do drop to one day a week. With the number of publishers and retail outlets contracting, it is challenging to make efficient use of the logistics necessary to land magazine at retail outlets.

Dropping to one delivery a week could be economically essential for the current magazine specific delivery situation.

If magazines could be cost-effectively delivered outside this single purpose and single supplier controlled process the days of delivery could be different, more flexible.

At the Bauer Media Connections conference on the Gold Coast in September the General Manager of Ovato posed the question of dropping to one day a week delivery.

So, that’s what I am interested in today. If magazine deliveries were to drop to one day a week, which day would you prefer?

Delivery one day a week would impact local newsagency foot traffic. If such a change was contemplated, maybe a Wednesday works better for labour management, shop floor workflow and shopper traffic attraction. What do you think?

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Another look at Amazon Go

Mark Fletcher on December 9, 2019 6:37 AM

I was fortunate to get another look at Amazon Go last week. Here is a video I made of some of the insights I took away.

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What an awesome shop local pitch in this video from Hafod Hardware in Wales

Mark Fletcher on December 8, 2019 7:48 AM

Brilliant marketing from this small family business. #Inspiring

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Newspaper lost

Mark Fletcher on December 7, 2019 9:55 PM

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Australian Banking Association is looking at the use of credit cards for gambling

Mark Fletcher on December 7, 2019 7:07 AM

This news, from the ABA website:

Today the Australian Banking Association has released a consultation paper on the use of credit cards for gambling.

Banks have introduced a range of initiatives to help customers better manage their financial arrangements and mitigate harms related to problem gambling – technology solutions such as tools to help customers track their spending, customer directed blocks, trained customer support teams, referrals to support services.

The ABA is seeking views from the public on the place of a credit card and its use for gambling. Currently credit cards can be used when gambling online, however when in a gambling venue of a licenced venue or casino patrons cannot use credit cards or make ATM cash advance on their credit card.

CEO of the Australian Banking Association Anna Bligh said that banks had an important role to play in helping tackle the issue of problem gambling and were seeking feedback from the community.

“For many Australians gambling is a form of entertainment and recreation, however for some it can become a problem that potentially has devastating consequence for the individual and their family,” Ms Bligh said.

“As an industry we are currently assessing a number of options to help tackle problem gambling.

“We are seeking feedback across the community on a number of important questions, which will then help banks as they each consider further reform on this issue,” she said.

The ABA is seeking community views on the following questions:

  1. What are the risks and concerns associated with gambling with credit cards?
  2. Should the use of credit cards for gambling be restricted or prohibited?
  3. If so, should the restriction or prohibition apply to all forms of gambling?
  4. What are the potential consequences of prohibiting or restricting the use of credit cards for gambling?
  5. Should there be a transition period if banks choose to implement changes relating to credit cards?

For a copy of the consultation paper click here. Submissions on the topic are due by March 4, 2020. Submissions can be emailed to submissions@ausbanking.org.au. The ABA requests that submissions make use of empirical evidence as far as possible. A survey option is also available on the ABA website here.

For this to work, banks will either need access to what’s in a shopping basket to assess whether it is approved, or they will require POS software through which cards they issue are used to undertake such basket assessment – if this project of theirs moves forward.

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A positive message for WA lottery retailers

Mark Fletcher on December 6, 2019 6:02 AM

Lotterywest continues to lead in the communication and community engagement stakes in the lottery category in Australia. Their comms, sent every Thursday, are focussed, optimistic and updating retailers on promise delivery. Here is a note from their email yesterday afternoon:

A message from the Premier and Lotterywest CEO
This year has been an exciting one for us all, delivering record sales and increasing our return to the Western Australian community.

We’re pleased to announce that as of last Friday, the planned one percent increase in retailer commissions has fully come into effect.

The commissions increase is part of a larger package of initiatives to build a successful retail network.
Early in the new year Lotterywest will be working with you to shape what this looks like so we can develop the right model to support these initiatives together.

We look forward to another fantastic year ahead and wish you and your loved ones a very happy festive season and New Year.

Kind regards,
Premier Mark McGowan and Susan Hunt, PSM, Lotterywest CEO

There is a lot to be said for government ownership and management of state licensed lotteries.

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Reminder: it’s a risk to put within public reach alphabet products, because there is always that person…

Mark Fletcher on December 5, 2019 4:52 PM

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Don’t buy your Christmas cards at Coles

Mark Fletcher on December 4, 2019 9:58 PM

The best place to buy Christmas cards this year is a local newsagency. It will be a small, locally-owned, family business, which supports local community groups. You are also like to find a good range of Christmas cards rom fancy to basic.

At supermarkets like Coles, there is less of a choice. Typically, they pitch cheap looking and packaged cards at a high price point. The cards themselves are shoved on a shelf and not respected as you would usually find in a specialty card store, like a newsagency.

The Christmas card range this year at Coles is mediocre and expensive in my opinion.

As a channel we need to do more to call out the difference between what we offer in getting cards compared to supermarkets. We need to subtly remind shoppers how we bring value to this category and provide them with a shopping experience they will appreciate. We can do this through social media and elsewhere.

We can beat the supermarkets and similar by being more engaged with this category and reaching outside our four walls with stories representing our differentiation.

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Updated Facebook tutorial

Mark Fletcher on December 3, 2019 8:52 AM

Here is a new video I created last week for newsXpress marketing group members on using Facebook to reach new shoppers. It reflects changes to some practicalities in how Facebook works. I hope some find it useful.

Video training is helpful in that it can be reviewed when you want, easily shared and played at a time to suit.

Facebook is another small step marketing opportunity for indie retailers.

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Cyber Monday

Mark Fletcher on December 2, 2019 6:21 AM

With Black Friday now a settled retail event, regardless of whether we like the label in Australia, it will be interesting to see how Cyber Monday develops.

Cyber Monday began in the US in 2005. It is the first Monday after Thanksgiving. This year it is today, December 2.

In my own retail businesses I am following a US tradition of running Black Friday offers through to the end of Cyber Monday. It is lazy for sure. It also reflects lesser engagement in Australia with these events compared to the US. This approach worked well online and in-store Saturday and Sunday.

Given how much we rely on online and how global retail runs today, we have no choice but to embrace opportunities like Cyber Monday.

I get that some newsagents in regional and rural locations will say events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday do not impact them. In their town, people looking for Cyber Monday deals may not be looking in the Main Street as much as they are searching the Net. Their engagement with the day will not be seen in physical retail, unless physical retail engages with the event.

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Solomon Lew attacks retail landlords

Mark Fletcher on December 1, 2019 5:31 PM

In a story in The Age by Dominic Powell, Solomon Lew and CEO of his Premier Investments, Mark McInnes, have attached landlords:

‘Killing jobs, killing retailers’: Premier chiefs Lew and McInnes unleash on landlords

Premier Investments chief executive Mark McInnes and billionaire rag trader Solomon Lew have intensified their attack on major landlords, accusing them of “killing” local businesses by offering cheaper rent to international retailers such as H&M and Uniqlo.

Mr McInnes pointed to the recent collapse of womenswear chain Bardot as evidence landlords offering cheap deals to international retailers had forced up rents and ruined the retail market.

“Landlords have incentivised international retailers into this space. They’ve diluted the market and killed companies, and Bardot is just one of those,” he said.

“By incentivising [retailers like] H&M and Uniqlo and offering them more capital and better deals … they’re bringing down Australian companies, they’re killing Australian jobs and they’re killing Australian retailers.”

Rental pressures have compounded the broader issues within the retail sector over the last 12 months, which has been afflicted by slowing sales and weak consumer confidence despite tax cuts and three interest rate cuts.

Trade figures for the month of September failed to show any response to the recent fiscal and monetary stimulus and Mr McInnes confirmed the company was yet to see any meaningful response.

I think the way to get the attention of landlords is for retailers to not sign a lease unless they are certain they can make money, unless they are completely happy. Empty space focusses the attention of any landlord.

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Appreciating evolution of boxed Christmas card packaging

Mark Fletcher on November 30, 2019 7:38 AM

It is good to see some Australian card suppliers, Paper Street and Henderson Greetings, offering boxed Christmas cards in open packaging this year. Packaging without the usual acetate all-enclosing container.

In this type of packaging, a slim cardboard box frame is used to hold the cards with most of the surface area front and back open so that customers can touch and feel the actual cards. It is an open box approach.

I like this. I like that it is a good environmental story as well as a good customer service experience.

Feedback from customers in-store has been terrific so far this year. since we have the traditional and new packaging from various suppliers in-store, it is interesting hearing unprompted comparisons about the packaging being made.

The open box in the photo below is from a card company in the UK. I am holding it so you can see what I mean about the benefits of this type of packaging.

Where cards have treatments, such as embossing, the open box approach works well, offering shoppers a tactile experience that could / should more effectively guide purchase.

I anticipate a consequence of more card companies adopting the open box approach to the traditional boxed Christmas card packaging will be better product, product that leverages the tactile shopping experience. Customers will benefit as will retailers and card companies.

Anything we can do to grow card sales has to be important, right?! I think this open box approach pursues that goal.

With physical retailers chasing opportunities to offer experiences, it  is appropriate and timely that innovative card companies are facilitating a better experience in Christmas boxed card shopping.

As competition with online intensifies, anything we in physical retail can do to leverage in-store tactile experiences matters. 

Boxed Christmas card sales are important for the newsagency channel in that compared to everyday card sales, we perform very well in the boxed Christmas card space. Being on the front foot with innovation matters as it is differentiating. This is where the work by Paper Street and Henderson Greetings is important as it provides indie retailers with an advantage.

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Black Friday update

Mark Fletcher on November 29, 2019 7:03 AM

Further to my Black Friday post yesterday. To come in this morning and see $1,500 in online sales overnight for one store when usually overnight sales would be at $250.00 is heartwarming. This result is almost as good as the result the night before.

Not one of the sales is to a shopper within two hours of the business.

Accounting for shopping, the GP% achieved is 46%, which is terrific for a sale event.

As fulfilment is from existing leased space and labour resources, there are no additional overheads.

While the name Black Friday has a very different meaning to Australians, online being what it is, there is no opportunity to swing against the tide. Embracing it more fully as we have done this year will see thousands of dollars bottom line benefit well ahead of Christmas.

I think this is where Black Friday plays most interestingly – pulling forward what for us might have been Christmas or Boxing Day Sale purchases, or net new revenue – I say this given that it’s online and I suspect many of the shoppers were looking for a deal so if we did not get them now we would not have got them later. the reality is, who knows?! I am okay with that as a $ banked today is real.

Update: 5:20pm.  $3,000 in revenue today from  this niche website. Not one sale to a  customer within 2 hours of the small suburban high street shop. All on the back of a Black  Friday promotion, on which we spent $0 in marketing.

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The Washington Post embracing TikTok…

Mark Fletcher on November 29, 2019 6:04 AM

TikTok is a fascinating platform to me. fascinating because the common questions re what? and why? It is interesting to see The Washington Post has someone full time creating TikTok content like this.

Happy Friday…

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Black Friday

Mark Fletcher on November 28, 2019 6:25 AM

What started as a US retail event associated with Thanksgiving is now a worldwide phenomenon in retail, in-store and online. Shoppers expect it.

One of my stores has received plenty of queries from shoppers about what they can expect in Black Friday deals. This at a store that has never engaged with it before.

If you are in a major shopping centre, I think engaging with Black Friday is essential. If you are online, likewise. Heck, this is now a retail event for all retailers.

We are using it as we do for Boxing Day sales, an opportunity to quit stock and free space. Bargain hunters will love it. we love the opportunity of clearance.

I get that it is not an Aussie season. However, the anticipation around Black Friday is so great in Australia that we need to engage, or be ignored.

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Is there an issue with the in-store digital advertising screens for The Lott?

Mark Fletcher on November 27, 2019 6:25 AM

Several retailers have told their their in-store ad screens for The Lott have been down for more than two weeks and that they have been told  they cannot put promotional posters in front of them.Instead, there screens remain of no promotional value to the businesses of The Lott.

While there are consequences for retailers when they do something wrong or have something go wrong, there are no such consequences for The Lott.

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Curious Planet / Australian Geographic mess challenges toy and book retailers and suppliers

Mark Fletcher on November 26, 2019 7:30 PM

The situation with Curious Planet as reported last week is challenging for all businesses in the toy and book and related space.

The company behind famous retail brands Australian Geographic and the Co-op bookshop owes more than $12 million to toy sellers and publishers that say their payments are in some cases months overdue.

Internal documents seen by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age show suppliers across both the university textbook store and the science retailer were last week owed $12.6 million, of which $8.8 million was owed for stock delivered and services rendered at least 90 days prior.

One supplier, textbook publisher John Wiley & Sons, was owed more than $1 million, and 26 suppliers were owed more than $100,000 each.

The University of Western Australia and the Sydney University Sport and Fitness Centre were owed six figures, as were Australia Post and wholesale toys giant Independence Studios.

While the financial fight is between retailer and suppliers, the reality is business is that all in the ecosystem are impacted one way or another.

It is easy to feed a story like this into a narrative of, hmmm, take your pick: tough retail conditions, online is killing us, landlords charge too much, Aussies are not spending. In my opinion, these narratives are unhelpful.

A retail business in trouble is usually in trouble because of decisions made in that business. What sucks is that other businesses in or close to the ecosystem are affected through consequences of the money lost.

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Subscription referral bonus

Mark Fletcher on November 26, 2019 6:51 AM

Isubscribe offers $5 for each magazine subscription referral that results a subscription. That is a nice reward.

Newsagents, on the other hand, are expected to offer use of their retail space and resources to promote subscriptions for no reward.

While it has always been thus, in this world of little or no increase in cover prices and newsagent earnings from magazines far less today than ten years ago, it is only natural we look at issues like this.

FYI, here are their current featured deals…

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The fundamental way accessing news has changed

Mark Fletcher on November 25, 2019 7:40 AM

Since newspapers began, they can controlled access to their stories in print and, later, online. That has served them well, delaying the impact of digital engagement that we see impacting many other industries.

That is changing, and fast.

With more and more news and content aggregation services and an apparent like of bundled subscription services, newspaper publishers are on board and overing lower cost access to some of their content through these platforms. This is a fundamental which in their model.

The story is the thing for many. They will pursue a story or topic as an entry point rather than going to a masthead and reading what it has to offer.

For decades, we’d pick up a paper and read what the publishers served.

Today, thanks to rap[idly evolving mobile tech, we start with what interests us and let that guide where we go.

Online retailers dealing this. Their realise that their brand is irrelevant to shoppers pursuing an interest or product. Look at Google searched, they are far less for department stores than specific items for sale. The same is true for Google searches for news. People search for the topic  rather than the masthead.

This is why I think services like Apple News+ are driving  seismic change in how, when and where news is accessed and why I think it is today far less abut the masthead than it is about the story.

An interesting shift will come when News+ and similar connect directly with respected journalists, cutting out the middle-man of publishers. We see this already through a range of websites. I expect the pace of change here to pick up.

Where are newsagents in all of this? Nowhere except for some gift cards some of us sell for a micro margin. We partner with publishers for print product product only. For digital, they have different and bigger partners who get them closer to people prepared to pay for their content.

I see no downside in this if we have embraced new traffic opportunities and are bringing people to our shops and websites for other products we sell, products through which we can adjust our focus.

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People visit for the experience

Mark Fletcher on November 24, 2019 8:08 AM

Major landlords like Westfield are encouraging retailers to offer experiences, usually around major licences. They are doing this because they know it is tougher to get shoppers into physical retail. At one of my stores they have refreshed the behind the counter pitch to more deeply connect with lovers of Frozen, the hit movies and Broadway musical. People are loving this. We welcome them being photographed with it.

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The UK National Lottery practically demonstrates the value of its public ownership

Mark Fletcher on November 23, 2019 9:14 PM

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I love this Local Legend campaign that is part of the American Express Shop Small campaign in the UK

Mark Fletcher on November 23, 2019 7:05 AM

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The Walmart approach to change in retail

Mark Fletcher on November 22, 2019 5:02 AM

CNBC published a fascinating story yesterday about US retail giant Walmart.

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon: ‘We could go away at any minute’

Walmart is constantly evolving to avoid dying off, as plenty of other retailers have, according to the company’s chief executive officer.

“Walmart is not arrogant,” CEO Doug McMillon said at CNBC’s Evolve Summit in Los Angeles on Tuesday morning. “We could go away at any minute. I think most of us act that way every day. If you’re not willing to fail — and we are failing at some things — you’re going to go away.”

McMillon went on to say that, at Walmart, “everything is open to change.”

“Retailers come and go,” McMillon said. “It’s really simple: If you’re not meeting the wants and needs of the customer, you’re done. There’s not a lot of loyalty here.”

There is plenty here that relates to our channel.

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Newsadoo – Spotify for news

Mark Fletcher on November 22, 2019 4:48 AM

I met some folks behind Newsadoo, a new app for accessing news stories, at a start-up conference yesterday. It is an interesting app that offers the ability to follow a story across multiple platforms. It also leverages subscriber content without you needing to have multiple subscriptions if you have a Newsadoo subscription.

This is an interesting product that already partners with some Aussie news outlets such as Crikey, Nine and News.

The world is changing, rapidly.

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Gifts that can be posted work well in the newsagency

Mark Fletcher on November 21, 2019 7:11 AM

Gifts that can be easily posted with a card, like these Christmas 2019 mint coins from the Royal Australian Mint, work well at the counter in-store as well as on social media.

There are other gifts too, which can be easily posted, such as small format gift books, badges, tokens and more.

Plenty of people are keen for a gift they can post, something they are proud to give, which can be posted with a card, especially at Christmas.

I am particularly interested in gifts that people rarely see at a newsagency counter. That is why I like the Royal Mint coins so much. They are a genuine point of difference – driving impulse purchases and attracting new shoppers.

Differentiating is key.

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