Australian Newsagency Blog

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

Reminder: free online workshop for newsagents – a deep dive into selling online

Mark Fletcher on October 14, 2019 6:02 AM

Join me this week for a free online workshop all about selling online – how to, what to watch out for, where to spend money and where not to spend money. 20 have booked already.

I will share a series of non newsagency related examples, from businesses in completely different retail channels to ours, and share what they are achieving, how and why.

The session is this Wednesday: October 16, at 2pm AEST (that is, Melbourne time).

This will be an online session. Access is open to anyone. There is no cost.

At this session, I will focus on how to connect your business to sell online, why, how to rank high in Google searches and what to sell. This last piece is critical as all too often indie retailers think they should putt everything they have in-store online.  I will also cover pitfalls, risks and opportunities.

Most examples I will use will be from small business retailers with no connection with the newsagency channel.

The session will be interactive with opportunity for questions and two-way discussion. There will also be opportunity at the end for any topic to be canvassed.

I’ll be setting the meeting up using the Zoom platform, meaning you will be able to access it from any device, anywhere.

To register, please email bookings@towersystems.com.au. The day before the office will send you a link for the meeting.

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Marketing tip: if you sell jigsaws…

Mark Fletcher on October 13, 2019 7:45 AM

Having a jigsaw open and on a table for anyone to do will boost sales, and drive shopper engagement in-store.

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If you pitch magazines on Facebook

Mark Fletcher on October 12, 2019 7:02 AM

Sometimes, a photo of part of a cover is more enticing than the full cover. For example, this photo works much better…

…than this photo for a medium as visual as Facebook…

…and that its not intended to be a negative commentary on the terrific Better Homes and Gardens.

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Selling online: a free online workshop for newsagents

Mark Fletcher on October 11, 2019 6:07 AM

I am almost at the end of the series of face to face e-commerce workshops for small business retailers that I have been running in Australia and New Zealand.  Based on the experience and feedback, I see value in a session specifically for newsagents. I will do that Wednesday next week, October 16, at 2pm AEST (that is, Melbourne time).

This will be an online session. Access is open to anyone. There is no cost.

At this session, I will focus on how to connect your business to sell online, why, how to rank high in Google searches and what to sell. This last piece is critical as all too often indie retailers think they should putt everything they have in-store online.  I will also cover pitfalls, risks and opportunities.

Most examples I will use will be from small business retailers with no connection with the newsagency channel. That said, they will be from businesses facing similar existential and competitive challenges to retail newsagency businesses.

The session will be interactive with opportunity for questions and two-way discussion. There will also be opportunity at the end for any topic to be canvassed.

I’ll be setting the meeting up using the Zoom platform, meaning you will be able to access it from any device, anywhere.

To register, please email bookings@towersystems.com.au. The day before the office will send you a link for the meeting.

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Do you still use IPS?

Mark Fletcher on October 10, 2019 5:55 AM

Several newsagents contacted me to share frustration with IPS and their handling of the Bathurst program for this year’s event.  One suggested I post here to ask how many people use them. Click here or scroll through – it’s one question. I’ll leave it open until Friday afternoon.

Create your own user feedback survey

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→ 8 CommentsCategory: magazine distribution

Specialty diaries pitch a point of difference

Mark Fletcher on October 9, 2019 7:03 AM

With trains continuing to be popular across generations in magazine, jigsaw, calendar, toy, card, gift and other product category formats of the business, it makes sense to pitch a train focussed diary for 2020.

This Great Trains of Australia 2020 diary from the Last Diary Co. is a perfect product for out of store marketing for us, to reinforce the business as a destination for train lovers and those who buy gifts for them.

Our ability to pitch specialisation begins with the product we source. In my own businesses,  key questions we ask when considering an individual product or a category are: does it reach a an easily understood and appreciated specialty niche and does it lend itself to o9ur of store marketing.

We are especially interested in fringe interests often ignored by major retailers for it is in this space where we can find valuable shoppers.

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GNS releases planograms for new Stat range

Mark Fletcher on October 8, 2019 5:09 AM

GNS has released two planograms that will help newsagents engage with this new and innovative house brand. Stat is putting stationery in play, in a positive way, for newsagents in my view.

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Bauer looking at Pacific Magazines?

Mark Fletcher on October 7, 2019 10:57 AM

Rumour that Bauer could consider acquiring Pacific Magazines has been circulating for some time inside publishing and connected circles has been given oxygen today This from B&T:

According to reports in today’s The Australian, Seven is negotiating with rival Bauer Magazines to offload its Pac Mag business.

Pacific Magazines currently publish titles such as Better Home And Gardens, marie claire, Who, New Idea and Men’s and Women’s Health.

According to Seven’s annual report, Pac Magazines generated revenue of just shy of $130 million for the financial year, down 7.2 per cent from $139.5 million the previous year.

The reverse had been a rumour through late 2017 / early 2018. However, with the latest results from Seven, and a new CEO working on the business, being a seller makes more sense.

If such an acquisition did proceed, there would be implications for all businesses in the magazine supply chain.

For several years, when asked at conferences and when participating in industry panels, if I have been asked I have said that Australia is too small for both Bauer and Pacific, especially with the weekly titles.

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→ 1 CommentCategory: magazine distribution · magazines

Tips on handling Christmas early in retail

Mark Fletcher on October 7, 2019 5:43 AM

When should you put out Christmas? As soon as you get it is our view. You can’t sell stock that is not out. So, get it out and in front of people.

Build toward Christmas.Change your displays as you go, as more stock arrives.

To manage shop floor room, offer and early sale. Consider an earlybird sale. However, if you do this, run it for a limited time. Call it an earlybird sale. Promote it on Facebook.

What sells early? Boxed cards, absolutely. These are followed by a mixture of items, depending on what shoppers in your area look for.

When should you dress the shop for Christmas?  We suggest December or late November. Dressing the shop is different to when you start selling items for Christmas.

When should you start to play Christmas music? We suggest two weeks before. The music is what seems to annoy people the most.

EARLY CHRISTMAS LAUNCH IDEAS.

Christmas cheer preview night. Put on some drinks and finger food and let people come in for a closed-door event where you show off Christmas items and make money.  This should be done early – before other retailers.

Christmas card writing party. Boxed card deals. Setup tables. People buy cards, write them, drink and have a laugh.

Maker Christmas fun. This is harder work. Have an event showing people how to make Christmas decorations. Have deals in-store at the time. For this to work you must know what you plan to make and have the resources ready.

Christmas storytelling. This is more of a community event. You sponsor it. People come in and tell their most enjoyable Christmas story, in a group setting. Heart-warming. Fun. Local. Not too commercial but it could gently help drive sales.

DEALING WITH PUSH BACK.

Anyone complaining about putting Christmas out early can be a challenge. Be sure what you want to respond with. Train all who work in the business. You could say: people asked for it.  Or, we can’t ban Christmas. Or, Bah humbug. Or, people have been asking.

Attached to this advice is a flyer created by our Southland team showing the context they used for going out early with boxed cards.

Getting out early with Christmas matters as it establishes in the mind of regulars that you have product, which hopefully they remember when they are ready to purchase.

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How do you celebrate your business birthday?

Mark Fletcher on October 6, 2019 3:12 PM

In London recently I went to buy a coffee and discovered it was free because it was the birthday of the business. If you are ever in London and near Covent Garden, check out: www.lundenwic.com.

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FY2018/19 newsagency sales benchmark results

Mark Fletcher on October 4, 2019 6:00 AM

Traditional newsagency businesses have no future if you consider the trajectory represented in the year on year comparison in FY 2018/19 financial year compared to the 2017/18 financial year newsagency fsasleds benchmark study just completed.

The study represents data from 157 newsagency businesses – city and country, high street and mall, banner groups and independent. Note: Each data point below is the average, mean, of all data for the data point.

OVERALL BUSINESS PERFORMANCE METRICS.

  • Customer traffic. Down 2.5%.
  • Overall sales. Down 2%.
  • Basket depth. Down 5%.
  • Basket dollar value. Down 3%.

CORE PRODUCTS.

  • Newspapers. Over the counter unit sales. Down 13.5%.
  • Magazines. Over the counter unit sales. Down 12.5%.
  • Greeting cards. Revenue. Down 4%.
  • Stationery. Revenue. Down 12%
  • Lotteries. Revenue. Up 4%
  • Tobacco. Revenue. Down 17%.
  • Agency. Parcels, gift cards, betting account top-up. Down 8%.

SPECIALTY PRODUCTS.

  • Gifts. Revenue. Up 7%.
  • Toys. Revenue. Up 4%.
  • Plush. Revenue. Up 4%.
  • Collectibles. Revenue. Up 7%.
  • Craft. Revenue. Up 4%.
  • Coffee. Revenue. Up 15%.
  • Books. Revenue. Up 6%.
  • Calendars. Revenue. Up 7%.

This year on year comparison is worse than we have seen in recent quarter analyses. This is in part due to a broader correction businesses. There is no one dominant group represented or one dominant type of business.

I have assessed each product category in isolation so as to not be distracted by businesses that are dominant in one and not another.

Print media.
Terminal decline. Publishers won’t like that representation. However, it is true if you look at the data from the last five years. There is no coming back from the eventual outcome, an outcome by the way I wish was not the case. In the meantime, we need to support the category and make the most of it, as the publishers themselves are doing.

Growth.
Less than 50% of the businesses that provided data had sales in the categories for which there was growth. This is a problem. There continue to be too many traditional newsagency businesses. That pure traditional model has no future.

There is plenty of good news. Look at Gifts. The average growth is 7%. There are many stores at 15%+ in growth. This is driving up the average. Typically, these are businesses in year two or three of their transition away from traditional newsagency operation and, often, focused on gift categories far removed from what you’d see in 98% of newsagency businesses.

City vs. Country.
Regional and rural businesses continue to perform better. This is across the board. Even when comparing pure traditional newsagency businesses this is true. Location does matter, at the moment. The difference will not last.

Upside opportunities.
Toys, crafts, coffee, books and plush offer update. However, in the traditional category of stationery there is upside too if you engage in a fresh way compared to what has been done in the past. Success requires the retailer being entrepreneurial.

The role of online.
Online should be accounting for at least 4% of revenue now. This is rare. However, I have seen it.

Is a newsagency a good investment? Can you make money?
Yes and yes, if you are good, engaged and focussed retailer. If you want a business that runs itself and ticks over, a newsagency is not for you. If you pine for a  newsagency from the past, a traditional business, it has no future.

New traffic, better margin, genuine growth in business valuations all come from focussing on products not recently traditionally aligned with our channel.

I own three newsagencies. I am glad I do. I am pleased with their performance.

As to your situation, that is what matters more thank any benchmark. You are your most important competitor and your most important benchmark.

Mark Fletcher.
Email: mark@towersystems.com.au  Website: www.towersystems.com.au  Blog: www.newsagencyblog.com.au
M | 0418 321 338

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Differentiating with Halloween

Mark Fletcher on October 3, 2019 6:35 AM

Fifteen years ago we had a terrific time in the newsagency with everyday Halloween items that sold at $10.00 and less. Face masks, make-up, cobwebs, blood, pumpkin baskets and more were staple products for years.

Now, however, with supermarkets and discount variety in that everyday Halloween space, we have moved on in our gift / pop culture shop to cater to a more high-end shopper, someone looking for centrepieces and other horror related items, items usually associated with a popular movie of comic franchise.

This more curated approach allows us to play in the horror space all through the year and ramp things cup in October for Halloween. It works well. Key to success is having several offers in-store and with each featuring an eye-catching centrepiece. The only risk is for the stores in a major shopping centre. Landlords can be precious about scaring kids.

Halloween remains a good season. Indeed, I think we could grow revenue if we had some wholesalers prepared to play more in the niche side of the season, in areas such as homewares and higher end costume opportunities.

Halloween gives engaged retailers a focussed season for after Father’s Day and before Christmas.

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Pacific Magazines to now report under Digital in Seven restructure

Mark Fletcher on October 2, 2019 11:11 AM

Mediaweek is reporting of a restructure at Seven West that will see Pacific magazines fall under the new Digital division.

Seven getting new chief content officer in Warburton restructure

Warburton explained: “With the new organisational structure, we have focussed on simplifying the SWM organisation to enable our content led growth strategy. This new flatter structure will cement our position as Australia’s leading media group with content at the heart of the business, digital growth maximised, duplication of roles removed in all areas and operating efficiencies implemented.

“We have had to make some tough decisions in order to build the network for the future. I take very seriously any decision that impacts our people and I am grateful for the loyalty and commitment shown by our team over many years. Anyone impacted by changes will have dedicated support and respect throughout the process of transition.”

The change that will potentially make the most impact on the business is a new head of content. The existing content executives Angus Ross (Seven) and Therese Hegarty (Seven Studios) will report to the new executive.

The eight divisions will be:

Content (new appointment soon)
Revenue (where Kurt Burnette will continue to lead)
Marketing (new appointment soon, publicity wrapped into this)
Digital (new appointment soon)
Commercial (where Bruce McWilliam will continue to lead)
Finance
HR
Western Australian

Pacific will now fall under the expanded Digital division with Pacific CEO Gereurd Roberts reporting to the new digital boss.

Seven West Media is also making extra savings of $10m in addition to a recent announcement of $20m in cost savings.

Now more than ever in media and business more broadly, change is front and centre.

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If you are looking for retail inspiration

Mark Fletcher on October 2, 2019 6:11 AM

I get to see plenty of retail in my travels. Shops that I find particularly interesting and inspiring I share on a Engaged Small Business Retailers Facebook group. Click here to register to join that group if you are interested.

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News Corp. turns its back on newsagents in Apple story headline

Mark Fletcher on October 1, 2019 1:18 PM

From the Herald Sun today. Someone in News Corp. wrote the headline and multiple people in the editorial and production process decided it was okay to use it. It is a headline that pitches digital over physical, a headline that makes the brick and mortar newsagency channel less relevant in the minds of readers / shoppers. Shame on them.

While I am sure News Corp. management will say nothing was meant by this, such words would be hollow. They did it, deliberately, against the newsagency channel. As I noted, shame on them.

While I don’t see newspapers as relevant to my retail businesses, they are relevant to many of my colleagues, people who have been good and faithful servants of News Corp for decades. The same people accepting falling margins and actively promoting the News Corp special offers of books and the like that are loss making for newsagents.

This story is something newsagents may point to as they retreat from the shingle.

To be clear, I have no quarrel with News Corp offering content on Apple. It makes sense. My issue is with the headline for this article.

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News Corp and Apple in a deal

Mark Fletcher on October 1, 2019 6:20 AM

News Corp announced this on Twitter just now:

For transparency, here is the response I posted in a comment to the tweet: Okay, so it is not a news service. I see no point in paying for your political lobbying.

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Make birthdays happy

Mark Fletcher on September 30, 2019 5:59 AM

This video I made for social media has been terrific at getting people engaged with cards.

Our channel needs to do more to promote cards outside our shops, to draw attention to occasions we cover that others don’t and to shine a light on cards people can see themselves giving others.

The more people think about cards the more they become a thoughtful purchase. We play better in that thoughtful purchase than an impulse purchase.

Supermarkets and convenience stores are all about impulse. We are all about destination. For too long, however, we have relied on simply having a product category to drive traffic. That world is gone. We need to engage in myriad ways to attract shoppers and we do this by pitching categories outside our shops.

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Explaining the move to cashless

Mark Fletcher on September 29, 2019 7:06 AM

I was in a coffee shop that had recently switched to cashless. I like how the framed the move in this poster on the wall behind the counter:

No, I am not saying these reasons all work in a newsagency. Security and speed for sure do work. If I was going cashless, I think I;d use a sign like this as it is simple and cuts through.

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AFL Grand Final

Mark Fletcher on September 28, 2019 8:21 AM

On AFL Grand Final days past we have traded through to the usual closing time, filling the time after the game starts with planned changes to layout and product placement. This year, we have opted for a different approach. We are closing early.

We have completed significant floor changes already. Being open for significantly diminished revenue while Melbourne all but shuts down for the Grand Final does not make sense this year. So, we will try closing. We have let customers know I advance so as to mitigate disruption.

With each store earning significant online revenue, we will accrue sales that we can fulfil Sunday and Monday.

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How the new approach to newspaper home delivery fails customers

Mark Fletcher on September 27, 2019 6:05 AM

I was talking with a newsagent who had handed back their newspaper home delivery runs to the publisher as few months ago. They were telling me about customer experiences. They handed back the run because it was not financially viable and because representations to the publishers for fair compensation were unsuccessful.

Now, months after handing there run back, their old home delivery customers tell them that in the event any paper is missed, it is never replaced. The publisher provides a credit to the account as the only solution to them missed paper complaint.

What this experience demonstrates that the demand by publishers on newsagents that they take out a paper in the event of a reported miss is not a standard to which they hold themselves when they take over a run.

The publisher is demonstrating double standards. For decades they unleashed relentless pressure on newsagents in terms of home delivery service levels, demanding a c retain standard, a standard they themselves fall short of when they take over a home delivery service.

This failure by the publisher shows that the decades of demand were a big business bullying a small business because they could, not because it was right for the customer. I think this is poor social responsibility boy the publisher.

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Christmas ornaments a hit

Mark Fletcher on September 26, 2019 7:53 PM

We are having terrific success with the Hallmark Keepsake ornaments this year and we are still 12 weeks from Christmas. By terrific, I mean revenue that is about to hit what we did all of last year through the season. This is a niche product that people travel for – it broadens the catchment area of the business, thanks to online.

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Is lottery fatigue impacting lottery sales?

Mark Fletcher on September 26, 2019 7:58 AM

Several newsagents have reported sales lower than expected sales from the $150M Powerball jackpot last week. Sales for the $100M the week before were good but the expected jump for $150M did not happen.

A couple of those I spoke with raised the question of lottery fatigue. That is, tiredness among lottery shoppers for jackpots.

Lottery fatigue is a real topic of discussion as you can see at the LA Times, USA Today, KOLO TV and MarketWatch.

While the big jackpots get all the media attention, every day there are winners of smaller am punts who are thrilled with their win. Even low prize wins of $10,000, $1,000 and less are a thrill for the winners, they are something worth celebrating.

One way to combat lottery fatigue at the shop level is to celebrate all the wins, no matter how small, and to pitch the thrill of each price being circulated back to the community.

I think focussing on the everyday when it comes to lotteries would be wise rather than the obsession of recent times on the massive jackpots.

Footnote: to any who say this post has been written to downplay or denigrate lottery sales – you are wrong. I hope newsagents have a bright future from lotteries.

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National Police Remembrance Day

Mark Fletcher on September 25, 2019 6:18 AM

September 29, 2019, will be the 30th anniversary of National Police Remembrance Day, an important day in the calendar of serving and past-serving officers and their families.

We are grateful for the opportunity to connect with the day through the sale of specially minted commemorative coins. The interest has been terrific. Because of how they are packaged, they have proven to be an excellent gift for customers to post to loved-ones.

What I particularly like about this day is the opportunity to reinforce niche gifts and to offer cards that support the niche gift giving opportunities. Through this we get to pitch our business as being more useful than many other gift related retailers. If you look around, it is easy to find plenty of niche opportunities for which we can pitch gifts and cards.

More broadly, from a category perspective, coins are proving to be valuable in revenue and the new traffic they attract.

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The newsagent corner in a local UK supermarket

Mark Fletcher on September 24, 2019 6:32 AM

This photo is the newsagent corner in a Sainsbury’s Local in Greater London, which I saw a few days ago.

Opposite this placement of magazines, papers, stationery and lottery products and our of shot is a small stand of cards.

Sainsbury Local is a small format, high street, supermarket. All the major UK supermarkets have small formal high street offerings, squeezing indie retailers out of this convenience space.

Given how much Coles and Woolworths follow UK supermarkets, we have to expect fine tuning of their small format high street offering. We see it in Australia already in fuel and in some city high street locations, but not to the extent of the UK.

Differentiation is key in retail. Always has been and remains so today.  When it comes to the convenience space in the UK, the major supermarkets all look pretty much the same. From what I can see they rely on their loyalty programs and myriad price-based offers to drive traffic through their doors.

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Newsagencies…

Mark Fletcher on September 23, 2019 5:04 PM

The Flinders News has published an opinion piece on the future of local milk bars and newsagencies.

While I get that the topic is interesting, I am yet to see any piece look at it thoroughly and shine a light on the many in the channel innovating and creating more value in and for their businesses. There is much good news out there if only people would look.

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