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

Newsagency marketing tip: reinvigorating Saturdays in your local retail newsagency

Years ago, Saturdays were big in the local newsagency. Shops were full and humming. Back when lottery draws were fewer, Sunday trading was a rarity, and late-night shopping wasn’t a thing – Saturdays were it! Those days might be gone, but that doesn’t mean Saturdays can’t be big again for any local retail newsagency.

The key reinvigorating Saturdays is a thoughtful, planned approach that makes Saturdays special in your store. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Make your shop a Community Hub:

  • Fundraisers: Invite local groups to fundraise inside or outside your shop. Let them feature their local work for locals..
  • Local Clubs: Start a club that connects with your products with local. A knitting circle, jigsaw club, a mindfulness group, local cooks sharing local recipes.
  • Show and tell. Bring in a local with specialist knowledge relating to items you sell. Ask them to do a talk, to share knowledge.

Make it Fun!:

  • New Product Showcase: Saturdays can be your “New Arrivals Day.” Unpack the latest stock with fanfare and make it a reason for customers to visit.
  • Interactive Saturdays: Let customers play with new products, sample games, or get creative with craft supplies.
  • Host a competition: paper plane making and flying for example, or the best yoyo tricks.
  • Teach: How to make paper mache, how to play marbles, how to play hopscotch.

Sweeten the Deal:

  • Free Treats: Partner with a local bakery to offer a free slice of cake at a set time each Saturday, or a butcher to feature their awesome sausages.
  • Lucky Draws: Hold in-store draws for lottery or other prizes. Being present boosts a customer’s chance of winning!

Visually Appealing:

  • Shop Refresh: Make Saturdays a day for a big display overhaul. Fresh layouts and eye-catching presentations will draw customers in.

Promotional Power:

  • Saturday Savers: Develop a “Saturday Savers” campaign with special deals and discounts exclusive to Saturdays.
  • Weekend deal. From, say, noon, offer deals for items you want to be rid of by the end of the week. get known for these deals.

Reinvigorating Saturdays in your shop

These are just a springboard for ideas. Tailor your strategy to your shop and its products. Focus on what drives sales for you, not necessarily what other local businesses might be doing.

Here is a choice you can make: do nothing and Saturdays will continue to be what they have been. Or, do something considerably different, chase change. If what you do works, celebrate. if it does to work, learn, adjust and go again.

My point is that Saturdays are not what they used to be and we need to change that.

Management tip

I don’t understand newsagents adding tobacco products to their businesses

There is a trend in the newsagency channel of retailers adding tobacco products to their newsagency businesses. This is more common when a new owner takes over.

I don’t get it.

  • The margin on tobacco products is slim.
  • The tobacco buying shopper pool in Australia is small, and getting smaller.
  • Plenty of crime is associated tobacco, with shops the target for arson and other attacks.
  • Tobacco does not sit well with other items like higher end gifts, toys and greeting cards.
  • The retail fixture requirements take valuable space and render it useless for better margin product.

I understand newsagents well established in tobacco who are making good money from this stay with the category. My question today is relates to people buying newsagencies that do not have tobacco products and then adding them to the business.

Newsagents started quitting tobacco products in the late 1990s, when supermarkets were ramping up the sale of tobacco products. I bought my first newsagency in February 1996. We quit tobacco in early 1997. we did that because we saw it as a family business and because we want to free the counter space for more meaningful products.

My guess would be that less than 20% of newsagency rooftops have tobacco. I’d also guess that the percentage of newsagents with tobacco has increased over the last year.

There is a newsagency that I drive past each day that changed hands in the last year. The new owner put in tobacco products, removing stationery and gifts. There are 4 tobacco outlets within a couple of minutes of this shop. The move does to make sense, there is no convenience benefit for them.

What retailers do in their businesses is up to them of course. In writing this I am putting the topic on the table for discussion. There may be a good reason that I am missing, or not.

There are other far more positive and enjoyably product categories through which we can pitch a point of difference, and attract new shoppers – categories that fit well with lucrative product categories like greeting cards.

Why are newsagents adding tobacco to their shops? I have no idea.

Social responsibility

15 years

While Rupert is far more expert than me, I think 15 years is optimistic. You only have to look at what they publish today to see how removed they are from delivering access to news.

The timing of the demise of print newspapers is dependent on the value achieved by the advertisers who fund the medium. The Murdoch outlets are good at selling ad space. There has been a big shift in recent years demonstrating the focus on revenue over news.


Advice on how to prepare your newsagency business for sale

Selling a retail business is like selling a house, you need to prepare it so that it looks appealing to prospective purchasers. Selling a newsagency is more challenging because of assumptions about the channel and what a newsagency is can could be, especially today in 2024.

If you have control over the timing, start work on preparing your business for sale six months, preferably a year, out from putting it on the market. This enables you to make changes, benefit from improvement in performance and thereby achieve a better price.

Here are steps I recommend on preparing a business for sale.

  1. Make it look and feel appealing. While there are people who will look for a challenge, a fixer-upper.  Most buyers will want two see a business they understand and feel they can run. It needs to look easy for them. They need to be able to imagine themselves as the owners.
  2. Eliminate dead stock. Dead stock looks bad on the shelves and looks bad on the books. Purchasers should not pay full wholesale for inventory more than six months old as your poor buying or management is not their obligation. Our view is that anything older than six months is dead.
  3. Streamline operations. Make the business look easy to run by ensuring it is easy to run for you.  This means:
    1. The best opening hours.
    2. An efficient roster.
    3. A structured goods inwards operation.
    4. A streamlined sales counter.
    5. Tight back office management.
    6. Job descriptions so everyone knows their responsibilities.
    7. Good internal communications.
  4. Maximise profit. What anyone will pay will depend on actual profitability of the business.
  5. Be happy. Owners who talk their business down will find it harder to sell the business. be happy and make the business look happier.
  6. Keep your social media presence up to date. Today, many people check out a business online prior to looking at it in-store. Maintain up to date Facebook, Instagram and elsewhere.
  7. Get your paperwork in order. Early on, get business documents together:
    1. Premises lease.
    2. Equipment lease.
    3. Employee records.
    4. Product forward orders.
    5. Franchise documents.
    6. Supplier agreements.
    7. Details of all forward orders.
    8. Any other documents relating to the operation of the business including manuals for any equipment items.
  8. Choose a broker for your circumstances. This could be a local because of the likelihood of a local buyer or a specialty broker to attract someone looking for your type of business from afar.

Success at selling your newsagency business depends on the work you do to prepare it for sale. Focus months, even a years, out can make for an easier and better sale.

Newsagency management

Thank you Golf Australia magazine for promoting Aussie newsagents

We need more magazine publishers doing this:


5 common mistakes I see newsagents make with social media posts

  • Giving some other business control. Outsourcing your social media posts to another business, a consultant or a marketing group results in generic and often bland posts that are likely to deliver little commercial value to the business.
  • Not entertaining. People use social media for entertainment. If you’re not entertaining the engagement you see is likely to be minimal. Bland posts about a new lottery jackpot or showing a magazine cover that many others show is a nothing post.
  • Ignoring local. Living local through your posts is likely to be loved by locals. Support local community groups. Celebrate local heroes. Be out and about locally using what you sell, and share it.
  • Yelling. Telling people to use cash or to shop local are posts likely to be ignored. Posts like this may make you feel good but they achieve nothing.
  • Missing in action. You are a key differentiator in your business. You need to be seen through the posts. help people to get to know you and have a laugh with you.

With any social media post you have a couple of seconds to grab their attention. I spent a couple of hours last night looking through newsagent Facebook pages and I tagged 75% of posts falling into one of the above 5 areas. That does not allow for the 33% of newsagent pages I saw that infrequently posted, like the one business that last posted in January this year.

The best face to put on your business is you. On social media, be yourself, have fun, bring customers along for the ride with you.

I appreciate some will say they know nothing about social media, that they don’t know what to say. Social media engagement is a basic business task. Anyone can do it. You start by starting. Getting someone else to do it for you is a dreadful mistake, it will likely achieve little for your business.

Remember, have fun. This is key. People go to social media to be entertained. Entertain them. Let them see that you have a sense of humour.

One other point: avoid using an AI tool to write posts for you. AI content is, well, AI content. Oh, and don’t use AI generated images as doing so will say more about your business, which you ay not like.

Management tip

How far can we push what we can sell in a newsagency?

We have put up The Perth Mint’s 125th Anniversary Australia Sovereign 2024 Gold Proof Five-Coin Set for sale at $10,999.00 We were lucky to get one of the 125 of the sets made. I decided to take on the product as it helps us see what the boundary is of the highest ticket price item we can sell.

We had good success with coins prices at $3,995.00 and moved on to coins priced just over $5,000.00, and they sold. The move to try this new coin makes sense.

I appreciate that this will feel out of reach to plenty here. If you’d told me about this coin set five years ago I’d have said no way could I contemplate this, yet here we are.

Good retailers don’t stand still. They try new things and if they work they lean further into them, to learn and see how far they can go. That’s what’s happening here. It’s what I have seen newsagents do in the gift space taking their business fro $20,000 a year in gifts to over $200,000 a year in gifts in a short period of time.

What we can sell in our newsagency businesses is not restricted as it was decades ago.

Newsagency management

The clueless supplier pitch: this range is perfect for a newsagency

Sheesh I hate it when a supplier says this. They think saying this range is perfect for a newsagency gives them an in when pitching to a newsagent. Not to me and here’s why:

  • I can’t recall them ever having evidence to back up their claim.
  • The products are likely to be something our channel may have sold in the 1980s.
  • Suppliers tend to not be retailers and are likely to be out of touch with our retail.
  • I don’t want products others think are perfect for a newsagency because newsagency today in 2024 is a meaningless term.

So many of us have transitioned our businesses into new product categories and services, we have moved far away from the newsagency of the 1980s. We keep the shingle because it’s easy, not because it is accurately descriptive.

For sure there are products in our businesses from back when the shingle reflected a channel full of similar businesses, things like newspapers, magazines, cards, stationery and lotteries. Many in our channel don’t rely on some of these old core categories.

Suppliers need to stop generalising about newsagencies. It lets them down and it is not appealing to us.

If you have a range or a product to pitch do so based on the facts: tell me who will buy it, when and how often; explain how I can reach them; provide evidence; make a financial case in terms of return on investment and floorspace.

Newsagency management

What’s the point of a Coke fridge in your newsagency?

The only reason to have a Coke (or similar) fridge in your newsagency is if it is delivering a good return on space, labour and inventory investment. if you have a Coke fridge and don’t know its performance numbers, work them out.

I see too many newsagents hang onto their Coke fridge because customers like the convenience of it. That’s no reason to keep it.

Your Coke fridge must make you more money than you could otherwise make from the space.

Your Coke fridge must make more than not having it and the associated assumptions that come with it.

People seeing a Coke fridge do make assumptions in my view. I think they will see it and register the business as a convenience business. If you sell higher end gifts, the assumptions flowing from seeing the Coke fridge may not fit what you want for the business.  Coke is a banner brand like that. See it in the front of a local independent shop and you do think convenience.

I was in a newsagency a couple of days ago that had a Coke fridge right near their entrance, in prime position. From the front door of their shop I could see four other shops with a Coke fridge. The newsagency having a Coke fridge did not make sense. The owner said they keep it because it works. They could not explain that in terms of financial performance or their profit and loss statement tho.

I bought a newsagency two and a half years ago that had a Coke fridge. The staff said customers would complain if we got rid of it. No one complained. We are surrounded by cafes and take away food outlets with Coke and other drinks. The fridge had no commercial value in our newsagency.

None of this matters. If you’re making a good profit, more than you would otherwise make from the space, stick with it.

If you don’t know your numbers, go work them out, now.

I worked them out for the shop I was in a couple of days ago and the Coke fridge was losing money. It was not paying for the square metre of space it was taking let alone the labour and capital tied up in inventory. This is a beautiful newsagency by the way, one offering excellent gifts. I think by removing the Come fridge they can  remove some shopper assumptions and expect more shopper traffic as a result.

Sometimes we find ourselves doing the same thing over an over because no one has stopped in front of us and asked why we do that.

I have nothing against Coke by the way. Some newsagencies, though, do not need to offer the product, they can make better use of the space.

If you have a Coke fridge, please go work out your numbers and let them guide what you do.

Newsagency management

NADOC Week 2024 50c Coloured Frosted Uncirculated Coin release drives in-store traffic for newsagents

yesterday was a terrific day with people keen to get their hands on this new coin released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the NAIDOC Committee.

The Royal Australian Mint helps by listing is as a stockist and while this can lead to many phone calls, each contact is an opportunity to pitch other coin related product.

I love the coin releases for their new shopper traffic. New shoppers are gold in retail.

We never get enough coins, but we are always happy to get what we get, and we make the most of it.

Newsagency opportunities

OPINION: Newspower should research before it markets against other newsagency marketing groups

Helen Dowling, the General Manager of Newspower, sent out marketing on June 25, 2024 comparing their offer to newsagents with other groups. newsXpress is one of those other groups. I am the Managing Director of newsXpress Pty Ltd.

Newspower failed to reach out to newsXpress to check whether what they were about to claim was accurate. They should have.

I reached out to Helen Dowling and to Graeme Hand, the Chairman of Newspower. Helen responded:  It is not Newspower’s intention to provide misleading information. I would be interested in knowing from Newsxpress what you believe the misleading information is in the comparison document.

Here’s the response I sent to Helen:

Thank you for acknowledging that you did not undertake research prior to publishing your document.

  • newsXpress provides in-store visits from a business development manager.
  • newsXpress provides visual merchandising materials including posters and on-location call-outs for all major seasons.
  • newsXpress have access to a member only portal with a fully populated knowledge base and extensive business development resources.
  • newsXpress members have access to a digital collateral library and cloud based resources for easy store level customisation.
  • newsXpress members have access to a full video library of social media collateral and easy access to store level customisation.
  • newsXpress offers signage and graphic design services at no cost.
  • Rather than access to an Are Media account manager we provide a whole of magazine category problem resolution service. For free.
  • Rather than a free postage for Christmas cards offer we provide free exclusive high-quality cards for Christmas for captions not covered by card companies.
  • Each member has access to a dedicated and retail experienced business development manager.
  • newsXpress helps with Google Business, Bing, and various maps profile setup and maintenance.

These are the things we do that your marketing claims we do not do.

Your marketing fails to highlight many things we do that Newspower does not do.

Helen has not responded to my email. I am not aware of Newspower publishing a correction. If they have not done so, it is disappointing that they have allowed marketing that they know contains false and misleading information to remain out there under their name.

There are four groups serving the newsagency channel. Newspower, newsXpress, nextra and The Lucky Charm. The last two, from what I understand, operate under the franchise code of conduct. Please let me know if I’m wrong about that.

The four groups are very different from each other. Here’s what I think separates newsXpress apart:

  • It leverages the common ownership of Tower Systems (the most widely used software in the newsagency channel) and newsXpress for evidence based guidance to more profitable business decisions. Through this, it also offers half price websites.
  • It offers innovative pricing for EFTPOS, lower cost than least cost routing.
  • newsXpress offers bias-free data-based card performance analysis that typically results in an increase in card sales of 15% or more.
  • Member businesses benefit from an exclusive $1,000+ a year per store in-store marketing campaign – provided at no cost to the members.
  • newsXpress runs a national in person conference with free accommodation for 2 nights and all meals covered.
  • newsXpress helps newsagents with practical business advice, in-store support, awesome supplier deals and plenty of new traffic generating exclusive products.
  • newsXpress directly owns and runs shops as testing grounds for innovation, sharing results with members.
  • newsXpress direct imports good margin products.
  • newsXpress is the only group to have authorised account access to four different Mints for access to new coin releases.
  • newsXpress has suppliers who otherwise will not supply newsagents.

What you do in and for your business is 100% up to you.

If you could use support and want fresh ideas for attracting new shoppers, consider newsXpress. Call Michael on 0400 331 055 or email help@newsxpress.com.au to find out more.

If you join, the newsXpress team will do all they can to help you run a more profitable and enjoyable business. Email help@newsXpress.com.au or call Michael on 0400 331 055.

If you’re on LinkedIn, here’s me in case you want to research me a bit more: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-fletcher-tower/

Mark Fletcher
Managing Director
newsXpress Pty Ltd
ABN 61 007 009 752 3A Lynch Street Hawthorn VIC 3122
M | 0418 321 338 E | mark@newsxpress.com.au


13 Ways Newsagents Can Boost Sales And Profits In Challenging Economic Times

If you or a retailer you know are finding economic conditions tough for your business you can complain, do nothing or make changes. Only one of these has any hope of improving the situation. My advice is to pursue change every time.

Here are 13 free and easy to implement action items any local small business retailer could consider to improve their situation.

  • Engage everyone in the shop. Let all team members know how the business is going, what it needs and why. Agree on achievable goals and steps to take in pursuing them. Track results openly. Keep communicating.
  • Declutter. If business is down and it’s getting to you, spend a day or two decluttering. Typically, the act of decluttering helps you see positive moves you can make in the business. Do this yourself. Make those moves.
  • Quit dead stock. What is dead will depend on your type of shop. For some, it will be stock that has not sold in 6 months while for others it will be stock that has not sold for 2 years. Dead stock wastes space, time and ties up cash. Anything you get for it is better than the daily cost of your dead stock today. And, in quitting, do it in 2 weeks. If it’s not gone, give it away.
  • Reward an additional purchase. Include a coupon on receipts that offers a reward if the customer makes another purchase in a short period of time – we suggest 7 days. While loyalty points programs focus on the longer-term relationship, the voucher proposed here is all about encouraging purchases sooner. In our software, this is discount vouchers.
  • Know what you are missing out on. In a typical shop, the top 5% selling items are out of stock 21% of the time. That is guaranteed revenue missed. Fix it and revenue will increase. Your POS software can easily show what you’re missing. In our software tis is on the Insights Dashboard.
  • Support a local community group in return for their members supporting you. Connect with a group that has plenty of members, the community loves and that does good work. Offer their members a discount off purchases and a contribution donation from each purchase value to the group. The goal is to get their members who don’t buy from you buying from you = new customers.
  • Have fun on social media. People go to social media to be entertained. Entertain them. Don’t overthink it. Have fun, show your business as a place of fun, share knowledge that differentiates your business.
  • Leverage free. Make sure your Google Business and Bing (yes, it’s a thing!) presences are up to date and fun.
  • Lower payments costs. Card payments can cost small business retailers between .075% and close to 2%. While you can surcharge customers, switching payments company could save plenty. If you switch, still surcharge tho.
  • Email your customers. If you have customer email addresses and know what they have bought, run some targeted email campaigns using this data.
  • Review pricing. Most retailers either follow the supplier suggested retail price or a mark-up percentage set many years ago. To determine the price you could sell an item for, ask that question. It could be that the convenience of your location and lack of easy to access competitors means you can sell items for more than is usual. If this is the case, do it. Most POS software makes it easy to make these price adjustments.
  • Talk to your suppliers. If you are finding it tough it is likely your suppliers are too. Ask if they have deal prices to move inventory. If they do and it is inventory you can easily sell, grab it for bonus margin.
  • Set your shop right. Make sure that your shop is guiding shoppers to spend, and spend more:
    • Inside the front door: Have a new display weekly. Bright. Optimistic. Fun. Unexpected.
    • At the counter: Pitch items people will easily purchase on impulse. Items that achieve the best performance and items they did not expect to see at your counter.
    • Have a scent: Incense, a candle – introduce a scent people like.
    • Have a sound: Play happy music people will know and sing along to.
    • If it is cold outside, make your shop warm.
    • If it is warm outside, make your shop cooler.
    • Move: Move at least one product category each week. This gives the shop a feeling of change.

My POS software company, Tower Systems, makes and supports POS software for local specialty retailers in Australia and New Zealand. I also own the newsXpress newsagency marketing group and own and runs shops.

I share practical advice like covered here because I love helping local independent retailers thrive.

Mark Fletcher
Managing Director
Tower Systems International (Aust) Pty Ltd
ABN 61 007 009 752
M | 0418 321 338 E | mark@towersystems.com.au
Sales: 1300 662 957 sales@towersystems.com.au

First published: June 27, 2024.

Management tip

Make sure you re ready for the new award wage rates

Click here to go to the Fair Work page with up to date award wage rates for our channel.

Now is also a good time to review the Award itself, especially the Retail Employee Level classifications as these determine the rate of pay that applies to a specific role. Classifications are where plenty of retailers trip up, often down the track when there is some other dispute.

If you are not sure about any of this, The Fair Work Ombudsman can provide advice in relation to award coverage. You can ask them questions anonymously.

Newsagency management

Right now could be a good time to promote Despicable Me ands Minions

The Are Media / Coles Despicable Me and Minions promotion prompted me to loom at the licence for opportunities for newsagents. In case you’ve missed it, here’s the Coles in-store pitch:

I checked Google search data using the SEMRush platform to which I subscribe and found that in Australia there are more than 180,000 searches with despicable Me in the search text. For Minions, the number is 472,000. That’s a ton of searches.

While plenty of the searches are for the entertainment products, plenty are for toys, games and books, a categories easy for our channel.

If you have Despicable Me and / or Minions product, my advice is to talk about it on social media and pitch it at the front of the shop or at the counter. You have nothing to lose and plenty to gain. It’s worth thin king about the various shoppers for these licences. While we at first think of them as kids products, there are plenty of adults who like the licences and collect products related to them.

I am aware of at least six suppliers with Despicable Me and Minions licences products I’d carry in the collectibles / gifting spaces.

While some newsagents may wish they had this Coles promotion, we can trade off the raised profile for these licences by being tactical.

Newsagency opportunities

Visual merchandising advice for newsagents who think they know northing about visual merchandising, and for blokes who always try and get out of creating a display

Everyone can do VM!

Visual merchandising is about display products in a way that attracts people to them, top look, touch and feel. Ultimately, it is about displaying products so you sell more.

Anyone can do visual merchandising.

Here is our advice.

  1. Start with a clean space, a flat surface, in a good location.
  2. The best display looks like a pyramid.
  3. Your hero product is at the top of the pyramid.
  4. If the display is for a season or some other sign-post event, the poster should be placed with the display so shoppers can see it without having to look for it.
  5. Flowing from the hero product down to the base of the display are other products. But not so many that you can’t see what you want people to see.
  6. The display is balanced, even.
  7. A display of gifts always includes cards.
  8. If the display is promoting homewares the pyramid approach is not needed. Instead, go for something that looks more natural, like in the home.
  9. Use coloured paper to highlight certain products. But don’t go for a rainbow.
  10. From a colour perspective, a good display has no more than two core colours as the focus.
  11. A display can look untidy and that is okay in some circumstances. For example, a box of Beanie Boos exploding from a box .
  12. Mistakes are okay.
  13. Oh, and don’t treat this as an engineering challenge. Keep it simple and fun! :

Take your time, have fun.

Remember, the alternative is no display at all.

A note to others who may be around when someone is doing their first display – we all did our first display once … be gentle.

Now, here are some more notes about displays:

In my opinion, the best displays have a narrative relevant to the business, a story or purpose. This is code for saying I am not a fan of single product or single supplier displays. suppliers love these, of course, as they are a billboard for them. What suits them will likely not suit you.

A good display is a collection of items from multiple suppliers, categories and segments that make sense together, from which a shopper could choose several for a gift, or for themselves. Choosing the items for the display us you curating the display, making editorial choices to tell the story you want to sell.

Don’t leave the display up for long. My advice is one week, two at the absolute maximum. Having a length of time for which a display will be live helps you allocate appropriate time for the creation of the display. if you are not sure how long to spend on it, set yourself and hour tops. Get it done within that time.

Once you’ve done a display, if you are new to this, ask for opinions. Learn. Each display will be an improvement on the last.

Whole the opinions of others can be nice, what matters from any display is the sales it achieves for you. be sure to track this as that data will inform your next choices.

Management tip

Lottery moves from a newsagency to a real estate business

A newsagency business in Australia is closing next week and the lottery part of the business is moving to a local real estate agency.

This move is another example of The Lottery Corporation significantly relaxing its approach to what makes a good retail fit for its products. I expect there are plenty of existing lottery retailers keen for similar relaxing of the rules that apply to their offering of lottery products – like space allocation and use.


Inspiring retail: newsXpress Sarina, Queensland

I am grateful to Shelley and Mark Petersen for the opportunity to discuss their journey from purchasing a traditional newsagency in Sarina, 25 minutes out of Mackay in Queensland and their transformation of the business into a loved gift and homewares destination.

This discussion is a deep dive into how to approach change and thrive in a local retail business in a channel that itself is experiencing considerable change.

Neither Mark or Shelley had experience in this type of business when they bought it in 2001. Today, they are experts because of the experiences they have embraced and continue to embrace.

Their pragmatic approach to business is inspiring. Their success is well deserved. Any retailer watching the video will discover how they can evolve their business in ways Shelley and Mark have.

newsXpress Sarina is seen by plenty as a newsagency and Post Office. While it is those things, it is primarily known in Sarina as the place to shop for gifts and things that will surprise. It’s a business of which Shelley and Mark can be proud.

For context, Sarina has a population of around 6,000. I mention this as there are newsagents I have spoken with in bigger towns who think they don’t have enough population.

Any newsagent can embrace the scope of change reflected in the video. It starts with that first step. If it works, do more of it. if it does to work, take a different step.

Newsagency management

Best practical advice on allocating space in your shop: analyse gross profit contribution by floorspace

The advice I share is something anyone can do. You don’t need a retail specialist. You don’t need advice from a supplier. You don’t have to rely on a mentor. You don’t need to use one of the overpriced business advisors governments often pitch to small business retailers.

Spend an hour on this and I am sure you will discover things you will wan t to change in your business. It’s advice I have been pitching to newsagents for 15+ years. It works.


This advice outlines one of the first assessments I ask to be done when asked to review the performance of any retail business, including a retail newsagency as it provides an understanding of the return being achieved from floor space allocation.

With space usually costing between 11% and 15% of (non agency) revenue in a typical Australian newsagency, it is usually the next highest cost outside of the cost of stock itself. How you use space matters to the financial health of the business.

Spend an hour on what I suggest here and the result should be a different view of the performance of your floor space allocation. This is not advice you will get from your accountant or from reviewing your P&L or computer reports. It is designed to be practically helpful in managing your business, practically useful to those in the business.

here are the simple steps I recommend you follow:

  1. Take a blank sheet of paper, ideally A3, and roughly sketch out the layout of your shop, marking in display units, wall shelving, the counter – everywhere you have product. There is no need to be 100% accurate.
  2. The floor plan layout should also include your back room if you have stock there.
  3. Colour-shade the layout by department and major category. For example, shade all areas with magazines in yellow, all floor space for gifts in blue, stationery green but pens in a different colour etc.
  4. List the departments and categories shaded on the side of the floor plan.
  5. Calculate the percentage of total space taken by each department or category. This does not need to be accurate to two decimal places. List this next to each department you have listed.
  6. Use your computer system to report on gross profit earned by each department and category over the twelve months.
  7. Calculate the percentage of total gross profit contribution earned by each department and category and list this next to the floor space allocated to each department.
  8. Circle in green those performing the best and in red those performing the worst. A best performing department will typically be responsible for a significantly higher percentage of gross profit than percentage of space allocated whereas a worst performing department will be contributing a percentage of overall gross profit considerably lower than the percentage of floor space allocated.
  9. Right away note down action items while the data is fresh in your head.
  10. Have the shortest gap possible between writing down your action plan and taking action.

Once you have the marked-up floor plan with the space percentage and percentage of total gross profit, think about your current floor space allocation.

Are the results what you expected?

What would you change?

What do others in the business think?

The steps suggested do not take into account product size and the average gross profit percentage from each dollar of revenue for a department. For example, ink is a lower margin product than stationery, gifts are a higher margin magazines. Typically, the analysis will highlight challenges with lower margin product.

The objective of the analysis is to provide you with fresh insights you could use when considering floor space change.

You can take the analysis a step further by looking only at one department and analysing performance by all categories in that department.

For example, in one business I saw pens taking 7% of stationery space while they contributed more than 40% of gross profit earned from all stationery. This raised the question of what might happen if more space was allocated to pens?

Every business I have worded with that has done this analysis has made changes as a result. Everyone involved has discovered things they had not expected. That’s the goal, to introduce fresh insights.

My advice here is not overly sophisticated. This is deliberate, so that anyone can do it.

Our channel has many suppliers full of opinions as to what we should do in our businesses. Most of those offering the advice don’t own and run retail businesses themselves. The best advice you can rely on for your business is that which you discover for yourself from performance data for your own business. 

If you do the data analysis I have suggested here and have questions, please reach out to me. I’d be happy to look at your results and discuss these with you. You can reach me at mark@towersystems.com.au.

I’d add that the advice here works for any type of retail business, not only newsagencies.

Now for an important footnote: it’s common for local small business retailers to put off work like this. I have seen it happen many times. In some cases I think it is because they think they know best while in other cases there is a fear of what they may discover and then there are some who say they don’t have time. None of these excuses are valid in my book.

Spend an hour and either have your current floorspace allocation validated or come out with a list of changes that pursue better business results. Either is a win.

The advice I have shared here is pare of the newsXpress knowledge base of advice to while all newsXpress members have access.

Management tip

Here’s a quick walk through one of my shops

I shot this video on my iPhone on Wednesday last week. What was once a newsagency has evolved.

I bought my first newsagency in February 1996, to provide practical experience for myself and others in my newsagency software company, Tower Systems. I’ve owned newsagencies ever since. It’s been wonderfully useful, and enjoyable.

Mount Waverley is a small formal high street store in a regular suburban shopping strip. It competes with Chadstone for shoppers, and does well.

This business used to identify as a newsagency. Not any more. Today, it’s a place where people can find hugs and celebrate those they love. What it offers is covered in the website we built for the shop: www.hugsandlove.com.au.

From Squishmallows to Jellycat to ravensberger jigsaws to awesome blind boxes to Nee Doh, this shop is packed with many categories of adorable and fun items people can buy for themselves and for others.

Newsagency opportunities

Update on self checkout in the newsagency

Use of the self checkout POS software terminal we have setup in one of my newsagencies continues to grow. Without any encouragement shoppers are happily scanning purchases and paying.

The mix of products continues to surprise: cards, gifts and stationery with the odd magazine or newspaper. Prior to installation we expected it to be used primarily for papers and magazines. We also expected it to be for single purchase transactions. Most transactions are two items and even more. Average transaction value is $25+.

We installed the self checkout terminal as a trial for my POS software company, to play with new tech. It was not installed for a newsagency specific reason.

My interest was to see if shoppers in an independent local retail business might use self checkout. Sure, we are wired to use these types of terminals in the major supermarkets. It’s rare in independent local retail businesses. So for our trial we needed to install the tech without fanfare or encouragement, to see how shoppers behave.

The $4,400 hardware and software solution is a lower cost than what the major supermarkets install. It’s a smaller footprint too.

I know from research that shoppers are turned off by self checkout POS software that is hard to navigate. We have made sure this is simple. The in-store experience has shown this to be the case. People of all ages are engaging. There is no tech barrier like we wondered there might have been.

A factor I had not considered that much is that there are shoppers who like a more private transaction of business. Self checkout works for them.

The supermarkets have crashed through with this tech and educated people to embrace it. This certainly does make it easier for local small business retailers to embrace if it is right for their own businesses. There is less pushback than would have been the case five years ago.

Tower Systems released its self checkout solution last year. It was developed for other retailers. Now, based on the experience in my own newsagency, we will keep the terminal. It is playing a good role in the business.

Newsagency management

SEO advice for your business website

On Tuesday I hosted a session for some Tower Systems customers on tips for improving search results for your website. This non-tech session provided practical advice anyone could follow. I am sharing it here following feedback from plenty who have watched the video of the session. If you have a business website or planning one, this free to access video might be useful:

Newsagency management