Australian Newsagency Blog

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

Online now 26.7% of Tabcorp lottery revenue

Mark Fletcher on February 19, 2020 10:53 AM

In their half year results, Tabcorp reports that online sales are up 39.8% to 26.7% of lottery revenue while retail is up 5.2% for the same period.

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Next steps: your newsagency of the future

Mark Fletcher on February 19, 2020 6:32 AM

So, how can you find next to your own newsagency of the future. Here are some ideas:

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Newsagency of the Future: more on the c-store question

Mark Fletcher on February 18, 2020 6:41 AM

In response to a couple of calls in the last 24 hours following yesterday’s video…

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Newsagency of the Future: In the wake of the Touch decision

Mark Fletcher on February 17, 2020 6:14 AM

I’ve had calls from newsagents following the announcement by AfterPay last week that they were closing the Touch business. It’s got people thinking about their newsagency of the future.

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Premium Easter

Mark Fletcher on February 16, 2020 8:54 AM

This rabbit is one of 4 in the shop on show for Easter, each a different colour, playing in a more premium space for this small but important season. Artist designed and hand made in Europe, this rabbit is an interesting counter talking point and unlike other Easter offers in the mall of 300 shops. It’s also a photo op with people who like how unique it is.

The more we play away from what is usual the better the opportunity for us to be surprised with new traffic and revenue.

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Smart home grown pitch

Mark Fletcher on February 15, 2020 9:20 AM

The home grown pitch by Ardmona on their shelf packaging is smart and helps inform shoppers keen to genuinely shop local.

This pitch is a reminder to us retailers to actively inform shoppers about locally made and sourced products as shop local is about more than us having a locally owned shop.

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Fringe retail can be educational

Mark Fletcher on February 15, 2020 7:01 AM

In London recently I saw plenty of retail. However, it was at the fringe, at placed like Cyberdog, where I saw the most focussed and on-point retail. While I don’t go to raves, I loved this shop.

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Whatever happened with flat-wrap newspaper delivery?

Mark Fletcher on February 14, 2020 12:55 PM

In a cafe this morning I noticed this bent mess and wondered.

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Shop local matters more than ever in small business indie retail

Mark Fletcher on February 14, 2020 6:31 AM

Social media pitches from small business retailers calling for people to shop local tend to be tiresome clichés, serving the needs of those who post rather than those they want to reach.

Too often you can see a business calling for people to shop local not shopping local themselves.

For me, the shop local issue comes down to the adage of actions speak louder than words.

In these early months of 2020, on the back of an awful bushfire season, sustained rounds, now, floods, and the coronavirus, shop local management is important and timely. I say management because that has to be our focus.

  • Wherever possible, source products made locally where locally can mean in the local community, within the state or territory or at least within Australia. This is hard but rewarding work.
  • Source the services your business uses locally, at least within Australia. Just because a company has a local rep it does not mean they are local. Ask.
  • Focus any giving locally.
  • Systemise your local engagement. On receipts, show locally made items. Have tis information shared with shoppers automatically.
  • In store, indicate Australian made and locally made with curated displays that pitch this.
  • On social media, talk about your support for local groups and why. Don’t be oh look at how good we are. Rather, be grateful about finding local products and appreciating customer support for them.
  • Use your loyalty program to support local charities where shoppers have the opportunity of donating the loyalty reward they have earned to a local charity you partner with. In my own Tower Systems POS software this is easy. I have used it my own businesses with success.
  • Use local music play lists.
  • Leverage local talent for music out the front of your store in physically appropriate.

This is all about being patriotic without being a show off, without being a hollow bell. You strengthening your local engagement strengthens the local economy and all businesses (and people) in the local economy benefit from that.

Where this all starts is with your next buying decision of products or services. Ask the question. Be sure of where the dollar you spend goes.  This is more valuable and useful than posting lazily on social media calling for people to shop local.

Asking people to shop with you is not enough of itself. You need to demonstrate that you are living and acting locally.

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Touch to cease operations.

Mark Fletcher on February 13, 2020 10:37 AM

Two weeks ago, senior management at Afterpay confidentially advised they were shutting down their Touch business – the business through which close to 2,000 newsagents access phone recharge and other voucher related products.

This news is set to be announced to you today by Touch. I mention it here because NANA emailed newsagents in its database yesterday, unexpectedly.

Through the Tower integrated ezipass platform close to all 1,700+ Tower Systems software user newsagents have relied on Touch for 15+ years.

As far as I am aware, there is no other POS software integrated platform available.

If you want to offer voucher services, I think you will be forced to go with an ePay terminal, which is not integrated. I don’t like ePay. They have not helped support small business retailers. Their approach is to require you to use stand-alone technology on the counter to sell their products. This is inefficient.

I am pursuing alternatives as sourcing these through a POS software company makes the most sense.

If the decision by Afterpay to close frustrates you, please know that it frustrates me too. I like their platform and their people and have enjoyed doing business with them.

For what it is worth in the three shops I own and run, we will cease to offer these Touch type services. Our businesses have transitioned significantly away from traditional newsagency retail with more revenue coming from outside what has been usual for that retail channel.

Mark Fletcher
Managing Director
Tower Systems
0418 321 338

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The loss making book promotion from News Corp.

Mark Fletcher on February 13, 2020 6:18 AM

The newspaper sales latest book promotion from News Corp. is as frustrating as these promotions have become with stock arriving in bulk the week before and fully paying for this before 90% of the stock can be sold. Then, there is the appalling margin position.

Add to these points that the promotion drives minimal net new traffic and you can see why it is not highly regarded by many retailers.

As well as the paltry margin that itself does not even cover labour and space, News Corp wants floor stickers and posters, visual noise that detract from the messages that are more commercially valuable for our business. This is why I removed all  promotional material on the weekend.

I get that publishers want to support over the counter newspaper purchases as they play a valuable role in conversion to subscription, especially digital subscription. I’d like to see a fairer billing cycle, better margin and more active support of retail newsagents as locations.

Running a promotion that takes up so much time and space and distracts from the new core of the business no longer works for me. So, something has to give. In the face of tired and inflexible promotions from News, I think my next step is one I have to take. The future of my business is not in low margin inefficient agency lines.

I was frustrated when I saw the books and posters on Saturday because there is so much good margin news in the shop with new categories performing well and delivering high-value new shoppers to the business. I saw all this good news and the fresh appeal off the front of the shop and then, thud, there was this  reminder of practices from decades ago. It was like going back in time.

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Experiential retail in London

Mark Fletcher on February 12, 2020 6:23 AM

Here is a video I shot a couple of days ago with a newsXpress colleague where we talk about six interesting shops we saw in London when there on business.

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Pitching plastic free as a card differentiator

Mark Fletcher on February 11, 2020 8:20 AM

Most of the cards displayed at Marks & Spencer are wrapped in cello. For the small range not wrapped in cello, they pitch this sign:

While the gesture feels token in this large department store, it is a message.

Elsewhere at card and gifts trade shows here in Australia as well as overseas, card manufacturers are taking a stronger stand with some saying cello has been if is being removed altogether. Others have found innovative approaches to maintaining physical product integrity.

This is an active space for us as retailers as more shoppers want to see less waste in what we sell. Reducing cello / plastic from cards will help with sales.

Indie retailers are better positioned to leverage the new approach to packaging greeting cards than supermarkets or department stores.

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I love a good Diana cover

Mark Fletcher on February 10, 2020 9:11 PM

The cover of the latest issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly made me nostalgic for the days of when a Diana on a cover would guarantee extra foot traffic and terrific sales. We have pitched this issue on social media and at the counter to leverage the nostalgia interest. Supermarkets and other non newsagency retailers will, of course, do nothing special to promote this issue.

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Behind the latest newsagency sales benchmark results

Mark Fletcher on February 10, 2020 6:31 AM

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The impact of Coronavirus in some retail situations

Mark Fletcher on February 9, 2020 2:10 PM

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The New Daily on News Corp…

Mark Fletcher on February 8, 2020 1:33 PM

The New Daily has published analysis by Rod Muir on the latest News Corp numbers.

Audiences deserted Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp mastheads in 2019 with its tabloid tub-thumper The Daily Telegraph losing a massive 15.5 per cent of its readership across both print and digital editions, according to research house Roy Morgan.

The performance was reflected in the second quarter’s financial results, which saw the group’s Australian mastheads suffer a 9 per cent revenue hit for the three months to December 31.

“The results were affected by a sluggish Australian economy, uncharacteristic softness in book publishing, and foreign exchange fluctuations,” said News CEO Robert Thomson.

The piece includes this table of Roy Morgan data on new masthead performance:

The latest newsagency benchmark report has similar results for newspapers. While The New Daily piece focusses on the ‘reporting’ published by News, I think the over the counter results reflect a challenge with the medium itself, particularly with the daily print product.

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2019 vs. 2018 newsagency sales benchmark study results

Mark Fletcher on February 7, 2020 6:36 AM

Growth opportunities on show in 2019 vs. 2018 full year newsagency sales benchmark study results.

SUMMARY
Newsagency businesses in the benchmark study data pool focussed on new traffic generators fared well in 2019 compared to the performance of traditional newsagency businesses. 4 of the 5 traditional categories experienced year on year declines while all of the new product categories delivered growth.

Newsagencies focussed on change through new product categories are the future of the channel. New product categories usually offer a significantly better margin, better sell-through rate and better basket efficiency compared to traditional newsagency lines.

New product categories will evolve, too. What is strong today will be challenged by another category tomorrow. Change, substantial change is the new normal in retail.

THE DATASET
This newsagency sales benchmark study represents a comparison of sales data from 161 newsagency businesses for the 2018 and 2019 calendar years. These businesses are representative: city and country, high street and mall, banner groups and independent. The only thing connecting the businesses is that they use the Tower newsagency software. Note: Each data point below is the average, mean, of all data for the data point.

OVERALL PERFORMANCE METRICS.

  • Transaction count. Down 3.5%.
  • Sales revenue. Down 5%.
  • Basket depth. Down 3%.
  • Basket dollar value. Down 3%.

CORE PRODUCTS.

  • Newspapers. Over the counter unit sales. Down 10.5%.
  • Magazines. Over the counter unit sales. Down 12.5%.
  • Greeting cards. Revenue. Down 3.5%.
  • Stationery. Revenue. Down 9%.
  • Lotteries. Revenue. Up 23%.
  • Tobacco. Revenue. Down 19%.
  • Agency. Parcels, gift cards, betting account top-up. Down 4%.

SPECIALTY PRODUCTS.

  • Gifts. Revenue. Up 11%.
  • Toys. Revenue. Up 7%. Includes puzzles.
  • Plush. Revenue. Up 6%.
  • Collectibles. Revenue. Up 5%.
  • Craft. Revenue. Up 3%.
  • Coffee. Revenue. Up 17%.
  • Books. Revenue. Up 6%.
  • Calendars. Revenue. Up 6%.

Despite there being plenty of bad news at the department and category level, this latest study reveals plenty of good news. It encourages confidence around pursuing change, embracing new product categories and leveraging these to help redefine the focus of the business.

While the newsagency shingle remains for many businesses in our channel, movement away from what that shingle has stood for is key to the future.

Print media is a problem.
With 
margins slim – 25% for magazines and around 12% for papers for many – the impact of the continuing decline in sales is significant. The only to make papers and magazines work is to reduce costs associated switch carrying these products – retail space and labour. Changes here can encourage further decline. This is why more newsagents are wondering when they might quit print. 

Unless there is a change to margin percentage and an improvement in magazine cover prices, I suspect more in newsagents will exit print, unfortunately.

The growth categories.
Looking at the product categories for which there was growth – gifts, toys, plush, collectibles, 
craft, coffee – less than half the businesses in the dataset offered more than two of these. Even with the easy category of gift, more than a 25% of those reporting do not offer gifts, which shocks me.

City vs. Country.
Regional and rural businesses continue to perform better. This is across the board. It has always been thus. I think this is due in part to a lower retail space cost, stronger local shopper support and less competition.

Upside opportunities.
Toys, crafts, coffee, gifts, books and plush offer upside, as has been the case for several years. The best success comes from dealing with suppliers who do not usually supply the newsagency channel. That said, what each of these category labels mean varies significantly between businesses.

The role of online.
While there has been growth in the contribution of online, in an average business it accounts for less than 4% of non lottery revenue. There are some achieving more than 10% but they are small in number. Too many newsagents and missing out on the online opportunity.

Is a newsagency a good investment? 
My answer to this question continues to be yes. There is traffic value remaining in core products and opportunity to leverage this in other product categories.

The success of any newsagency business is more reliant on the retailer than on the channel itself. A poor retailer will run a poor newsagency. A good retailer will run a more successful newsagency.

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.

Finally, I am grateful to all newsagents who shared their data for inclusion in this study.

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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Impressive Bookshop by WH Smith

Mark Fletcher on February 6, 2020 6:13 AM

Bookshop by WH Smith at Gatwick airport is impressive. While the product mix, table fixtures and shelving are not that different to the usual book retail in airports, the colour, signage and lighting choices give Bookshop a fresh and noticeable look.

Book retail in transit locations is strong. Range and ease of shopping are key. Giving an experience that takes you out of the usual airport rush and noise is important.

I like Bookshop. What they have done with this is fresh compared to the traditional high street retail we see from WH Smith.

Here are some photos that illustrate these points.

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Lottoland still active

Mark Fletcher on February 5, 2020 4:10 PM

While politicians have patted themselves on their backs for ‘fixing’ the Lottoland betting model, Lottoland is still in business as this Super Bowl promotional email shows. This must be frustrating to lottery retailers given how Lottoland mocked them in their TV commercials.

I can’t help but think this issue would have been resolved had all newsagent associations followed the ALNA strategy that led to the initial legislation being passed.

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Coronavirus to impact the supply chain

Mark Fletcher on February 4, 2020 6:13 PM

Few suppliers at the Melbourne Gift Fair talked about the impact on the supply chain of the Coronavirus when, in reality, the impact is already being felt with factories in China remaining closed for two weeks longer than at this New Year time of the year.

There is talk that the Chinese government may extend the restart following Chinese New Year for a third time. The impact is not only  the finished goods factories but also those making components for them.

Once the factories do start, there will be logistical challenges with freight capacity finite.

Beyond the factory closures, there will be other impacts as governments deal with broader aspects of the virus. At borders, for example, there is discussion of new checks – based on what gift and related importers I deal with are saying.

I am also aware that major tech companies have announced hardware supply delays as a result of the impact of the virus on production plans.

Kudos to suppliers being transparent about the impact. Shame on any talking preorders and prepayments (or deposits) for product that will be impacted.

Retailers relying on locally made products will be less impacted.

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Taking a look at experiential retail

Mark Fletcher on February 3, 2020 5:12 AM

The experience in the physical retail store matters more today than ever before thanks to smarter and more engaging online experiences. By experience, I mean more than professional service with a smile, accurate transacting and a neat and stoppable store layout.

The experience that matters today is what your store offers that is so interesting and memorable that people will tell others.

With some newsXpress colleagues I visited several interesting stores in Atlanta and New York when in the US for the Atlanta Gift Fair buying for newsXpress. Here is a 30 minute video of some of the stores we visited that we found interesting. There were others, and more insights too. This video reflects highlights.

The video is another example of one for of the many insights newsXpress offers its members – not suggesting they copy these retailers but, rather, to be aware of how retail is evolving in a range of specialty niches.

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Refreshing Saturdays in the newsagency

Mark Fletcher on February 1, 2020 4:12 PM

Saturdays used to be big in retail newsagencies, back when there were fewer lottery draws, little or no Sunday trading and less late night shopping. We need to refresh Saturdays if the day is to be commercially valuable. Here are some suggestions:

  • Host events. Saturday specific. Fun. Engaging. Based around products people would not expect you to stock.
  • Host a local activities club – knitting, crochet, book, wine. Bring them and help them find new members.
  • Use the day for unpacking new product and get known for Saturdays as being the day for new product.
  • Free cake. Everyone loves cake. Partner with a local cake shop.
  • Draw prizes. If you do a lottery second chance draw, draw it on a Saturday with a bonus for the winner if they are in-store.
  • New displays. Make it a day of major change, noticeable change, in the shop.
  • Promote Saturday deals.

What ever you do it has to be about your business as it is the commercial outcomes you are looking for. I mention this so you can focus on what you need rather than what a local group may need / want ahead of you.

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Herald Sun front page coronavirus headline is offensive

Mark Fletcher on February 1, 2020 6:32 AM

The headline, Chinese virus pandamonium (sic) on the front page of the Herald Sun yesterday was, in my opinion, racist and unnecessary.

I wish I had been at the shop because had I been and had I seen this I would not have put the newspaper out for sale.

Yes, I get that such a move is editorial in itself. However, in my shop I get to choose what I sell. This issue of the Herald Sun is not something I’d want to knowingly sell.

Back in mid 1996, a few months after I bought my first newsagency, we made the decision to stop selling cigarettes. We turned err back soon $2,000+ a week in retail sales. This was a decision based on what we felt was right for the business, for what it represented. It was the right decision.

Click here for more on this from Mumbrella, which was also the source of the image.

Footnote: now, before people say this is News Corp. bashing. I don’t care. I did not decide to run the headline in the Herald Sun. What I did do is label it racist. However, I think any reasonable person would reach this conclusion. News Corp. needs to be responsible for these race based and shrill editorial decisions.

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Newsagents and what we sell

Mark Fletcher on January 31, 2020 6:58 PM

More and more newsagents are being referenced on social media and it’s not always how we might like.

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