Australian Newsagency Blog

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

Why are there so many empty shops in Australia?

Mark Fletcher on July 17, 2019 5:56 AM

Talk to any small business retailer and they will have stories about empty shops in their area that are having a negative impact on their business.

In shopping centres, suburban high streets and country town main roads, there are plenty of empty shops.

Some have been empty for years.

Empty shops make a shopping centre or area feel unpopular, making the task of attracting shoppers harder for remaining retailers.

Some councils have been innovative in addressing the vacant retail space challenge by opening them to local makers and artists. Most councils, however, have not.

Why are there so many empty shops? Talk to retailers and they will blame landlords for rents that are too high. Talk to economists and others expert in retail property space as a ratio of population and they will say that Australia has too much retail space. Talk to the folks in some specific towns and they will blame the main street empty spaces on the new mall that has opened just outside town. Talk to almost anyone and they will blame online. Talk to some landlords and they will say retailers are not innovative enough.

As with any contentious issue that has opposing vested interests, it is hard to get to the truth of the situation.

For what it is worth, my opinion is that the answer to the question lies in a mixture of the reasons offered above.

I do think we have too much retail space in Australia. Rent is among the highest in the world. Retail is not that innovative. People are shopping online for convenience. So, yes, I am hedging my bets.

That said, the why does not matter as much as what to do with them.

Occasionally, you can find a pragmatic landlord who is happy to have a space filled at a lower rent than sit empty for a year or more. I think we need more pragmatic landlords.

Occasionally, we see small business retailers burst out of what has been traditional for their type of business and create something genuinely innovative, which is embraced by local shoppers. We need more of this.

Occasionally, we see empty shops torn down and the space used for something difference. We need to see much more of this.

The challenge for small business retailers today with empty shops nearby is how to deal with the stench of those empty shops.

If your landlord has those shops too and there is one next to you, ask them if you can use the space for display. To me, that would be a win win for you both.

If the shops are not from your landlord, the most obvious response will be to be louder and bigger from your premises. By louder, I mean more events to attract shoppers, give people more reason to come to you.

The best way to deal with online is to be online yourself, with a compelling offer, probably under a brand that is not your shop brand, seeking out shoppers far from your shop location.

The alternative to action is to complain because, yeah, complaining achieves a lot … not.

Empty shops are a problem in Australia. How we deal with that in our own retail businesses comes down to us and the actions we take.

8 likes

→ 1 CommentCategory: Newsagency challenges · Newsagency management · newsagency of the future · Newsagency opportunities · retail · retail leases · Small Business

Hmm, which Moon landing product to sell

Mark Fletcher on July 16, 2019 7:27 PM

  1. One Giant Leap from News Corp from which I make 78.4 cents.
  2. A Moon landing commemorative coin from which I make $48.00.

Okay, option one is sale or return and could sell in higher volume. However, option is limited-edition, rare and based on experience already is an easy sell.

In fact, I expect to sell six of the coins and make $288.00, which equals 367 of One Giant Leap. I expect to sell only ten or fifteen of these.

I get why commemorative booklets are produced. However, the numbers don’t work for newsagents.

3 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: Ugh!

GNS road shows

Mark Fletcher on July 16, 2019 6:04 AM

GNS is hosting more roadshows, offering newsagents opportunities to see products and talk face to face with representatives from the newsagent owned business.

This approach of taking products closer to retailers rather than larger capital city focussed trade trade shows respects the geographic challenges of Australia.

1 likes

→ 1 CommentCategory: Stationery

How are newspaper sales in cafes?

Mark Fletcher on July 15, 2019 6:17 AM

With Starbucks announcing they are getting out of selling newspapers, it is timely to ask Aussie newsagents what their newspaper sales to cafes are like. While it was a trend years ago, I suspect that sales today are minimal.

One newsagent I spoke too a couple of weeks ago said they had closed several sub accounts with cafes because the sales volume was too low to justify the work.

If you have subagent cafes, how are your. newspaper sales to cafes?

7 likes

→ 4 CommentsCategory: Newspapers

Timely reminder on pay rates and entitlements

Mark Fletcher on July 14, 2019 7:09 AM

The news last week that the new CEO of Michael Hill jewellers identified a $25M shortfall in employee pay and entitlements is a timely reminder to all retail business owners…

  • Check employee classifications and ensure they match their tasks.
  • Check rates of pay for each employee to ensure they are correct.
  • Check entitlements for each employee and enquire they are correct.

Time checking these today could avoid penalties down the track. Government data matching makes catching mistakes and misbehaviour easier for the regulators.

The areas noted above are part of the provisions of the vulnerable workers legislation.

5 likes

→ 3 CommentsCategory: Ethics · Newsagency management

Newsagency management tip for leveraging the Powerball $110M jackpot

Mark Fletcher on July 13, 2019 6:54 AM

Big lottery jackpots can be a challenge in that they can suck cash out of the local economy that might otherwise have been useful for spending of products in your shop. They can also be beneficial in bringing in people you have not seen before. The key is what you do with the new traffic.

Here are some ideas for leveraging big lottery jackpot traffic:

  1. Map the route. Sketch out your floor layout and mark the route most jackpot customers will travel. This shows you the areas of your shop where you need to focus, where to place impulse purchase lines.
  2. Make them walk through it. Create a fresh environment of products through which lottery shoppers to walk. This is where you pitch what you do that is different. It is crucial shoppers walking through the front part of the shop feel and see the change.
  3. Staff for it. Consider hiring extra staff to manage traffic and have someone on the floor playing with products, pricing, working with products – near the lottery counter. Give people things to look at and therefore contemplate purchasing. We know from experience that activity by staff on the shop floor drives sales.
  4. Pitch at the door. As they enter and, crucially, as they leave. Show them products they would not expect you to have in the shop. Make it easy for people to buy these products.
  5. Pitch at the counter. Stand where your lottery customers will stand. Look at what they will see. make sure your messages are clean, simple and engaging. Everything they can see should be about getting them to spend money with you.
  6. Have fun.

The value of any lottery jackpot to your business beyond lottery commission depends on what you do.

10 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: Lotteries · Management tip · marketing tip · Newsagency management · Newsagency opportunities

How businesses do business is fundamentally changing, are you ready?

Mark Fletcher on July 12, 2019 5:59 AM

Back in the day in retail doing business was all about face to face contact in-store or a nearby coffee shops. Relationships mattered. This is why suppliers and service providers invested in sales teams.

Good sales people could get a meeting and the required business from face to face interaction.

Today, things are different. Retail businesses run with less staff and management hours in the business. More decisions are made outside the business, on the road, while at a second job or from home. More decisions are being made and business transacted without any face to face discussion. Even phone contact matters less.

I want to look at what is happening here from the perspective of how we do business with our customers in our retail shops. More and more transactional business is done without live human contact. There is the obvious route of online (web) for sure. However, there is also business done through message platforms, email and elsewhere, where there is no face to face contact with shoppers.

Are you setup for this? Are you connecting with people through social media and able to sell to them through here? Are you timely in handling emails? Are you prepared with images and information sheets on products you sell so you can sell without face to face?

Without a doubt more and more retail business is being done outside of shops. We in small business retail need to configure and equip our businesses to be able to do this. This is part about technology, part about business mindset and part about availability.

Too often, I see small business retailers express anger and frustration at obvious baddies – landlords, employees, customers and more – for poor business performance. Right now, with how the conduct of business is shifting, we need to look at ourselves and how we conduct business. We need to make sure that we are meeting potential customers where they are. We need to realise that more often than ever before, that is outside and, sometimes, far away from our shop. We need to do this when those customers want. Often times, that is when we are closed.

This is the new normal of retail.

11 likes

→ 6 CommentsCategory: Newsagency management · newsagency of the future · Newsagency opportunities

EFTPOS / ATM outage hurting newsagents, could hurt $80M Powerball

Mark Fletcher on July 11, 2019 5:34 PM

This afternoon was going to be big for many newsagents with Powerball at $80M. Unfortunately for many last-minute punters who rely on using their debit and cards for payment, an EFTPOS outage that hit mid afternoon is a barrier to getting a ticket. This will hurt retailers, plenty of whom rostered on extra staff for the traffic surge.

The banks point to Telstra. Telstra has acknowledged a problem. That does not fix it.

Being a Thursday, a pay day for plenty, complicates things.

Within our channel, the loss of Powerball sales from mid afternoon to close will be at a cost. Maybe the lottery gods will smile upon everyone and delivery a jackpot to next week. $100M would kick things along.

1 likes

→ 4 CommentsCategory: Newsagency challenges

Newsagency marketing challenge: sympathy cards

Mark Fletcher on July 11, 2019 5:57 AM

You don’t often see retailers, including newsagents, actively promoting sympathy cards. Maybe, they don’t want to be seen to be promoting or making money off of death. Maybe they don’t like what they have to sell.

Sympathy is a card caption where the card itself is critical to striking the right tone the card giver wants for the situation. This is why range is critical and why people take more time choosing a sympathy card than some other captions.

The thing with expressing sympathy is … it is hard to do, hard to get just right. This is where we retailers play a key role, if we engage.

Too often, the only marketing activity newsagents engage in with sympathy cards is having them in the appropriate pockets in the card department. While this is okay for serving destination shoppers, it misses the opportunity with those who might otherwise, this time, not give a card.

For the sympathy category to help people express themselves, we need to reach outside the card department, in-store and elsewhere, and shine a light on expressing sympathy,. showing different cards, difference voices, through which ti can be done. We need to do this in a way that is respectful yet retail outcome focussed – we are in business after all.

Here his one way I ddi this with newsXpress recently, using video, for social media…

4 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: Greeting Cards

Some days I wonder why people pay to be yelled at by commentators like Rita Panahi in News Corp. newspapers.

Mark Fletcher on July 10, 2019 5:04 PM

This, today, by Rita Panahi is stupid. It should not have made it into the paper.

7 likes

→ 4 CommentsCategory: Social responsibility

The balanced promotion

Mark Fletcher on July 10, 2019 6:16 AM

I like the product balance in the promotion I saw running at the newsagency outlet at Melbourne Airport.

What I especially like is the balance of products in the display: water, candy, magazines, books snacks, games, journals and more. By balance I mean breadth of range.

Of course the $1 million prize opportunity is eye catching. From a marketing perspective, this is a whole of store opportunity, hence the range.

The breadth of products is a reminder to take a broad approach in creating a display – the more product categories represented the better. Suppliers who ask retailers to create a display featuring only their product should take note – that does not usually serve the needs of the retail business.

2 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: marketing

Celebrating the anniversary of the moon landing

Mark Fletcher on July 9, 2019 1:19 PM

Customers are loving the coin sets celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the moon landing from the Royal Australian Mint that we have in stock. It is part of a broader range of boxed collector sets we have from the Mint.

You know you are on a winner when a customer planning to spend $5.00 on an everyday item spends $195.00 on a collectible coin, and then they say they will be back for more.

This is a perfect product for our type of store. We are using social media to help us attract new shoppers.

7 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: Newsagency opportunities

Excellent growth in games and puzzles for newsagency businesses

Mark Fletcher on July 9, 2019 6:07 AM

I have seen industry wide sales data for the toy category for the year to May 2019. It is interesting to see a good result for games in this as it is a category with which newsagents can easily engage.

Diving deeper, it is fascinating to see terrific diversity in the games mix. While well known titles like Monopoly and Cards Against Humanity are doing well, lesser known, niche, titles are working well too. Table top games are proving to be especially successful.

I see strong opportunities in the games space, opportunities for a permanent (or as permanent as can be) space allocation in store for games.

What is interesting abut the games shopper is that they are loyal, appreciate product knowledge, appreciate range and will participate in in-store events. These are all attribute we can lean into in newsagency businesses. We can leverage them and drive greater success.

Core to success is shop floor engagement. This means having a table setup with a game on it for people playing. This simple move drives impulse purchases, even if people do not often play the game as setup. I see it every time. Put in a table with a gameosetup and sales lift, immediately. If you are in the game space, do this. Even if you don’t have room. Make room and see the sales growth.

if you are not in the games space, consider it. However, success depends on the right range, displayed well (not necessarily;y pretty), pitched on social media and backed with occasional in-store events. It is an interactive product category after all.

Thinking of my work with newsXpress, there are seven suppliers offering range, competitive pricing, first to market opportunities and terrific product knowledge … enabling indie retailers to compete with major retailers as well as the top franchises.

6 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: Newsagency management · Newsagency opportunities

The Harvey Norman hardly normal coverup of The Age

Mark Fletcher on July 8, 2019 5:52 AM

Denise Scott, an awesome Melbourne based comedian and Aussie legend makes the case here…

9 likes

→ 4 CommentsCategory: newspaper masthead desecration

Newsagency marketing tip: Christmas in July

Mark Fletcher on July 7, 2019 7:23 AM

I first wrote about Christmas in July here eight years ago. What was a good season then is even better now. Here is a refreshed list of tips for making it a success.

  1. Run the Christmas in July campaign over no more than two weeks in July. One week could be enough.
  2. Choose dates which are away from any other promotion – it works best with little competition.
  3. Get all team members engaged.
  4. Set aside spoke front of store, in their face.
  5. Dress the team and the store to suit the Christmas theme.
  6. Display any spare Christmas stock from last year.
  7. Play Christmas music.
  8. Choose a day for an extra special celebration and make this an all-out focus.
  9. Have a competition for the kids around the theme.
  10. Create a giant Christmas stocking which one lucky customer can win.
  11. Use the event to discount any slow moving items. It its a perfect opportunity to quit stock.
  12. Promote on social media.

Christmas in July is an excellent opportunity to get suppliers on board.  Maybe they could provide products for you to give away as gifts – I.E. every shopper gets spending over $10 a ‘Christmas’ gift.  Suppliers could use your promotion as an ideal time for trialling products and getting your customers engaged.

7 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: marketing

Big W quitting magazines is good for newsagents

Mark Fletcher on July 6, 2019 7:01 AM

I first heard about Big W planning on quitting magazines earlier this year. It was good news but I wanted to see it happen before commenting.

Now, newsagents near Big W stores are telling me they are seeing a bump in magazine sales. This is good news.

The decision by the group to quit magazines is another in a series of decisions as they recalibrate their business. The magazine category is not the only one to see significant change. However, it is the category that directly affects our channel.

If your newsagency has a Big W nearby, now would be a good time to pitch magazines, especially the depth of your range, to attract people who may have shopped at Big W and not at your store for magazines. If you run a loyalty program, promote that too as it could entice the Big W shopper to engage with you.

Newsagents were in magazines long before Big W and we are still win the category after they quit. This is a good message for small business retail. 

9 likes

→ 3 CommentsCategory: magazines · Newsagency management

Good result for Bauer

Mark Fletcher on July 5, 2019 2:31 PM

From Mediaweek (referencing a story at The Australian, which is behind a pay wall):

Bauer back in black: Cost-cutting key to magazines making a profit

The company, which publishes magazines including The Australian Women’s Weekly and Woman’s Day, swung to a net profit of $6.3 million for the year to December 31, despite a 13.7 per cent drop in revenue to $224.3m, according to its 2018 financial report, which was lodged with corporate regulator ASIC on Wednesday.

That compares to a net loss of $11.3m in 2017.

Bauer’s editorial expenses dropped to $58m last year, from $72.6m in 2017, with marketing and ad expenses falling to $46.4m, from $54m. Its administration expenses fell to $45.6m, from $55.3m.

Of the group’s $224.3m of revenue, about $142.1m came from the sale of magazines and $48.8m from advertising.

4 likes

→ 1 CommentCategory: magazines

Mad magazine to end regular publication

Mark Fletcher on July 5, 2019 6:32 AM

Mad magazine is ceasing regular print issues. This is sad news. It’s a magazine I have enjoyed regularly for decades. It has taught generations about satire. It has been a good title to mix it with sarcasm products. Al Feldstein, the genius behind the magazine, passed away five years ago.

4 likes

→ 2 CommentsCategory: magazines

New financial year suggestions

Mark Fletcher on July 5, 2019 6:28 AM

Here is a list I have put together of things small business retailers could reasonably consider at the start of this new financial year:

  1. Change your passwords. Share them sparingly.
  2. Review your department and categories. Ensure they accurately reflect your business and how you want performance reported.
  3. Review system use to determine if fraud is an issue. Our help desk team can help business owners (and only business owners) with this.
  4. if you are not using Discount Vouchers, consider it as it continues to be the easiest and most effective revenue and return visit building tool we have see.
  5. Review your opening hours / roster based on a revenue by time assessment.
  6. Take a look at workflow at the counter. Look at steps you can take to streamline the experience. More efficient sales will help drive sales revenue.
  7. Set aside every invoice that you currently enter manually. Email a copy to us at support@towersystems.com.au along with supplier contact details. We will reach out to them for you, encouraging them to provide you with an electronic invoice, which will save time and improve data accuracy.
  8. Consider cloud based backupfor faster, safer, backups.
  9. If you have a website, consider an SEO campaign to lift its profile. If your website is more than two years old, consider a refresh or replacement.
4 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: Newsagency management

Inspiration

Mark Fletcher on July 4, 2019 6:07 AM

I talk with newsagents every day in all sorts of situations. This clip of past of a speech by actor ohn Krasinski at Brown University, which came upon win my Twitter feed, speaks, I think, to the challenges many newsagents face today. I hope you find it interesting. Oh, by the way, the full speech is online too.


I especially love these quotes…

Remember to be scared.

Take chances, fail big, and take chan yes again.

Before you do something special, just do something.

6 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: Optimism

Magazines. Keeping newsagents unique.

Mark Fletcher on July 3, 2019 6:13 AM

Click here to see Magazines. Keeping newsagents unique. a terrific guide published by the MPA, Magazine Publishers of Australia, in June 2003.

As you will see in throughout this document, the MPA offered comprehensive advice on magazine range, display, promotion and management, advice that was ideal for that time.

My first every magazine relay in-store flowed from this MPA work.

While magazines play a lesser role today in terms of foot traffic and financially, I see value in a similar supplier driven document that draws on shopper and other data, to help newsagents what remains an important category.

12 likes

→ 3 CommentsCategory: magazines

Single touch payroll now required

Mark Fletcher on July 2, 2019 5:53 AM

Single touché payroll compliance is now required for businesses with 5 to 19 employees. Click here to read information from the ATO about it. Included is this information on how it works:

STP works by sending tax and super information from your payroll or accounting software to the ATO as you run your payroll.

When you start reporting:

  • you will run your payroll, pay your employees as normal, and give them a payslip
    • your pay cycle does not need to change (you can continue to pay your employees weekly, fortnightly or monthly)
  • your STP-enabled payroll software will send us a report which includes the information we need from you, such as salaries and wages, pay as you go (PAYG) withholding and super information

You will be reporting super liability information through STP for the first time. Super funds will also be reporting to us. They’ll let us know when you make the payment to your employees’ chosen or default fund. This is an important step toward making sure employees are paid their correct entitlements.

The way STP information is sent will depend on the software you use. STP reporting will be offered in one of the following ways with:

  • an end-to-end solution, which allows you to run your payroll and send the STP information directly to us from your software
  • a solution which allows you to run your payroll and send the STP information through a third party sending service provider (SSP) which is integrated into your software
  • a solution that allows you to run your payroll and requires you to send the STP information through a third party sending service provider (SSP) outside your software.

ATO systems will match the STP information to our employer and employee records.

Your employees will be able to see their year-to-date tax and super information in ATO online services, which can only be accessed through myGov. Their data is updated every time you report (each pay day for most employers). Without STP reporting, employee data is only reported at the end of the financial year.

If you make mistakes in your STP report, you can correct it in your following report. We won’t penalise you for making mistakes you correct.

At the end of the financial year, you’ll need to finalise your STP data. This is a declaration to the Commissioner to state you have completed your reporting for the financial year.

It is important newsagents are across this and live already.; Putting it off is not an option.

For what int is worth, in my own shops our POS software is connected to Xero and Xero manages STP requirements.

6 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: Newsagency management

Small business pledge in UK leadership race interesting

Mark Fletcher on July 1, 2019 5:49 AM

Jeremy Hunt’s pledge to scrap tax for a bunch of small businesses is an interesting and practical pledge to support small businesses, UK high street businesses. This, from The Telegraph:

Jeremy Hunt has pledged to exempt hundreds of thousands of firms from business rates if he becomes prime minister, in a bid to save Britain’s ailing high streets.

In an extension of Philip Hammond’s £1.5bn plan to regenerate town centres across the country, the Tory leadership contender intends to scrap taxes for nine out of ten high street shops.

The move will save newly exempted businesses up to £6,500, and will benefit an estimated 24,500 businesses based in Birmingham, Manchester and three other large English cities.

The announcement builds on his recent promise to cut corporation tax from 19 percent to as low as 12.5 percent, the same as Ireland, a policy which is set to cost an estimated £13 billion a year.

Plenty of Aussie retailers would agree with this:

“It was once said Britain was a nation of shopkeepers. But if we don’t act this will no longer be the case

“Too many small businesses are being put out of business by tax bills they can’t afford to pay. “While many people choose to shop online, there is a clear demand for a local choice too.

“And the current system leaves the taxpayer out of pocket, shopkeepers out of a job and can deprive local people of places to spend time with friends and family.”

What I like about this announcement is the specific detail. It goes beyond  the usual platitudes of small businesses are the backbone of the country during cam pains followed by years in government of inaction.

7 likes

→ 1 CommentCategory: Social responsibility

How pathetic – Geelong Advertiser

Mark Fletcher on June 30, 2019 7:01 AM

They are hunting for news stories about local restaurants.

12 likes

→ 3 CommentsCategory: Newspapers · Ugh!

General Retail Industry Retail Award

Mark Fletcher on June 29, 2019 6:55 AM

Click here to access to award rates as they apply from July 1, 2019. Click here to see the actual Award. This is important as it details obligations beyond pay.

10 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: Newsagency management