Australian Newsagency Blog

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

Coles opens smaller format suburban store

Mark Fletcher on November 15, 2018 5:43 AM

Coles has opened a smaller format store in Melbourne’s Surry Hills. Click here to see the report in The Age from yesterday.

I am sure we will see more smaller format models emerge from supermarkets. It makes sense, especially in the ready to cook and ready to heat and eat space, where there is terrific growth. This follows similar models in the US and Europe.

What is interesting to me is that we are not seeing in Australia the UK model of local c-store formats from supermarkets. In towns across the UK you have, often, several supermarkets represented in small format retail focussed on ready to cook and ready to heat and eat as well as newsagency lines like lotteries, magazines, newspapers and a category I will call easy (last minute) gifts.

If we did see this UK model emerge here, the challenge to traditional newsagency businesses would be more considerable than the new Coles opening in Surry Hills.

Of course, what Coles has just launched is not a destination for the company. It is another step in their exploration of new format ‘supermarkets’. I am sure we will see more change, in this store and allied formats from the company.

Small format is important as more retailers explore cash-less counter-less retail, like the Amazon Go model in the US. The nature of that advance in retail is such that small format is important given the cost of tech and the nature of the products being sold.


→ No CommentsCategory: Newsagency management · newsagency of the future

Fairfax effectively pulls distribution of The Age out of South Australia

Mark Fletcher on November 14, 2018 7:25 AM

Fairfax yesterday announced to South Australian newsagents that shortly the company will cease distributing The Age on the day of publication. Instead, South Australia will receive The Age the day after publication. Here is the Fairfax announcement:

This decision is not a shock. It is also not the first time an Australian publisher has done this.

More changes will come following the Nine takeover of Fairfax and more changes will come after those changes.

Print media continues to confront significant disruption – advertising continues to fall and print circulation continues to fall.

We need to run our businesses attracting shoppers who are not newspaper shoppers.


→ 3 CommentsCategory: Media disruption · Newspapers

People love quirky social media content

Mark Fletcher on November 14, 2018 5:52 AM

This video promoting jigsaws has been a hit. I created it, using a video service I pay to access, as a disposable promotion of jigsaws. I say disposable because that is how we need to see social media content – content to throw up and not think about it as we move on to the next post.

Looking back, though, this jigsaw post got good engagement in a couple of places with people commenting about liking the batteries comment.

I like the jigsaw category in that it fits with the crossword magazine category, is family friendly and lends itself to show floor engagement.

What I have done here is easy. Anyone could do it for little or no cost. The point of my post is that this category is ripe for social media promotion, interest is on the increase.


→ No CommentsCategory: marketing · marketing tip · newsagency marketing

Brilliant result for The New Daily

Mark Fletcher on November 13, 2018 5:55 PM

The New Daily has reported an excellent result, five years since launch. Founder, Bruce Guthrie, looks back on the five years is a terrific piece those interested in media and, in particular, news media…

Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian actually editorialised against us in those first few hours, saying we shouldn’t be allowed to launch at all. One particularly corrosive columnist tried to kickstart a letter-writing campaign to have us shut down. Apparently it was OK for American billionaires to own media, but not the members of Australian not-for-profit superannuation funds.

Then a high-profile Fairfax columnist pretty much wrote us off on day two. Another one was at it just last week. Some things never change.

We’d expected the attacks, so our editorial staff of a dozen or so just ploughed on. By the end of that first month we had attracted 157,000 unique visitors to the site and we were pretty chuffed. Now we get more than that in a single day and have 2.3 million unique visitors a month.

We also had 30,000 subscribers by the end of that first month. They’d signed up for our five-mornings-a-week newsletter because, they told us repeatedly, Australia needed more news outlets that were, well, new and Australian.

Five years on, we have close to half-a-million subscribers who receive our updates twice a day Monday to Friday and once a day on weekends. We also publish regular newsletters on property, travel and health. Taken together, we send out close to a million emails a day and six million a week. Subscription is free and open to all.

Further on in the piece is this:

In its past two monthly measures of Australian news sites, Nielsen has estimated The New Daily’s digital audience as bigger than that of The Australian.

Kudos to the people at The New Daily. Their role in news coverage in Australia is brave, needed and appreciated.


→ No CommentsCategory: Media disruption · Newspapers

Beware employee classifications

Mark Fletcher on November 13, 2018 6:17 AM

What a business pays employees is determined first by the classification of the role for it is the classification that sets the level on the pay table. It is vital that business owners understand classifications and manage people according to their classification. Employers who do not pay to classifications open themselves to challenge through FairWork processes for back pay.

Click here to get to the the Fair Work for the classifications for the General Retail Award

Here is a copy of some of the classifications information from the Fair Work website for the General Retail Award. Please take particular note of what is in Retail Level 3 and the note about opening and closing. This is important:

Schedule B—Classifications

B.1 Retail Employee Level 1

B.1.1 An employee performing one or more of the following functions at a retail establishment:

  • the receiving and preparation for sale and or display of goods in or about any shop;
  • the pre-packing or packing, weighing, assembling, pricing or preparing of goods or provisions or produce for sale;
  • the display, shelf filling, replenishing or any other method of exposure or presentation for sale of goods;
  • the sale or hire of goods by any means;
  • the receiving, arranging or making payment by any means;
  • the recording by any means of a sale or sales;
  • the wrapping or packing of goods for despatch and the despatch of goods;
  • the delivery of goods;
  • window dressing and merchandising;
  • loss prevention;
  • demonstration of goods for sale;
  • the provision of information, advice and assistance to customers;
  • the receipt, preparation, packing of goods for repair or replacement and the minor repair of goods;
  • all directly employed persons engaged in retail stores in cleaning, store greeting, security, lift attending, store cafeterias and food services;
  • Clerical Assistants functions Level 1; or
  • work which is incidental to or in connection with any of the above.

B.1.2 Retail Employees will undertake duties as directed within the limits of their competence, skills and training including incidental cleaning. The cleaning of toilets is not incidental cleaning except in the case of a take away food establishment.

B.1.3 Indicative job titles which are usually within the definition of a Retail Employee Level 1 are:

  • Shop Assistant,
  • Clerical Assistant,
  • Check-out Operator,
  • Store Worker,
  • Reserve Stock Hand,
  • Driver,
  • Boot/Shoe Repairer (Not Qualified),
  • Window Dresser (Not Qualified),
  • LPO,
  • Photographic Employee,
  • Store Greeter,
  • Assembler,
  • Ticket Writer (Not Qualified),
  • Trolley Collector,
  • Video Hire Worker,
  • Telephone Order Salesperson,
  • Door-to-door Salesperson, or Retail Outdoor Salesperson, and,
  • Demonstrator and/or Merchandiser not elsewhere classified (including a Demonstrator and/or Merchandiser who is not a direct employee of the retailer).

B.1.4 Clerical Assistant means an employee accountable for clerical and office tasks as directed within the skill levels set out.

B.1.5 Employees at this level may include the initial recruit who may have limited relevant experience. Initially work is performed under close direction using established practices, procedures and instructions.

B.1.6 Such employees perform routine clerical and office functions requiring an understanding of clear, straightforward rules or procedures and may be required to operate certain office equipment. Problems can usually be solved by reference to established practices, procedures and instructions.

B.1.7 Employees at this level are responsible and accountable for their own work within established routines, methods and procedures and the less experienced employee’s work may be subject to checking at all stages. The more experienced employee may be required to give assistance to less experienced employees in the same classification.

B.1.8 Indicative typical duties and skills at this level may include:

  • reception/switchboard, e.g. directing telephone callers to appropriate staff, issuing and receiving standard forms, relaying internal information and initial greeting of visitors;
  • maintenance of basic records;
  • filing, collating, photocopying etc;
  • handling or distributing mail including messenger service;
  • recording, matching, checking and batching of accounts, invoices, orders, store requisitions etc; or
  • the operation of keyboard and other allied equipment in order to achieve competency as prescribed in Level 2.

B.2 Retail Employee Level 2

B.2.1 An employee performing work at a retail establishment at a higher skill level than a Retail Employee Level 1.

B.2.2 Indicative job titles which are usually within the definition of a Retail Employee Level 2 include:

  • Forklift Operator,
  • Ride on Equipment Operator.

B.3 Retail Employee Level 3

B.3.1 An employee performing work at a retail establishment at a higher level than a Retail Employee Level 2.

B.3.2 Indicative of the tasks which might be required at this level are the following:

  • Supervisory assistance to a designated section manager or team leader,
  • Opening and closing of premises and associated security,
  • Security of cash, or
  • Fitting of surgical corset.

B.3.3 Indicative job titles which are usually within the definition of a Retail Employee 3 include:

  • Machine operators,
  • 2IC to Dept Manager,
  • Senior Salesperson,
  • Corsetiere,
  • Driver Selling Stock,
  • Cook (Not Qualified) in a cafeteria,
  • Senior LPO, including an armed LPO,
  • LPO Supervisor,
  • Designated second-in-charge of a section (i.e. senior sales assistant),
  • Designated second-in-charge to a service supervisor, or
  • Person employed alone, with responsibilities for the security and general running of a shop.

B.4 Retail Employee Level 4

B.4.1 An employee performing work at a retail establishment at a higher level than a Retail Employee Level 3.

B.4.2 Indicative of the tasks which might be required at this level are the following:

  • Management of a defined section/department,
  • Supervision of up to 4 sales staff (including self),
  • Stock control,
  • Buying/ordering requiring the exercise of discretion as to price, quantity, quality etc.,
  • An employee who is required to utilise the skills of a trades qualification for the majority of the time in a week, or
  • Clerical functions Level 2.

B.4.3 Indicative job titles which are usually within the definition of a Retail Employee 4 include:

  • An Assistant, Deputy, or 2IC Shop Manager of a shop without Departments,
  • An employee who is required to utilise the skills of a trades qualified person for the majority of the time in a week. This includes: Butcher, Baker, Pastry Cook, Florist,
  • An employee who has completed an appropriate trades course or holds an appropriate Certificate III and is required to use their qualifications in the course of their work,
  • A Qualified Auto Parts and Accessories Salesperson,
  • A Window Dresser (Cert III or equivalent experience),
  • A Boot/Shoe Repairer (Cert III),
  • A Shiftwork Supervisor,
  • Section/Department manager with up to 2 employees (including self),
  • Service Supervisor of up to 15 employees,
  • Nightfill Supervisor/Leader,

B.4.5 Indicative typical duties and skills at this level may include:

  • Reception/switchboard duties as in Level 1 and in addition responding to enquiries as appropriate, consistent with the acquired knowledge of the organisation’s operations and services, and/or where presentation and use of interpersonal skills are a key aspect of the position.
  • Operation of computerised radio/telephone equipment, micro personal computer, printing devices attached to personal computer, dictaphone equipment, typewriter.
  • Word processing, e.g. the use of a word processing software package to create, format, edit, correct, print and save text documents, e.g. standard correspondence and business documents.
  • Stenographer/person solely employed to take shorthand and to transcribe by means of appropriate keyboard equipment.
  • Copy typing and audio typing.
  • Maintenance of records and/or journals including initial processing and recording relating to the following:

(i) reconciliation of accounts to balance;

(ii) incoming/outgoing cheques;

(iii) invoices;

(iv) debit/credit items;

(v) payroll data;

(vi) petty cash Imprest System;

(vii) letters etc.

  • Computer application involving use of a software package which may include one or more of the following functions:

(i) create new files and records;

(ii) spreadsheet/worksheet;

(iii) graphics;

(iv) accounting/payroll file;

(v) following standard procedures and using existing models/fields of information.

  • Arrange routine travel bookings and itineraries, make appointments.
  • Provide general advice and information on the organisation’s products and services, e.g. front counter/telephone.

B.5 Retail Employee Level 5

B.5.1 An employee performing work in or in connection with a retail establishment at a higher level than a Retail Employee Level 4.

B.5.2 Indicative job titles which are usually within the definition of a Retail Employee 5 include:

  • A tradesperson in charge of other tradespersons within a section or department,
  • Service Supervisor (more than 15 employees).

B.6 Retail Employee Level 6

B.6.1 An employee performing work in or in connection with a retail establishment at a higher level than a Retail Employee Level 5.

B.6.2 Indicative job titles which are usually within the definition of a Retail Employee 6 include:

  • Section/Department manager with 5 or more employees (including self),
  • Manager/Duty Manager in a shop without Departments/Sections (may be under direction of person not exclusively involved in shop management),

[B.6.2 varied by TRANSIT – HYPERLINK . PR992724 ppc 29Jan10]

  • Assistant or Deputy or 2IC Shop Manager of a shop with Departments/Sections,
  • Clerical Officer Level 3.

B.6.3 Clerical Officer Level 3 characteristics:

  • Employees at this level have achieved a standard to be able to perform specialised or non-routine tasks or features of the work. Employees require only general guidance or direction and there is scope for the exercise of limited initiative, discretion and judgment in carrying out their assigned duties.
  • Such employees may be required to give assistance and/or guidance (including guidance in relation to quality of work and which may require some allocation of duties) to employees in Levels 1 and 2 and would be able to train such employees by means of personal instruction and demonstration.

B.6.4 Indicative typical duties and skills at this level may include:

  • Prepare cash payment summaries, banking report and bank statements; calculate and maintain wage and salary records; follow credit referral procedures; apply purchasing and inventory control requirements; post journals to ledger.
  • Provide specialised advice and information on the organisation’s products and services; respond to client/public/supplier problems within own functional area utilising a high degree of interpersonal skills.
  • *Apply one or more computer software packages developed for a micro personal computer or a central computer resource to either/or:

(i) create new files and records;

(ii) maintain computer based records management systems;

(iii) identify and extract information from internal and external sources;

(iv) use of advanced word processing/keyboard functions.

  • Arrange travel bookings and itineraries; make appointments; screen telephone calls; respond to invitations; organise internal meetings on behalf of executive(s); establish and maintain reference lists/personal contact systems for executive(s).
  • Application of specialist terminology/processes in professional offices.

*NOTE: These typical duties/skills may be either at Level 3 or Level 4 dependent upon the characteristics of that particular Level.

B.7 Retail Employee Level 7

B.7.1 An employee performing work in or in connection with a retail establishment at a higher level than a Retail Employee Level 6.

B.7.2 Indicative job titles which are usually within the definition of a Retail Employee Level 7 include:

  • Visual Merchandiser (diploma),
  • Clerical Officer Level 4.

B.7.3 Clerical Officer Level 4 characteristics:

  • Employees at this level will have achieved a level of organisation or industry specific knowledge sufficient for them to give advice and/or information to the organisation and clients in relation to specific areas of their responsibility. They would require only limited guidance or direction and would normally report to more senior staff as required. Whilst not a pre-requisite, a principal feature of this level is supervision of employees in lower levels in terms of responsibility for the allocation of duties, co-ordinating work flow, checking progress, quality of work and resolving problems.
  • They exercise initiative, discretion and judgment at times in the performance of their duties.
  • They are able to train employees in Clerical Levels 1–3 by personal instruction and demonstration.

B.7.4 Indicative typical duties and skills at this level may include:

  • Secretarial/Executive support services which may include the following: maintain executive diary; attend executive/organisational meetings and take minutes; establish and/or maintain current working and personal filing systems for executive; answer executive correspondence from verbal or handwritten instructions.
  • Able to prepare financial/tax schedules, calculate costings and/or wage and salary requirements; complete personnel/payroll data for authorisation; reconciliation of accounts to balance.
  • Advise on/provide information on one or more of the following:

(i) employment conditions

(ii) workers compensation procedures and regulations

(iii) superannuation entitlements, procedures and regulations

  • *Apply one or more computer software packages, developed for a micro personal computer or a central computer resource to either/or:

(i) create new files and records;

(ii) maintain computer based management systems;

(iii) identify and extract information from internal and external sources;

(iv) use of advanced word processing/keyboard functions.

*NOTE: These typical duties/skills may be either at Level 3 or Level 4 dependent upon the characteristics of that particular Level.

B.8 Retail Employee Level 8

B.8.1 An employee performing work in or in connection with a retail establishment at a higher level than a Retail Employee Level 7.

B.8.2 A person with a Diploma qualification.

B.8.3 Indicative job titles which are usually within the definition of a Retail Employee 8 include:

[B.8.3 varied by TRANSIT – HYPERLINK . PR992724 ppc 29Jan10]

  • A Shop Manager of a shop with Departments/Sections, or
  • Clerical Officer Level 5.

B.8.4 Clerical Officer Level 5 characteristics:

  • Employees at this level are subject to broad guidance or direction and would report to more senior staff as required.
  • Such employees will typically have worked or studied in a relevant field and will have achieved a standard of relevant and/or specialist knowledge and experience sufficient to enable them to advise on a range of activities and features and contribute, as required, to the determination of objectives, within the relevant field(s) of their expertise.
  • They are responsible and accountable for their own work and may have delegated responsibility for the work under their control or supervision, in terms of, among other things, scheduling workloads, resolving operations problems, monitoring the quality of work produced as well as counselling staff for performance as well as work related matters.
  • They would also be able to train and to supervise employees in lower levels by means of personal instruction and demonstration. They would also be able to assist in the delivery of training courses. They often exercise initiative, discretion and judgment in the performance of their duties.
  • The possession of relevant post secondary qualifications may be appropriate but not essential.

B.8.5 Indicative typical duties and skills at this level may include:

  • Apply knowledge of organisation’s objectives, performance, projected areas of growth, product trends and general industry conditions.
  • Application of computer software packages within either a micropersonal computer or a central computer resource including the integration of complex word processing/desktop publishing, text and data documents.
  • Provide reports for management in any or all of the following areas:

(i) account/financial

(ii) staffing

(iii) legislative requirements

(iv) other company activities.

Administer individual executive salary packages, travel expenses, allowances and company transport; administer salary and payroll requirements of the organisation.

A newsagent has told me recently that I should not write about this here as staff members could read it. I disagree. This is important information to share. My goal is to help newsagents ensure they meet their obligations, and avoid penalty.


→ No CommentsCategory: Newsagency management

Where newsagents should put newspapers

Mark Fletcher on November 12, 2018 8:38 PM

Some advice for newsagents on newspaper placement in this tweet on Twitter:

Newsagents should be forced to put newspapers in the comics section. That would make adults think twice about their source material before making their minds up.


→ 1 CommentCategory: Newspapers

Blackhawk could sell more gift cards in Australian newsagencies…

Mark Fletcher on November 12, 2018 6:14 AM

…if they made easily available to us floor stands like they have placed in Coles supermarkets. These themed stands are excellent, and perfectly situated for impulse purchase at the entrance to the supermarket.

For years newsagents have sought better engagement from Blackhawk.

While margin is slim, a gift card purchase is a nice basket extension without inventory cost.


→ 1 CommentCategory: Newsagency challenges

Shame on the people at News Corp’s The Australian for this poster

Mark Fletcher on November 11, 2018 11:51 AM

This newspaper promotional poster for The Australian demonstrates what News Corp does in this country, using its media outlets to interfere in our democracy, to knowing mis-state the situation for its own commercial benefit, through political support and patronage.

Shame on News Corp. Shame on everyone at the company involved deciding to proceed with the poster.

This poster is disgusting in my opinion.

At the time of producing this poster, the editorial team knew:

  1. A Liberal male parliamentarian used parliamentary privilege to trigger the the situation.
  2. You could argue the ‘crisis’ began at a social event, which it did. The person abused by the male Labor leader decided to not pursue the matter. Once sober, the Labor leader should have confessed and resigned.
  3. While the ALP leader quit last week, it was done quickly, not like the liberal leadership mess in Canberra that took weeks to resolve. By comparison, the replacement of the leader is hardly a ‘crisis’.
  4. The victim did not want the matter publicised, did not want to formally complain about the matter.
  5. The contents of the poster are false and misleading.

For News Corp. to blame the victim, who happened to be an ABC journalist, is appalling, dishonest.

I don’t understand why people buy this poisonous propaganda trash.


→ 3 CommentsCategory: Ethics · Social responsibility

This could be why Tatts has asked its retailer franchisees for employees to provide details

Mark Fletcher on November 11, 2018 7:44 AM

I write this post a year ago. It is relevant today because Tatts has just contacted franchisees seeking access to information many small business owners would not consider its right to have…

Newsagents have been wondering why Tatts is expressing interest in employee arrangements in newsagency businesses. I have had plenty of questions and I know others have too.

This situation has come about because of the federal government passing vulnerable employee legislation following the 7-Eleven debacle. The Fair Work Ombudsman website sets the scene:

On 15 September 2017 the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017 took effect. It makes the following changes to the Fair Work Act 2009external-icon.png (the Fair Work Act):

  • increase penalties for ‘serious contraventions’ of workplace laws

  • make it clear that employers can’t ask for ‘cashback’ from employees or prospective employees

  • increase penalties for breaches of record-keeping and pay slip obligations

  • employers who don’t meet record-keeping or pay slip obligations and can’t give a reasonable excuse will need to disprove wage claims made in a court (this is also referred to as a reverse onus of proof)

  • strengthen our powers to collect evidence in investigations

  • introduce new penalties for giving us false or misleading information, or hindering or obstructing our investigations.

Read what the Fair Work Ombudsman website has to say about franchisors that have a significant amount of influence or control over the business affairs of the franchisee:

These changes apply from 27 October 2017.

Franchisors and holding companies (a company that has control over subsidiary companies) can be held responsible if their franchisee or subsidiary doesn’t follow workplace laws about minimum entitlements, the National Employment Standards, awards, sham contracting, record-keeping and pay slips.

This will apply to franchisors that have a significant amount of influence or control over the business affairs of the franchisee.

Franchisors or holding companies could be liable for breaches or underpayments if:

  • they knew (or could have reasonably known) that a franchisee or subsidiary wasn’t following workplace laws
  • they didn’t take reasonable steps to prevent it.

We are working with franchisors, their advocate and advisers and will have more information in our Help for franchises section when the changes take effect.

Tatts is acting because of an understanding of that term – significant amount of influence or control over the business affairs of the franchisee.

It’s not only Tatts caught in this. Any business that can be claimed to have a significant amount of influence or control over a downstream business is in the cross hairs.

I think there will be plenty more news and engagement about this in the channel river the next few months.

The challenge is the definition: significant amount of influence or control. It is not as clear as it could be. Some politicians say the Fair Work Ombudsman has overreached. We will have to see how that plays out.

There is plenty of advice online outlining the obligations for franchisors and organisations like Tatts outlets.

For a government that said it would reduce red tape for small business, this legislation is considerably adding to it.


→ 8 CommentsCategory: Ethics · Newsagency challenges · Newsagency management

Support your local newsagent

Mark Fletcher on November 10, 2018 6:41 AM

Ten years ago I funded the production and airing of a TV commercial supporting the newsagency channel. The investment was just over $20,000. I wrote to the associations and suppliers at the time. One supplier chipped in $100.00.

The goal of the campaign was to remind Australians that newsagencies are local, that they are part of the fabric of Australia and to show newsagents that they belong to something beyond their own shop.

While times have changed and the focus of many local newsagency businesses has changed, I enjoyed looking at the ad again.

Here is the ad for those who did not see it at the time:


→ No CommentsCategory: Newsagency management · newsagency marketing

Mental health awareness in small business newsagencies

Mark Fletcher on November 9, 2018 6:27 AM

Despite all the ads on TV, despite the work of R U OK?, despite the work of agencies like Beyondblue, despite the stories in the media, mental health, especially mental health within the small business community, and especially the newsagency community, is not talked about.

The challenge is that we cannot always see unhealthiness. If someone is physically unhealthy, we can usually see it, but not mental unhealthiness. For sure there are occasional signs like behavioural outbursts that don’t make sense but you can’e be sure and often you don’t want to ask for fear of making it worse.

In small business retail and in our channel there are challenges that can make things worse: bullying landlords, overbearing suppliers, demanding customers, relentless competitors. These and other factors can make someone see the road ahead through clouded eyes. For some of those on the other side, however, how they handle a situation could be driven by how the small business has dealt with it up to then.

I am all for personal accountability and often say we need to own our own situation – we sign our leases, we sign magazine contracts, we go into business. However, we do these things expecting fairness. Too often there are people on the other side of a commercial relationship who do not act with fairness.

Social media is a factor with mental health as it gives everyone a megaphone and the ability to publish an opinion without thinking it through. I know in schools social media is a big focus in mental health awareness, especially around bullying.

It is hard to know the mental health of anyone. That person smiling at you or joking with you could be in a dark place in their mind. This is why it is important we talk and ask colleagues how they are doing and why we all need to help when we think help could be what is needed.

In the workplace, I think being open with each other so that everyone has a shared and open experience. If there are business performance issues, rather than keeping them secret, talking about them could help ease tension: a problem shared and all that…

There are wonderful resources from government departments available. For example, The Victorian Government has a page online on this topic, which includes good practical advice:

  • Make time to exercise each day: For example, a simple daily lunch time walk can help maintain a positive outlook.
  • Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness means being aware of your reactions/feelings/thoughts as you have them. This helps you choose how to manage matters as they arise. Mindfulness is a great tool to help lower stress and anxiety levels.
  • Adopt work/life boundaries: Don’t let work overtake your life. Set some boundaries to ensure you have time for both work and a social life. You might decide not to discuss work from 5pm Friday night to 8am Monday morning because weekends are for family time only.
  • Connect with others: Find someone worthy of your stories – a confidant or mentor you can talk to about your business experiences. Make sure this person is supportive, a good listener and someone whose opinion you value.

This website also lists indicators:

  • Physical signs: For example, a constant knot in your stomach, tense neck and shoulders, feeling nauseous, heart palpitations or chest pains.
  • Changes in behaviour: For example, being unable to sleep, crying regularly, feeling moody or often irritable, increase or loss of appetite.
  • Unclear thinking: For example, not being able to make decisions, not understanding directions, not being able to focus, being inattentive.
  • Feeling sad or anxious regularly: We all have bad days – they’re a normal part of life. This flag needs attention if you begin to notice feeling like this regularly.
  • Disconnecting from others: This may include not joining in social activities, choosing to spend time away from family and friends or stopping hobbies/sporting activities.
  • Feeling overwhelmed: It is difficult to find solutions to problems, and in some instances it feels like they are insurmountable. Problem solving becomes difficult

And it lists useful resources:

  • Business In MindBusiness In Mind is an online resource specifically designed to support business owners who may be experiencing mental health challenges.
  • Beyond Blue beyondblue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live.
  • The Ripple Effect: A resource for rural communities that addresses suicide in rural areas.(Ph: 03 5551 8587)
  • Sane provides online information, support and connection for every Australian affected by complex mental illness through its website, peer-to-peer forums and helpline. SANE also has a range of factsheets on managing mental health in the workplace. (Ph: 1800 18 7263)

Our approach to mental health as business owners has to be continuous, on-going. It can’t be a one day of the year focus or a stunt. It has to be part of how we run our businesses, everyday.


→ 1 CommentCategory: Newsagency challenges · Newsagency management · Social responsibility

ACCC will not oppose Fairfax / Nine merger

Mark Fletcher on November 8, 2018 4:04 PM

The ACCC has announced today that it will not oppose the merger of Fairfax and Nine. In the announcement are some interesting points worth highlighting:

“Media markets are highly dynamic. The shift to online and the huge reduction in hard-copy classified advertising revenue have changed the media landscape irrevocably,” Mr Sims said.

“The impact of some of these changes is demonstrated in the approximate halving of advertising revenue from Fairfax’s digital and print mastheads in the last five years,” Mr Sims said.

“The ACCC recognises there will likely be changes to the way Fairfax and Nine operate in future, either due to the changing media landscape more generally or due to the merger itself. However, we reached the conclusion that if such changes do occur, they would not be, to a significant extent, caused by the merger lowering the level of competition,” Mr Sims said.

I remain of the view that Fairfax will be the first Australian newspaper publisher to quit seven day publication of a capital city print newspaper. Fresh management eyes, which will come with the merger, will, I expect bring this day closer. My suspicion is that News Corp. has the new that they will not even contemplate such a move until after Fairfax, even though the numbers for some of their titles make such a move sensible.

Newsagents need to be aware of this and already well advanced in business decisions in a world without the daly newspaper hitting the shelves. There is no downside in being prepared, in attracting shoppers for products other than newspapers.


→ 2 CommentsCategory: Media disruption

Is Blueshyft good for newsagents?

Mark Fletcher on November 8, 2018 6:35 AM

Since the CEO of Blueshyft is a precious petal and sensitive to criticism and so there is no doubt, what I write here is my opinion, nothing more, nothing less.

I have been asked by newsagents over the last few days about whether Blueshyft is worth considering. This has come about because of an email sent by XchangeIT promoting Blueshyft to newsagents.

The email from XchangeIT sent to newsagents endorses and promotes Blueshyft. However, because it is from the magazine company controlled XchangeIT, some newsagents are understandably skeptical and asking about the pitch. Remember, XchangeIT costs newsagents money for a small margin product service that small business retailers in some other channels get for free.

I have never been a fan of Blueshyft, because it is an agency offering that leeches off existing traffic and, occasionally, bringing in agent only traffic that rarely converts to reasonable GP business.

As I have written many times previously, I see no future for agency lines in retail businesses. While our channel began as agents, we have moved beyond that – this started in 1999 with deregulation.

The XchangeIT email claims Blueshyft are totally committed to supporting the newsagent industry. I have not seen any evidence of this. Indeed, I think their technology approach, aided and abetted by XchangeIT, is the opposite. They bloat newsagency software stock files thanks to a less than ideal approach to tracking virtual inventory. Despite suggestions of more current tech approaches, there has been no interest in acting in the interests of newsagents in terms of data management from what I have seen.

While the Blueshyft works, I think is distracts from the future of retail.

Blueshyft is an agency service that primarily serves existing customers. While there may be some new traffic, basket analysis shows that rarely is that traffic valuable beyond agency.

The question of whether Blueshyft is good for a newsagency business really depends on how you see your business: retailer or agency.

A retailer will focus on attracting shoppers through different, good margin, product. They will do this to seek out new shoppers, to build long-term relationships. Their shop will be configured to provide an experience and a service level commensurate with the value of items sold and the time shoppers will engage with these items in-store.

An agency business will be focussed on convenience, convenience of location and convenience of service. Speed will be key for shoppers and the business. Range of agency service will also be key. This type of business will usually identify more like a convenience store than a newsagency go today and the future.

While some argue that foot traffic for agency business can be converted to retail sales, such claims are usually made by non retail business owners.  If we look at newsagency basket data we can see agency lines such as lotteries, phone cards, phone recharge, betting account top up and newspaper sales as all predominantly not benefiting beyond the meagre commission paid.

Is Blueshyft good for newsagents? It’s up to each newsagent to make their own decision. You need to decide what is right for your business today and into the future. I appreciate there are some in the channel who are happy being agents. I support their position even though it is not for me.


→ 1 CommentCategory: Newsagency challenges · Newsagency management · newsagency of the future

3M promotion helps us sell more stationery

Mark Fletcher on November 7, 2018 3:32 PM

The 3M Win a Ford Mustang competition is a terrific opportunity to promote and sell stationery. Any retailer can participate with the key being that your receipts detail the 3M products purchased, which is easy in your newsagency software. Customers can enter through the 3M website (click here to see) – there is no paper entry form or other process for retailers to follow.

There is a lot to like about this promotion, including the $10.00 minimum spend on a receipt requirement to be eligible to enter.

Here are the 3M brands that are being pitched through the promotion:



→ No CommentsCategory: marketing · marketing tip · Stationery

The American Express Shop Small opportunity

Mark Fletcher on November 7, 2018 6:11 AM

The American Express Shop Small campaign brings valuable and appreciated focus to small and local businesses. While I don’t have engagement data, it does feel like the campaign has built a good following among shoppers and small businesses.

Last year, American Express made changed to its fees:

We made sweeping changes to the fees we charge merchants and this fee is now between 1.5-2 per cent for an American Express card payment.  Our merchant network is growing and since January 2017 over 120,000 new places joined the American Express network across Australia. We are committed to ensuring that as many places as possible welcome American Express to give our card members the best experience.

These changes make accepting American Express for payment more appealing for small businesses and thereby makes the Shop Small campaign even more interesting.

Shop Small gains attention where shoppers are – online, on mainstream media.

Their website makes it easy for shoppers to find participating businesses through a map. Amex Australia says that last year, there were 851,000 views of the map. They also say that through the money, Amex card members spent $675M in small businesses. I like this connection as it provides small businesses a way to connect and be found. Today, more than ever, there are more routes to our businesses and every single one is worth pursuing.

If you take Amex as payment I think it would be worthwhile engaging with the campaign.

Click here to access this video for sharing on social media.


→ No CommentsCategory: marketing · newsagency marketing

Pitching Teen Breathe on social media

Mark Fletcher on November 6, 2018 5:45 PM

If you sell Teen Breathe magazine, click here for a link to this video for sharing on social media.


→ 1 CommentCategory: magazines

Complaints from newsagency shoppers

Mark Fletcher on November 6, 2018 6:39 AM

Over the years, I have received complaints from newsagency customers about an experience in a newsagency. They have contacted me through here as other points of contact have not been obvious to them.

If I have contact details for the owner, I usually pass on the complaint. I always respond to the person making contact, suggesting other avenues for their complaint.

Here is a complaint I received recently:

I want to complain about the newsagent is [        ]. They are very intimidating and they harass customers from other stores that are good people.

They make trouble by gossiping about certain people of low economic backgrounds, people that are poor and about people who go to the chemist across from their store.

I have been humiliated and I have been threatened. I have heard them lie too.

I don’t want them to know my details as I am  afraid by complaining about them they might get me kicked out from the shopping centre.

This is the third complaint in the last year from this business. It is a newsagency with which I have no connection. I passed the first two complaints on to the owner without response.

While complaints like this are about a specific business, they reflect poorly on the whole channel and this is problematic for all newsagents. We don’t have a discipline mechanism. While some banner groups do, I don’t see it used much.

Retail can be challenging, customers can be challenging. How each situation is dealt with matters as the impact can be significant. Today, more than ever, customers are empowered with platforms readily available for broadcasting complaints and rating businesses. Often times, these complaints and poor ratings can be unnoticed by the affected business for a long time.

Here is a complaint I received Thursday night for one of my stores:

Hi,  Just wanted to let you know that there ate two staff on duty at your store right now. They’re having such a great chat that they let me stand at the counter looking for some help without even acknowledging me. Needless to say I left the store without purchasing anything. Might be an idea to recruit better staff in the future…

I  checked and advised that we only had one staff member on and they were helping a customer at the counter with a significant ($150+) order. Speaking with the staff member at the time, they advised the person making the complaint was acting suspiciously and that they approached them, thinking they were stealing.

We need to be cautious with every complaint, not to deny it but to get the facts where we can.

The purpose of this post is to lay the issue here for others to contemplate, and to share the first example of a specific complaint, in the words of the shopper. I am not saying what to do or that customers are always right, because they are not.


→ No CommentsCategory: Ethics · Newsagency management

Australia Post toy pitch reminds us this protected government business hurts small business retailers

Mark Fletcher on November 5, 2018 6:25 AM

The Christmas catalogue from Australia Post strays far from the core remit of the organisation, as usual. While I have no issue with LPOs doing this, I do have an issue with government owned and protected corporate stores doing this, taking revenue from family businesses. Their toy pitch is interesting. A bit bland in my view, but interesting nevertheless.

Australia Post corporate stores tap into benefits not available to small business competitors. For example, major landlord do not place on them the same requirements of indie retailers.

Australia Post corporate store outlets can land shoppers in their businesses for a lower cost with the core monopoly services they offer. This makes customer acquisition cost for add on purchases, like games, lower.

I wrote a post back in 2013 that relates to the issue of Australia Post straying from its core remit. here it is:

An open letter to John Stanhope, Chairman Australia Post
Mark Fletcher
July 3rd, 2013 · 15 Comments

I was moved to write this open letter to John Stanhope, Chairman of Australia Post, after reading the article in The Australian Financial Review yesterday on page 22.

Dear John,

The feature article about you in The Australian Financial Review yesterday says that a big part of your job is persuading politicians that the rules around Post’s obligations need to be loosened – to align with a world in which “there is a younger generation, many of whom wouldn’t have written a letter, let alone post a letter.”

Really? You want the rules changed because the world has changed? You want your shareholder to protect you even more?

Hmm, let’s see how this goes – you go talk to your sole shareholder, the federal government, and ask them to change the rules to suit you, so you can pay the dividend they require.  The conflict is obvious.

I am surprised you want regulatory change as that has not stopped you doing what you want in the past.

It’s a changing and unfair world John. As your organisation has though your actions in opening retail outlets close to newsagents and expanding into non post related traditional to newsagency products, taking revenue from small family businesses and leveraging your government protected brand to achieve this.

I say Australia Post has abused its protected position to compete with small business newsagents through your corporate stores. Ink, book, cards, gifts – all sorts of items being sold by the post office. I have written about this here many times.

One of my own newsagencies faced stiff competition from one of your government owned stores. We were price compared by your public servants on more than one occasion for the purpose of competition. This government owned and protected retail business was trying hard to take sales from us.

And now you say the rules need to change to protect you.

The rules should not change, not in isolation. You can’t have it both ways – protected when you want and given more flexibility when you want. If there is to be a review of the rules under which you operate your whole engagement with the act needs to be assessed and publicly debated.

But before we have that debate we need to look at your ownership. Having the government owned business competing with commercial businesses is unfair. You need to get out of retail – sell them to local newsagents at a price that accounts for the damage you have done over the years.   You need to sell off your commercial courier business.

The government should only own and operate services that are not otherwise commercially viable yet which are considered an essential services for the community.

I accept you have challenges with the old print post model. They’re not new, they have been coming for ten years at least. I’d say this is why you have targeted newsagents in your corporate retail businesses over the last six to eight years. We were a soft target and you got away with taking our customers by using your monopoly.

John, what you have is a bloated retail network getting special treatment because of government ownership and taking special treatment by, in my view, operating outside the Act. It’s not a level playing field comparing the treatment of a government owned Australia Post shop and a newsagency in a shopping centre.

It frustrates me that the AFR gives you such excellent coverage when the backbone of retail in Australia, small business retailers, struggle to get issues of concern to them exposed in the media.

I hope the politicians refuse to change the rules under which you operate.

If you want to talk about this call me on 0418 321 338. I’d welcome the opportunity.

Mark Fletcher


→ 4 CommentsCategory: Australia Post

Customers love the Christmas tree merchandiser

Mark Fletcher on November 4, 2018 7:19 AM

We have received a terrific reaction from customers at our small high street store in suburban Melbourne to the Christmas tree with our range of ornaments and items that can work as ornaments on display. Kids and adults walk around the tree, pointing and talking about what they like.

The loaded tree helps people see how what they can buy looks like when in use. This is a proven and easy to execute visual merchandising move.

We will evolve the display with the season, to keep it fresh and help regulars see what they have missed.


→ No CommentsCategory: newsagency marketing · Newsagency opportunities

The Price of Fortune – a terrific read

Mark Fletcher on November 3, 2018 4:18 PM

Newsagents and others who have been around the channel since the 1980s will find The Price of Fortune by Damon Kitney interesting, a good read.

I finished it this week as found it compelling and insightful.

While not completely about the intersection of ACP and newsagents, the insights into the family that controlled the business that dominated our channel and led the push to deregulate are fascinating.

I highly recommend the book.


→ No CommentsCategory: Newsagency challenges

Question Time – an Aussie game you could stock

Mark Fletcher on November 3, 2018 7:15 AM

I have been approached by the makers of Question Time!, an Aussie game built around the theme of question time in parliament. Here is all the information they provided me:

Would like you to stock the Australian board game, QuestionTime, this Christmas?

It’s a game about Australian politics and political history, with intrigue and rat-cunning thrown in.

The board represents the layout of the House of Representatives and role-play is used to involve players in the ‘game’ of politics. It is great fun to play and educational as well. It has over 1500 questions – mostly multiple choice. Political knowledge is rewarded, but so are tactics, sneakiness and alliances. And there are a number of different wild cards that can be used to disrupt know-alls – by sending them to the back benches, blocking a proposed bill, and WORSE.

This game has proved to be a popular Christmas present. One of our stockists sold over 500 copies in the 2 months leading up to Christmas.

Hi Laughing and having great time playing game for first time. G.S. Roberston, NSW

My mid-20s son played for a riotous 5 hours with his friends…we’re keen to get our own copy. N.C. email correspondent

Had four friends around for lunch today. Just finished Question Time and had a ripper of a time. Thanks. R.W. Kiama, NSW

Question Time Board Game is the best Australian game since Squatter. It’s a cross between Trivial Pursuit and Monopoly. M.M. Perth WA

We designed the game in Australia for Australians. All components of the game are high quality – from the linen backed board – to the book of “Parliamentary Business and Questions Without Notice”. The games come in cartons of 4. Each game is individually boxed, which is handy if you need to send games out.
RRP is $70, wholesale is $40.

For more information visit our website or contact us by return email.


→ No CommentsCategory: Newsagency opportunities

Empire magazine pitches good and evil newsagents

Mark Fletcher on November 2, 2018 3:50 PM

While some may be unhappy they pitch online sales and subscriptions, it’s what I’d do if I were them.


→ No CommentsCategory: magazines

Long service leave changes in Victoria

Mark Fletcher on November 2, 2018 6:11 AM

Victorian newsagents should ensure they are aware of Long Service Leave changes that came into effect from yesterday. While not dramatic, there are changes that bring forward access to benefits. From the Business Victoria website:

  1. The new laws will provide greater flexibility to women, families and those transitioning to retirement.
  2. Employees will be able to apply for leave after seven years of work, rather than ten years.
  3. Employees can now take long service leave in smaller increments, i.e. a minimum of one day per occasion.
  4. Absences from work including unpaid parental leave will generally not break continuous employment.
  5. Certain breaks will now count towards accrual of long service leave, e.g. unpaid parental leave of up to 52 weeks, or longer in certain circumstances.

Point 2 is like to be the most interesting change in that previously people could only take Long Service Leave after ten years, even though it was paid out on employment termination after seven years. Now, it is seven.

From a business management perspective, it is good to encourage people to take Long Service Leave so that the liability is managed in advance of any business sale or closure.

Each state and territory has their own Long Service Leave rules and processes.

Click here to access a useful fit sheet on Long Service Leave and usual employees.


→ 3 CommentsCategory: Newsagency management

News Corp. digital ad pitch received by email

Mark Fletcher on November 2, 2018 6:02 AM

I received this email from News Corp. the other day, pitching digital advertising.


→ No CommentsCategory: Newspapers

Opportunity: Clare SA, a town now without a newsagency

Mark Fletcher on November 1, 2018 10:32 AM

The town of Clare in South Australia is without a newsagency following the liquidation of the newsagency that was in town. With a town population of 3,200 and regionally more, there is an opportunity for someone wanting to re-establish a newsagency-like business in town.

With the only business closed, the opportunity is interesting as starting fresh always is as you could make this what you want with core newsagency products a small part of something more current in appeal.

The contact details for the liquidator are: Ian Burford 08 8231 3323.


→ 3 CommentsCategory: Newsagency opportunities