Australian Newsagency Blog

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

Inspiring community shop solution to managing shopper access during Covid

Mark Fletcher on January 23, 2021 7:13 AM

What a terrific story from the Itteringham Village Shop, Norfolk, which I found through Better Retailing, an excellent online news and resource platform for indie retailers in the UK. Their practical solution for managing the monitored access to to the shop by shoppers is excellent.


→ No CommentsCategory: Management tip · Newsagency management

Making Valentine’s shopping easy

Mark Fletcher on January 22, 2021 8:47 AM

Offering ready to give gifts is a terrific way to increase gift sales in the newsagency or any retail business.

Placing the wrapped ready to give item next to a clear description or a showing of what is in the gift makes the purchase easy.

Offering a diversity of gift choices is key, too … where diversity can be in the wrapping itself. This is especially true for Valentine’s gifts given the evolving diversity of this season.

What I particularly love about the gift pictured, which I did not wrap by the way, is that it looks non traditional and it appeals more broadly than is common for val gifts.

To me, this gift and others from the pre-wrapped range represent a good example of us differentiating our business and making our own success.

It is also a way of repositioning existing inventory. In this photographed package, for example, is a candle, which, alone on the shelf, may not feel like a val gift. Packaged this way it does.

Valentine’s Day 2021 will be different to other years because of what we all went through in 2020. Engaging early and outside traditional is key to maximising this difference I think.


→ No CommentsCategory: marketing tip · newsagency marketing · Newsagency opportunities

Late barcode duplication advice from Ovato

Mark Fletcher on January 22, 2021 6:11 AM

Ovato sent this advice to newsagents today at 2pm, not to the software companies that are on the front line for handling such matters. Ugh!

Please be advised that Mr Wisdom Sudoku #128, on sale today 21st January, was incorrectly printed with the same barcode (931339800258901) as Better Homes & Gardens Sudoku #9 which went on sale 28th December.=

Could you please ensure you maintain both titles on sale for their respective on sale periods and process returns against the correct title code when each title recalls.

Note that this may require you to review any returns processed by your POS system, should you use a POS system to process your returns.

For agents on NPR (No Physical Returns), we will exclude these titles from your NPR calculation due to the errors that may occur in scan sales.

Mr Wisdoms Sudoku
Title code: 20638
Issue code: 1280
On sale: 21/01/21
Recall date 18/03/21
RRP $4.99

Better Homes & Gardens Sudoku
Title code: 17428
Issue code: 90
On sale: 28/12/20
Recall date: 18/02/21
RRP $4.99

Please accept our apologies for the inconveniences this may cause.

Thanks for your support.

What should Ovato have done?

  1. Picked this up earlier.
  2. Advised the software companies first, to leverage their own comms channels with newsagents.

In their note they say should you use a POS system. They know exactly who uses a system. Seriously!


→ No CommentsCategory: magazine distribution · Ugh!

Check your data backup, please!

Mark Fletcher on January 21, 2021 2:52 PM

A ‘tech-savvy’ staff member in a newsagency changed the approach to data backup for the business, setting up their own cloud backup to run automatically.

They did this back in 2019. They since left the business.

Following a hardware problem, there was a need to access the backup, to restore data. There was no data to be found.

The way the cloud service had been setup was such that it had an initial time period, which had not been renewed.

The business had no current backup from which to restore.

A disaster recovery arrangement or plan is only useful if it works.

My advice is that you check your backup, or have it professionally checked, every six months. Think of it as a fire extinguisher in the workplace, which specialists check and certify on a schedule.


→ 1 CommentCategory: Newsagency management

Tabcorp reviewing additional terminal approval process

Mark Fletcher on January 21, 2021 6:32 AM

Some retailers in line for an additional lottery terminal since mid 2020 have been wondering why they are yet to receive the much-needed additional terminal.

It turns our Tabcorp decided to review the process through which it assessed additional terminal requests. This decision to review stopped the sending of additional terminals that had already been approved.

In the meantime, there appears to be no delay to new location approvals. Hmm …


→ 4 CommentsCategory: Ethics · Lotteries · Social responsibility

Tower Systems supports shop local with new collateral for 2021

Mark Fletcher on January 20, 2021 8:55 PM

This video released earlier today is part of a series of collateral from my POS software supporting the shop local narrative.


→ No CommentsCategory: Social responsibility

Excellent example of journalism worth paying for at the Washington Post

Mark Fletcher on January 20, 2021 8:29 AM

This video is a 14 minute except from a 41 minute video released to Washington Post subscribers in which they meticulously lay out what happened in the attack on the US capitol. As a WaPo subscriber, I have seen the full length video. It is chilling. It is also representative of excellent, fact-based, journalism, for which I am happy to pay.

This is the challenge for commercial news outlets, creating genuinely valuable content that people can trust.


→ No CommentsCategory: Ethics · Newspapers

The latest Vogue US magazine popular in Australia

Mark Fletcher on January 20, 2021 7:05 AM

I’ve had 8 people ask about buying the latest edition of the US Vogue magazine, the issue featuring incoming Vice President Kamala Harris on the cover. A couple those inquiring made it clear they didn’t care about the price.

It’s in situations like that I’d love an online portal through we could demand order single issues with certainty, even with a firm sale requirement. I am sure we could grow magazine sales. It would be easy to setup and run.


→ 1 CommentCategory: magazines

Greeting card sales through Covid in the news

Mark Fletcher on January 19, 2021 6:45 AM

There have been several articles about greeting card sales I the US during the pandemic that are worth reading:

As I go through data for the Q4 2020 newsagency sales benchmark the results in Australia are similar to what you will see in the above articles. Not in all stores but most. The growth was most prevalent in the stores with a stronger gift and giving success as the two go hand in hand.

The card category has had a good covid. Sales are up, hopefully in a way that sticks through 2021.

Across in the UK, the news is not so good with City A.M. reporting a tough year for Card Factory, the card retailer now supplying the reject Shop in Australia with cards.

Closed stores over the Christmas period meant Card Factory suffered significant losses, sending its shares down 4.1 per cent this morning.

Card Factory experienced a year-on-year decline of over 38 per cent, where forced store closures prohibited openings for 37 per cent of available trading days.

Sales over the eleven-month period fell from almost £425m in 2019 to £281m in 2020.

The greeting card retailer said it expected to report a loss before tax of around £10m for the year, compared with a pre-tax profit of over £65m a year earlier.

Executive chairman, Paul Moody, remains convinced that Card Factory resonates strongly with its customers and will bounce back from a tough year.

He said: “Despite the obvious uncertainties in the first half of 2021, I am confident that we have the opportunity to return the business to sustainable profitable growth and will do all that is necessary in the near term to ensure that we can maximise that opportunity.”

Card Factory’s online services performed very strongly, achieving like-for-like sales growth of 137 per cent during the same period.


→ No CommentsCategory: Greeting Cards

Woolworths and cashless retail

Mark Fletcher on January 18, 2021 6:44 AM

Another Woolworths Metro store in Sydney is going cashless. The announcement of the move is kicking up a storm on social media with over 2,000 tweets yesterday in a few hours.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out for the company. In several US cities now regulations have been passed requiring cashless retailers to have a facility for taking cash from people who request that.


→ 17 CommentsCategory: retail · Social responsibility

Careful what you wish for

Mark Fletcher on January 17, 2021 11:45 AM

Following relentless lobbying by News, Nine and some other commercial news outlets, agreement was reached for Google and Facebook to pay a fee for news stories to appear in search results.

Now, a few weeks later, Google is said to be trialling eliminating some news outlets from search results. It’s a kind of careful what you wish for moment.

This story has a bit to play out yet. It will be interesting to watch and see where it lands.


→ 1 CommentCategory: Media disruption · Newspapers

More trade shows delayed due to Covid

Mark Fletcher on January 16, 2021 1:53 PM

More overseas trade shows have been delayed as retailers and wholesalers deal with Covid challenges.

The New York Toy Fair, a key buying event for Australian toy wholesalers, has been moved two months. Some expect it to be delayed further. Some suppliers are not waiting and have scheduled their own online events at the timing of the original Fair – Mid February.

While trade show delays here in Australia impact retailers and suppliers, it is the overseas fairs that impact suppliers.

This time of the year, January through early March, it is not unusual for buyers from Australian businesses to be overseas for almost the whole time bouncing between trade shows. that is not happening this year. This will play out in terms of product ranges we see available.

the product catgegories most challenges by this disruption are gifts, homewares, toys and games.


→ 1 CommentCategory: Uncategorized

Interesting Twitter thread on newspaper returns at a local newsagency

Mark Fletcher on January 16, 2021 7:27 AM

The thread was drawn to my attention when a journalist tagged me in a comment. The whole thread makes for interesting reading. The original poster has 260 Twitter followers. Looking at the comments and re-tweets, it has reached tens of thousands. That in itself is a story about the ripple impact of social media.


→ No CommentsCategory: Media disruption · Newspapers

Customer asks us to not stock Murdoch newspapers

Mark Fletcher on January 15, 2021 7:09 AM

I know newspapers are important to you, but I’d like you to consider no longer stocking Murdoch newspapers, especially The Australian.

The request was as simple as that. Gentle. Respectful. Straight forward.

I asked why. They said what has happened in the US triggered them into action. They are, apparently, going around other newsagents and retailers and making the same request.

While in our case it is only one person, I wonder if more will make this request, especially in Victoria where the Murdoch press campaign and disinformation against the state government was extraordinary.

The campaign against The Sun in the UK started small and local. Now, it’s got quit the following.


→ 5 CommentsCategory: Newspapers · Social responsibility

Reed delays Sydney gift fair

Mark Fletcher on January 14, 2021 2:33 PM

Reed announced a delay two months today:

This week has been pivotal in our planning for the upcoming Reed Gift Fairs event, scheduled for 20-23 February 2021. Unfortunately, it has become clear that the recent COVID-19 outbreaks are having an impact on our community sentiment.
Prior to these recent outbreaks of COVID-19, we were optimistic that Reed Gift Fairs Sydney would run safely and successfully next month. While we continue to have permission to operate the event under our detailed covid-safe plan with the venue and NSW government, with many of our community based interstate, border closures now mean they may be unable to attend in February. As a result, Reed Exhibitions has taken the difficult decision to revise the show timing and with this in mind, we will be moving Reed Gift Fairs Sydney to the new dates of 17- 20 April 2021, co-located with Life Instyle at the ICC Sydney.
While we understand that this is disappointing news for all concerned, we have as always, built a contingency plan to ensure that we are still able to support our customers over the coming months. Although the impacts of COVID-19 will be with us for longer than anyone may have originally expected, it is imperative that we work together to get back to business in the best way possible.
Why April?
A survey to our retailers at the end of last year showed a strong need for a Sydney show in 2021, with 75% indicating that April would be the preferred alternative month that would allow them to still achieve their business objectives, if we were prevented from running in our usual February dates. Additionally, not only does it give us another 8 weeks for the current pandemic conditions to come under control, it also does not sit too far outside the traditional buying period for many of our customers.
Reed Exhibitions remains committed to helping our exhibitors and retailers transact in these difficult times. Therefore, we are offering you a digital solution from February and a face-to-face solution in April. To help bridge the gap between now and April and to ensure we are still supporting your business sourcing needs during the traditional February buying period, we will proceed with the release of our Big Book – Digital Edition, along with our online Exhibitor Directory as scheduled. 
Further information will be shared in the coming weeks and we hope to see you in April. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our Customer Service Team on 02 9422 8686.
We thank our community once again for all of your patience and encouragement during this time and we look forward to your continued support over the coming months.

Not proceeding in February was the only option from a couple of weeks ago.


→ No CommentsCategory: Gifts

Businesses buy magazines too

Mark Fletcher on January 14, 2021 7:11 AM

I moved house this week and the real estate business, Belle Property, gave me a copy of Belle magazine as part of their welcome gift hamper. It makes sense given their name. The magazine reinforced their brand.

The experience reminded me that local businesses can buy magazines for all sorts of reasons.

Local newsagents are well positioned to leverage these opportunities.



→ No CommentsCategory: magazines

Join me in a look at the Q4 2020 performance of 5 regional newsagency businesses – demonstrating core health of our channel

Mark Fletcher on January 13, 2021 6:46 AM

Here is a video of a discussion I had yesterday exploring the impact newsXpress has on member businesses. we look at the performance over the last quarter of last year compared to the same period in 2019.

There is much more that could be shared, including even greater successes as well as a more gradual detail. Think of this video as the start of a conversation abut the difference an engaged marketing group can make with engaged newsagents keen for change.

I am sharing this video to show the great success regional newsagents have made for themselves, to celebrate it and to reflect how far each of these businesses has transformed from what we used to think of as newsagencies.


→ 7 CommentsCategory: Newsagency management · newsagency of the future · Newsagency opportunities · Optimism

Lotterywest investments in the arts help WA lottery retailers

Mark Fletcher on January 12, 2021 8:13 PM

Upright (rated 8.5/10 on IMDB) is a terrific Australian mini-series released through Foxtel last year and more more widely available. It was made, in part, with funding from Lotterywest.

If I was a lottery retailer, I’d be promoting that I am grateful to customers for their Lotterywest support that enables Aussie stories like Upright to be told. It is this type of social media post that deepens the emotional connection with lottery ticket purchase.


→ No CommentsCategory: Lotteries · newsagency marketing

11,500+ daily visitors to the newsagency blog

Mark Fletcher on January 12, 2021 6:27 AM

Thinking about some of the comments recently published at this blog I thought I’d check the current traffic landing here. I’ve not looked for a couple of years since I don’t write most of what I write seeing to drive traffic.

Currently, this blog is landing in excess of 11,500 visitors a day, as measured by professional web traffic tools.

One traffic analysis tool that I use in my POS software company tracks ‘competitor’ sites as it sees competitors – based on common keywords. While Newspaper attracts more daily visits, this blog offers more keywords and achieves greater dwell time, which indicates more reading.

Looking at the 14,000+ keywords Google indexes from this blog, the mix is interesting and diverse. Even this list of the first few keywords shops not only the traffic generators but the number of daily searches in Australia for each.

Now, let’s scroll down to the 45th page of this keyword report and look at the tip of the tail of keywords.

I share all of this information with you today for several reasons:

  1. To demonstrate that everything here is public, including comments, speaking to the place of newsagencies in Australian business and society more broadly.
  2. To show that nothing here is lost. The 12,000 posts form an extensive body of work.
  3. To encourage more business focussed discourse. Disagreement is healthy, and to be encouraged. However, it’s important we all accept that disagreement does not determine right from wrong.
  4. To show that the newsagency channel and associated keywords are popular and driving plenty of Google clicks.
  5. To reinforce that what we talk about here is interesting to plenty.

→ No CommentsCategory: Blogging · Newsagency · newsagency of the future · Newsagency opportunities · Newsagent representation

Newsagency marketing group workshop tomorrow

Mark Fletcher on January 11, 2021 6:56 AM

If you are considering joining a newsagency marketing group this year, any newsagency marketing group, join me tomorrow, Tuesday jan. 12 at 10:30am, for a Zoom meeting where the newsXpress services and engagement opportunities will be shared and discussed:
Meeting ID: 953 8146 7491 Passcode: 861573

newsXpress is a newsagency marketing group offering business transformation advice and help, access to new suppliers through which you can attract new shoppers, encouragement, display advice and much more.

Nothing it does or or suggests is mandatory. You get to run your business the way you choose. The difference is you have options and opportunities from which you can choose as appropriate.

Click here for a refreshed document outlining what newsXpress offers members in 2021.


→ No CommentsCategory: Newsagency management · Newsagency marketing group · newsagency of the future

Naracoorte News going strong

Mark Fletcher on January 11, 2021 6:41 AM

It is terrific seeing the Naracoorte News going strong. remember, this newspaper was launched in the middle of Covid last year, in response to a local newspaper closing. I love their listing at their website of retailers carrying Naracoorte News.

I also love their approach to encouraging local business support, through their sponsorship program. This is smart for them and smart for local businesses.

Local newspapers like the Naracoorte News are vital to local communities. I hope it continues to thrive.


→ No CommentsCategory: Newspapers

Excellent tea towel sales in the newsagency

Mark Fletcher on January 10, 2021 7:53 AM

Sales of tea towels and related products have been excellent these last six months. Early data indicate the success is continuing, for plenty of stores.

Often, 2 and 3 are purchased in a transaction and half purchases are males for themselves, because they like the designs. Some even said they would put the tea towel in a frame for their man cave.

For what it’s worth, my take on the success is that it is due to:

  • Unexpected. We are not a destination tea towel / apron / oven mitt shop so when they see them it is a surprise, they are noticed.
  • Design. The designs are fresh, fun and local.
  • Postable. Postable gifts have been very popular.
  • Telling a story. Within some ranges, like the one featured here, there are multiple products that work well together, enabling a shopper to tell a story, completing a gift to a target value.
  • Price does not matter. You know you have a winning product when shoppers are not curious about the price.

FYI the photo is from my own high street store, from a couple of days ago.


→ No CommentsCategory: Gifts

A photo tip if you have a website for your newsagency

Mark Fletcher on January 9, 2021 6:53 AM

A common mistake retailers make with their online businesses is product photos. More often than not the photos are awful – often poor resolution, too much other stuff in the photo or not unique to the business.

Here are my tips:

  1. Take your own photos. A phone camera is good enough. While using supplier photos is temping, it will not differentiate your business.
  2. One product per photo. Too many products in a photo will negatively impact the experience for the online shopper.
  3. Be consistent in photographic style.
  4. Clear the background. See below. The first photo is one I took and the second is the same photo with a cleared background ready for a website. The second photo has not been touched up in any way other than removing the background. It clearly demonstrates the value of removing the background.

There are plenty of ways to quickly and easily clear the background. I have a commercial Canva licence. The above second photo took 5 seconds.


→ 3 CommentsCategory: Management tip · Newsagency management

Mask shortage in Brisbane

Mark Fletcher on January 8, 2021 7:49 PM

Several newsagents have contacted me re a shortage of masks for store staff. My advice is if you are in a marketing group, check with them urgently as they are likely to have suppliers with mask stock. I know from a newsXpress perspective there are six with stock of disposables well as reusable masks. newsXpress itself hold stock for emergency supply too.


→ No CommentsCategory: Social responsibility

AGHA cancels Sydney Feb. Gift Fair

Mark Fletcher on January 8, 2021 3:59 PM

This move makes sense given recent developments. watch for an announcement from Reed.


→ 3 CommentsCategory: Social responsibility