Australian Newsagency Blog

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

Lottoland under spotlight following launch of financial system betting games

Mark Fletcher on January 17, 2019 4:16 AM

Lottoland have confronted the ban in Australia on their lottery betting from January 1, 2019, launching jackpot betting on financial market results.

This looks and feels like a move to get around the ban. Following a complaint, ASIC is considering an investigation, as reported by The Sydney Morning Herald. ASIC is one of several bodies looking at what Lottoland is doing.

The Herald understands the complaint, lodged on Friday, suggest Lottoland may be offering a financial service through the “jackpot betting” product.

Sources with knowledge of the complaint said it raised concerns that by using financial market data to create a lottery draw, Lottoland may be making a market for its own over-the-counter products.

Other industry sources told the Herald if Lottoland was using financial markets to simply generate a string of random numbers to determine a win, which would not be a financial service, this could instead leave it in breach of the Interactive Gambling Act.

However, Lottoland chief executive Luke Brill said “jackpot betting” was just the start of a series of new products the company expected to bring to the market this year.

I can’t see how this will end well for Lottoland given the 9investment by politicians already. However, the people at Lottoland have plenty i nested in Australia so it should have been anticipated by the politicians and those who wrote the legislation that they would look for ways around it.

What is interesting with this latest financial market product is that it is based on the financial markets, including the US. If you try and access Lottoland in the US you see this:

While the bigger challenges for newsagents are the migration of lottery purchases online as well as diversification in easy to access gambling products, Lottoland will draw more attention as it is an understood and unifying target for retailers, and because it launched in Australia with a campaign mocking newsagents.

It is unfortunate that stage based VANA and NANA newsagent associations backed Lottoland last year in the organisation’s fight to offer its lottery betting products.

2 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: Ethics · Lotteries · Social responsibility

Back to School marketing on social media

Mark Fletcher on January 16, 2019 2:53 PM

Here is one of several marketing videos created for newsXpress members [pitching Back to School. Based on engagement data, this video is loved. It is deliberately short and not product specific. Anything newsagents can do to promote outside the usual type of ads is important now.

3 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: marketing · newsagency marketing

Australia Day public holiday confusion

Mark Fletcher on January 16, 2019 7:03 AM

There is confusion among some retailers as to which day is the public holiday. Click here for a link to the FairWork web page that has the information if your business trades under an award. While an EBA could be different, I suspect most coming by here will not have an EBA in place.

For the record, no state lists January 26 as a public holiday. This means public holiday rates will not apply that day.

5 likes

→ 5 CommentsCategory: Newsagency management

New year resolutions for POS software users

Mark Fletcher on January 15, 2019 7:18 AM

I wrote this for the Tower Systems blog yesterday and share it here as it’s relevant to newsagents, regardless of the software they use.

The goal of the resolutions is to encourage using software more than it hard been used. The list is like a menu, choose the ideas (resolutions) that appeal, one, two, or as many as you like.

TWENTY-FIVE 2019 POS SOFTWARE RELATED SMALL BUSINESS RETAIL NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS.

  1. Maintain better quality business data.
  2. Order based on actual sales data rather than gut feel.
  3. Spend more time away from the shop by managing remotely.
  4. Eliminate manual processes.
  5. Take action on employee theft.
  6. take action on customer theft.
  7. Reduce dead stock.
  8. Eliminate more paperwork.
  9. Engage in more data based business planning.
  10. Declutter my business data.
  11. Declutter the shop based on the business data.
  12. Delegate more.
  13. Set KPI goals, measure, track and engage.
  14. Learn more about the software.
  15. Learn something new from the software every week.
  16. Start believing the business performance data.
  17. Only sell products with a barcode.
  18. Establish new rules designed to protect data integrity.
  19. Deal more with suppliers that make doing business easier and less with suppliers that don’t.
  20. Leverage more control over the business.
  21. Manage staff performance more.
  22. Engage in more free training from Tower Systems.
  23. Ask Tower to tell me what they see about my business in my business data.
  24. Get more from the software.
  25. Treat data as an asset and not as a chore.
6 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: Newsagency management

Refreshed school holiday marketing ideas for newsagents

Mark Fletcher on January 14, 2019 9:53 AM

School holidays are a wonderful opportunity its for finding new shoppers for your business.

But most of all, to make the most from school holidays, you need to have fun!

Here are refreshed marketing suggestions to help school holidays be more valuable for your newsagency. They are just some of the ideas you could embrace. Hopefully, you will think of plenty for yourself.

  1. Stack the counter with items kids will love and want to buy or want to have parents and grand parents buy for them. Go to their side of the counter and build it for maximum engagement.
  2. Give educators a discount and a thank you. Give it a name. For example: a Thank you for teaching 0ur kids discount. Run it for school holidays.
  3. Make shopping for last-minute school supplies easy.
  4. Host local show and tell. Invite kids to create something, art, a poem, or something else connected to a local place of interest or local history. Host an in-store show and tell event where parents and kids can participate. The prize is less relevant than giving kids a voice.
  5. Teach about local. Host events in-store where kids can learn more about the local area.
  6. Let people play. Have products out and open for people to play with in-store. be the destination fun shop in town.
  7. Do product demonstrations in-store during the expected peak days, demonstrating thinks like a slinky, kinetic sand, slime, jigsaws and the like. Create some retail theatre.
  8. Publish posts on your business Facebook page with ideas of what people can do locally during the school holidays.
  9. Host an event appropriate to the season:
    1. A papier machier pumpkin mask competition for September holidays.
    2. A paper plane throwing competition for summer holidays.
    3. A Easter art competition for all ages for the Easter break.
    4. A winter bake off for Winter – maybe connected with the cookbooks you sell.
    5. Run a best joke of the holidays competition.

These refreshed ideas are designed to help you create a business during any holidays period that is looked at differently to the rest of the year, to help you gain a reputation as the best school holidays place locally.

5 likes

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

Linda Ronstadt from 35 years ago on journalism

Mark Fletcher on January 13, 2019 10:22 PM

So true today…

6 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: Ethics · Newspapers · Social responsibility

How to make the news less relevant in a newspaper

Mark Fletcher on January 13, 2019 7:44 PM

Stick an ad over editorial content, like this from Fairfax, which I was sent today.

2 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: newspaper masthead desecration

Brilliant ad from Optus about locked-in contracts

Mark Fletcher on January 13, 2019 6:16 AM

With some locked-in contracts holding newsagents back and the suppliers using legal threats on newsagents who want out, this new ad from Optus will appeal to some here…

3 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: marketing

What an awesome video from Bundaberg Brewed Drinks

Mark Fletcher on January 12, 2019 6:38 AM

What a wonderful way to appreciate your customers!

5 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: marketing

The security risk of an ATM in a newsagency window

Mark Fletcher on January 11, 2019 2:41 PM

This report of theft of an ATM machine, k from a newsagency in the UK:

0 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: theft

Beware retail business consultants who have all the answers

Mark Fletcher on January 11, 2019 5:40 AM

There are some retail business consultants pitching their services and ideas to newsagents and others in our channel.

My advice is to beware, approach with caution, question the suggestions and advice from business consultants and self-proclaimed retail experts. Ask for evidence that supports their suggestions. Seek our references from indie retailers who have benefited from their advice. Ask the basis on which they make suggestions. Most of all, ensure they understand the channel and what is being confronted.

What newsagency businesses is experience is unique. It goes beyond ‘traditional’ disruption. There are multiple factors at plays, each impacting the other and the whole picture resulted is what I think is best describes as super-disruption.

I say super-disruption because we hear plenty about super-storms, super-cyclones and the like. They are bigger, more ferocious, more confronting versions of the singular.  That is what we are dealing with, disruption on a level not often seen elsewhere.

I have heard from consultants working with newsagents and read some of their suggestions. While their ideas are okay, they do not consider the bigger picture, they do not deal with more of what newsagents are confronting. This is why I say about consultants and advisors…

My advice is to beware, approach with caution, question the suggestions and advice from business consultants and self-proclaimed retail experts. Ask for evidence that supports their suggestions. Seek our references from indie retailers who have benefited from their advice. Ask the basis on which they make suggestions. Most of all, ensure they understand the channel and what is being confronted.

Some of the disruptors playing into each there in our channel include:

  1. The decline of print media.
  2. Migration of lottery purchases online.
  3. The decline in physical stationery use.
  4. Migration of the stationery shopper to online and big business.
  5. Migration of local school stationery business to online and big overseas businesses.
  6. Growth in corporate convenience businesses.
  7. Migration of transport ticket top-up to online.
  8. The closure of many newsagencies and the resulting impact on channel suppliers.

I don’t see these disruptors as problematic … if you engaged early and transitioned your business. The opportunities for change and growth in a ‘newsagency’ business remain considerable.

My key concern about the consultants and retail experts who are plying their trade in our channel is for those yet to transition, those keen for advice and guidance. Unless the consultants and retail-experts do thorough homework, I fear their advice will be of little real value.

Like anything, buyer beware.

8 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: Ethics · Newsagency management

Powerball $100M brightens summer

Mark Fletcher on January 10, 2019 11:49 PM

Lottery retailers got a fillip to shopper traffic with Powerball jack potting tonight to $100M next Thursday.

0 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: Lotteries

When your building is sold: a challenge for the small business retailer

Mark Fletcher on January 10, 2019 5:19 AM

A newsagent friend is dealing with a new landlord following the sale late last year of the building in which they trade.

They have eighteen months on their lease and were hoping too extend as the business is well established and there is a shortage of as well situated retail space nearby.

The new landlord has made it clear they would look the newsagent out as soon as possible so they can rent the space to a family friend.

Their actions toward the tenant, while within the terms of the lease, have been aggressive, creating considerable stress for the family that owns the newsagency business. The landlord is in the shop regularly. The landlord shops in the business and disrupts trade when doing so.

The newsagent has considered taking action against the landlord to refuse them entry but they are concerns that such action would only make matters worse. However, they have tried a gently approach and that hard failed.

In the state in which the business is located there are a couple of legal avenues available. However, as with any legal action there is the risk of failure, added to the cost of the action itself.

Their current approach is to be as small a target as possible by paying the rent on time and not asking the landlord for any support, even for building repairs that are the landlord’s responsibility in the lease.

One option is to document to the landlord what has been happening, the disruption in the shop and what the landlord has said to them, to show that a body of evidence is building. They don’t want to do that because, again, of fear of inflaming the situation.

They know how this will end – with them out of the shop. I have suggested they actively look now and make changes to the business now to reflect what could be a very different business in a different location, maybe off the main street in town … less convenience and more destination retail. In other words, create the business today that they will want in the future, in a new location. I have also reiterated my suggestion that they get legal advice, in case the disruption to their business by the new landlord increases.

10 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: Newsagency challenges · Newsagency management

Gifts are not what they used to be, and that is a good thing

Mark Fletcher on January 9, 2019 6:20 AM

There was a time when gifts were easy to stock for newsagents. There were wholesalers who offered access to spinners and packs that fit with the key seasons as it is those seasons that we all focussed on for ur gift stories through then year.

That all started to change ten or so years ago. Slowly, the gift opportunity evolved to a point today where plenty of newsagents do not purchase season specific gifts, leaving that space to discount variety and other similar mass retail businesses, including c-stores, which are playing more and more in this space.

Gifts today are more carefully purchased by newsagents in the space, to appeal to unique local interests or to use as a lure to a specific and valuable demographic for the business. Often, the best gifts are those you would never expect to see in a newsagency. In my own situation, I put pursuit of a demographic ahead of season and other factors s that can provide buying guidance that is ore useful than some hard and fast rule on price.

In my experience, terrific gifts today come from suppliers who to not make calls on retailers as that means you are less likely to have another local retailer following you, or at least not following you as easily as if they spoke to the same rep visiting the town.

The short version of this is that the days of mediocre cheap gifts as the standard in newsagencies has passed. We now see less of the forks bent into art for guys and colourful oven mitts or gaudy soap packs for ladies. We see more short run products, locally made products and higher priced art like pieces … that you would never have seen in a newsagency a few years ago.

The gift space is strong and have plenty of opportunity to get stronger. I am optimistic about this category for our channel.

9 likes

→ 1 CommentCategory: Gifts · Newsagency opportunities · Optimism

Product sampling key to success with food

Mark Fletcher on January 8, 2019 6:24 AM

I have seen terrific examples of success with product sampling over the Christmas / New Year period, including this sampling of locally made jam. The owner made some scones for the sampling.

With more transitioning newsagents selling food products, I thought it worthwhile to remind about the sampling opportunity.

While best dine on the shop floor, near the front of the shop to attract people, it can work equally well at the counter.

Make sure people can engage without touching food with their hands. This also gives confidence that it is safe. napkins or similar are often appreciated.

Keep sample portion sizes small, it is for a taste after all.

Have a card or small flyer pitching the product being sampled.

Consider an offer for those who buy following a sample.

Suppliers will often support a structured sampling program that features their products. Ask the question.

The best product to sample are those that are new and are unique to your business in the area. It is all about introducing customers to new things after all.

5 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: newsagency marketing · Newsagency opportunities

A good magazine for your back to school pitch

Mark Fletcher on January 7, 2019 2:44 PM

This issue of Australian healthy Food is an excellent title to add to your back to School pitch. It’s small format and covers topics relevant to school food prep. Plus, it leverages the strong current interest in healthy / clean eating. Also, it’s Aussie and that’s something to feature.

Adding magazine to seasonal and other feature product displays is a way to subtly remain shoppers of magazine purchase opportunities.

4 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: magazines

More news outlets quitting lotto

Mark Fletcher on January 7, 2019 5:36 AM

In New York over Christmas I saw more news outlets with a sign like this: No Lotto. The terminal was not down. No, they had removed Lotto from the business. The move is a surprise in that the footprint commitment to offering Lotto is small. The small format shops offer newspapers, magazines, tobacco and convenience style gifts.

As Tatts extends its reach and demands on its retail network I wonder if we will see more in Australia quit its products.

If their recent handling of employee wage record keeping and pay conditions is anything to go by I suspect more Tatts franchisees will consider a business without the intrusive overlord as one retailer called them recently when we were talking about Tatts’ demands on them.

26 likes

→ 15 CommentsCategory: Lotteries · Newsagency management · newsagency of the future

Dealing with abandoned kids

Mark Fletcher on January 6, 2019 6:30 AM

I love this sign I saw in a shopping mall store recently. Parents leaving kids in the shop while they go elsewhere is a regular challenge in shopping centre based businesses.

Our store policy is to call security. If we did  serve coffee, we’d use this sign.

11 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: Newsagency management

Weekends are what matters next for Nine/Fairfax print newspapers

Mark Fletcher on January 5, 2019 6:09 AM

Fairfax is promoting the weekend only print and anytime digital access to The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. Here is the pop up currently running on the website for each masthead:

It makes sense as shifting to weekend only print editions is a common move among daily newspaper publishers who have retreated from seven day publishing.

A cross at The Australian Financial Review, their pitch is less in four face, but clearly focussed on weekend only publication.

I am not looking forward to Nine/Fairfax or any published reducing or cutting print editions as when it first happens the disruption to the channel will be considerable. However, since it will happen, the best thing for all is for it to happen sooner so we get out the other side.

I say the disruption to the channel will be considerable because of the psychological impact I suspect it will have on many, newsagents who have not started to transition their businesses to rely less on print media.

Given the weekday circulation for the Fairfax titles and considering moves made by some daily newspaper publishers overseas, I am surprised we still have the seven and six day products being published. The losses most weekdays must be considerable.

17 likes

→ 16 CommentsCategory: Media disruption · newsagency of the future · Newspapers

Tatts Powerball ads on TV

Mark Fletcher on January 4, 2019 7:40 AM

If I was a Tatts retailer I’d be frustrated to see them advertising the Powerball $50M jackpot for last night on TV after 6pm. It makes a mockery of the purchase pitch that includes in-store when, by then,. stores are closed.

I suspect this is all about online customer acquisition as those who do purchase online are less likely to purchase in-store again.

4 likes

→ 3 CommentsCategory: Lotteries

Officeworks in strong back to school pitch

Mark Fletcher on January 4, 2019 5:59 AM

These two photos, which I took in an Officeworks in Sydney a couple of days prior to Christmas, tell the story of an engaged, fierce competition for back to school business. This first sign is what you see as you enter the business:

This is places deeper in the business, with a terrific range of school supplies:

They make it look easy, like they have everything and that their prices are competitive.

5 likes

→ 3 CommentsCategory: Stationery

What hope is there for a shingle?

Mark Fletcher on January 3, 2019 6:09 AM

On Twitter, someone was looking to buy stamps and asked Australia Post about whether certain outlets would sell them. No mention of newsasgencies or newsagents. Instead, the reference used was tatts lotto.

I have said at conferences and elsewhere that having lottery products in a shop, and all their associated collateral, do more to define a ‘type’ of business than any shingle. The presence of lottery products set shopper expectations in terms of product mix, hours and customer service.

I think this tweet supports that.

No, I’m not criticising lotteries or lottery products. Rather, I am making an observation that a major product category sets shopper expectation in independent retail.

13 likes

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

Announcing: new newsagency sales benchmark study

Mark Fletcher on January 2, 2019 6:08 AM

Here is an email I sent yesterday to newsagents using the Tower Systems software, announcing a newsagency sales benchmark study to look at business performance over the last three months:

Q4 2018 NEWSAGENCY SALES BENCHMARK STUDY.

I invite you to provide data for the Q4 2018 newsagency sales performance benchmark study. The benchmark provides data against which you can compare your business performance. Click here for my last report.

How to participate.

  1. Please run a Monthly Sales Comparison Report for 01/10/2018 – 31/12/2018 compared to 01/10/2017 – 31/12/2017.
  2. Tick the category box. IMPORTANT.
  3. Tick to exclude home delivery and sub agent data.
  4. DO NOT tick the supplier box.
  5. Preview the report on the screen. Save as a PDF and email this to me at mark@towersystems.com.au.
  6. Read the report yourself and see what it shows you about your business.
  7. I will email the results to all participating newsagents and publish the results on the Australian Newsagency Blog as a service for all newsagents.

My work with this channel goes back to 1981 when I wrote newsagency software to manage newspaper home deliveries. That software evolved into Point of Sale software and has been rewritten as software technology has changed.

I own and run three newsagencies. Over the years I have had three others. I am a 50% shareholder in and CEO of newsXpress, the newsagency marketing group.

Tower Systems serves 1,750+ newsagents with best practice newsagency software, We are thrilled to note that our customer base is growing. Overall, Tower Systems serves in excess of 3,500 small business retailers.

Mark Fletcher
M | 0418 321 338

5 likes

→ 2 CommentsCategory: Newsagency benchmark

Worst newsagency supplier of 2018: Gordon and Gotch

Mark Fletcher on December 31, 2018 5:27 AM

I nominate magazine distributor Gordon and Gotch as the worst newsagent supplier of 2018. I do this on the basis of:

  1. A broken magazine supply model that results in failure every month with between 30% and 50% of what is sent as not selling. This wastes newsagent capital, time and space. Gotch people will say this is the fault of the publishers who control print runs. I don’t care. Gotch is the supplier to newsagents.
  2. Poor communication.
  3. Poor customer service. Often non existent. Newsagents have to spend too much time using inefficient systems at Gotch – phone and email – to get simple queries answered.
  4. Poor tech infrastructure that makes it hard for newsagents to proactively trade on new titles. I am tired of excuses by Gotch representatives on this.
  5. Disinterest. The impression newsagents tell me have is that when it comes to Gotch, newsagents feel they don’t care.
  6. Poor commercial value to a newsagency business. The poor margin, couples with a broken supply model and a high labour cost for newsagents on dealing with queries drives this poor value.

Feel free to nominate any other company or agree or disagree with my post.

FOOTNOTE: A Jan 1, 2019 reflection: Why am I so hard on Gotch? Because they have had decades to get this right. They are a cornerstone supplier in a cornerstone category. Newsagents used to be their exclusive customers for print media products. Now, ur channel is one of several. While we have more competition, Gotch has less, and we are the worst off for it.

The position of Gotch in the channel, their size, their market dominance mean we ought expect more from them. In 2018, we got less. This is leading newsagents to exit magazines.

25 likes

→ 15 CommentsCategory: magazine distribution · Newsagent suppliers

Terrific Boxing Day Sale result

Mark Fletcher on December 30, 2018 7:57 AM

Looking at the post-Christmas sales, I’m very happy with the results. Close to double-digit growth in good margin categories. Every sale is an opportunity we leverage for return business by using the discount voucher program with a date-based offer to bring those sale shoppers back in a reasonable period.

In retail here in Australia or anywhere in the world for that matter year on year growth has to be appreciated.

We drove this latest sale with a strong offer right out the gate from December 26, with plenty of product purchased for the purpose. The sale success gets us closer to the key shop floor reset we have planned for a few weeks, as we further transition the business into new areas.

I appreciate Boxing Bay / post-Christmas sales are not for everyone. In a major shopping centre in suburban Melbourne, they are an essential event on the retail calendar.

4 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: Newsagency management