Australian Newsagency Blog

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

Do we really need another local gardening magazine?

Mark Fletcher
September 30th, 2010 · 43 Comments

good-gardening-sep2010.jpgHere in Australia we have some terrific locally produced gardening titles: Burke’s Backyard, Gardening Australia, Organic, Your Garden, Better Homes and Gardens to name just a few.  Add to the local titles the imported titles – some successful and some not so successful – and you have a full, even overflowing, gardening section. The range is good.  Year on year sales are okay, no significant growth.

I was surprised, therefore, when Good Gardening arrived with our magazines yesterday morning. It’s a new title, one for which we have no available space. It has a long on sale – three months.

Outside of the long on sale and the cash flow implications of a September billing and a January credit and that this makes a financial backer of the new title without the publisher asking us for a loan,  there is a the space problem.  If I want to carry this title and my gardening section is full, something has to give, it will force me to bump a title.

The folks at Universal Magazines, the publisher behind this title will think that I am out to get them with this blog post.  They will probably send another threatening letter saying that I am harming their business writing about them in this way.  Before they do this, they should consider the facts:

  1. Newsagents were not given the opportunity to say no to receiving Good Gardening.
  2. We had no control over the quantity.
  3. We were billed on the second last day of the month from what I understand.
  4. The title is to be returned in the second last week of the year.
  5. In the majority of newsagencies the title will be cash-flow negative.
  6. We have been given no data to indicate the commercial prospects of the title in an already crowded segment.
  7. We will get a credit for unsold stock in January 2011.

Magazine distributors and publishers need to understand that if they expect newsagents to pay their bills on time, they MUST provide us with accessible and fair business mechanisms through which we can exact business decisions which drive our level of indebtedness for magazine product.  The release of Good Gardening is a good example of the lack of control newsagents have.

The title itself looks okay.  I could not find anything which made it stand out from the other good titles in the segment.  I am sure it will find some customers – but at what cost to newsagents.  Retail real estate and labour to manage this is expensive.  Every magazine title has an overhead every week which must be covered by sales.  New titles have a higher cost than others unless they are an instant hit like MasterChef.


Category: magazine distribution · magazines

43 responses so far ↓

  • 1 shaun s // Sep 30, 2010 at 7:00 AM

    sent back already , i just cannot afford a new tittle at the end of the month unfortunantly if they left it untill fridays delivery i would have given it a go


  • 2 Agent // Sep 30, 2010 at 8:09 AM

    We received an unusually large number of magazines from one supplier on Wednesday, I’m sure it was just a coincidence that it was the last billing day of an already long month for mags. Is it time for annual staff bonuses at the mag companies?


  • 3 allan wickham // Sep 30, 2010 at 8:17 AM

    would love to know how many new titles get sent to agents each week???…..i seem to be processing new titles at an alarming rate. I havent seen any shopfitters in my store biulding new magazine racks so i dont know where i`m supposed to put new titles…any ideas???


  • 4 ERIC // Sep 30, 2010 at 8:24 AM

    yesterday it take me more than 3 hours just to do returns, i guess i return as manay as what i recieved if not more.


  • 5 Wally // Sep 30, 2010 at 8:45 AM

    It seems to me that this company constantly demands full returns and the next thing you know is you are getting it back as a “Bonus” offer in a bag with the next issue. It is time to say enough is enough with full returns. By the way the it was nice to get 2 bagged copies of the soccer world cup back as a “bonus” having just sent them back last month because we couldnt sell them the first time.


  • 6 Chris W // Sep 30, 2010 at 1:56 PM

    Have a look at the upcoming Friday distribution from NDC: “Desg for Family Living” No. 1, “Srabok Tec Pack” Iss 1, “Ult Quilt Pack” Iss 1. These are presumably coming from the same publisher who has No. 1s every Friday for the past number of weeks and who has change the on sale time of their monthly titles (e.g. Performance Imports, Xtreme Holden, Zoom, etc.) to just under two months. I’m surprised that there hasn’t been comment on this latter development in the blog. I’m fed up to the back teeth of having to early return their stuff and then seeing it again in plastic bags a month or two later.


  • 7 allan wickham // Sep 30, 2010 at 2:15 PM

    6 boxes of returns being picked up in the morning…..time for another cull!!!!


  • 8 Shayne // Sep 30, 2010 at 4:30 PM

    Wally, we are so far from Sydney we’re almost in Victoria, yet we are still expected to pay to freight back endless double and triple bagged magazines which, as you say, come straight back to us again the next month. Between the Magazine distributors taking our money as they see fit, and the paper companies forcing us to lose money every day doing deliveries, well lets just say its frustrating to say the least. Looking forward to seeing the magazine monthly statements tomorrow, which are going to be about 140% of our net magazine sales for September. Nice.


  • 9 Shayne // Sep 30, 2010 at 4:32 PM

    At least the Pies will win this week, that will go a long way to making the world a better place.


  • 10 Paul S // Sep 30, 2010 at 6:08 PM

    Interesting thing I’ve noticed. I’ve been doing a weekly supplementary return for either Gotch or Network each week in addition to the regular returns and the oversupply seems to “switch” to magazines that we’ve previously had no oversupply of (or like in cases mentioned above were previously never supplied). Magazines that we were getting 3 of and selling 1 we’re now getting 5-7 of. The oversupply seems to rotate onto previously OK titles.
    Meh… guess they’ll start getting upset when I early return 3 quarters of what they send me each week on a weekly basis.


  • 11 Glenn // Sep 30, 2010 at 7:01 PM

    I noticed in yesterdays delivery existing titles coming in with a new supplier code and new title name (generally newsagent or some abbreviation thereof added to the name), thereby creating a new magazine in the POS system so we could not see the sales history whilst invoicing in stock. Sneaky!!

    eg Performance Imports issue 126 came in yesterday under code 07604 with the name “Perf.import newsagents”. Previously it came in under “Performance Imports” and title code 05638.

    Once we woke up to this we could manage it, but it is extra work unnecessarily.


  • 12 Glenn // Sep 30, 2010 at 8:16 PM

    We have been sent, by GG and NET, 160% (exc gst) of our total magazine retail sales (again ex gst) for these 2 companies for September. How do they expect this to be funded?


  • 13 Mark // Sep 30, 2010 at 8:52 PM

    Glenn the more newsagents who complain to the ACCC with solid evidence of this behaviour the better. The ACCC is certainly interested.


  • 14 John // Sep 30, 2010 at 9:43 PM

    We just received a bunch of ‘WA’s Best Outdoors & Gardens’ from Network. They expect us to keep it on the shelf until 3/10/2011 – 12 months!!! And then they want returns back as full copies – THEY HAVE GOT TO BE JOKING. Each book weighs over a kilo (yeah I know I’m being a bit anal weighing it). This bullXXXX from the suppliers has got to stop. They’ll put us all out of business or out of magazines if they don’t.


  • 15 Mark // Sep 30, 2010 at 9:51 PM

    John, call David Hogan or Lisa O’Neill at the publisher, Scoop Publishing, on 08 9388 8188 and let them know what you think.


  • 16 allan wickham // Oct 1, 2010 at 6:34 AM

    10 new titles today….anyone from Network or GG like to tell me where i`m supposed to put them….i have a couple of suggestions!!!!


  • 17 Allan Wickham // Oct 1, 2010 at 7:43 AM

    I have a goal for the upcoming week….1) print report for bottom 50 sellers and return every single one of them…2) every mag that has been on the shelf for over a month is coming off and being returned…3) this week will see the biggest ever returns amount from this store. Anyone want to join me???

    Had a GUTFULL!!!


  • 18 Y&G // Oct 1, 2010 at 7:52 AM

    Perhaps a quicker way of getting noticed could be to turn it all back on them… Draw up your own company policy, relating to billing/payment etc. Tell them that when they breach certain clauses, such as delivery of umpteen unwanted/unsolicited titles, an infringement will be issued. After three of which have been actioned, accounts will be closed.

    Of course, the potential implications of actual follow-thru need to be planned for, not least of which would be finding an agent to subby from 😀


  • 19 shaun s // Oct 1, 2010 at 8:11 AM

    received a letter from old mates at NDC apparently they now don’t like the way i pay my bill each month .eg of how i pay my account say it is 10000 i pay 8ooo as soon as i can and pay the remainder normally a day or 2 after the 20th well as it goes you are not allowed to make a payment like that it has to be equally divided up and not just any amount . geees just cannot win withj these clowns They want it in lots of 50% and 50% or divide it by 3 and so on . we had $1000 remaining on sep account and they said they cannot accept it as it is not divided equally . anyway i Bpay my account so they had no option but to accept it


  • 20 Heather // Oct 1, 2010 at 9:50 AM

    Aust Stitches Code 059687 V18#8 followed by Aust Stitches presents top ideas V18#9 Code 04061
    This makes Putaways very hard to do – customer found this one for me


  • 21 Heather // Oct 1, 2010 at 9:56 AM

    again – and lets not get confused by Inspired dressmaking with stitches Code 04031 which is Vol 18#11
    geez now to find Vol 18#10 I’m guarantedd to lose my putaway ladies now, this is far too confusing


  • 22 Heather // Oct 1, 2010 at 10:02 AM

    Aha found it – Code 04071, Dressmaking with stitches.
    I get it now – every moth the code and title are going to be different, so that the ladies who collect the series find it impossible to keep up – the newsagent has NO Chance LOL. Rant over


  • 23 Paul S // Oct 1, 2010 at 11:30 AM

    Allan, I reckon if every Newsagent did just as you’re suggesting then the oversupply would have to stop…..if only because they were so backlogged with returns that they couldn’t rebag them straight away and resend them the following month !


  • 24 DM // Oct 1, 2010 at 11:56 AM

    Allan I agree with you we need to do something about this oversupply problem. Everyone is having the same issue so if everyone returned magazines as you suggested, it may show that newsagents can work as a united group and someone may take note. Nothing else works


  • 25 allan wickham // Oct 1, 2010 at 7:10 PM

    Paul S and DM, i am doing this….are you with me?????? Who else wants to say enough is enough????


  • 26 Graeme Day // Oct 1, 2010 at 8:15 PM

    What is wrong with the public-your customers deciding if they want another gardening magazine? Guess thy wont know how good it is until they see it, will they?


  • 27 Mark // Oct 1, 2010 at 9:03 PM

    Graeme, you miss the point of the post. In terms of your comment however, think that through … all that is happening is shifting sales from one titles to another. We are not seeing incremental growth in overall magazine sales except in exceptional circumstances, MasterChef being one.


  • 28 Jarryd Moore // Oct 2, 2010 at 2:45 AM


    By that logic newsagents would have to at least trial every magazine on the market to determine if their customers wanted it.


  • 29 shaun s // Oct 2, 2010 at 5:06 AM

    Graeham, there is nothing wrong with it but where are they going to buy this from when we all go broke ? not sure if things are worse now or better from the days when you were a newsagent but i can tell you if i did not early return i would be doors shut a long time ago . What is wrong with the publisher forking out a few extra dollars for us to get there new mag off the gound and getting the subscription off to a start . We are the ones taking the gamble on wether it is a good magazine or not , we carry it for the 3 months or so before sometime we even make a dollar off it . All new tittles should come in within the first 2 weeks of the new month so that we can give them a shot , basically if you cannot see any great movement in that time it is not worth having anyway .


  • 30 Paul S // Oct 2, 2010 at 4:15 PM

    Already with you Allan !!

    Already doing a weekly supplementary return for both distributors and will continue to do so. I use both the Tower Systems Point of Sale system to root out non selling titles and do a visual walk around to keep an eye on obvious over stocks that I haven’t already put aside .


  • 31 Janice // Oct 5, 2010 at 3:23 PM

    Hi Mark,

    3 things to note about Good Gardening:
    • The magazine is a bimonthly.
    • As you know I was in Melbourne last week – I wrote to on two occasions seeking a meeting with you specifically, and on neither occasion did you reply.
    • Good Gardening is Australia’s first dedicated organic food gardening magazine – had we met I would have been able to demonstrate a clear trend towards productive gardening, and how this title will contribute to overall Retail Sales Value in this category. A new title like this represents $200K for us, so needless-to-say, we would not be launching it if we thought the sales would be low.

    Mark – I have a lot of respect for some of the things you do, but when you represent something unfairly or get things wrong, as you often do with us – we are compelled to respond and make our position known.

    Of course you will get letters from us if you get things wrong, or target us unfairly — I don’t know of any business owner or manager that would just sit around and let someone create the wrong perception in public. In fact, I don’t think our letter was threatening, and I don’t think you would let anyone create misperceptions about your business without at least a letter in response. Fair is fair.

    This post has become fairly broad but to respond to the things that could be construed to be about us:
    • For “Shaun S” and “Agent” – At Universal we tend to stagger edition releases throughout the month i.e.: some in the first week, some in the second week and so on. It happens this way unless a ship runs late and then we might have one title move from week three to week four. Call me if you want and I’ll drop in a copy of our schedule.
    • For “Allan” – We agree with the general point of too many magazines. It is not our business to suggest what newsagents do and don’t take but returning mags that don’t sell and replacing with ones that do makes sense. We would not be investing $200K in launching Good Gardening if we thought the copy sales would be low! If I was a retailer and was being bombarded with new non-selling titles at the rate of 10 per week I know what I’d do!
    • For “Wally” – We and a large number of publishers do mag packs because they sell well. Even large companies like ACP do packs such as “Picture Premium Pack” – it is not unusual. 90% of the mags that go in Universals packs is mint stock ie: we print it especially for the pack product.
    • For “Shayne S” – Watch this space on the returns thing. I am sure you know that Universal is a small player in the scheme of things so we can’t operate alone when it comes to returns processing (due to economies of scale), but there is serious movement so give me a call on this. Congratulations re the Pies.
    • For “Chris W” – Those packs that you’ve identified are by another publisher.
    • For “Glenn” – Agree, and these mags are by another publisher.
    • For “Heather” – These mags are by another publisher.

    Mark – As there has been some discussion here I ask that this post be left up as it is important that we get to contribute to the discussion.

    I am not a regular blog reader so if you are a newsagent and want to get in touch on this mag or anything else the best way to reach me is on my phone number (02) 9887 0316, or our Circulation Manager (02) 9887 0361, or through our distributor NSC. If you are a newsagent and don’t want to receive any of these products let us know on the same numbers. As a publisher we focus on niche mags that are in the top 200, so we can’t stop the flood of dumped imports or poorly allocated low-sellers (because we don’t do them) but we’re always happy to chat with retailers because at the end of the day we’re all about saving money and making sales.




  • 32 Mark // Oct 5, 2010 at 3:37 PM


    You emailed me on the 28th about a meeting and I responded to you on the 29th.

    Please tell me what I have got wrong with this blog post.

    My guess is that newsagents will be risking around $200,000 on this title without being asked. Whatever the number, you have decided for us and that is core to the problem.


  • 33 allan wickham // Oct 5, 2010 at 6:09 PM

    Janice yor point about being bombarded with “new non-selling” titles is half right and all of the problem, because they are “new” titles we dont know yet if they will sell or not. The problem is us Newsagents are asked to underwrite the experiment….if a Publisher is confident of sales then send the stock on a sales only basis or something similar. As far as “new” titles are concerned i have another 9 “new” titles arriving tomorrow.



  • 34 Graeme Day // Oct 5, 2010 at 6:44 PM

    I am not trying to compare eras. I am still up to date, daily in fact, with a lot of the day to day operations of newsagents in my wortk as a consultant, however I really don’t know all the ins and outs of it, especially what are the best sellers etc (by definition in suburb by suburb, town by town etc) nor do I try. The fundamentals of retailong do not change and the fundamentls of debit credit ratios do not change. In the late 80’s interest rates went to 25% and it was horiffic, however unlike today there was a lot of credit available which was use as an oofset.

    You are not taking a “gamble” on anything, sor sale or return eliminates that however your point is well taken when you say it is a costly excercise to keep non selling stock for longer than you wish.


  • 35 shaun s // Oct 5, 2010 at 6:48 PM

    Janice it is a good thing that you have replied to this blog post . I do agree that they are staggerd throughout the month . But as i said my only drama is supplies and not saying universals mags but overall loading us up on the last week of the month . Unfortunantly a new mag on the last week just does not get a chance to prove itself in sales mainly because of the abuse of the system that is in place and not the magazine in question . once again thankyou for commenting on here it is good to see different views on what is happening


  • 36 Mark // Oct 5, 2010 at 8:31 PM

    Graeme, Too many newsagents and their advisors get lulled into the view that sale or return eliminates the gamble. You need to consider rent, theft, labour and opportunity cost.


  • 37 Graeme Day // Oct 5, 2010 at 9:43 PM

    Rent theft. labour and opportunity cost are retail it’s called risk, and that is the gamble you are talking about. No dead stock means a part of that risk is eliminated and therefore the gamble reverts to normal risk.
    This still doesn’t take away from the fact that “holding” costs and slow credits carry a cost.
    They are two different things Mark and should not be confused.


  • 38 Mark // Oct 5, 2010 at 9:45 PM

    Graeme, you lecture us that we are not taking a gamble. We are. Sure we can return the stock but every minute the stock is in my store is a gamble.


  • 39 Graeme Day // Oct 6, 2010 at 6:44 AM

    It wasn’t a lecture merely a statement, how you can twist your mistatement to suit is masterful. Say as you will we all know Mark cannot be wrong, simply misread.


  • 40 Jim // Oct 6, 2010 at 1:19 PM

    If you do not like it sell out, easy to do early returns


  • 41 shaun s // Oct 6, 2010 at 1:51 PM

    Jim which is what we have done and which is what i have been doing all morning .


  • 42 Janice // Oct 7, 2010 at 11:36 AM

    A few quick comments, then I must leave this thread:

    Mark/Alan – re the legitimacy of new titles
    • I take the points made here but like all publishers we supply newsagents on standard Sale-or-Return terms, so there is no investment from the newsagency in new title stock, but there is investment from the newsagency in labour, space and cash flow. The question in terms of risk here is – who has the most to lose if this new title fails? Acknowledging the obvious tensions in the Australian newsagency system, there is also a huge strength – which is that an independent newsagent working their own space will do much better than someone with no interest.
    • The only thing we can influence as a minority supplier here is cash flow and as mentioned before newsagents generally don’t notice when we as one small company offer extended payment terms. We still currently offer extend payment terms on 5 or 6 magazines, which puts us ahead of market standard, but newsagents are too swamped with micro-mags to notice that we are doing this.
    • Alan – I’m not sure what you mean by supplying stock on a sales only basis but happy to chat about if you give me a call (02 9887 0316).

    Shaun S
    • Thanks for your comment, and take your point re not doing new mags on last day of month. Subject to shipping being on time, we’ve noted not to do this in future for the reasons you’ve outlined.

    Mark – re what’s wrong
    • Specifically in terms of this blog post the targeting of Universal Magazines for investing in a well-founded new publication is unfair. Aside from the fact that many newsagents want new titles to replace closed/worn out ones, the blog is often welcoming towards much smaller and less well-founded publications. The targeting of us for not supplying Data on commercial prospects of new titles is wrong if you don’t accept our offer of meetings.
    • For the Blog in general – The habit of the blog for targeting of any single publisher on a topics where the publisher is either a) performing to market standard, b) is a minority player, or c) has no control over the issue, is wrong. The targeting of us in particular on issues where we perform above market standard is certainly unfair, and creates the wrong impression when we are doing the right thing. Given that you are something of an industry leader – we can’t put these things down to a lack of knowledge. I would also add that getting the details wrong when making criticism is not helpful – like when you suggested newsagents return Outdoor Design Source (because it is a trade publication that goes to architects not newsagents). We’re open to legitimate criticism (like the time we/our distributors put the diaries too late) but we are not open to unfairness, imbalance or inaccuracy.

    Mark – Re the meeting
    • Because I know you are busy and respect your time I emailed you first with an agenda and suggestion of a meeting on 14th Sept, and got no reply that week. In the subsequent week I filled my 3 days in Melbourne at the rate of 6 meetings a day. I emailed again on 28th indicating I was prepared to do out-of-hours if required, and indicated “I will be on mobile after lunch time today”. While I appreciate your email of 29th was genuine, I did not get it until I had left Melbourne because I don’t have email while travelling, and had already indicated that mobile was the way to get in touch. (I also contacted one of your colleagues and attempted to change a flight to get a meeting on Friday afternoon, but was not able to). I am busy too.
    Mark – As there has been some discussion here I ask that this post be left up as it is important that we get to contribute to the discussion. I must leave this chain after this so over to you for the last word.
    Newsagents – I am not a regular blog reader so if you are a newsagent and want to get in touch on this mag or anything else the best way to reach me is on my phone number (02) 9887 0316, or our Circulation Manager (02) 9887 0361, or through our distributor NSC. If you are a newsagent and don’t want to receive any of these products let us know on the same numbers. As a publisher we focus on niche mags that are in the top 200, so we can’t stop the flood of dumped imports or poorly allocated low-sellers (because we don’t do them) but we’re always happy to chat with retailers because at the end of the day we’re all about saving money and making sales.


  • 43 catherine // May 6, 2011 at 5:12 PM

    this is one of best gardening mags i have ever read i read mine over and over i am going to get all of them i love it and its all organic if people dont stock it i would be very sorry for them because bunnings will just get more of the monopoly on this great product


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