Australian Newsagency Blog

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

Will GNS survive?

Mark Fletcher
July 28th, 2017 · 15 Comments

This is the question asked of me by newsagents more often so far this year than any other question.

Will GNS survive?

I am asked by newsagents who calls or email me with whom I have no relationship. I am asked by Tower Systems software users at user meetings and other placed where we meet. I am asked by newsXpress members at our regional member meetings. I am asked by suppliers too.

I never prompt for the question.

My answer is:

I don’t know. The business appears to havre not kept up with today’s business requirements. It may have left it too late too transition from a high labour cost wholesale model that is not relevant today. So, I don’t know the GNS future. I have no inside knowledge, no knowledge of their plans. All I know is what I see.

People who ask me the question often do so with complaints including some or all of these:

  1. Out of stocks make GNS an unreliable supplier.
  2. Their prices are too high.
  3. They are restrictive in what they carry from brands.
  4. Delivery is taking too long.
  5. Stationery is down and GNS is not as important to me as they used to be.

I’d hate to own and run a stationery wholesale business today. There is no upside with suppliers going direct (as they should) and with online accounting for far more stationery purchases than the old-school stationery wholesaler infrastructure anticipated.

Today, a pure online play fulfilling orders from a low-cost regional DC with minimal staff is the way to go. However, once the Amazon DCs are established expect a further challenge to stationery sales in newsagencies.

GNS exists in a rapidly changing space, as do newsagents. To me, the question act whether GNS will survive is also a question of whether stationery in newsagency businesses will survive. It is easy to look at the other person and question their future than look into your business and ask this of yourself or at least of part of your business.

The question is interesting to me more for the broader business questions it poses. We need to contemplate the product mix in our businesses. This has to be done on an individual basis and not at a shingle level as now more than ever our businesses are individual and not a channel or network.

What I will say is that the challenges GNS faces today were there ten, even fifteen, years ago. The board back then failed to act, they failed to see the changes on which they needed to focus GNS resources. The same can be said for newsagents when it comes to stationery.


Category: Newsagency challenges · Newsagency management

15 responses so far ↓

  • 1 andy // Jul 28, 2017 at 7:00 AM

    Hi Mark

    What Product mix do you suggest with no stationery or lotto?


  • 2 Sunny // Jul 28, 2017 at 7:10 AM

    I just read an analysis report regarding Amazon’s physical book store experiment. Amazon physical book stores intent to limit customer choice by picking best Selling SKUs using big data gained online, and promote heavily on “if you like Book A, try Book B”.
    It is interesting that Long-tail theory was invented from Amazon type online operation, but Amazon has 99% books sells on top sellers, and it knows that most of “problem-driving” customers only buy the best selling books and “fix” the problems. Sound like C-stores cope with distressed customers, the report pointed out that the similar strategy applied by C-stores and Amazon physical bookshops.

    Can we learn something from it, both GNS and retail newsagents?


  • 3 Mark Fletcher // Jul 28, 2017 at 8:19 AM

    Andy the answer to the question depends on your location, an analysis of your business data and other factors. If you are in a proactive marketing group with strategic planning, ask them, if you are not, consider joining one.


  • 4 ERIC // Jul 28, 2017 at 8:29 AM

    magazine is dying faster than stationery sales


  • 5 Colin // Jul 28, 2017 at 9:06 AM

    From a retailer perspective, I find the Ancol (GNS) model efficient. I get to stock an array of stock items in minimal quantities. I use Tower to generate automated orders. We receive delivery in 24 hours, use EDI and have all stock on the shelves in minimal time. As a local store we offer a service Amazon cannot match…. try getting a single protrator for little johnny to do tonight’s homework. All stock is on display.

    Yes there is a branding issue, Ancol are not as on trend as they should be. But they do provide a product mix that generates customers that buy other things and younger customers learn to use and rely on our store. The model works for me but will it survive.

    I have my doubts. Ancol is slow to react to buying trends, they are out manoeuvred by competitors on key lines, they don’t listen to constructive criticism. The cooperative model is not 21st century.

    But their biggest threat is from the dullards in our industry. I am told a very small % use the automated ordering. Many leave empty hang sell and wait until an Ancol rep to arrive who then tries to figure out what stock is missing. Others drive to Ancol and pick things off shelves for no cost benefit whist paying for staff to man the shop.

    You wouldn’t invent the Ancol model today, most newsagents just don’t see what it offers.


  • 6 Peter // Jul 28, 2017 at 9:21 AM

    GNS and its behavior is having major unwelcome effects on mt business.


  • 7 Chris // Jul 28, 2017 at 9:48 AM

    GNS is still a valuable supplier to my business. I am surprised by the comments that GNS prices are too high. Stationery is growing year on year for us.

    In saying that I do feel that GNS have not done nearly enough to arrest concern amongst newsagents. It feels looking from the outside in that the company are not pro-active enough in creating new growth in our channel or even in retention of customers. We all have to evolve and work hard at our business.
    I do not know how the board keep convincing themselves that they are still the right people for the job? GNS needs to be preparing for life in 2040, not 1985.


  • 8 Mark R // Jul 28, 2017 at 4:42 PM

    GNS needs to centralise it’s distrubition wharehousing , i’m sure this has been discussed , but surely one modern wharehouse would reduce overheads.


  • 9 Joe B // Jul 29, 2017 at 8:55 AM

    GNS will survive if it continues to evolve and move with the times.


  • 10 John // Jul 31, 2017 at 5:30 AM

    Further intense competition is expected in the B2B stationary category as Platinum Equity has now bought Aust business (announced March 13, 2017) and OfficeMax Australian Business (AFR April 19, 2017) creating a larger scale operation, with expected lower operating costs.


  • 11 ken // Aug 3, 2017 at 11:09 AM

    has anyone have information on whats going to happen to GNS levy. called them today to arrange invoice payment thru our levy, they said we cant do it and no further information is given by GNS about our levy.


  • 12 Colin, Malvern SA // Feb 9, 2018 at 2:42 PM

    I wholly agree with my. Namesake Colin in comment 5. The Ancol model can be highly efficient for newsagents.

    My rep has repeatedly confirmed that many outlets do not use the ordering systems. They still expect weekly rep visits or worse still access to the warehouse. Maybe GNS is trying to rid itself of these dullards and that the bigger problems are with unchanging GNS customers rather than GNS itself.


  • 13 er // Feb 9, 2018 at 2:50 PM

    Got No Stock. i am frustrated with this online ordering.


  • 14 SUNNY // Feb 12, 2018 at 1:00 PM

    GNS doesn’t invest in the interface between its IT system and newsagents’ POS systems.

    For example, one SKU is cardboard A2 red in 50pk, one day, GNS decide to change the SKU to another SKU, cardboard A2 red in 20pk. ( a good decision for both GNS and newsagent)

    It comes the problems that customer reorder the 50pk will found out no stock, and GNS website or support teams may suggest the 20pk.

    The customers might do the following to correct the problem.

    Option 1. Customer happy with the GNS suggestion on 20pk, and order it.
    When new stock arrived, Customer need to create one new SKU in POS.
    Adjustment in POS might be done to merge the old SKU into new SKU, (in this case, previous purchase and retail history is preserved to provide future reference),
    and the following setting will be adjusted:
    1) auto ordering Qty
    2) pack Qty when import one bulk package and separate them into single retail sheet.
    3) retail pricing for bulk package
    4) retail cost of single sheet
    5) customer’s own product information record for bulk products, (for stock taking/ stock checking)

    Option 2 customer are not happy with website/support suggestion. Then customer will do own research for replacement products, such as from alternative suppliers to get the old SKU, or get new SKU.

    Every time, GNS discontinued or replaced one SKU, it has no communication with its customers in writting, its IT systems has no communication with customer’s POS systems.

    Customers may experience out of stock for longer period (if auto-reorder failed and no action taken), or spend a lot time to adjust the settings on their POS systems (for hundreds of newsagents), or order old SKU /new SKU for alternative suppliers (GNS lost the business of the SKU).

    GNS should invest the interface so that its customers POS system notice the change, and do the change automatically. Customers will be happy that to do the change manually, and most of important, GNS won’t lost the business for the SKU.

    This is one example, that GNS should work closer to POS suppliers, and provide funding for POS suppliers to implement the change.


  • 15 er // Feb 12, 2018 at 4:40 PM

    i get my cardboards from Canson now and trying to support Razor as much as i can. stop buying from GNS


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