Australian Newsagency Blog

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

What is a newsagent?

Mark Fletcher
November 15th, 2020 · 26 Comments

At around am hour and twenty minutes in, this UK podcast includes a discussion about what you call a newsagent in the UK. Only a passing topic. I share it here as it may interest some wondering about how they identify their business.

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Category: newsagency of the future

26 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Steve // Nov 15, 2020 at 9:56 PM

    I really like the WS Smith model and the positioning of their brand. When travelling via Sydney airport I always make a purchase. Whether they are a newsagent or a bookstore is irrelevant. It is clear to me now that their profit is in their book sales but that their newspapers and magazines assist in attracting foot traffic. Their model can be applied to any newsagency so I am surprised that they haven’t transitioned out of the airport space particularly as Covid must have really hurt them. Shopping Centre landlords should be reminded of the WS Smith model.

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  • 2 Graeme Day // Nov 17, 2020 at 6:59 AM

    Steve, Theur model has failed so far not once but with two attempts to capture the Australian Captial City high density population markets. They purchased SupaNews at great cost and mostof those franchises have closed. The others have been up for sale for some time. Over the past three moponths they seem to have improved at my local one especially in presentation of product however not in management or customer service. They have no ideai n space allocation and performance per square metre of this store.This is not a COVID related comment for in the beginning it affected most Shopping Centres however this one is getting back to normal very quickly yet remains to be seen if the previous normal can be achieved. I don’t think so too much has been changed for too long.

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  • 3 Mark Fletcher // Nov 17, 2020 at 7:46 AM

    The tweet I shared is from the UK. WH Smith in the UK is quite different to the WH Smith model we see in Australia. It’s more established and, overall, offering a broader base of products.

    In terms of their transit offer in Australia, it is very good, focussed.

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  • 4 Graeme Day // Nov 17, 2020 at 7:57 AM

    U.K. is not relevant to Australia as far as comparison is concerned. I answered Steve’s comment with an opinion as he made reference to Sydney and Local shopping complexes which relate to WH Smith Aussie style. Their transit offer is a captured market one with Relay ex Newslink being the only opposition and all get their share. Outside of that they seem to be wanting.

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  • 5 Mark Fletcher // Nov 17, 2020 at 8:02 AM

    Calm down Graeme. I’m not disagreeing. I made the point to remind people about the source of the post and to note my view of their transit offer in Australia.

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  • 6 Paul // Nov 17, 2020 at 10:39 AM

    In the year of Covid and newsagents being a business that can remain open why would you call us anything else I do remember your #NOTANEWSAGENT not so long ago is that something that you are still pursuing

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  • 7 Mark Fletcher // Nov 17, 2020 at 10:46 AM

    Paul, you’re hanging on to something from December 2016. Let it go, dude.

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  • 8 PJ // Nov 17, 2020 at 10:49 AM

    The only real newsagents now are those stores that rely heavily on newspapers and magazines. For other “newsagents” now it is just a legacy name. Like service station for what are now basically convenience stores that sell petrol.

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  • 9 Paul // Nov 17, 2020 at 12:56 PM

    Was a serious question – is it still something that you see as a worthy pursuit

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  • 10 Mark Fletcher // Nov 17, 2020 at 1:26 PM

    Paul, I am not going to take you into newsXpress strategy as that is valuable IP.

    Speaking personally, I think there is more upside for newsagents from non newsagency lines and from promoting their businesses outside of what has been traditional for the channel.

    Sure, for a few months this year you were essential. A few months does not make for long term success.

    You do what you like. I will do what I like. I don’t care if you agree with me.

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  • 11 Paul // Nov 17, 2020 at 1:35 PM

    You do what you like. I will do what I like. I don’t care if you agree with me. Why respond like this makes you oh don’t bother you don’t care

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  • 12 Mark Fletcher // Nov 17, 2020 at 5:01 PM

    Take it how you choose Paul. I don’t write here to tell people what to do. rather, I share my opinions. What happens is up to each individual. I care about my businesses and those who rely on them first. Sure, I care about the channel, however, it is now in too many pieces to ever be one again. And, that is not a bad thing as many are discovering.

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  • 13 Graeme Day // Nov 17, 2020 at 5:37 PM

    It is in many pieces whitle it is very hard for some especially those that cannot do anything about it for a number of reasons. Lack of money, not the shop to convert (though I find this one a difficult one for usually there is something else that can increase sales) and the reluctance to sell at current demand as the loss will leave them inslovent. To carry on will inevitably bring on the ssme result however they still get an income as have somewhere to go each day.
    I see tremendous opportunities at little cost for some to invest their time and more importantly a good positive attitude to ‘have a go’.
    Rural’s as I affectionately call those in the Country, take on change as a matter of survival. They have had to with handout manage Bush Fire, Drought, Flood ans severe storms, all beyong their control. They innovate, change things, pull together and get on with it. the local community is everything for IT is their economy.
    In the cities we have different challenges, equally daunting but too much competition and it’s too costly to do the same so we need to look at diversity within our stores and behaviour toward progress.
    The point Mark makes is it is in pieces and my oint as well is that it won’t ever be one unless the majority want this to happen again.
    Does anyone think it can or are they waiting for somewhere over the Rainbow to inspires the search for the pot of gold?

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  • 14 Mark Fletcher // Nov 17, 2020 at 5:56 PM

    I agree Graeme. Money, space and location are no barriers to finding new traffic.

    Only newsagents themselves can unify the channel.

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  • 15 Andrew T // Nov 21, 2020 at 4:41 PM

    “Purchased SupaNews at great cost”

    Adrian Gaskin was the smartest newsagent to recognise the business for what it was and continues use to be.

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  • 16 Mark Fletcher // Nov 21, 2020 at 4:54 PM

    Andrew, I get that you cling to anger because of your own failure. Rather than coming here, which clearly triggers you, I urge you to seek professional help.

    Despite the narrative you relentlessly push, there are many newsagency businesses growing. Indeed, most I am in regular contact with are doing so well they could not get Jobkeeper, and still can’t.

    Graze elsewhere and be healthier for it.

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  • 17 Andrew T // Nov 21, 2020 at 5:13 PM

    Hahaaa. Grasping at straws Don Quixote.
    I know that any mention of SupaNews gets your knickers in a knot.
    Even blind Freddy would recognise a smart deal when he sees one.

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  • 18 Mark Fletcher // Nov 21, 2020 at 5:21 PM

    Oh, Andrew. I’ve not mentioned Supanews in my comment because my comment is not about them or the sale of the business years ago.

    A quick check just now through comment history over the last 5 years shows you as mentioning Supanews more than all other commenters combined.

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  • 19 Andrew T // Nov 21, 2020 at 5:41 PM

    Just as I thought. You’ve red flagged me.
    The reason I agitate is because of the rude, condescending and arrogant treatment you dish out to other commentators, newsagents I guess, who express an opinion critical or conflicting with yours.
    Everyone except good old Graeme.

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  • 20 Graeme Day // Nov 22, 2020 at 6:30 AM

    Andrew SupaNews was a Dud from day one. The business model never worked and couldn’t stack up. The fees were far to high and Gasking had one size fits all. Due diligence and numerous meetings with independent arbiters proved this. I attended many on behalf of franchisees. Parrammatta, Tuggerah and Franskston in Victoria to name a few. Gaskings first three “pilot” stores Penrith, Parramatta and Carlingford plus Bankstown Sq. and Liverpool Westfield were store he went through with me and first hand I saw his thinking. Gaskin knew this and pushed ahead ‘selling the image not the sustance” he was lucky to give it the flick The Red Group bought (private equity backed I believe) it and then W.H.Smith neither made any success of the outlets. Smith’s still have a few stores one local to me of which they can’t sell. Gaskin skipped to Spain worth millions.
    If you call that smart and you lost so much with him then what does anyone call you?It was not the nesagency system that failed it was doctored Franchise operation offered to the many that participated that failed. We are talking the early 2000’s the very beginning of deregulation.

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  • 21 Graeme Day // Nov 22, 2020 at 6:32 AM

    Adrian Gaskin not Gasking as mispelt in post

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  • 22 Mark Fletcher // Nov 22, 2020 at 8:34 AM

    Andrew you are delusional. Graeme and I have our stoushes, plenty on here. We have known each other for decades and can disagree with civility.

    I get that you are angry because of your own situation. Taking it out on me and others here will not help. I urge you to talk to a health professional.

    And on Supanews, let it go.

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  • 23 Steve // Nov 22, 2020 at 8:38 AM

    For the record I like the WH Smith store at Sydney airport. It is not branded as a Supa News store and to me it is more a book store than a traditional newsagency though it also offers news and magazines. From memory I don’t believe it offers lotteries.

    As I said in my earlier comment I believe that their is an opportunity for bookstores to expand into our channel and vice versa for our channel to expand into books as we are doing with success. With margins of up to 57 per cent and continuing sales growth books are about to overtake magazines for us in total contribution to GP. Books also provide a wonderful cross selling opportunity with licensed gift and toy products. This category is our next strongest growth line . I am happy for people to be confused as to whether we are a newsagency or a bookstore.

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  • 24 Graeme Day // Nov 22, 2020 at 5:47 PM

    Steve, please don’t get me wrong, I was not comparing Supa News to WH Smith. SpaNews was long before WHSmith ventured into Australia the first time of which they failed.
    The Airport store is totally a different retail outlet the the ones that WH Smith have elsewhere.
    It’s quite obvious that they do not do square metre assesment of sales, G. Profit and expenses and frankly a store this big should have better business system s than what I have witnessed.Having said that, the mix of product is very good and their promotions are excellent especially the dump bins.
    i also love the One square metre of newsapers on a stand similar to a spinner at the front of the store at my regional shopping shopping complex it’s excellent in use of space, Location and promotion, perfect sq. metre usage and very profitable sq metres at that. The rest of the store is over displayed in retail for the space it occupies. Quite the contrary in comparison to an Airport. As for lotteries at the Airport I agree it is not likely a product for such a place.

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  • 25 colin // Nov 22, 2020 at 10:33 PM

    Hi all,

    Since previously owning a newsagency, I have been engaged in an unrelated business that services about 30 suburbs, a major proportion of the Eastern suburbs of Adeliade. It is an area of wealth, large schools, colleges and a University site. Several major roads traverse the area. It contains Adelaide’s most upmarket shopping mall and in a different centre, the world’s best supermarket (twice accorded this accolade).

    This vast area has 4 “newsagents”.

    1. Major shopping mall – traditional, few gifts (mall constrained). lottery, mags, papers etc

    2, Secondary mall – buying group, no lottery, many gifts, otherwise traditional

    3. Local mall – very gift orientated, up market, no newsagency shingle but still has lottery, mags and newspapers

    4. Local high street – is in reality a chemist with a few mags, papers and lottery, no shingle.

    What is my point.

    In what is a mostly residential, wealthy part of Adelaide, the vast majority of suburbs have no local newsagency.

    2 of the 4 survivors have no newsagency shingle whatsoever, a 3rd is in a mall that does not serve a local need.

    None of the 4 have a consistent main offering, one is upmarket gifts. another is kids/consumer gifts, one traditional, one a chemist.

    My point is that for this area of Adelaide there is no “newsagency” concept. There was, but the evolution and reduction of the channel has resulted in the disappearance of what many would understand to be a newsagent. A disappearance in an area that is prosperous and vibrant, where gift shops, fashion, local shopping and services thrive.

    The area in question might be extreme. But I am not so sure. I have seen a number of Adelaide Hills newsagencies close this year and again they border the Eastern side of Adelaide.

    So, what is a newsagent ?

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  • 26 Graeme Day // Nov 23, 2020 at 7:06 AM

    Colin,
    I know one of the newsagencies you mention and their owner’s very well The Carters, June and Tom have been in this industry for 40 years or more They have one of the newsagencies you mention, one that is NOT branded as such, yes and they have upmaket gifts all in a Centre at the foothills or gateway to the most beautiful Adelaide Hills and nearby exclusive areas you mention. Sterling, Algate and the other exclusive suburbs closer to Burnside Shopping complex. When we visited last time they sold Lotto and had a huge range of magazines as well as up market gifts and stationery with a superb card range. They were considering downsizing as like many, many retailers to be pedantic most retailers (over 50% in your terms is most) because the occupancy cost is too much per square metre in Shopping Centres.
    Essentially, this business evolved as you put it and became, what it is today, yet many people that shop there still call it a newsagency or paper shop etc as they have grown and evovled with it.
    Yes, Colin the new people, especially the daily customers, will refer to the store by name and say things like it has a magnificent range of gifts and Greeting cards and Sationery as well as a huge range of magazines plus newsapapers including interstate and overseas newsapers of which it acts as an agent for
    The commissions are low ridiculously so, at 12.5% however it is to them an essential service for those customers that have and still are loyal, and visiting daily for such. This is the foundation of there business the very cornerstone and the one in their opinion was used as it was/is the customer usage as the most essential part of it.
    To many people and customers this store at Burnside run by two of the best retailers, Tom and June Carter (and family) I have ever encountered, it is a newsagency with a pletherer of Social Expression June and Tom are newsagents that have always been with the times The very people that Mark and I would use as the perfect example of what newsagents should do today and let not age be a barrier Tom must be say 80 years young today and June well Lady’s ages are never discussed howver June is delieghfully young and always bubbly and positive.
    We have been respectfully associatesand freinds for a long time since our first meeting at the S.A. Newsagents conference when I was Vice President of NANA Ltd circa 1997-1990 we subsequently met at many conferences for year later and when we holidayed in Adelaide over 10 years ago we visited them both at the store
    I still have many photos I took of the window displays and the internal magnificent stock presentation and display hanks Colin for putting this post here and the very example by noting the best known newsagents, locally to you, of how to do and what the great results that derive from a newsagent doing this as some of us did 40 years ago

    This model of transition may not fit all newsagencies hoever the newagency footprint is there, and begging for change, sure it willtake some thought and some time however the local community will provide the essential background to help this transition as it did for Tom June those many years ago.
    I thank both of them and their family for all the sharing together over the years we have enjoyed evry bit of your success.

    Colin I know this is a very long answer to the question at the end of your post however it relates to your backyard and yet it is so universal I thought it best to join you here so it would resonate more than create a comparison that would be thought of “as it’s different elsewhere other than “here in S.A”.
    It’s not any different, you gave the best of examples and these can be used anywhere for those that want to change.
    Newsagency:
    It is a Rose it has thorns and it also has beauty that’s a newsagency
    ‘What’s in a name? that which we call a Rose by any other name would it smell as sweet’ (Shakespeare) and as Will put it basically it is:

    What matters is what something is percieved to be NOT what it’s called

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