Australian Newsagency Blog

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

Why the decision of the South Australian government to close newsagents during the second Covid lockdown is wrong

Mark Fletcher
November 20th, 2020 · 3 Comments

When the South Australian government announced this week the strong lockdown due to a new Covid outbreak in the state, the list of what could be open was tight, focussed. It fitted with how the Premier and the Chief Health Officer described the situation.

A few hours after the announcement, they started making changes. Bottle shops could be open. Pet shops, too.

As it evolved, the list from the state government was odd. For example, if they really wanted to stop movement, why allow all petrol outlets and all hardware stores to be open?

Newsagents expected their channel of locally owned and run community businesses to be added to the list. It has not happened.

Having lived and worked through the second lockdown in Victoria, here is why I think the South Australian government decision to not include newsagents on the list of businesses that can open is wrong.

News. While plenty of newsagencies have diversified, providing access to news remains a key traffic activity. While some may say petrol outlets and supermarkets sell papers too, they do not sell the range.

Foreign language news. In the stage 23 lockdown in Melbourne, the sales of foreign language newspapers spiked more so than local newspapers. In many places newsagents are the only outlet for these titles. It’s like the government has ignored those who rely on foreign language newspapers for news. This alone should be the reason newsagents are allowed to be open.

Local magazine publishers. Newsagents are the only retailers stocking many local, niche, Aussie magazine titles. With newsagencies closed in South Australia, those titles lose sales.

Financial transactions. Many newsagents offer financial transaction services.

Parcel collection and drop off. Many newsagents offer parcel services.

Mental health. As the main retailer of greeting cards, we naturally saw sales spike in the stage 2 lockdown in Victoria as people found other ways to connect. We know from what they said across the counter that they appreciated being able to do that.

Happiness at home. People at home crave things to do. Newsagencies are the best diverse outlet for crosswords, jigsaws, craft magazines, craft kits and related products. sales of these spiked in the stage 2 lockdown in Victoria.

The decision by the South Australian government has provided key competitors of retail newsagents a valuable free kick. Here is how…

Lottery products. The On the Run stores all qualify to be open. They have papers, magazines and TheLott lottery products.  Them being open while newsagencies are closed provides an opportunity to break shopper habits. It gives them a competitive advantage.

Greeting cards. Supermarkets and Post offices sell cards, again allowing the habit of the card purchase at a newsagency to be broken.

Magazines. The habit based newsagency magazine shopper may look at the supermarket range, find what they want and break their habit.

The potential for harm to so many small, family run, businesses in South Australia is considerable.

Newsagencies has been proven through Covid to be safe retail spaces. They were early adopters of an entry / exit strategy, acrylic screen protection at the counter, easy access to hand sanitiser and early users of masks.

I guess the biggest surprise related to pet shops that were added to the list of what could open after the list was first published. Supermarkets and vets cover all that pet owners could need. Yet, the government added them to the open list. The case for newsagents is stronger than pet shops in my view.

Don’t take that as me saying pet shops should not be open. I am not saying that.

Given the scope of the evolving SA list, I think the case for keeping newsagents closed has become weaker by the hour.

I hope the South Australian government, the politicians, the bureaucrats, the police reconsider and permit newsagents to open. Many in the community would applaud such a move.

9 likes

Category: Social responsibility

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Mark Fletcher // Nov 20, 2020 at 1:12 PM

    Even though we now know the lockdown was based on misleading information collected through the ‘gold standard’ contact tracing, the SA government and other governments need to be ready in the future, ready with a better list of what is essential and what is not. Their decisions this time around were left wanting.

    0 likes

  • 2 David // Nov 22, 2020 at 7:42 AM

    I read your interview Mark. The Advertiser gave it a good run. Thanks for supporting us. It was good seeing so many on our side.

    0 likes

  • 3 Mark Fletcher // Nov 22, 2020 at 8:36 AM

    Thanks David. There were many engaged in the campaign to get the politicians and others making the decisions to understand. It worked, late, but worked, nevertheless.

    0 likes

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