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

Updated advice for new newsagents

Six years ago I published advice for new newsagents covering a range of areas of newsagency management. Here is my revised advice for new newsagents:

There is plenty to learn for the new newsagent and plenty an old hand can forget. I am often asked about important day to day operational tasks in running a newsagency so I started putting together a list. It’s an evolving work in progress, something I am happy to share with anyone – not as a definitive list of what you need to be on top of in running your newsagency business but something at least you can check against.

But, before we get into the list, let’s consider the biggest challenge / opportunity. What type of newsagency do you want to run? A retail business or an agency. A retail business is value focussed – value from sales volume, product Martin and shopper visit efficiency. An agency is about making a clip from each transaction ‘owned’ by another party like newspapers, magazines, lotteries. A retail focussed business will be more valuable over the long term while the agency business can appear easier to run.

You drive business value by playing at the boundaries of the business, broadening what you sell, the price points you can achieve and the new faces you can attract. I think it is vital for new newsagents to invest time and capital in this – broadening the appeal, and value, of the business, as that is what will play best when it comes time to sell.

Now, to the updates list of every day work in a newsagency:

  1. MAGAZINES.
    1. Arrive invoices through XchangeIT – no other way.
    2. Only sell magazines by scanning. Never use department keys.
    3. Do not label all magazines. Do not label weeklies or high volume monthlies.
    4. When returning magazines, scan out returns. Do this at least weekly.
    5. Do not early return magazines the day they arrive unless you have been sent too many. Often newsagent who early return deny the opportunity of sales.
    6. Early return at least twice a month – based on what is NOT selling.
    7. If you have sub agents – only supply them through the sub agent facilities in your newsagency software.
    8. Check your magazine account as soon as it comes in to ensure you have received all credits.
    9. Pay your magazine bills on time without fail – avoid being cut off for weeks without magazines.
    10. You control where magazines are placed, it is your shop. Do not be told by publisher reps where magazines should go.
    11. You do not have to put posters in the window. I recommend against this.
    12. You do not have to do big magazine displays – it is your choice. I see no evidence of it increasing sales.
    13. I recommend against letting magazine companies set up display unless you think they will help drive sales.
  1. NEWSPAPERS.
    1. You control where newspapers are placed, it is your shop.
    2. If you are regularly undersupplied, complain to the publisher as well as the supplying newsagent (if you do not have a direct account).
    3. Scan all newspapers you sell.
    4. Scan all newspaper returns – accurate data will be your friend in the event of a dispute
    5. You do not have to put out newspaper posters or place newspapers in a certain position unless you have signed a contract with a publisher agreeing to this.
    6. Manage your exposure to promotions where you sell stock for a tiny margin.
  1. CARDS.
    1. Put out your own cards. Learn what you stock. Take ownership of this most important product category.
    2. Ideally, do your own card order. It’s your money being spent. Don’t leave this to someone else to do.
    3. Agree on an ordering process with your card co. account manager.
    4. Immediately report any over or under supply.
    5. Trust your data ahead of your gut and ahead of sell-in reports from suppliers.
    6. Pay on time or risk being cut off.
    7. Discount seasonal stock at the end of the season for a couple of days to pick up stragglers and make an extra few $$$.
  1. STAFF.
    1. Ensure everyone has a list of things to do each day.
    2. Have a documented position description against which your employees are measured.
    3. Have a written roster every week.
    4. Have a structured process for handling annual and sick leave.
    5. Use payroll software for record keeping.
    6. Pay always on time and preferably by electronic transfer.
    7. Pay super on time. Do not start someone working for you unless they have provided a super account number with their tax file number.
    8. Change your roster regularly for casuals.
  1. STOCK  AND SUPPLIERS.
    1. Only see supplier reps who have made an appointment.
    2. If a supplier rep tells you something will be a success, ask for the evidence.
    3. Use your computer system to guide ordering of stock – order based on sales.
    4. Order to a budget.
    5. Scan everything you sell.
    6. Scan out personal use stock.
    7. Set your own mark-up policy for items that are not pre priced.
    8. It is easier to discount than increase prices.
    9. Do not pay for an external stock taker – do it yourself through the year.
    10. Check high theft risk items like weekly or fortnightly.
    11. Arrive and price stock on the shop floor, and not the back room. You’ll sell more this way.
  1. SHOP LEASE.
    1. Pay on time otherwise you could be locked out.
    2. Do not agree to a new lease unless you have read the entire document and are prepared to agree to it in its entirety.
    3. Conduct discussions with your landlord in writing to maintain a paper trail.
  1. GST.
    1. Complete your BAS on time and make any necessary payment – to reduce the opportunity for you being audited.
  1. FINANCE AND OTHER MATTERS.
    1. If you borrowed to get into your business, start paying this off from the first week, make progress everyweek. This avoids you having a challenge when you come to sell the business.
    2. Pay yourself a wage or at least accrue this in the accounts.
    3. Integrate with accounting software like Xero – keep bookkeeper costs down.
    4. Ensure workcover (workers comp.) cover is up to date and maintained.
    5. Ensure you have appropriate council permits for what you sell – i.e. food.
    6. Have a structured banking process that ensures that cash is tracked at all steps and at all time.
    7. Take a data backup every day. The best approach is an automated cloud backup – ask your software company.
    8. Bank every day and bank the takings for each day separately to make reconciliation easier.
    9. Use your software to manage the end of shift process to drive consistency and accuracy.

As I said at the start, this list is evolving with time. I hope it is useful to new newsagents and would be newsagents, to understand some of the day to day tasks you cannot afford to get wrong.

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