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The history of the Australian newsagency part 2: 2015 to early 2020

2015 to 2020, up to the start of the Covid pandemic, were tumultuous for Australian newsagents as suppliers newsagents had served for years in the agency side of the business looked elsewhere for revenue.

What we now know as The Lottery Corporation ramped up selling lottery products online and on mobile devices, achieving excellent growth, taking plenty of in0-store purchases from retailers who continued to invest, under duress, in shook-fit and other requirements.

Newspaper publishers withdrew from newspaper distribution arrangements with newsagents, often delivering a poor substitute and leaving customers of long standing receiving poor service, failing on their promise of a better service for their subscribers.

Newspaper publishers also reduced in real terms the margin retail newsagents make from selling newspapers. What newsagents made did not keep pace with price increases. Also in these years, plenty of local newspapers closed with local news apparently valued less by major publishers.

Plenty of magazines stumbled with Bauer Media doing a poor job running the ACP media business they had purchased in 2012 and with pacific magazines not receiving much love from its owners at Seven West.

Banks no longer valued a newsagency business as an asset against which a purchaser could borrow.

Also during this period of 2015 to early 2020 there was disruption from the migration of accessing news and other traditionally print content to online.

Newsagents themselves remained disorganised with four different associations claiming to represent them.

In the midst of the changes plenty of newsagents realised that they had to make their own success, that suppliers who had led the channel for decades had all but abandoned it.

There was no whole of channel move this way or that. Rather, some moved into book retail, others into outdoors, others into coffee with most significantly expanding their gift and homewares offering.

Initially, the evolution was through a range of everyday gift suppliers who saw the opportunities in the newsagency channel. The focus was on gifts priced at under one hundred dollars and that served the traditional seasons of Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mothers’s Day, Father’s Day and Christmas. Newsagents continued to dominate in card sales for these seasons so tapping into gift related opportunities seemed easy.

The extent and speed of change in newsagency businesses varied business to business. There were many who did not change in these years, and this was a key factor in business closures, which were tracked at around 10% of newsagency rooftops each year in this period.

These years of 2015 through to early 2020 we say the biggest move from the agency model on which the channel was built to pure retail. Success was dependent on newsagents becoming retailers.

By the time 2020 reached us, the Australian newsagency channel was a channel in name only. In reality it was just over 3,000 retail businesses all operating locally, independently, and differently – some thriving, some treading water and some slowly going under. While there were several marketing group trading banners in the marketplace, the consistency between the businesses in these groups was not evident.

If it were not for the arrival of the pandemic early in 2020, the next years for the newsagency channel would have been quite different.

Newsagency management

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