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The future of the Australian newsagency

The future of the Australian newsagency channel is in the hands of those who own and run the 2,800 or so retail businesses that make up the channel. The decisions they each make in each of their businesses determine the success, or otherwise, of those businesses, and of the channel.

The decisions that will matter most are those relating to the products carried in the business, the narrative of the business and how you sell.

Before I get to that, I can say the future of the Australian newsagency will not be found in newspapers, magazines, lotteries, convenience retail, tobacco, cheap gifts, cheap toys or a canyon of spinners of products with names on them. The future of the Australian newsagency will not be found in any type of business competing with discount variety.

Suppliers, too, will not play in the future of the Australian newsagency. Despite them creating our channel, print media businesses especially have no interest in our future.

We can already see from retailers, newsagents, in the space that across Australia there is value to harvest from playing in premium and unique spaces, worrying less about price point and being smart when it comes to deciding your margin. Equally, there is value in the adage find a need and fill it in evolving our local businesses.

By products, I am particularly interested in products not common to the newsagency channel. Products such as clothing, gifts at $300.00 and more in price, books but not remainder books, cookware, collectibles people will drive for. Most likely products suppliers would not have in our channel today.

Sure, everyday products such as stationery, greeting cards and other categories our channel is known for will play a role in the future. Their success will depend on how smart we are in what we carry and how we price the burden of carrying. For example, selling stationery to those who need it is easy, selling to those who love is a whole different opportunity – one that is worth more I think.

There are no borders, rules or boundaries. What you can sell is up to you and your imagination as to how it is pitch.

By narrative I mean the story of the business the why for someone considering the business. If you’re a shopkeeper, you put products on the shelves. If you are a retailer with a commitment to a narrative, customers will understand the business, love being in the business and want what you offer because the narrative will nurture trust.

You nurture your narrative through what products you carry, how you place them in store, how you pitch them on social media, on your website and how personal you yourself are in and with them.

The challenge with narrative is that it must evolve, with you, time and the community.

By how, I mean when you sell and where you sell … having an ability to sell online is the key here. If you’re not online, you will have no idea what you don’t know.

Now if this all feels a bit new age like, I don’t mean it to. Today, in May 2024, we are in the midst of a period of immersive retail, retail people feel and experience. This is where your narrative plays a difference. A writing pad in a basic newsagency is a writing pad. The same writing pad in a store with a strong narrative could sell more easily and for more.

The more your shop and your website help people to feel things, the greater the success you will have.

What I am getting at here is that the future of the Australian newsagency lies in us being smart, engaged and creative, each of us making our own shop the best it can be. It won’t look like a cohesive channel, and that does not matters. What matters is that you create a business that is mighty successful locally, and with online shoppers who find you.

To those who don’t act, who don’t embrace change, I say farewell. The days of the old school newsagency are over. Time will catch you. This will result in fewer rooftops in our channel. I’m not sure how many, but on the current trend it will be 150 – 200 in the next 12 months.

To those keen to act, there are plenty of us in the channel who will help where we can. Reach out. Together we can ensure the relevance and success of our vital local retail businesses no matter how diverse our product and service mix and no matter what we call ourselves.

Footnote: There will be some who say the shingle should change, that news is not relevant. While it’s not relevant, what you call the shop does not matter all that much. It’s kind of like a picture versus a thousand words. What a shop shows itself as being matters more than what a shop calls itself. That said, Aussie newsagencies, being quintessentially local businesses are, in my opinions best off being called a name that is locally relevant – rather than some national name that is not locally relevant.

Second footnote: Reading back what I have written I know I have not made a clear and solid prediction. That’s because I can’t. There is no channel, no way to determine what all businesses in the channel will do.

Newsagency challenges

Join the discussion

  1. Peter

    This is a good series for the history and for this look into the future. I agree we can’t rely on any of the traditional products like Tatts, papers and magazines. The hard part is to figure out what will work in our area in gifts. We are surrounded by what I’d technically call cheap shit but more expensive products are hard to get from suppliers won’t supply a newsagency. I’ll keep trying but it is difficult.


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