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

Author: Mark Fletcher

Melbourne Toy Fair cancelled

Here is the announcement from this morning:

It is with much regret that the ATA Board and Management inform our members and the industry that the 2022 Toy Hobby Licensing Fair, which was set to take place at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, will not go ahead.

The current situation is quite concerning with the spread of COVID through the community and while borders are remaining open, this not only raises concerns around the safety of an event but also its success due to a potential low attendance rate.

Both are vitally important for a successful in-person event.

We understand that this is a disappointing outcome for all and while there was so much positivity prior to Christmas, the current environment proves that things can change quite rapidly and there are no guarantees of improvement in time for the Fair in March.

We are pleased to confirm that the Digital Fair will still take place and with the new dates of Monday 28th March to Friday 1st April. The online fair will provide a platform to promote and source brands and products safely and effectively. While nothing can replace a live event, this will still bring the industry together again in March.

For any questions, please feel free to contact us at toyfair@austoy.com.au.

Social responsibility

Australia Post is selling bras now?

Yes, they are. Page 4 of their current catalogue.

This is a wholly government owned and protected commercial business, a monopoly, competing with private businesses.

I don’t see how selling bras fits within the regulations of what Australia Post is permitted to sell.

Australia Post

Back to school necklace – a dark side of back to school online searches

I was doing some research this week into online searches in Australia for back to school products, so that I could offer some insights to newsagents who rely on this vital retail season. I was shocked to discover that back to school necklace was searched more than back to school.

I thought why all this interest into back to school themed jewellery. But then I searched back to school necklace for myself.

Back to school necklace references a noose, meaning to some despair they feel about returning to school. I was shocked. There are news stories about this going back several years.

I am shocked at my ignorance about this situation and the risk it poses to so many. I am glad to now know a bout it at least.

Back in the day, back to school was fun, packed with hope and plenty of excitement in shops like newsagencies. Kids and parents were the focus. Now, with many competitors in a crowded space, all the noise is about price. The season feels much less personal today than a few decades ago.

I’m not a psychologist or a qualified counsellor but I do wonder if all of us in the back to school space can benefit from understanding the anxiety some feel at returning to school and offer some form of support and encouragement for all returning to school. I know in my case our in-store engagement will change based on what we now know.

While it may not feel commercial to focus on how people feel and supporting those who may be anxious about returning to school, it could be that doing this is differentiating such that it is valuable.

In a practical sense, I am suggesting a back to school pitch that is fun, encouraging and supportive … happy. Maybe not this year as that season is close to done, but for during the year or ahead of next year.

Our local retail businesses can provide an oasis experience for shoppers, leaning into happiness and optimism. Local small business retail can do this well, many do.

Being aware of the darkness of the back to school season felt by so many provides us an opportunity to offer them a safer space into the future.

There are many resources online offering access to professional advice on anxiety and other mental health challenges relating to school and back to school. I have found Beyond Blue and Headspace particularly helpful for reading and understanding.

Bagged magazines

What a retail trade conference looks like during Covid

For many years I have been fortunate to attend the National retail Federation’s Big Shop in New York early in January. The conference agenda has always offered valuable insights while the trade show floor has offered some excellent connections.

I didn’t make it this year because of Covid travel complexities. This video released by the NRF shows what a conference and tech. trade show can look like during Covid. It also gives some insights into this massive retail conference and trade expo.


Squish products continue to be strong in 2022

Squish-A-Boos, Squishmallows and similar squishy huggable products are selling well early in 2022, on the back of excellent sales in 2021. These products, and other sensory products, are purchased for all ages from kids through to grandparents – because giving them is like giving a hug.

They sell equally well in-store and online. It’s online where we can tap into interesting data to understand more. For example, half of online purchases are sent to an address different to the purchaser address. That tie-in with the sending a hug thought. Also online, 75% of purchases are 3, often more, while in-store, the majority of purchases are single units.

We have had good success promoting the range on social media.

Being above 50% GP is also appealing.

Success with these squishy products comes down to a few factors: range, strategic in-store placement and understanding the shopper.

It’s not enough to have a small selection. For these squishy products, range does sell – range in terms of characters and sizes.

Strategic placement is all about ensuring that every shopper passing or entering the shop can see them.

Understanding the shopper is all about knowing that it’s not only kids who are drawn to these sensory products. We have sold many destined for parents and grandparents – because giving one of these is like giving a hug. That’s the best sales pitch.

Some people make a mistake and look at these as toys. They are not toys. Okay, to some they may be. But, most sales are not as toys. Most are for a more emotional purpose, a more endearing purpose, and this is what retailers having success most likely tap into.

While you can have terrific success with these squishy products by stocking them. Nurturing and supporting them will leverage far greater success.

This sensory opportunity first became big in 2018. It has been successful ever since. I do think Covid has played a role in supporting the longevity.

I know of a regional newsagency in Australia with a catchment area population of under 5,000 doing $15,000 a year in this space. I mention this to put a number on what success looks like. Their stock investment is under $1,000. That’s a turn in excess of 15. in terms of space and capital, it’s among the most rewarding product niche in the business.


2022 New York Toy fair cancelled

The New York Toy Fair has been, for many years, a key event for Australian Toy suppliers. It is one of the best toy fairs to attend to see trends and to benefit from supplier investment in launches.

I have been many times and found it to be valuable for early viewing of products yet to hit Australia, to meet US suppliers and to meet with Australian suppliers at the Fair.

There will be an impact in Australia with the cancellation of this year’s New York Toy Fair.


New York, NY | January 11, 2022 – The Toy Association, producer of Toy Fair New York, the largest toy, play, and youth entertainment marketplace in the Western Hemisphere, has announced the cancellation of Toy Fair New York, originally set to take place, February 19 to 22, 2022 at the Javits Center in New York City.

“Key to our efforts these past two weeks has been the balance of some 700 remaining committed toy manufacturers saying they need and want Toy Fair 2022 to build their businesses, weighing that against those departing and seriously on the fence, and needing to provide a sufficient quantity and quality across the retail buying community necessary to deliver a positive experience,” said Steve Pasierb, President & CEO of The Toy Association. “As that balance has shifted, we are obligated to make the best decision in everyone’s interest no matter how heartbreaking for so many and potentially damaging some business’ future prospects. The wide range of other events that occur across New York City during Toy Fair week are now also impacted.”

Toy Fair New York has a 117-year unparalleled track record of success. It remains The Toy Association’s responsibility to protect business rights, promote toy companies, advocate for members, and help members sell more product – which includes delivering a worthwhile investment in a quality, essential trade event.

“Certainly, there are legitimate concerns around the pandemic that has guided thinking,” added Pasierb. “Many are saying they are very comfortable with being at the Javits Center and at the show given strict health and safety protocols in place, while travel concerns and for some, staff absences due to illness at home, rightfully weigh on their minds.”

With about 700 toy manufacturers who remained committed to exhibiting at Toy Fair, “constant, unfounded rumors” on social media and elsewhere defied The Toy Association’s best efforts to sustain the show amid global uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.

Pasierb concluded: “Delivering a best-in-class next Toy Fair for all the varied audiences it serves so well is now our focus. We will be working with all exhibitors on next steps to unwind February 2022 and build a solid base for visitors from across the world to again experience Toy Fair.”


A lockdown without being locked down

I have 4 shops in Melbourne, two in Westfield centres and two on the high street.

Shopper traffic in the shopping centres is noticeably lower now than during any of the Melbourne lockdowns, but we are not in lockdown right now. Traffic is not only down in centres in which I have shops but others, too, from what retailer colleagues tell me. This is why plenty of retailers are on reduced hours – there’s not enough revenue to cover overheads, like wages.

Out on the high street, traffic is good as are sales. But shoppers are nervous, that’s what they say. In think that nervousness is a reason we are not seeing the retail sales surge like we did in the 2020 and 2021 lockdowns. back then people had government support funding available and they were funding dealing with the shift in how they work and live. Today, there is no government support and they are used to living and working in this situation.

Ten days ago we had the ANZ EFTPOS data indicating a significant contraction in shopping. Plenty of retailers support that with their own data and their first-hand observations, especially in shopping centres where the hit is hardest.

The experience is a reminder of the value of online and being able to transact with those not prepared to leave home, because online remains strong, and it enables me to reach people way beyond my local community.

Newsagency challenges

One retailer is mixing politics and retail, with flair, on social media

Social responsibility

Victoria extends commercial tenancy support

This will be welcome news for plenty of retailers:

14th Jan 2022

Commercial Tenancy Support Extended

The Victorian Government will extend the Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme (CTRS), providing rent relief and protections for commercial tenants and landlords experiencing hardship through the latest wave of the pandemic.

The CTRS was created in 2020 and reintroduced in July 2021 to support small to medium businesses. It will be extended to 15 March 2022 to provide further financial relief and security for thousands of small businesses across the state.

The extended scheme will be available to businesses with an annual turnover of $10 million or less and which have suffered a decline in turnover of at least 30 per cent due to COVID-19.

Landlords will be required to provide continued proportional rent relief in line with a reduction in turnover. For example, a business with a turnover of 40 per cent of pre-pandemic levels could only be charged 40 per cent of its rent.

Of the balance, at least half would be waived, with the remainder to be deferred. The freeze on rent increases will continue.

The Victorian Small Business Commission (VSBC) will continue to provide mediation support to tenants and landlords if parties cannot reach a satisfactory agreement.

The eviction moratorium will continue. Landlords will not be able to lock out or evict tenants without undertaking mediation through the VSBC.

The new regulations will take effect from 16 January 2022. Tenants and landlords should abide by the conditions in their existing agreement. Small and family businesses that already have a deferment will have more time for repayments as a result of this extension.

Many commercial landlords have already backed their fellow Victorians by providing rent relief to commercial tenants, supporting eligible businesses through reduced trading due to COVID-19.

Eligible commercial landlords that have provided rent relief to their tenants have received support through the $20 million Commercial Landlord Hardship Fund. They will continue to do so while their tenants are eligible for the scheme.

Full details of the scheme including eligibility will be published on the VSBC’s website. Tenants and landlords can contact the VSBC for further information on 13 87 22 or visit vsbc.vic.gov.au.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Small Business Jaala Pulford

“Victorian small and family businesses play a critical role in creating jobs and driving economic growth – and that’s why we’re supporting them to get through this challenging period.”

“We have allocated more than $13 billion in funding to businesses across Victoria throughout the pandemic.”

retail leases

Reed gift fair in Sydney postponed

Reed sent out this notice today, announcing the postponement of their Sydney Gift Fair, due to start in a few weeks. This is a blow to retailers and suppliers, but, understandable given the Covid mess, especially in NSW:

An Important Update from Reed Gift Fairs

This week has been pivotal in our planning for the upcoming Reed Gift Fairs Sydney event, scheduled for 19-22 February 2022.

While we ended 2021 optimistic that Reed Gift Fairs Sydney would run safely and successfully next month, it has become clear after consultation with our community that the recent COVID-19 Omicron outbreaks have made it extremely difficult to confidently plan for the upcoming event.

As a result, RX (Reed Exhibitions) have made the necessary decision to postpone Reed Gift Fairs Sydney to the new dates of 9-12 April 2022, co-located with Life Instyle at the ICC Sydney.

Although we currently have permission to operate the event under our detailed covid-safe plan with the venue and NSW government, the resounding feedback from the industry, and our own priority as organisers, is that the health and safety of our exhibitors, attendees, partners and staff will always come first. Our team has worked hard to create what would have been an invaluable return to business events, however with Omicron cases expected to peak in the coming weeks, the large majority have voiced their concern for not only health reasons, but travel disruption and the potential impacts of isolation periods away from their businesses and families.

While this will be disappointing news for all concerned, the new dates in April will provide an additional 7 weeks for conditions to improve, whilst still sitting as close as possible to the traditional buying season, allowing both exhibitors and attendees alike to travel and attend events with more confidence to achieve their business objectives.

We fully understand and appreciate the level of planning that is required to participate in an event like ours and we will do our utmost to help all our customers, partners and attendees to prepare for the new dates. Further information will be shared in the coming weeks but if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our Customer Service Team on 1800 571 960.

Although the impacts of COVID-19 have been with us for longer than anyone may have originally expected, it is imperative that we continue to work together. As we adjust to living with Covid in our community and continue to learn how best to balance the need to return to business, exhibitions will remain an important part of the retail supply chain, as will RX’s commitment to keep our community connected.

We thank our community once again for all of your encouragement and support during this challenging time and we hope to see you in Sydney in April.

Kind regards,

The Reed Gift Fairs Team

This was an expected move given announcements about other trade shows and the impact of Covid on businesses and travel.

What was unexpected is news about AGHA proceeding, as reported at GIFTGUIDE:

BREAKING NEWS: AGHA Sydney Gift Fair to go ahead in February 2022

After two years of ‘no shows’, AGHA has decided to hold its Sydney Gift Fair as planned from 18 to 21 February at Sydney Olympic Park.

AGHA CEO Wayne Castle says there has been high demand from retailers to see new products and meet with new suppliers.

“Continually cancelling business-to-business events would lead to a huge shift and downturn in the way people market their businesses, make sales and communicate with clients and suppliers,” he explains.

“As the leading industry association in the gift and homewares sector it is incumbent on AGHA to help the industry thrive in a new norm.”

Indeed, after much consideration regarding the current Covid situation and respecting the urging by industry leaders and chief medical officers that business must accept living with Covid as the new ‘norm’, the AGHA board made the positive decision to proceed with the AGHA Sydney Gift Fair.

“Unlike last year, there are no current health order restrictions preventing business events from being held in NSW. Also, it is no different than a shopping centre environment where retailers currently operate every day in a safe Covid environment and have learnt to deal with Covid restrictions.

“Covid-safe protocols and procedures will be adopted throughout the fair including increased open spaces, less queuing, wider aisle ways where possible and enhanced social distancing opportunities.”

The news of the Sydney Gift Fair finally returning in 2022 has been received well by most exhibitors and visitors who understand the need to continue to operate and manage their businesses in a safe controlled environment. However, Castle expects the fair to be mainly a Sydney centric affair and adds that some big companies, mainly from interstate, have pulled out.

“Normally, attracting tens of thousands of Australian and international retail buyers demonstrates the ongoing relevance of this important trade exhibition for retailers who are seeking the latest brands and seasonal products entering the market.

“However, for more than two years, industry buyers have been unable to physically see and source new products, meet face-to-face with their suppliers and network with colleagues. For continued growth of the industry and economy it is crucial that businesses continue to operate and grow despite Covid-19.”

Sydney Gift Fair will once again feature the Australian Made pavilion, Artisans Lane, Launch Pad for business start-ups and a New Products showcase together with the usual extensive range of suppliers.

Social responsibility

The power of a podcast

There’s a niche product we sell that ticks over, usually selling somewhere around 10 units a week through the year and delivering $17,000 a year in revenue.

It had been out of stock so when we could order again we went hard, and just as well. On Monday the product featured in a podcast episode. This week we have sold over 100 units.

While the experience has changed our view of the product and what is possible with it, the bigger story for us is that usually a third of our sales for this product come from in-store. This week, 100% have come from online with a third of those customers also purchasing something else.

Being online is key in business today. Being easily found online is even better.

On the street, people will browse based on what they see. we configure our businesses to leverage this.

Online, most purchases are intended, sought out, based on what people want. Data confirm this.

We were lucky that the podcast referenced the product, that we had stock, that we had a website and that we came up in search results. 

Any newsagent can do this.

newsagency of the future

The false economy of Suncorp EFTPOS deals for retailers

I spent more than an hour on hold for Suncorp this week for an issue that they resolved with a flick of a switch at their end in seconds.

In my experience, this is common customer service from Suncorp.

It surprises me that retailers fall for the Suncorp deal pitches for EFTPOS business because the moment you have one question, your costs shoot through the roof in wasted time.

Australian banks need to do getter at customer service.

Customer Service

Where else in the world does a government owned retail network compete with local family-owned small businesses?

The Australia Post Back to School catalogue has been delivered and, once again, we have government owned retail shops leveraging their protected status to chase business that otherwise could / should go to private enterprise, including local small business retailers like newsagents.

I have no issue with privately owned Licenced Post Offices. My only issue is with the government owned Post Offices. In my view, the government have no place owning businesses that compete with established private enterprises in this way, especially since the private businesses were in this pace first.

Any politician who cares for local small business would try and do something about this issue. But, as we have seen for decades in Australia, they won’t.

I first started writing at this Newsagency Blog about the issue in 2006. back then, I had a government owned Post Office directly opposite my business, in a Melbourne shopping centre. Here is one of my posts from then:


On September 26 I wrote to, among others, Federal Minister for Small Business, Fran Bailey about Australia Post and the unfair advantage their Government-owned Australia Post stores had and how they were specifically targeting small businesses, specifically newsagencies. In my letter I said, in part:

When farmers talk of the impact of droughts the government steps in with assistance. When auto makers talk of the impact of cheap imports the government steps in and helps. When newsagents talk of the impact of Australia Post the government ignores us.

Australia Post is our drought. For many years now it has been draining newsagencies of revenue.

Yesterday, I received this reply from the Minister. While I appreciate the response, it is meaningless. The letter says, in part:

The Australian Government recognises the importance of newsagencies in our communities and is committed to creating a fair trading environment for all small businesses.

It also makes the claim that Australia Post is permitted to:

…carry on any business or activity that is incidental or relates to the supply of postal services.

This morning I have responded with this letter to the Minister. How can the Government consider Music CDs, Chess sets, Radios, Puzzles and Cookbooks to meet the criteria under the Act? Why will the Government not take steps to have the Australia Post breach of its obligations under the Act investigated?

The Government is conflicted beyond its ownership and regulation of Australia Post. As my letter to the Minister today says:

For decades, newsagents were profitable while they had a monopoly on the distribution of newspapers and magazines. In 1999 the Government facilitated the deregulation of the distribution of newspapers and magazines. As we have lost the benefits of exclusive traffic as a result of this deregulation, Australia Post has increased its range of newsagent type lines and thereby very successfully leveraged its continued exclusivity to more effectively compete with us.

I am not calling for a wind-back of newspaper and magazine deregulation. Rather, I am calling for the Government to get out of the business of competing with independent small business.

I was in a Government owned Post Office yesterday and was confronted with a big display of plush product – soft toys. Where in the Act are provisions permitting Australia Post to enter the soft toy space? Their entry into this category this Christmas season will affect sales in my newsagency.

I am disappointed that the Government will not even for a moment contemplate that they are wrong on this and that the actions of their Corporation are harming a small business channel which is vital to the community.

Yes, Sir Humphrey Appleby is alive and well and writing letters for the Government.

I suspect the only time the federal government will exit owning and running shops through Australia Post is when they can make a chunk of money selling the retail shops to some big business mate.

Australia Post

Happy New year: News Corp. announces 13.6% price increase for daily newspapers

News Corp. sent this notice to newsagents yesterday:

10 January 2022

Cover price rise for News Corp Australia publications

Dear Retailer,

Effective Monday 17 January 2022, the Monday to Friday cover price of the following publications will increase by 30 cents to $2.50.

  • Herald Sun
  • The Daily Telegraph
  • The Courier-Mail
  • The Advertiser
  • The Mercury
  • NT News
  • Geelong Advertiser
  • Gold Coast Bulletin
  • Townsville Bulletin
  • Cairns Post
  • The Chronicle

A full list of all relevant News Corp Australia publication covers prices, retailer commissions and prices to account as at 17 January 2022 is provided below.

We ask that you notify customers of the price change and ensure your systems are updated on the effective date to reflect these changes.

We thank you for your continued support and look forward to continuing to partner with you in driving new sales opportunities.

Newsagents make 31.25 cents from selling one of these papers. The space the a single title newspaper takes in the shop can cost between $500.00 and $1,500 a year. The labour cost of handling the a newspaper title can cost around $3,500 a year if there are no issues – this does not include the cost of selling them. Other costs for the papers (theft, insurance, tech etc.) can cost around $500.00 a year. So, at the high end, that’s roughly $5,500.00 in costs, or 17,600 newspapers sold.

An average newsagency in a good suburban situation will sell 65 papers a day. That’s 23,660 a year, or $7,393.75 in gross profit, from which to fund the costs noted above. That leaves $1,893.75 to cover the cost of selling the papers and dealing with issues, like short supply or late papers.

By deregulating newspaper supply, the money newsagents make from newspapers has been slashed, making them borderline economically valuable in a newsagency business. But, we keep them.

Newsagency challenges

What’s it like for local small business newsagents in a community impacted by Covid

Thanks to inaction by government on containing Covid and the opening up of the country and it’s population to the virus, local small business retailers like newsagents are now daily dealing with significant consequences, and we are doing this with minimal government support or understanding.

Staffing is difficult with more virus around. There are newsagencies operating on reduced hours, some have had to close. Some owners are working 100 hours a week as they have no staff available – because of Covid infection, lack of access to childcare or because of fear – and their small regional community relies on the business for plenty of essentials. The staffing challenges are distressing many.

Customer anger is up, way up. The anti-vaxxers have a louder voice than ever, emboldened by recent capital city protests, and they are happy to use it in a shop enforcing mask requirements. Some anti-vaxxers vent in the shop or at the front door while others take to social media, posting bad reviews – and good luck to retailers trying to get those bad reviews taken down.

Rapid Antigen Test access is a big problem. Many newsagents were selling Rapid Antigen Tests tests last year. Backorders have been cancelled because of late government action on access to the tests. This is adding to stress for those running newsagencies and local communities relying on them for test supply.

Overheads are up. There are masks to buy as well as more cleaning supplies and other requirements necessary in these new settings.

Sales are all over the place. In plenty of newsagencies, sales are down because people are self regulating in the absence of government regulations, and isolating – but this time with more fear than when lockdowns were imposed. Whereas in 2020 and 2021 almost every newsagency in Australia saw double-digit growth, the let it rip approach pushed by NSW and now accepted nationally (except for WA) has resulted in more fear in the community and this fear keeps people home and not willing to spend. This happening in an economy with no business support settings is a new set of challenges.

Government support has disappeared. While dealing with Covid costs local small business retailers like newsagents much more than over the last two years, support from government is non-existent. So much for their care and concern for small business.

Whereas in 2020 and much of 2021 there was federal and state government clarity on rules and settings. Today, it’s a moving feast. The rule changes are hard to keep up with. Some don’t make sense. Some place us at more risk, letting people into the community when they may still be infectious. This adds to stress in the community and being local community hub businesses, newsagents feel it, every day.

2022 has not started off as anyone expected.

While the challenges are considerable, newsagents are doing their best, opening as much as they are able, providing as safe a retail setting as they can and offering their community support.

Social responsibility

What a difference a supplier makes to gift packaging revenue in the newsagency

A suburban newsagency business sold $2,953.88 worth of gift packaging in 2019. In 2021, that same business sold $8,449.89 worth of gift packaging.

Revenue for the business is up, overall, by 59% in 2021 versus 2019. The gift packaging growth is 286%.

The stock weight / investment / space allocation is unchanged. The only change is the supplier.

What a result.

Retailers can’t bank promises or a supplier rep or merchandiser friendship. We can only bank over the counter results. This result is excellent for the business, and for the supplier to the business.

Newsagency management

Newsagents discuss Omicron related challenges

It was terrific to host a meeting on Zoom Wednesday (live and recorded for those unable to join on camera or on audio by phone) in which we caught us with how Omicron was impacting the safe and effective management of newsagency businesses around the counter.

We talked for an hour, comparing notes, sharing ideas and offering encouragement.

The meeting brought together newsXpress members from around the country in a broad range of retail settings. The diversity of situations is helpful in developing a good understanding, because Omicron is playing out differently in different parts of Australia.

Beyond the challenges of navigating opening hour variations because of limited staff availability, there was good discussion about products that work in this situation and more.

Zoom continues to be a useful tool for connecting newsXpress who might otherwise not have been able to so easily connect – sharing experiences, ideas and opportunities.

Newsagency management

GNS update on Rapid Antigen Test access for newsagents

GNS issued a statement this morning regarding access to Rapid Antigen Tests:

Dear Customers,

As you would be aware from press reporting, consumer demand for rapid antigen tests (RATs) has been unprecedented in recent days.  GNS sold out of these items (GNS codes 84779 and 84780) on 29 December and has been taking back-orders since, anticipating further supply being made available by our local supply partner based in Melbourne.

We were advised yesterday by our supplier that our expected delivery of RATs (due 5 January) was no longer to be supplied to us, as a result of Government action to seize RAT supply at point of import for public health purposes. Our supplier is currently waiting on an allocation of stock to be supplied from a new shipment due this week, although GNS has not been provided with a firm ETA at present.

In view of the uncertainty of supply, we have stopped taking orders for these products until we are confident we can fulfil existing demand. Please note, an allocation process will be in place to ensure a fair distribution for all back-order customers of that stock we are able to secure.

Future supply, and the terms on which supply may be made available, will be communicated to those customers with back-orders in due course.  If you wish to cancel your existing back-order(s) please contact Customer Service who will be able to assist.

Thank you for your understanding in what has been an incredibly challenging supply market, and apologies for any inconvenience caused.

Kind regards,

Adam Wedge
Head of Merchandise

Social responsibility

6 local retailer resolutions for a more enjoyable 2022

  • Touch data less. Every time you touch data, entering an invoice, entering accounting data, it’s an opportunity for mistake or, worse, fraud. 
  • Manage stock in one place. If you sell online and in a physical shop, manage your stock in one place. Double handling is fraught, and it wastes time.
  • Add a revenue stream. Seek out new products or services. Broaden the appeal of your business. Broader appeal = stronger foundations.
  • Leverage you. It’s likely your knowledge and passion are a key difference for your business. Share it. Your competitors can’t compete with you.
  • Copy less. Big retailers advertise loyalty programs to trick shoppers to think points are a reward. Be different, run an honest loyalty program.
  • Be authentically local. When you buy local, talk about it, celebrate it and, show shoppers with the local message on products tags and more.
Newsagency management

How to do a magazine relay in your newsagency

I first shared advice on how to relay magazines to drive growth in sales back in 2006. Over the years I have shared updated advice here.

While magazines are not as important as they were, and some newsagents don’t have the category at all, I revisited the advice. I share the revised advice below. This is one of 200+ articles on the newsXpress member knowledge base.

In editing the advice, I did a relay two weeks ago in the business I just bought, which does close to $300,000 a year in magazine sales. I read the earlier advice, did the relay and edited the advice. I mention this to make the point that I am writing from current experience. The relay in this business was the first step. next, coming soon, is a trimming of space taken by magazines, to reduce their occupancy cost and thereby improve their profitability. But, the relay had to be the first step.

How to do a magazine relay in your newsagency

A magazine relay is the process of recasting, improving, the layout of magazines in your business, with the main goal of increasing sales and a secondary goal of improving retail space efficiency.

Typically, a relay of 1,000 magazine pockets can be completed in 4 hours. This time investment can add 5% and more to sales. (I did this recently (December 2021) in a shop that had never had a magazine relay.)

In an older version of this advice we advised what to place where. That is not what we consider best practice today. No, today’s approach is more organic, more what you want for your business.

Think of it as starting with a blank canvas and no plan as to what the final art will look like.


A magazine relay is a statement about the business, a marketing and management activity. It sets the tone and says this is who we are, what we do and what we stand for. Doing it yourself is a leadershipstatement. Doing it alone means less conflict, less noise. And remember, the relay is not a destination … because regular change in magazine layout is essential.


Magazines are best located on a wall of the shop, and not in a centre fixture taking up premium retail space best allocated to higher margin and business differentiating products.


Magazine covers are colourful. Adding more noise, such as product headers, can detract from the products. Consider a less is more approach, allowing the products to speak for themselves.


Full facing is a term used in 2 ways: where 100% of the cover of a magazine is shown (true full facing) and where you have 1 magazine title per pocket in a tiered magazine fixture.

If you have the space on a wall and have less than 500 magazine titles, true full facing, showing 100% of the cover, can deliver best results.

In tiered fixtures, while full facing, one title per pocket works best, fitting 2 or 3 titles in a pocket can work with low volume special interest titles people will seek out.


This is the process of using magazine mastheads to draw attention to a category of magazines. Use the top 2 or 3 pockets for a single title, allowing it to draw attention.


There is no right or wrong. In our experience doing relays in. many different situations, the best approach to a relay is to start … just start. You will soon find your groove and see decisions you can make.


Start at one end of a fixture. Take off all the titles for between 3 and 6 columns and rebuild, with purpose, to draw attention, tell a story and drive sales.

As you build up a column, take off magazines from another 1 – 3 columns, always keeping empty space between where you are working and the old layout.

Look ahead, read the categories on display and think about where you are at compared to where you are headed.


This is a bit of secret sauce. It is where you can make editorial decisions, business decisions to guide your shoppers. What works best with what. You don’t know, not for sure at least, how can you. Ok, there is basket data you could read … but that only tells you what is happening. What about what could happen? Who knows. Experiment!

For example, should you put model plane magazines next to flying magazines? Or, should model plane magazines be in a distinct section of all model titles?

Do puzzle shoppers shop by brand or puzzle type. Publishers want you to layout based on their brand whereas your shoppers are, in our opinion, more likely to shop by interest. For example, all sudoku titles could work better together, or all large print titles could work better together.


Here are some adjacency suggestions. They are not rules. They are shared here to help you think of your own.

  • Cricket, golf and swimming go well together. Wrestling, boxing and buff-type fitness go well together.
  • Soccer is not rugby or AFL. Don’t mix them together.
  • Classic car titles need to be distinctly separated from regular car titles.
  • Classic car titles work well with classic trucks.
  • Car lovers do shop by brand. Place branded magazine titles together.
  • People interested in home renovation could be interested in any renovation title.
  • Creative arts go well together: painting, writing, craft.


If you have a tall fixture, think of your customers. There is no point placing titles targeting older shoppers up high or down low as reaching or bending could be challenging for them.


Work your way down the fixtures, creating the placement and adjacencies that you want.

Ideally, get it done in one session.

So people know you are focussed, put headphones on. Ignore everyone asking you questions.

Get it done.


Once you are done, walk the new layout with others working in the shop. Explain your decisions. Given them a response for customer comments. Make sure that everyone in the business is on your page.


Next, watch shoppers and listen for feedback and, after a couple of weeks, look at the sales results. The results could guide adjustments, or not.


If you have more than 300 magazine titles in your shop, a relay at least every year is a good investment … because magazine shoppers are usually loyal and that loyalty can benefit other, higher margin, parts of your business.

If you have made it this far, thanks for reading.  Magazines really are a point of difference which we need to work harder at embracing – despite the challenges of the distribution system.


2021 vs. 2019 in Aussie newsagencies: new benchmark study launched

I have emailed newsagents yesterday morning calling for data for a 2021 vs. 2019 newsagency sales benchmark study.

I am collating data for a benchmark study, comparing sales covering 2021 vs. 2019.

To best understand 2021, it’s best to compare to 2019, a more stable trading period.

I need your emailed report ASAP please.

How to participate.

  1. Please run a Monthly Sales Comparison Report for 01/01/2021 – 31/12/2021 compared to 01/01/2019 – 31/12/2019.
  2. Tick the category box. IMPORTANT.
  3. Tick to exclude home delivery and sub agent data.
  4. DO NOT tick the supplier box.
  5. Preview the report on the screen. Save as a PDF.
  6. Email these reports direct to me at mark@towersystems.com.au.
  7. Read the report yourself and see what it shows you about your business.

I will email the results to all participating newsagents and publish the results on the Australian Newsagency Blog as a service for all newsagents.

I am keen to see how the numbers stack up. Early indications are terrific.

Newsagency benchmark