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

Author: Mark Fletcher

Is the influence of influencers waning?

Social media is clogged with influencers peddling products and services they are being paid to peddle. The extent of it is enough to push you away from social media.

Influencers started our when they discovered and businesses discovered that people following other regular people added on what they talked about.

But that was back when the opinions were genuine, based on personal experience, when their kind words about a product or service were authentic.

Today, it’s all about the money – the money the influencer is paid, their agent is paid and the agency is paid to put a campaign together. When they talk about a product they ‘love’ it’s transactional for them … pay is $5,000 and we will deliver you a 30 second video sprucing your product and talking about how we ‘use’ it or ‘love’ it.

Maybe I am outside the demographic but I don’t trust influencers nor do I act on the endorsement of influencers.

It surprises me when I see companies, usually big companies, paying influencers to spruik for them – because it’s a crowded marketplace, and because, for me at least, of the trust thing, or lack thereof.

I’ve been approached by influencers. I’ve had several parents offer up their kids to play with a toy and talk it up in a video for $500. I’ve had a self-labelled shop local influencer offer to walk through my shop and share the joy for $1,000 for a 3 minute video.

They are nothing compared to the bigger campaign influencer engagements from the millions paid to a Kardashian to the thousands paid to local Aussie influencers.

I think the gloss has worn off the influencer temple, that people see them for what they are and that their spruiking is ignored as much as other advertising, because that’s what it is, advertising. This has happened in part because of the blurring of the lines between what is clearly paid advertising and ‘heartfelt’ endorsement.

But, maybe, that’s wishful thinking on my part.

I do think in this noisy influencer look at me world, I think people crave truth and authenticity. This is why a real review from a customers about your business or products matters much.

Personally, when I see an influencer talking up a product, my first question is how much they sold themselves to pitch. I wonder if I am alone in that. I suspect there are plenty who see a face they recognise pitching a product and understand the transactional nature of this and realise that the endorsement has come about because they have been paid to make it.

Influencing, of course, good back many years. In the early 1990s I was approached by a newsagent who held a position on a board. They asked for an extraordinary deal on the software in return for them using their position to tell others. I heard about it from the salesperson working for my company at the time. The newsagent wanted the deal so much that they repeated it – the quid pro quo – in detail, not wondering why we set a second meeting. The recording of it was damning. There were consequences. We refused the opportunity by the way.

Paying someone to say good things has to be understood fort what it is, even in today’s influencer world.

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marketing

NOVEMBER NEWSAGENCY SALES BENCHMARK STUDY

I am collating data for a quick benchmark study, looking at sales covering November 2021 versus November 2019.

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

I need your emailed report by midnight December 2.

How to participate.

  1. Please run a Monthly Sales Comparison Report for 01/11/2021 – 30/11/2021 compared to 01/11/2019 – 30/11/2019.
  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 own and run three newsagencies. Over the years I have had three others. I own newsXpress, the newsagency marketing group.

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Newsagency benchmark

Some police could be better informed re Covid requirements in retail

We received our third visit from the police last week to check our Covid plan and check on our processes. They were not happy that we were not checking the vaccine status of customers. Eventually, they agreed that essential retailers were not required to do this check.

It’s frustrating that those policing the regulations are not as up to date with the regulations as they should be. The visit wasted our time and created a brief ‘scene’ in the shop.

We take our Covid responsibilities seriously and have done since the pandemic began.

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Social responsibility

Are newsagents facing challenges accessing credits from IPS as that Australian Community Media business winds down?

Integrated Publication Solutions (IPS), is a distribution company owned by Australian Community Media (ACM). Several months ago IPS announced they are closing down. This, naturally, has resulted in newsagents wondering about credits owed them by IPS.

The challenge, I am told, is getting answers from IPS, as has been noted in comments here.

It is appalling that newsagents have to deal with decades-old and seriously under-resourced accounts offices in magazine distribution businesses – not only at IPS, but elsewhere. It costs us money, which hurts given the low margin made from magazines.

Of more serious concern is the mental health impact on some newsagents of poor accounting processes in and poor account credit related communication from magazine distribution businesses.

Australian Community Media pitches itself as locally engaged and supportive. It would be a bad look for the business if local small business newsagents are not treated with fairness and haste in the settling up of refunds owing on the closure of ACM’s IPS magazine distribution business.

The closure of IPS is challenging enough with poor practices at Wrapaway.

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magazine distribution

Strong Christmas card sales

I’ve been able to look at Christmas card sales data for the first three weeks of November for ten suburban and regional newsagencies and it’s terrific to see year on year growth of 15% and more when comparing 2021 with 2019.

In the boxed Christmas card space the growth is stronger.

While this small dataset does not claim Australians are buying more Christmas cards this year, talking with regional and rural based newsagents where their reach really is only the local community, they feel people are buying more Christmas cards than usual this year.

In looking at the data, I excluded any stores that did not have Christmas singles for the entire month of November, so the data was not skewed.

I also excluded one of my own shops that offers boxed Christmas cards online. As a result of this, it’s sales are up 250%. I am shocked at the number and size of boxed Christmas card transactions. They started in September and have been strong ever since.

While there is more Christmas to come, Christmas 2021 already feels successful – that’s what plenty of retailers tell me.

This is all great news for our channel.

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Greeting Cards

Sydney gift fair registration now open

Click here for the Reed Gift Fair registration. This runs Feb. 19 through 22.

Click here for the AGHA Gift Fair registration. This runs Feb. 18 through 21.

Life Instyle will run alongside the Reed Fair, in the same location.

These events will be the first major gift fair / retail trade shows in almost two years. I expect them to be full with suppliers and visitors as we all looks for business refresh opportunities.

I am keen to see fresh ideas and fresh products from suppliers.

If you are planning on attending, book now as accomodation is filling and prices are still pretty good.

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Gifts

Hiring for my newsagency software company help desk

My newsagency software company, Tower Systems, is hiring for a new POS software help desk role in Melbourne. If you know of someone with good tech knowledge and customer service experience in retail, they could be ideal for this role. Knowledge on the Tower software would be helpful, but not essential. While the company has recently recruited for new roles interstate, this role is Melbourne based, working out of our Hawthorn head office.

If you know anyone who could be interested, please have them email me: mark@towersystems.com.au.

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Newsagency opportunities

Simple and fun engagement can be the differentiator that works in local small business retail

Within a five minute walk of my office I can reach ten coffee shops. In nine of the shops they pitch their muffins with a product description and price sign while in one they have this fun sign.

They do have a sign saying the flavour but it’s this sign people reference. A couple of people in the office have mentioned it. They love the fun of it.

I love that it stands out as different. It gives me a better understanding of the business and that they are enjoying themselves.

While I will preference a coffee shop for their coffee, if I am thinking about a muffin nearby, it’s this shop that I will think of.

Standing out in retail can be challenging. It doesn’t necessarily take a big bold sign or some grand price gesture to stand out. It could be the smallest of things, like this whimsical sign about a muffin that likes to snooze.

With most of the coffee shops outsourcing their muffin baking, this sign suggests something more local, and that matters in local retail.

Subtle marketing can be noticed more than the big and bold.

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marketing

Will The Saturday Paper, best Bets and Winning Post suffer from poor data management processes at Wrapaway?

Publishers of The Saturday Paper, Winning Post, Best Bets and a bunch of other titles should listen to concerns raised by newsagents about the out of date data handling processes of Wrapaway, the new distributor of these titles following the closure of the IPS business.

Wrapaway does not provide electronic invoices. Indeed, they do not incline until the end of the month.

For close to 20 years newsagents have been receiving magazine inventory with electronic invoices. Electronic invoices save time, guide accuracy and facilitate stock inwards reconciliation.

The Wrapaway manual processes cost newsagents time, accuracy and the ability to reasonably manage incoming stock.

One newsagent told me last week that the move to Wrapaway has added at least 30 minutes additional work each week, morning work, which has to be covered in the roster. The actual cost is close to $15.00. That hurts when dealing with meagre margin products such as newspapers and magazines.

Another newsagent told me they no longer sell the titles as there’s not enough money to be made to warrant the extra work.

I raised the issue with the folks at The Saturday Paper in September when the move was first made public. Their circulation manager was disinterested in the issues raised. I outlined what newsagents expected from a magazine distributor: electronic invoices at the time product arrives, no physical returns etc. Yet, here we are approaching December, and newsagents are worse off.

I like The Saturday Paper, but I don’t like the extra cost I have not to carry it in my shop. This is something Schwartz Media and the other publishers now engaged with Wrapaway could have resolved – if they cares about local small b business newsagents.

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magazine distribution

Small business retail advice: the logistics bottleneck, Christmas orders and having stock through January.

In this post I share advice provided to newsXpress members a week ago about logistics challenges and what steps to take not to ensure supply.

The situation.

There is no one single cause to the delays. Most imported products are arriving late. Import facilities are overwhelmed. Import distribution centres are overwhelmed. This is a significant pressure point and a place where packages do go missing. What used to be a two-day turnaround can be anything from five-days to four-weeks here.

From these centres, parcels are trucked to state based distribution centres. This is the second most significant pressure point, and another place where parcels go missing. The turnaround at this point has gone from two-days to, often, ten-days.

Once a parcel leaves a state based DC, it is on board for delivery. Now, depending on the courier company, this is where it can get interesting as on-board for delivery used to mean the parcel was on a truck and on its way to you, usually that day. In this current constipated situation, a parcel can be on-board for two weeks, sometimes more. It can switch trucks and even be warehoused somewhere while overloaded and overloaded trucks move parcels around. This is another pressure point.

Every time a parcel is touched puts it at risk. Today, parcel handling is up four and five times what it used to be. This is resulting in more mistakes, more losses. This dramatic increase in multiple handling is making the situation worse. It is another pressure point.

What confuses the understanding is when a parcel comes through quickly, like it used to a couple of years ago.

The situation is made even more complex with pallet shortages, more truck breakdowns as a result or working longer hours and support systems that are themselves overloaded with calls and emails – where’s my parcel?

What suppliers are doing.

Some suppliers are air-freighting stock in to get around the shipping bottleneck, which is worse than the trucking challenges noted above. Some suppliers have edited their 2022 plans, reducing range for fear that some seasonal inventory will not arrive on time. Some suppliers have brought forward their own orders to provide inventory certainty, which is further clogging inbound logistics.

Some are communicating well. Others are not.

Most suppliers do not run their own warehouse or logistics operation. They are reliant on third parties to do this, including reliant on their management decisions and communication, which is often left wanting.

Planning into 2022.

We expect the situation to remain as it is today until at least mid January: severely congested, slow, challenged, frustrating. That is what we are planning for at least. We don’t want it to run another two months. but, we think it is best to plan that this will be the case.

Monday this week we asked all preferred suppliers for an update from them on cut-off dates for Christmas orders as well as their view on supply through to January.

I don’t have time to edit every response for you here. Sorry.

The overall messages are:

  • Inventory levels are low for some suppliers, because of surge orders from businesses that have recently come out of lockdown.
  • Order ASAP for what you need six weeks from now.
  • Order by Friday this week for anything you want by the end of this year.
  • Order by the end of this month for anything you think you will need in January.
  • Fewer orders are better. If you used to do plenty of small orders. Try and reduce order quantity into bigger orders.
  • Some suppliers are closing for Christmas as early as from December 15.

So, right now, we think you need to have all your orders in for December, January, Valentines Day, Back to School, Back to Work and even into Easter so you have a plan for coming out of Valentine’s Day.

Do not put off acting.

Planning for the first few months of 2022 cannot be put off. If you do put it off, you will be disappointed and we will be unlikely able to help.

Footnote: On top of everything covered above, for states outside the main logistics hub areas of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, add the usual distance delays multiplied by two or three. Sorry, but for you it will be worse than the worse it has been.

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Management tip

This ABC story about Pearcedale Hardware is a must-read story for all small business retailers and every Australian who cares about or relies on small business retail

Pearcedale Hardware is closing today and the ABC has published a deep-dive into why:

The cost of doing business

Published

For many residents in the quiet township of Pearcedale, the local shops are the heart of the community.

On this weekday, the complex an hour’s drive south-east of Melbourne is beating strong.

Shoppers exchange cheerios across the car park and small talk about the impending rain as they bustle, car keys in hand, between the 13 shops.

The shop was their retirement plan. They hoped to rebrand it and work towards selling it, believing they could get a few hundred thousand dollars.

But they say things began to look shaky when their lease lapsed in 2019, and the owners wouldn’t sign a new agreement with them.

They were on a month-by-month arrangement, when in May this year their property agent emailed them a new leasing agreement.

“[I was in] disbelief. I couldn’t believe what they were asking,” Adrian says.

The landowners were tripling the rent — from $29,687 a year to $88,638 a year.

Be sure to read the whole story.

There are many good landlords out there who go above and beyond for their small business tenants. There are also plenty of landlords who suck.

This story is a reminder that we small business retailers sign our leases, accepting the terms and conditions, accepting the risk.

When a lease goes to month-to-month, that’s what it is. We need to manage our business with that expectation and do our own planning, rather than relying on a decision from the landlord.

I appreciate it can be difficult and challenging. But, it’s best we expect the worst and plan for it, to protect ourselves and our business as much as we can … because, too many landlords do suck.

Retail is fundamentally changing in ways we can see and, more importantly, in ways we cannot see. We have to be as far ahead of that curve of change as we can be. This means disrupting your own businesses.  Running a shop with one prime source of income (the shop) is an out of date model. we seen to diversify as to what people buy, how they buy and the locations they buy from in the retail world today. This approach spreads the risk.

Back in the day, opening the front door of your local shop was the key marketing activity. Not now. Not for many years.

I have been in the situation of the folks at Pearcedale Hardware, facing a massive rent hike. I said no thanks. I am lucky to have a diverse business such that closing one shop would not hurt too much. But … I evolved the business to be that, to not rely  on one location.

I appreciate many local small business retailers don’t feel they can do that due to capital, local situation or other factors. But, there are ways to insulate your business from the impact of a massive rent hike. The time to seek those ways out is long before you need to … and that is the core point I’d make today.

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Ethics

If you have a moment to do some good …

If you have time and are able, I’d appreciate you helping a remote community in Aurukun, Queensland. Janelle from Cape York Partnership reached out earlier this week asking for old magazines. here is her note:

Good afternoon My name is Janelle and I work in a very remote community called Aurukun where most of the community is on Centrelink and struggle to live day to day as food is very expensive here. It is a community that has many barriers and issues that impact on all the community people I work in CDP which requires anyone on Centrelink to come in and see us, at times this is very busy and means sitting and waiting for extended periods of time. I am approaching you to see if there is any chance of being given some of the old magazines ie That’s Life, Take 5, Australian Geographic, Football, Hunting anything like that. Also any old basic Crossword/Find a work type magazines as well, kids too. It doesn’t matter to them if they are months old it will just give them something to look at while they sit and wait and then we could pass these onto the Aged Care Centre for the patients there. I hope that this is possible and wait to hear back, much appreciated Janelle

I spoke to Janelle and discovered they could use plenty more than old magazines. They can use pencils, colouring books, kids toys and gifts, too.

Rather than send returns, we sent a bundle of current issue magazines from each of my shops and 30 Beanie Boos and some colouring sets. I mention this as an example of what any newsagent could do if they would like to help this organisation.

I appreciate we all get calls daily for help from local and other groups.

This message from Janelle resonated.

If you can help, I am sure the Aurukun community would appreciate it. Here iOS the address for sending any donations:

Janelle Ainsley
C/- CYE
508 Kang Kang Road
Aurukun 4892
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Social responsibility

News Corp half price magazine offer exclusive to Woolworths

I was told about this offer just as it ended, a half price offer for News Corp. magazine titles at Woolworths supermarkets. Newsagents should think of this next time a News Corp. representative claims newsagents are important to them. I can’t recall an offer like this from News Corp. to encourage shopping in newsagencies.

If News Corp. values newsagents, it needs to do better.

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magazines

Thank you gifts selling well this Christmas

We are seeing growth on thank you cards and gifts this Christmas. It’s a valuable segment of Christmas related purchases with these thank you shoppers often buying for several people at once. Having the easy gift and a card helps win the business. We target this shopper on socials as well as in-store with tactical placement.

Covid is certainly the key factor in growth in this segment this year. You hear it in conversations with customers.

While other Christmas gift segments such as Kris Kringle and teacher are strong, it’s the thank you gift segment that is stronger this year.

What I especially like about thank you gifts is that the gift price can vary more than in other segments, wallowing a broader pitch to this shopper.

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Gifts

What frustrates newsagents about magazine subscription only deals

Newsagents have offered magazine putaways for decades, a consistent and loved service for shoppers loyal to specific mastheads. The putaway service of newsagents has been vital to magazines, yet it is something magazine publishers have failed to embrace. Instead, they trope money at subscription offers designed to lure people from over the counter purchase, offers like these that are being pitched right now:

I have talked about these types of offers with magazine publishers many times over the years. They have their reasons for making the pitches as well as their reasons why similar offered in newsagencies for cutaway customers are not something they support.

I think magazine publishers need to reassess the value they place in the newsagency channel. A tip-on gift for an issue of a title exclusive to the channel is not sufficiently differentiating.

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magazine subscriptions

Is there a quality problem with products made in China at the moment?

Maybe it’s just me but it feels as if the quality of some products coming out of China at the moment is less than it was a couple of years. I say this based on the number of credits sought when checking new products coming it.

Of particular concern is seasonal products for which there is no replacement stock, leaving a hole to be filled. For example, licenced Christmas ornaments that look dirty or damaged and that will certainly not sell.

This is a problem suppliers need to address. Usually, they have quality control agents working with factory in China, checking products as they come off the production line. For some suppliers, it’s as if those quality control agents are not working as they were.

We have changed our product checking process to ensure we catch problematic product before it hits the shop floor or the online sales fulfilment desk. While you could argue every product should have been checked previously – with shrink wrapped product this can be time-consuming and not something a shopper wants if they are buying to collect and keep unopened for years.

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Newsagent suppliers

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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Newsagency challenges

The double standards of some suppliers

We have suppliers in our channel who steadfastly ‘territory protect’ denying nearby retailers from accessing their products while they themselves, the suppliers, run a direct to consumer website that could sell to anyone, anywhere.

I’m all for ending territory protection. We are in a free market after all. Likewise, I am all for competing with anyone online, too. I say this as there is one supplier that required physical retailers to not offer products online.

All these restrictions are a real turn off dealing with some suppliers.

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Newsagent suppliers

Video key to promoting this Christmas on social media

Video content on social media is referenced by the platforms more than ever before, because it’s what the platform users give more eyeballs to.

This type of content is disposable, used a couple of times for the season and not after.

Here are three videos from the Christmas suite developed for newsXpress member use. First: mum and dad:

Dad cards:

Mum cards:

Videos like this are not blockbusters. They are easily locally produced for the disposable use I outline above.

In my experience, they get better engagement than flat photos of a Christmas card stand.

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Greeting Cards

Newsagents not to blame for missing and late newspapers and magazines

In Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland in recent months newspaper and magazine distribution has become even more unpredictable than usual.

Too often, newspapers and magazines arrive late in newsagencies. Sometimes, they don’t arrive at all.

This is not the fault of the newsagent.

Talking to the newspaper and magazine companies you get the feeling they don’t see it as their fault, either. They point at those they contract with.

Newsagents find it almost impossible to get assistance that resolves the problem of late and completely missed newspaper and magazine deliveries.

The distress the situation is causing for affected newsagents is considerable.

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magazine distribution

VANA / NLNA cuts member fees to $0?

I’m told VANA / NLNA emailed newsagents last week promoting free membership for six months. I’m not sure if it is free for existing members or only new members.

In their pitch they say they provide members improved income, reduced costs and improved foot traffic. The marketing reads as a bit old school to me though, and out of touch.

Newsagents have access to very competitive insurance rates as well as easy access to HR support. They don’t need to be in NLNA to access these things.

As for an Amazon locker, that’s an agency offer that we know from overseas experience will do little for over the counter sales in a shop.

Like I said, it all feels a bit out of touch.

It’s on my mind because a new newsagent asked me about it. They felt that they could fail in their new business if they did not join. I explained that everything the NLNA business spruiks can be accessed elsewhere. I told them to save their money and that is belonging to a representative body was important to them, the better established and nationally representative ALNA is what I recommend.

People can join any group they want or feel is right for them. My only advice is do your homework, make sure it is a good fit for you.

Now, for disclosure, I own newsXpress. you could consider newsXpress a competitor of NLNA. I don’t see it that way as the suite of benefits and services available through newsXpress is very different.

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Newsagent representation

Chasing value in the newsagency

Value matters in any retail business, and and retailers have more control over value than they often think they have.

Today, I want to address value in retail in the context of product value.

The value of a product depends on the gross profit for that product, what you sell it for less what you paid for it. The real value of a product is the gross profit less the labour, and retail space costs for the product. The value of a product over a year is these things times the quantity of the product sold.

If you sell a gift for $250 with a GP% of 50%, you make $125.00. That’s the same as the GP you would make from around 380 newspapers, 85 magazines or 100 or so lottery tickets.

The challenge is to have the right higher price point items that sell at good volume to deliver more bankable margin dollars than you will make from lower margin legacy products.

This is where an engaged marketing group like my newsXpress helps its members grow profit, and through this cultivate greater value for their businesses, and from that flows enjoyment.

Can anyone sell items worth $250 or more? In my experience, yes!

But, value is about more than the ticket price of an item. Other factors include:

  • Buy price.
  • Stock turn.
  • Shrinkage.
  • Differentiation.

Too often, retailers focus only on the buy price, thinking that buying better is what matters. It’s only part of it. You can’t bank a percentage. You can only bank gross profit dollars. hence, the importance of turn.

So, buying at the right price is important as is the right product that will turn quickly, ideally, faster than items it replaces on the shop floor – thereby driving more value from that allocated space in your shop.

I see plenty of retailers restricting what they can achieve in their business by deciding what won’t work, without even trying it. I’ll try just abut anything and let my customers tell me if it works or not. Now, of course, there are some constraints on that approach – space, capital and relevance to the overall business. But, I will certainly try products outside what is immediately assumed to be relevant.

That approach of trying things, in pursuit of growing value, has revealed plenty of opportunities I’d not have considered under the more traditional paradigm of retail. business management.

This is one of the benefits of Covid, we have permission to be more experimental in what we sell, how we sell, when we sell and where we sell. Embracing those opportunities, in pursuit of driving business value, will land rewards.

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Newsagency management

Production issues with The Age upsetting home delivery customers

Here’s what one subscriber shares on Twitter yesterday:

It’s another newspaper home delivery fail that’s on the publisher.

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newspaper home delivery