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

Author: Mark Fletcher

Some newsagents are missing out on sales by ignoring this free marketing opportunity

The advice in this post was written for and shared with newsXpress members last year. newsXpress regularly provides tactical business advice to its members.

I shared this advice with ALNA a few months ago, so they could share it with their members. I share again here today to reach more newsagents.

This is free advice that costs nothing to implement and is likely to attract shoppers to your business.

Research by several organisations in Australia suggest that more that 75% of in-store purchases include at least one online search. Having a current Google Business Profile is one key element in being found online.

Google Business Profile. Steps you can take to be more easily found.

Having an up to date Google profile is more important than ever. Google uses profile content to deliver search results.

Google‘s own data indicate that 46% of all searches have local intent. Use of Google Maps is common by people looking for something right now. Maintaining your Google My Business profile is the most important step to indexing well in local search and map results.

Google preferences Google My Business content in providing search results since it is verified content.

Sharing posts via Google My Business is possibly more important than what you share on social media.

Okay, so where do you start, what do you have to do? Here’s a simple to follow list. I have done this over the last few days for 2 of my businesses to ensure the advice is current.

  • Do a Google search for Google Business Profile. It should bring you to: https://www.google.com/business/.
  • If you don’t have a Google Business account, create one. If you do have an account, log in.
  • Once in your profile, if your business is not listed, click Add business (top right), search for your business and request it be added. If someone else ‘owns’ the business listing it could take a few days to be released to you. If your business is not found in the search, add it manually.
  • Do not rush this. Make sure you review everything.
  • Click on the pencil icon to edit your profile.
  • Choose your business category. Too often retailers select one. Select as many as apply to your business.
  • Description. Make sure you describe your business. Use at least 500 of the 750 words allowed as Google uses this in search results.
  • Hours. Make sure they are accurate.
  • Location. Make sure your business location is correct. The service area is the area you serve. Choose wisely. You can put in multiple locations. So, put in your town first, then, put in the bigger city you are near if appropriate.
  • More. Click on every option available under more as they matter in Google results. For example, noting the business as woman owned, if true, will help with results.
  • Add a profile photo if you do not have one already.
  • Click on the create post icon – it’s the third icon, next to the camera. Create a post.
  • This should be about a product.
  • Include at least one photo.
  • Start with a headline.
  • Write text. Aim for less than 200 words. Think about what people will search for. Have a good headline. Use paragraphs.
  • If you sell the product on your business website, use the add a button option to add a link to the product on your business website.
  • Google will check and approve the post.

Once you have done this, you should see the profile and post online in less than a day. Once that happens, the Google door is open for you.

Our advice is that you add a post at least weekly. Each post should be about a single product or single brand, something people are likely searching for. Keep the focus narrow. Write as you. Be relaxed. What is it you love about the product? Who is it for? Be grateful about having it available.

If you are just starting, consider a post a day for the first two weeks to get your content up and running, to encourage Google to notice you.

On the posts themselves, they should be more informative than, say, an Instagram post. remember, you are writing for people on their phones searching.

Google will preference profiles that offer fresh content. This is why I say posting weekly is important.

Your Google business profile works best for you when you have a website as that facilitates shopper browsing.

The other benefit of creating and maintaining a Google business profile that reflects your businesstoday is that suppliers will see it. This could help suppliers who pigeonhole you as a newsagency realise that you are not.

We appreciate some of you may have read this and thought it’s the last thing I need – more work to do. The thing is, more shoppers today search online than not.

Footnote: if you are thinking of paying someone to do this for you, I advise against that. This is your business. You know what you want people to find, and buy. A marketer or a friend will do more of what they want, and that may not match what you and your business need.

Now, we asked ourselves some questions for you:

  • Can I use content I put on my business blog? For sure. Google may see it as duplicate so maybe trim it for your Google profile.
  • How long should a new post be? Given that this content is most often accessed on the phone, 200 words is considered the max.
  • How long do posts last? Currently, 6 months. It used to be 7 days. Google will continue to play with this.
  • Should I always include a photo with a post? Yes.
  • How many photos should I add? At least one. My suggestion is 4.
  • How detailed should the photos be? Each photo should be one product, clearly visible.
  • Should I use hashtags? Hashtags serve no purpose on these posts.
  • Can I schedule posts? Yes, by using an external platform like Loomly, Sendible, OneUp or similar.
  • What else do I need to do with the profile? Engage. Respond to reviews. Answer questions. Show the business as engaging.

Of course, it’s up to you if you create a profile for your business. It costs nothing and is likely to help people find you, and visit.

Newsagency management

What a terrific promotion of independent retail in Chichester, West Sussex


Scandal at Sports Illustrated magazine over AI content and fake reporters

Futurism has this most incredible story. Here’s part of it:

Sports Illustrated Published Articles by Fake, AI-Generated Writers

We asked them about it — and they deleted everything.

There was nothing in Drew Ortiz’s author biography at Sports Illustrated to suggest that he was anything other than human.

“Drew has spent much of his life outdoors, and is excited to guide you through his never-ending list of the best products to keep you from falling to the perils of nature,” it read. “Nowadays, there is rarely a weekend that goes by where Drew isn’t out camping, hiking, or just back on his parents’ farm.”

The only problem? Outside of Sports Illustrated, Drew Ortiz doesn’t seem to exist. He has no social media presence and no publishing history. And even more strangely, his profile photo on Sports Illustrated is for sale on a website that sells AI-generated headshots, where he’s described as “neutral white young-adult male with short brown hair and blue eyes.”

Ortiz isn’t the only AI-generated author published by Sports Illustrated, according to a person involved with the creation of the content who asked to be kept anonymous to protect them from professional repercussions.

Read the rest of the article if you’re interested in magazines, AI, journalism and business ethics.

This is brazen stuff being reported from making up fake AI journalists / writers, claiming they are real and then deleting them when asked and offering no comment, editorial note, or other response.

All publishers should follow this story.


If you pitch shop local on business social media, how you source products matters

You know the posts on social media I mean here, the ones reminding people about the importance of shopping local. They often clumsily pressure people to shop local, as if that matters more than other factors.If you pitch shop local on social media, be ready to demonstrate your local credentials with locally sourced product.

If you do this, use social media to tell people to shop local, this is for you.

Do you source locally for your business every opportunity you have? I look at product source hone in a business that tells me to shop local. I did this recently in a clothing shop and not one of the 25 items I checked was sourced from within Australia. So, or their business, shop local looked particularly selfish in my view.

Now, local could be made in town, in your state or in your country depending on the type of product.

It is vital that everyone in the business knows where you source your products. Being able to share information about genuinely locally made products can help you win sales.

If you have products from several suppliers, location source could be a differentiating factor. Knowing the location and pitching this could win business.

When you do source locally, ensure everyone in the business knows, and that your shoppers know. Use signage to remind shoppers. Smart suppliers help you with this pitch.

In good economic times and bad, locally made has remained a constant. We know from research that this is especially true among younger shoppers.

So, be sure of the source of what you sell and leverage this when possible to reinforce the localness of your business.

Shop local has a place in local indie retail promotion if it is supported by sourcing decisions within the business. This is where you can be active in your decision making and supportive in-store with backing-up your shop local pitch with proof of your own actions.

It’s not enough to leverage a social responsibility without demonstration your engagement with it. It’s hard work, challenging, but worth it if you commit to walking the walk.

Newsagency management

Newsagents are dying says a newsagent who just closed their business

It is frustrating reading about a newsagent who has closed their business having sold the building to a developer who bags the channel they are leaving.

Newsagents are dying.

This quote is from Des Higginbotham, the owner of the now closed Ferntree Gully Newsagency in an article the local paper, the Star Mail. Here are some other quotes from Des:

“Newsagencies have changed a lot over the years.

“Ever since they took the newspaper distribution away from us, it changed the whole dynamic.

“We lost a lot of traffic flow, and a lot of cash flow – we used to give tasty trucks 1200 suns a day, with serious money!”

“Newsagents are dying, if it hadn’t been for tax lotto wouldn’t have survived,” he said.

While this may be Des’ experience, there are plenty in the channel who would disagree.

I know of newsagents who felt relief at quitting the distribution side of their business and relishing being focussed 100% on being retailers.

There are newsagents enjoying double digit growth in 2023 over a good 2022.

Sure, there are those in struggling businesses. In many cases this has to do with lack of embrace of change, lack of reaching outside the local area for shoppers. Those challenged today tend to still have the mindset of being agents rather than retailers. Suppliers have a bit to answer for with this.

I wish Des and Linda all the best. Hopefully, they will not talk down our channel any more. Maybe in retirement they could visit newsagencies near where they had their shop and see thriving and relevant businesses in action.

Every newsagent is responsible for their business.

Being a victim is unhelpful.

It is never too late to embrace change.

The biggest growth opportunities for our channel are product that deliver 50% and more gross profit opportunities. Some of these are outside what is traditional for our types of businesses. They help us attract new shoppers.

This is a fun space in which to play. But if you cling to an agent mentality like Des appears to have, you’re unlikely to see these opportunities.

It is disappointing that media outlets give voice to views that reflect on our channel as it was 20+ years ago as if those views are relevant today. All of us in newsagency businesses today should call this old-school view out and talk about the reality of where we are at today, the new opportunities that are working for us.

Newsagency challenges

Are you overstocked in your newsagency

Stock in boxes in the back room, in a garage or under tables in the shop will not sell unless it is displayed.

While this will be obvious to most, there are some retailers who don’t get it.

If you do have stock in boxes and no room to display it, consider pausing spending to give you time to convert those purchases to cash.

The alternative is that you do nothing, and your ability to pay bills is impacted.

It’s your business. You choose when to spend and when to not spend.

Some retailers buy friendship through their purchasing. Others like to look busy with a shop bursting with stock. Others buy to feel better about themselves. Spending for any of these wrong is not helpful to the business, not helpful top you.

There are sales reps who would know they are selling stock to a business that does not need it. Shame on them. Shame on them putting their own financial rewards ahead of the evidence of an overstocked and financially stressed business. Sales people doing this are no friend of the business owner.

If you don’t know the current value of the stock in your business, it’s likely you have too much stock.

So, what’s the value of your current stock on hand?

If the value of your non circulation product (magazines and newspapers) stock right now is more than 20% of the total revenue you will make from it in a year, you probably have too much stock. The actual percentage will vary by product category.

There will be some who say the 20% figure is inaccurate and unhelpful. I have tested it in a few businesses and it is a reasonable first step guide.

So, what’s the value of your current stock on hand? Start there. Then look at your non circulation product revenue for the last year. The numbers will support what you currently see in your shop.

If you have boxes of stock that you’ve not opened for six months or more, you have too much stock. If your back room, garage and or under display table space is filled with boxes you have a problem.

The best way to address being overstocked is to stop buying and sell down what you have, and to do so without emotion.

The alternative is that you do not address the issue and the issue swamps you and your business.

It’s black and white – in your numbers and in your business.

Newsagency management

A walk back into history

This, from May 30, 1999. It’s a speech delivered by then Minister for Financial Services and Regulation Joe Hockey. Here it is in its entirety:

Address to the Australian Newsagents’ Federation Industry Conference, Gold Coast
Good morning ladies and gentlemen and thank you to Bob Dean and the entire ANF board for inviting me to speak at your national conference, here in Surfers Paradise.

It has been an eventful six months for everyone involved in the newsagent industry. During this time, the industry’s future has at times seemed clouded and the way forward unclear.

In fact, for the past 20 years your industry has persevered under uncertain conditions.

But I am confident that we have reached a sound commercial solution to a situation that at one stage looked vexed and complicated.

So, now it is a good time to examine where we are, and importantly, how we got there.

I should say, that over this period, the ANF board has provided outstanding leadership to its members and remained focused on the issues needing to be thrashed out.

They have responded thoughtfully to the changes in the industry and represented – very robustly – the interests of members, and importantly, kept a keen eye on the future.

In particular, I would like to mention Bob Dean’s diligence in this whole process. His efforts have been outstanding – continually travelling the country to represent his members in more than 80 meetings over the last 6 months.

Bob has ensured that the industry has approached the issue in a positive way.

This is evidenced by the QNF conference in March. I understand that the conference was very well attended and that it was a most productive forum.

Indeed, the positive attitude of newsagents, wanting to seize the opportunity to improve all aspects of the industry and ensure your future, is to be commended.

And now, after a solid 6 months of consultation, a competitive and equitable system, with greater freedom and greater flexibility for newsagents to manage their businesses with confidence, appears to be within reach.

As you all know, the need to consider the industry’s commercial framework had its genesis in the decision last November of the Australian Competition Tribunal.

In this case, the Tribunal found that aspects of the newsagency systems in NSW, the ACT, Victoria and Queensland no longer satisfied the public benefit test as required by the Trade Practices Act.

That is, the anti-competitive effects of the distribution systems outweighed the benefit to the public.

This meant that recently granted authorisations only protected arrangements preventing direct supply of magazines to sub-agents and direct supply of newspapers to ‘look-alikes’ until 1 July this year, and the direct supply of newspapers to sub-agents until 1 February 2000.

This was a time frame which the Government was very aware would concern many newsagents.

But we were also very aware that there needed to be an outcome that benefited newsagents, that benefited publishers and, very importantly, that benefited consumers.

From the outset, the Government was entirely sympathetic to the newsagents’ concerns and committed to the continuation of home delivery.

Indeed, we have been, historically, supportive of the industry over a number of years.

But the Tribunal’s decision was in keeping with the Government’s position on home delivery – the principal public benefit claimed for the system.

In 1996 – delivering on its election commitment – the Government made a submission to the ACCC supporting the extension for another 4 years of the authorisation protecting the reliable, efficient and low-cost home delivery service for newspapers.

The ACCC and Tribunal adopted this time frame to make sure the industry had enough time to reform its arrangements.

I should emphasise that the ACCC and Tribunal are independent and not subject to any direction from the Government.

I should also emphasise that these arrangements between newsagents and publishers are private sector contracts, and as such, are totally at arm’s length from Government.

In other words, there’s not a lot a government could, or should, do.

It will always be up to any industry to change over time – after all, as the Tribunal found the newsagency industry’s conduct, but for the ACCC’s authorisation, would have been in breach of the Trade Practices Act.

And while that is the case, the Government has always been very willing to help the industry make positive changes.

In the light of the first Tribunal decision in 1994 requiring reform and the decision last November, and in order to seek a way forward, I asked the ACCC to consult between industry groups and to report back by 15 February this year. This was then extended to 31 March.

In early April I announced that as the report contained commercially sensitive material it would not be publicly released.

Following this, on April 20 after an application from the Australian Newsagents Federation, the ACCC granted an interim authorisation to the Federation allowing it to negotiate with publishers and distributors on behalf of newsagents.

I believe this was granted to allow the industry to build on the momentum which had been generated by the earlier discussions, and to provide individual newsagents with the industrial power of collective bargaining which is required during times of change.

For individual newsagents, this means they will be protected during contractual negotiations.

Ladies and gentlemen, the entire process has been intense and exhaustive, but a process which could not have happened without the help of the ACCC, and in particular, the good work ACCC Commissioner Sitesh Bhojani, who personally participated in over 60 industry discussions.

But this was not a typical role for the ACCC.

It had no official duties to complete. Rather, the ACCC acted as voluntary facilitator, smoothing and lubricating the consultative process.

Indeed, despite being set a difficult task by Parliament to protect and promote competition, the ACCC devoted a huge amount of time and resources to facilitate genuine industry discussions for the newsagency system.

And as such, apart from impressing upon all parties the importance of frank and honest dialogue, the Government has stayed very much at arm’s length – not engaging in negotiations on behalf of any side.

We have had no direct involvement, because we believe it is not for the Government to determine the operations of markets.

But we have had a role to play.

You asked me to help bring the publishers genuinely to the negotiating table.

I did that.

You asked me to help create an environment where newsagents will not have the ACCC constantly looking over their shoulder.

I did that.

You asked me to extend the consultation period.

I did that.

And you asked me to help newsagents to collectively bargain during this time of change.

And I did that, too.

And, as a result, we fully support your preference for commercial contracts, as has been spelt out in the May edition of your industry journal, National Newsagent.

So where is the industry heading?

While I have not seen any contracts, I know that newsagents are being offered greater freedom and greater flexibility to shape their business as they choose.

For example, those newsagents who are now compelled to provide home delivery even where the delivery is at a loss, may have the option of selling-off this unprofitable side of the business.

I can well understand the frustration of a newsagent, awake at 5am, working through the morning and attending to a lunchtime rush, when a disgruntled home-delivery customer fronts up to complain about the plastic wrapping on their paper.

Now, the competitive framework that has been worked out should see the innovative newsagents thrive, with benefits to consumers including an even better home delivery system.

Newsagents will have more scope to manage their business, with the ability to shed unprofitable aspects.

There is no reason why any newsagents would be forced to close.

Very importantly, the Government has met its election commitment to preserve newspaper home delivery.

As a result, Australians can now be assured of continued delivery of their morning papers, while newsagents can be assured of a more certain environment in which to conduct their business.

In other words, newsagents are being given choice.

You are being given the choice to run your businesses in a more certain environment, and importantly, you are being given the choice of how you will adapt to your changing business environment.

The future is what we make of it.

The Government cannot guarantee any individual business or industry, but we have created a business environment of strong economic growth, with low inflation, strong consumer demand and low interest rates.

Ladies and gentlemen, in the face of rapidly changing uses of technology, I think this new commercial structure is a solid foundation for the future.

It is a structure, which will benefit Australia’s newsagents, and it is a structure, which will benefit Australia’s consumers.

And so it is a structure, which we would all do well to support.

Hockey was a politician. There will be some from our channel back then who will disagree with his take on what the government did and didn’t do for newsagents, and some who disagree with what the ANF at that time did or did not do for newsagents. In my opinion, newsagents were not well represented through the changes driven by the Howard government. Much was taken from us without compensation. We were ineffective in achieving a fair outcome for the thousands of family owned and run businesses. The government, which was elected as caring about small business, and newsagents in particular, failed our channel.

Newsagent representation

If only Aussie magazine publishers more actively prom owed newsagents like this

But without the all good newsagents bit, since we don’t control what we get.

magazine distribution

What is the definition of a newsagent?

A newsagent today in Australia is not what it was a few years ago. The Australian newsagent business, or newsagency as many prefer, is an evolving business selling cards, magazines, papers, stationery, gifts and, usually lottery products.

It is rare you will find tobacco products in a newsagency business. Many of us ditched that category years ago.

A newsagent in Australia today is more likely to look like a gift shop. Fresh. Innovative. Inviting. Very different to the type of business you would have seen as a newsagency years ago.

Most newsagents don’t deliver newspapers, the publishers took that from them.

What is the definition of a newsagent? is a question often put into search engines by people in Australia. I hope this post indexes in search results to provide a better answer that the current one.

Some people also ask Is it newsagent or newsagents? I would say to this that it is newsagency if you are referring to the business. But, really, the shop can be called whatever the local owner wants. The days of putting the word newsagency above the entrance are gone since that term is loaded with history that’s not relevant to what we do today.

Writing for a chapter contribution to a book on  the history of Australian media I noted:

Since 2011, the pace of change in retail newsagency businesses has increased considerably, driven by declining sales of print media products, increased retail real estate and labour costs, a higher cost of capital and a greater penetration of franchise groups providing newsagents with management and marketing advice. 

By 2012, there was a growing separation between distribution newsagencies and retail newsagencies, as well as a growing gulf among retail newsagencies. This was encouraged by News Limited with a trial project called T2020, intended to force newspaper distribution consolidation among newsagents. While T2020 failed to go beyond trial, newspaper publishers continued to encourage newsagents to consolidate to drive operational efficiency. 

In 2013, around 7 per cent of retail newsagencies closed, due to a lack of newspaper home delivery revenue and falling newspaper and magazine retail income. Today, while a typical high street newsagency has a floor space similar to that of 30 years ago, the average shopping centre newsagency has a more diverse product offering. 

Things have changed so much since 2013. Indeed, the Aussie newsagency today, ten years on, is more different than the 2013 version compared to 20 years prior.

Newsagency management

Magazine delay today in Melbourne

Are Direct provided this information to newsagents late yesterday:

Due to a significant linehaul truck delay into Melbourne today, your magazine delivery tomorrow will be impacted.

We will provide further communication as soon as we have further details from our contractor but at this stage, we envisage deliveries not taking place on Thursday.

Please do not process any magazine shortages until we provide further communication.=

We apologise for this delay and can reassure you we are working to get deliveries out to you as soon as possible.

We know these Are Media titles are impacted:

  • Royals Monthly Dec 23
  • Take 5 Nov 23 Issue
  • Take 5 mega Puzzler #94
  • That’s Life Nov 23 Issue
  • Who Nov 27 Issue
magazine distribution

What’s a good thing to write on a Christmas card?

What should I write on a Christmas card?

What words should I write on a Christmas card?

What’s good to say on a Christmas card?

How should I write on a Christmas card?

What’s the best thing to write on a Christmas card?

These questions and similar are being asked hundreds of times every day on search engines in Australia at the moment. People what to know what to write on Christmas card, how to, and more.

This is an opportunity for local newsagents to provide this advice on social media. be the expert, the helper, the guide. Help them find their way to express themselves on Christmas cards.

Before getting into what to write on a Christmas card, remember that any card you give is for now, and for years into the future. Take your time.

What you write needs to reflect you, how you feel, how you want to be remembered.

The best way to figure out what to write is to take a piece of paper and start writing. This way you can figure it out through trial on paper and not on the card.

But, if you really are stuck, try these suggestions offering varying degrees of expressing feelings:

I never tell you enough how much you do mean to me.

Christmas is brighter thanks to you.

Knowing you is a wonderful Christmas gift.

Have a wonderful Christmas.

Thanks for everything you do for me.

I wish I was there to hug you in person.


You’re a good mate and I appreciate you for that.

If none of those give you ideas on what to write, you could go very basic and write to [their name] and at the bottom, from [your name]. But do you really want to be remembers for that?

Sometimes a Christmas card is a good way to share a memory. It shows you thinking of them, that you have fond memories.

Sending a Christas card is not an obligation. It’s an honour to be able to give them something they can cherish for years, something to ignite warmth in their heart years down the track. So, take your time, reflect what you think and feel. It’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s important, though, to be yourself.

What’s a good thing to write on a Christmas card? Write a greeting appropriate between you and the person for whom you are writing the card.

Greeting Cards

Where is the best place to buy Christmas cards this year?

The best place to buy Christmas cards this year is your local newsagency, and here’s why…

  • Newsagents have the best range of cards, often from different card companies. if you want a card for a specific caption like aunt, uncle, neighbour, teacher and more, your local newsagency is more likely to have these than any other retailer. In the everyday Christmas card range, your local newsagent is more likely to have more designs from which to choose.
  • Newsagents are more likely to stock Aussie designed and made Christmas cards.
  • Newsagents are more likely to have more types of cards such as money and gift card wallets, boxed cards and single cards.
  • Cards in newsagencies are easier to shop. Take your time, browse at your leisure.
  • Newsagents are more likely to have better quality cards, you’ll love how they feel in your hands, how they are finished. You can be proud to give these cards.
  • Newsagency staff are more likely to help when you want. Just ask.
  • You are more likely to save money on cards at your local newsagency as many run genuine value loyalty programs.

So, where is the best place to buy Christmas cards this year? Start at our local newsagent. And be sure to shop early, so you have the choice of more products, more designs.

Your local Aussie newsagency is likely to be locally owned and run. It’s where plenty of locals have got their first job over the years. It’s a shop that often supports local community groups and clubs.

Your local Aussie newsagency is a shop that helps locals connect with locals.

And how do your find your local newsagency? Do a Google search for newsagency near me and the map will present you plenty of options.

Remember, the Christmas cards you give are not for this year alone. Many people will keep them and look back on them over the years, remembering this Christmas, remembering you. Cards are like that, a sweet memory trigger, heartwarming, comforting. Choose your cards for today and for these memories into the future.

Where is the best place to buy Christmas cards this year? Your local Aussie newsagency. There are around 2,800 of us around the country, ready to serve you.

Greeting Cards

Advice for retailers following the Optus outage

Here’s advice shared with Tower Systems newsagency software customers Friday last week following the Optus outage.
Lessons from the recent Optus outage.

While the actual cause of the Optus outage on has not yet been detailed, the outage itself encourages us to work on our businesses, to ensure we are better protected.

  1. Check your network. Make sure routers are current. Talk to your ISP about a more current replacement.
  2. Check your computers. Dust is a killer. Power off, remove the cover, take it outside and use a can of air to clean.
  3. Document your computers and network. List everything you have and who is responsible for each. We often receive support calls for items not supplied by us and not known about by us.
  4. Check your backups. Get the most recent one restored to ensure it is backing up everything you need.
  5. Use a cloud backup service for in-store and offsite storage.
  6. Have a plan. If your network, computer system or EFTPOS is down, what’s your plan? Document it. Train staff. Ensure everyone knows the plan and where it is.
  7. Consider redundancies, like a mobile phone on a different network in case your main network is down, a secondary EFTPOS for payments should it be down.

First responders are good at what they do because they plan and drill, such that responding is muscle-memory. What happened with Optus is a reminder to be prepared in local retail so you are less impacted.

Too often, small business owners do not have a plan in place for outages and disasters. A small investment of time in planning and prepping could made overcoming obstacles related to outages easier, less stressful.

Newsagency management

What does Christmas 2023 feel like in early November?

I’ve taken a moment to look at data from a mix of newsagency businesses to look for indicators as to the possible performance of the Christmas season this year.

Despite the doom and gloom in the media, especially around the interest rate news, early sales are strong.

Christmas cards, decorations and gifts are selling well. The success is greater in those focussed on the more premium products with Christmas related sales in these businesses up 8% to 10% year on year.

By premium I mean decorations priced at $10 and more. Sone have decorations and Christmas home decor products at hundreds of dollars, and they are selling.

At the lower end, decorations priced to compete with supermarkets and scout variety, sales growth is not and obvious.

In the Christmas card space, boxed cards are strong as are single cards. As is often the case, it’s the fringe captions that are selling well early as they are often bought by regular card shoppers who know what’s what.

Engaged retailers can expect, I think, good growth in Christmas revenue in 2023 compared to 2022. While shoppers talk about inflation and interest rates, I see little evidence of it impacting what’s put through registers in newsagencies.

Christmas 2023 looks good!

Newsagency opportunities

The Optus outage and retail

The now 5-hour nationwide Optus outage is impacting many. While there is a temptation to pile-on, my advice is to keep any social media posts to the practical.

  1. If you’re trading as usual, tell people via social media.
  2. If you  don’t have EFTPOS, tell people via social media.

I’ve seen several use the outage to pitch cash. I don’t see that as helpful right now.

Social responsibility

More newsagents with websites

My newsagency software company, Tower Systems, has delivered more websites for newsagents. Here are some of the recent new websites:

In my own shops we have a number of websites doing terrific business:

All of these are connected to our newsagency software for syncing of inventory and sales between the physical and online shops.

It’s easy to  say no to a website if you don’t have one because you don’t know what you don’t know. It’s also easy if you had one in the past and it didn’t work.

Most websites don’t work. Smart people use a failure to do better next time.

At the core of success of a website is filling needs and wants. While needs and wants are quite different, they compel good online business.

Here are the top reasons why I think every retail business needs a website:

  • Capture sales when you are closed. Typically, more than 50% of online purchases are then the brick and mortar business is closed.
  • Engage browsers when you are closed. You can have chat turned on and answer questions from your phone, or you could really geek-out and have an AI chatbot do this for you.
  • Reach people not currently shopping with you. Typically, 75% of sales are from people located nowhere near your shop.
  • Have a second outlet for quitting stock.
  • Have a place where you can experiment.
  • Playing with a plan B in case your shop finds itself in choppy waters.
  • To learn. A website, especially your first website, teaches you so much, and this is especially. What does it teach you you ask? What people want. What they could pay. Haw awful some people are. How to earn income when you are asleep.
  • To get you out of a rut. If you;ve been in your shop for ages and are mailing it in each day, a website could put a spring in your step.
  • To make your shop more valuable. Having a website, even if it is not fully realised or successful, could make your shop more appealing when you decide to sell.
  • To leverage a secondary brand. This could be the first step in a shop rebrand.
  • To drive traffic to the shop. People will find products on your website and visit as a result, for sure.
  • To give you another source of revenue that is completely unrelated to anything you do in your shop.
  • To harvest email addresses you can market to. Email marketing from Shopify is a breeze.

Now, in case you think I am writing this to get you to use Tower to make your website, I am not. I don’t care who makes your website.

You should go with the web designer you want. Beware tho, web development has some shonky people offering services.

Having a website gives people a landing page from your Facebook, Instagram and TikTok posts. This is important.

A website is a hungry beast, demanding your time daily, weekly, long after launch. It’s not easy. But, if you get it right, it can be tremendously valuable.

The work after launch includes regular blog posts, social media posts and more.

Management tip

It’s always worth celebrating the launch of a new newspaper, especially a genuinely independent one

In the UK this week, the Byline Times was released.

Here in Australia, we have The Saturday Paper, genuinely independent and well established. Online, we he have some excellent options.


The local Aussie newsagency is not dead, you just don’t recognise it now

If you think the local Aussie newsagency is dead, dying or has no future, I am writing this for you. Please take a moment to see that the reality may not match your assumptions.

Sure, some newsagencies have closed. The channel remains the biggest independent retail channel in Australia with 2,500+ retail outlets.

Today’s Aussie newsagency is more of a gift and homewares shop than ever before. It offers fun and on-trend gifts from impulse items to collector pieces worth thousands. Yes, there are newsagencies selling items worth thousands of dollars.

You’re still likely to see papers and magazines somewhere, but they are not the traffic drivers they once were. Also, the margin newsagents make from these is paltry as publishers have not kept up.

Some newsagents are big in coffee, and often it’s the best coffee in town. Some are big in pop culture, often being the local go-to shop for licensed product like Pokémon, Harry Potter, Disney and more.

Some are big in self-care, often bringing new brands to town and offering ethically sourced products from small makers.

Some are bookshops more so than newsagencies.

Some sell clothing.

Some are the best toy shop around offering fresh new toys and traditional family-loved staples.

One I know is an awesome baby shop in country Victoria.

Many have online shops that often are not selling the same products as you’ll find in the physical shop.

The local Aussie newsagency has changed, evolved. It’s most likely not what you think. But it is sure to have the best range of cards in town, in the entire region. And, many of these cared are designed and printed in Australia, with words from Australian writers. This matters because the local Aussie newsagency continues to help local Aussies express themselves, provide a hug well into the future as those cards given are usually kept.

If you think the local Aussie newsagency is dead, an old business or out of date, seek some out, see for yourself, and while you may find the odd one out of touch or challenged, most you visit will be vibrant, relevant, fun and appreciated. You’re likely to find businesses that challenge the expectations of the newsagency shingle. That’s okay. What’s in a name anyway?!

Please don’t let your memory of years ago cloud what the local Aussie newsagency is today.

I am biased of course. My software company serves 1,750+ local Aussie newsagencies. I also own 3 newsagencies, and I have websites selling products newsagents sell.

newsagency of the future

Magazines shoppers will seek out

Make: is one of those magazines shoppers will seek out. Not every issue, but certainly a special interest issue, like this one featuring cosplay inspiration, designs and tips.

This issue drew our attention because of other engagement in-store applied to cosplay. It’s always good value when we can leverage two or three suppliers or categories in a social media post.

While the 25% margin on the magazine is poor, it’s the hope of add-on allied to there topic that interests.

What we know from shopper tracking is that shoppers for this niche title will travel across town to purchase.


Interesting newsagent survey results

XchangeIT surveyed newsagents recently on behind of the ALNA Think Tank. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be part of a recent Think Tank supplier meeting. The results are interesting.

The variety of suppliers in a store is concerning. In successful and transformed newsagencies I see, the typical supplier mix is 65+.

A massive pain point that is easily resolved is the elimination of paperwork from all suppliers – moving 100% digital for order forms, contracts and the like, using an e-sign platform. Saves time. Saves paper. Increases sales.

The 36.3 hours a week spent on processes suggests something is wrong. I have businesses under management spending far less.

I’d love the survey to drilled down into questions about magazine management as the out of date tech and expenses imposed on newsagents by this is a drain to local newsagency businesses. Fix that and you improve productivity in newsagencies and increase magazine sales.

That said, the survey is helpful, as is the follow-up survey. Suppliers should take note.

Newsagency management