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

Author: Mark Fletcher

Lotterywest appreciates its retail network

I am grateful for the opportunity to attend the 90th birthday celebration of Lotterywest in Perth last week. It was a terrific night celebrating this much-loved organisation.

It was wonderful hearing stories of how grants from Lotterywest to community groups and others had helped so many locally. From local schools to health organisations to environment projects, funds from Lotterywest make a positive impact in Western Australia.

It was equally wonderful hearing genuine appreciation expressed for the retail network, which is primarily made up of newsagents. The Premier, Lotterywest Chair and others all commented on the importance of the retail network and the true partnership between them and the Lotterywest organisation.

You only have to see the recent commission increase, recall the generous financial support through Covid and understand their process for new outlets to see the practical and mutually valued nature of the relationship.

The Premier in his speech made note that Lottery was unique, the only state owned lottery business in Australia. This ownership position is key to the practical value Lotterywest is able to deliver for local communities as well as between supplier and retail partner.

Newsagents at the event were appreciative of Lotterywest. I think key to that is the trust and respect for the Lotterywest brand in the community. Selling Lotterywest products is like selling support for the local community.

Happy birthday Lotterywest and may there be many many more understate ownership.


Now, this is a way to pitch a newsagency for sale

Well done HSH Business Sales in Cheshire, United Kingdom.

Newsagency for sale

When was the last time shoppers lined up outside the newsagency for a new product launch?

Thursday last week, September 7, at 8:30 in the morning, most newsXpress stores had a line of shoppers, people on the phone and people online.

The majority were new shoppers engaging with the business for the first time.

They were there because one of the newsXpress preferred suppliers promoted newsXpress stores to their massive (huge) email database.

Thursday last week was release day for several coins from the Royal Australian Mint, a partner of newsXpress.

While every shop sold out quickly, plenty of the first time shoppers bought other things, including coins released earlier in the year. A typical shop did an extra $4,000 that day.

Around 75% of the time, coin shoppers purchase other products. They are valuable shoppers to attract, more efficient per visit. Basket depth is prized by retailers as are basket value and margin dollars banked.

One of the items released last Thursday, a $375.00 set, Wass the best seller in part because only 1,000 were made and they had to be split between overseas outlets, the Mint shop, coin dealers, and other retailers, like newsXpress stores. This coin is currently fetching close to $900 on eBay. No wonder it was popular.

The $5 colour frosted World Heritage coin, priced at $30 and in the bottom right corner of the photo, is currently fetching around $300 on eBay.

The key thing that happened Thursday beyond the sales themselves was the new shopper traffic. New shopper traffic is essential for the health of any retail business. It is vital for newsagencies with some tent-pole product categories transitioning from physical retail.

There are ways to leverage vertical new shopper traffic – specific product category driven new shopper traffic. This is where retailers can maximise value from such opportunities – even when such new shopper visits are one-off visits.

I’ve heard some in our channel downplay coins as a valuable category. Such comments are typically made by people who don’t have access to them, or have not tried them.

Thursday last week demonstrated the value. Engagement Friday, Saturday and even Sunday has reinforced it with hundreds of dollars of coin gift products selling each day to shoppers who discovered us in this category because of the promotion of Thursday’s release.

Now, here’s the pitch. remember, I an a Director of newsXpress.

newsXpress works hard to help its members attract new shoppers. We pitch products and back this with in-store advice, social media assets, partner support help selling online.

If you want to attract new shoppers to your newsagency, consider newsXpress. It’s easy to make many times for the $225 a month membership fee. Click here for our latest information document or email our team for more information at: help@newsxpress.com.au.


FREE advice for local retailers: Nine one-percenters that could add thousands to the value of your retail business.

One-percenters are small things, easy things you can do for a win.

They are often things others forget.

Today I share nine of what I think are the best one-percenters for any local indie retail business.

I’ve experienced the value of on-percenters like these.

This is free advice. You don’t have to buy anything to access it. I love seeing local indie retailers thrive.

  • Place 2 or 3 products at the counter for impulse purchase. Change weekly, unless they are selling well.
  • If you have a front window, change it weekly. The goal is to stop passers-by and have them notice you.
  • Never be out of stock of popular products. Use your software to predict sales and order so you don’t sell out.
  • Price new stock on the shop floor, located to disrupt shopper traffic, so they notice. People don’t buy from the back room.
  • Use social media to share knowledge and have fun rather than promoting products. Entertain.
  • Have a staff product of the week in a good position with a handwritten note from the staff member explaining the why.
  • Write the value of dead stock somewhere where all staff see it. Update it weekly for a whole of business focus on reducing this.
  • Offer genuine loyalty rewards that don’t cost you the farm and are easy for shoppers to understand and access.
  • Colour block in a prime position. This gives products rarely in prime position to be seen. It shows off your range diversity.

What you do with this is 100% top to you. The thing is, I know these tips work. Combine them and you compound the value you achieve. It’s simple – a small time investment for a terrific return.

I like engaging with small steps. They are manageable, safe, certain. It means you’re not relying on one or two big moves, often costly moves, for your success. By spreading the risk, the load, you strengthen the foundations of the business and position it for more certain results.

Here’s the colour block tip in action. It took half an hour to do, and shoppers noticed while it was being created, they added suggestions too. The result speaks not only to red, but also diversity and to fun we have in the shop by being different.

What you do about the 9 tips is up to you of course, but let me ask you this: are you happy with the performance of your business? If you say yes, great! If you say no, you know you have to make some changes because doing the same things will give you the same results.

The advice in this post originated from newsXpress advice to its newsagency marketing group members years ago. The one-percenters list has evolved considerably, as it should.

Management tip

Did Are Media director of sales Andrew Cook just throw newsagents under the bus?

Quoted in the nationally distributed mediaweek email and online Monday, Andrew Cook is quoted speaking about our channel:

“A lot of people who are under 30 don’t often walk into a newsagent; they often don’t buy a tangible printed product”

I wrote to senior contacts at Are Media Monday within minutes of the email being circulated:

Maybe Andrew Cook should find out who actually shops in newsagencies.

Young people are buying cards, journals and social stationery in numbers not seen in decades. They are also consumers of pop culture, which newsagents dominate.

It is disappointing to see Are Media’s Director of Sales throw our channel under the bus.

I’ve not received a response.

I’d love to see the data on which Cook based his comments. Newsagents I have spoken with over the last couple of days disagree with his assessment.

Maybe it’s the magazines that Are Media publishers that inform Cook’s view because, for sure, folks under 30 are not likely to buy Who, New Idea, Woman’s Day, AWW, Take 5, That’s Life and others in their stable.

Some card companies started focussing more on younger card shoppers years ago. We see under 30s buying cards in our shops. Some stationery manufacturers have created products for this younger age once they realised that journaling is more popular than ever.

Then, there is pop culture. That space is huge and plenty of us do well in it. And, when I talk about pop culture, there is the usual licensed products you could think of, and then there are subsets, like Japanese stationery, which is huge in parts of Australia.

The newsagency shingle is meaningless today because of the extent of diversity of businesses in our channel.

Sure there are some newsagency businesses living in the past and relying on lottery products and an old looking shop for daily trade. There are many more, however, that have transitioned into vibrant fun retail experiences, shops having terrific success at attracting younger shoppers.

But let’s get back to Are Media director of sales Andrew Cook. What was he thinking? Why did he make a point of singling out the Aussie newsagency channel for the negative focus of what he said? Has he done this to create distance between the Are Media business and the newsagency channel?

I expect at some point some people from Are Media will tell newsagents how important they are, how much they appreciate them and to not dwell on Andrew Cook’s comments. Maybe they will say he was taken out of context. 48 hours later is a bit late to walk back what was so widely circulated.

Maybe Are Media does feel disconnected from the newsagency channel. I suspect they have less space in newsagencies with their magazines than they had a few years ago. Newsagents continue to reduce space allocated to magazines. It happens when you have a low margin product sent through an archaic magazine distribution system that rarely listens to retailers as to what could work in their businesses.

One of my shops does well over $400,000 a year in magazines. The category is important to us. Our magazine sales continue to increase. August 2023 was up 9% on August 2022. And, yes, we have user 30s buying some magazines, like skateboard titles, surfer titles, mountain biking titles and on-trend fashion titles.

Maybe I am making more of Cook’s comment than it deserves. To be honest though, I am tired of ignorant comments about our channel. We had a good Covid. Newsagencies are selling easily, because they are seen as good businesses. And, as I noted earlier, many of us have evolved to make our businesses appealing to demographics outside what was traditional for our channel years ago.

See for yourself Cook’s quote featured prominently in the email circulated to thousands of media professionals and on the mediaweek website.

Rant over, I’m going back to running my businesses. People in supplier big businesses come and go while many of us who own businesses are the ones doing the real long-term work in our channel.

Newsagency challenges

The best bookshop I’ve ever visited

I appreciate it’s a big call but I do think The Ripped Bodice in Brooklyn New York is the best bookshop I’ve ever visited and here’s why: when you enter the shop you enter a unique world, their are clear in their focus, the shopping experience is wonderful. Here’s a video where I explain:


Free Zoom workshops: websites for newsagents Tuesday Sep. 5 @ 3pm.

Tuesday September 5 @ 3pm Melbourne time I’ll host a free and open to all workshop on websites for newsagents.

So much has changed in the last few months in terms pop getting online and being easily found. I’ll talk about that, show what some newsagents are doing and answer any questions.

Every retailer I have spoken with who has taken their business online has been surprised at the results. Today in retail, being online is more important than ever – there is plenty of evidence supporting this.

Here’s how to connect:

https://us06web.zoom.us/j/82707011293?pwd=MnpjSFk2ZUFUL0NHcmlkUFpjdG1YQT09 Meeting ID: 827 0701 1293 Passcode: 199001

Please have your camera and mic on so you can actively participate.

This is not a sales or marketing event. It is practical advice and an exploration of what other newsagents are already doing.

Newsagency management

Too many newsagency suppliers are clueless as to what we can sell

A supplier earlier this week told me they made sure to stay within what we could sell when pitching products.

What do mean what we could sell, I asked. You know, nothing over $25, they said. Who set that limit?, I asked.

They were stumped. They had no idea how the $25 became a limit in their head, a limit as to what they would pitch.

This discussion became a thing because I could see they were pitching less than a third of the products they had. Whatever set the limit was stopping them pitching $200 and more items I am sure we could sell.

If you are a supplier to newsagents, stop limiting what you pitch based on some price ceiling you think exists as to what newsagents could sell. Let the retailer decide. Be prepared to be surprised by what sells in engaged newsagency businesses.

There are no boundaries to what Aussie newsagents can sell in their businesses. I know newsagents who run full fashion businesses in-store, others with firearms businesses, others strong in the camping space while others offer a deep range of homewares.

We are at a point in time when suppliers likely have little idea on what is possible in a retail business in our channel.

Newsagency management

TLC Annual Report: digital share of Lotteries turnover grow to 38.4%,

The latest Annual Report of The Lottery Corporation, released this week, is worth reading if you’re a lottery retailer. as it provides a good roadmap on their plans. It also includes insights on digital (online) revenue versus in-store.

A continual focus on digital innovation, combined with leveraging data to personalise marketing and optimise customer experiences, saw the digital share of Lotteries turnover grow to 38.4%, driving margin improvement. Customer analytics and personalised communication continues to deliver commercial uplift, increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of our advertising.

Digital was 18% 5 years ago. While it has grown over time, the growth in recent times is modest.

For context, further in the document (pg 17):

In terms of distribution channels, digital turnover increased by 0.4% and retail turnover decreased 2.7% – a solid result considering overall Division 1 prize money on offer, which drives store traffic, was down. Digital turnover accounted for 38.4% of all Lotteries turnover. The introduction of Store Syndicates Online added to digital performance, and active registered Lotteries customers grew by approximately 132k in the year to 4.2 million. Across our two distribution channels, we’re investing in accelerating convergence and in enhanced personalisation of digital experiences.

I think this is a key note (pg 20):

We invest in a digital program that aims to align with the way customers consume media and engage with our product.

And this is interesting (pg 20):

We continue to strengthen and diversify our physical retail footprint to meet our customers’ evolving preferences.

From a lottery retailer’s perspective the report reads well. It certainly notes the value of introducing store level syndicates to the digital offering. Retailers tell me they certainly like this. Customers I have spoken with like it too.

I’d like to see TLC relax in-store space and location requirements so as to enable retailers to more easily leverage lottery traffic and drive lottery traffic. I wonder if that will happen as they further diversify their retail mix.

I’d also like to better understand the apparent shift I retailer focus. It feels like they are approving more tobacco outlets, which if true, would be at odds with words from the company about community and health. I mean, what good comes from tobacco products. Also, reports this year show that retail channel to be loaded with challenges.


Colour blocking can challenge newsagency shopper expectations

We have been grouping products by colour in one of my newsagency shops. The only rule is that every product in the display has to represent the colour of the week. This week, it’s pink:

If you zoom in you can see the variety of products: manila folder, marker, plush, cards, gifts, soap, jewellery, sensory putty, luggage tag, gift bags, seeds, journals, books and candy. That’s a key point here – the diversity of products that are at home in a colour specific display like this.

We have the display situated so that everyone entering the shop through the front door sees it. You can also see it from out on the street.

This is the fourth week of this colour-wave pitch. We don’t purchase products for it. Everything is from shop floor stock.

Anyone can do this. And, because the colour is the feature, you don’t need to be a visual merchandising whiz to make it work. It takes around 10 minutes to choose products and create the display. This time note is important as it reflects our approach of not overthinking things.

We leave the display up for no longer than a week, which ties back to my advice to not overthink this.

The shopper reaction has been terrific.

Now, if you do try this – it may take a couple of weeks, a couple of colour blocked displays, for shoppers to engage, or even comment. This is not, initially, about sales. rather, it is about products being noticed, change being noticed, things in the shop other than the destination purchase being noticed.

In case you are wondering, here is our first one: yellow.

And, here is our second one: green.

Have a crack, it’s easy, and there is no inventory cost. There’s a bonus of the person doing it learning more about products in the shop.

visual merchandising

Every state and federal politician should are required to undertake a week of paid work in a local small business every year

Small Businesses Need More Attention from Politicians

Small businesses employ more Australians than any other business block, but they often receive less attention from politicians. This is partly due to the fact that small businesses are often fragmented and lack a unified voice.

One way to address this disconnect is to require every politician, federal and state, to spend a week a year working in a small business in their electorate. This would give them a firsthand experience of the challenges and opportunities facing small businesses.

The business should be chosen by random ballot to ensure that politicians do not choose businesses that are already aligned with their interests. The work should be paid so that politicians understand the value of the work and what it is like to live on a small business income.

I believe that this small business work experience program would help politicians to develop a more practical understanding of the economy and the challenges facing small businesses. It would also help them to connect with small business owners and their employees on a personal level.

I first shared this idea 10 years ago, in a post here, on this blog.

Small businesses are the backbone of the Australian economy, and they deserve more attention from politicians. Too many politicians do not understand the day to day challenges of working in and running a small business, and those who do probably are not heard when it comes to decision making.

Here are some specific ways in which a small business work experience program would benefit politicians:

  • It would give them a better understanding of the day-to-day operations of a small business.
  • It would help them to develop empathy for small business owners and their employees.
  • It would make them more aware of the challenges and opportunities facing small businesses.
  • It would help them to make better decisions about policies that affect small businesses.

I believe that a small business work experience program would be a win-win-win for politicians, small businesses, and, most important of all, the community. It would help politicians to better understand the needs of small businesses, and it would help small businesses to get their voices heard by politicians.

Newsagency management

Can newsagents sell the $3,700.00 50th Anniversary of the Sydney Opera House 2023 $100 Gold Domed Proof Coin?

The 50th Anniversary of the Sydney Opera House 2023 $100 Gold Domed Proof Coin is a truly beautiful coin, one I am grateful to say we have in stock. It’s only just been released. We had 2 in stock, and sold 1 the other day.

With only 750 minted, this coin is rare, and in demand by collectors. That it features the Memorial Obverse of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, makes it even more sought after.

Newsagents can sell this and other highly sought after, high-priced collectibles. Long gone are the days we focussed on items priced at $20 or less. And, this is my point: it is vital we are not constrained by the agent mentality when choosing inventory for our shops. We need to think about what could be, without the constraints of the agent history.

While I write about this beautiful coin, the post is actually about thinking beyond the traditional, looking for inventory through which to attract new shoppers, to broaden the appeal of the shop. there are so many categories and products through which we can do this. Yes, it’s a risk, but there can be a terrific reward.

Newsagency opportunities

How important is online to your retail business?

You can’t avoid the importance on online to any retail business today. The percentage of retail sales made online continues yes to grow, and at some cost to physical retail.

While there are plenty of online failures, they are no different to physical store failures. There are plenty of online successes.

The year on year growth of 49% for a website connected to one off my shops is terrific, as this graph from Shopify from yesterday shows.

This business transacts more sales outside usual trading hours for a shop. More than 90% of shoppers are not local – they are people not in easy reach of the shop.

We are not doing anything special here. Indeed, we are following the advice we give to other retailers setting up a website for their business.

I urge newsagents who do not have a website connected to their business to get one – but be clever about it, don’t be constrained by what you do today, treat the website as a start up opportunity.

I have 4 Shopify sites connected to 3 shops and about to setup a 4th. There are many opportunities out there that can add real value to a retail business – as the Shopify graph shows.

Newsagency management

Helping newsagents find local shoppers using the free Google Business Profile

The advice in this post was written for and shared with newsXpress members last year. I gave it to ALNA recently, to share it with their members. I share it here today to try and reach more newsagents.

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

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.

Management tip