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

Author: Mark Fletcher

Confusion for newspaper retailers as News Corp increases Saturday newspapers 14.3% with late advice

News Corp’s decision to increase the cover price metro Saturday newspapers 14.3% didn’t;t make it to the electronic files that set the price of the newspapers for retailers, like newsagents.

This meant manual work Saturday to sell at the connect price and accounting adjustments for wrong electronic invoices.

It all it took up a chunk of time.

If only those at News responsible understood the time cost of this.


A small number of ignorant suppliers at the Melbourne Gift Fair

Sorry, we don’t think newsagents are right for us.

No, we only supply gift shops.

Newsagents aren’t right for us we prefer to be in baby shops.

Sorry but we prefer homewares shops over newsagents.

Yep, these are comments from a small number of wilfully ignorant suppliers at the gift fair in Melbourne this past weekend. They said it based on what they think a shingle stands for without looking at the business of the person asking, their website or their sales breakdown.

One gift wholesaler turned a newsagent doing $300,000 a year in gifts – more than plenty of gift shops near the newsagency.

One baby product supplier turned down a newsagent doing $60,000 a year in baby plush and related without even asking their baby related sales data.

The small number of suppliers turning down newsagents because they are newsagents are idiots. I kinda hope they lose sales as a result.

Now, on to good news about the trade show. There were plenty of premium gift and homewares suppliers happy to supply newsagents from businesses that are advanced in their transition from the traditional. These suppliers see opportunity.

Stand alone gift shops are finding it tough, you can see that in business closure and change of hands rates. The diversity of shopper reach many in our channel achieve is what makes us appealing to suppliers (smart suppliers at least) looking for longer term relationships.

Newsagency management

If you wonder about the relevance of the newsagency channel, consider taking a stand on the Voice referendum

As the number of newsagency businesses in Australia and the foot traffic into newsagency businesses declines we have to wonder about our relevance.

There was a time when we were at the centre of each town. While some newsagencies are, and plenty are thriving, the channel, nationally, is confronting a relevance crisis.

Not that it would happen but I wonder what the impact might be if we, as a channel, took a stand on the Voice referendum and actively promoted a Yes vote.

We are uniquely positioned because many of us sell News Corp newspapers that have been actively campaigning against a Yes vote. Whether we like it or not, our shops are being used to magnify the News Corp interference in the referendum, their interference in our democracy.

What if we as a channel put up signs in our windows promoting yes, and on our social media. What if we placed a poster like this one above News Corp titles:

I get that some customers might be unhappy, but I suspect they might be among the perennially unhappy group because they read content designed to make them unhappy.

Taking a stand says something about us, what we believe, what we support, and that we are unafraid to make that statement.

If we do nothing out of fear for what customers and would-be customers might think, we commit ourselves to being ignored, we show ourselves as being irrelevant.

What our channel has is location, across the country. If we leveraged that for a national, channel wide, statement of support, we run the risk of lifting the perception of our channel out of the 1980s  and into the mindset of 2023. It’s a scary thought. One we should want, well those of us who plan to be in the channel for the long term at least. This question of the relevance of the newsagency in the mind of an everyday Aussie should matter to us.

I’d love to see consideration given to this: the associations and various other groups coming together to take a stand nationally, in our front window and next to newspapers.

We could even be the local outlet for yard signs others could collect and put up in support of a yes vote. Talk about being relevant.

I reckon plenty of folks would be happy to see us do this.

We’d run the risk of feeling better about ourselves for doing this, and how great would that be!

And to customers who disagree, I’d say: isn’t it great that we live in a country where we can disagree and still offer a g’day and a smile every morning.

The poster is one being pitched by Dr Monique Ryan to Kooyong (VIC) voters.

Across at https://www.yes23.com.au/ there are plenty of resources including art for posters and other formats. Here is one example:

There are so many resources, some many opportunities for supporting Yes. I do think that if our channel engaged as I hope we would, that we would do so in a visually unifying way as that’s part of our key need.

My personal position is that I will vote Yes. It makes sense to me. There is nothing to fear. It’s long overdue.


If you are considering buying a newsagency

Plenty of newsagency businesses are changing hands. I think that is in part because the channel had a good Covid. Retail businesses in our industry are looking sweet, and there’s some cracking opportunities out there.

A common question I get asked is, “What should I ask for when I’m looking to buy a newsagency?”

The question itself shows how green a prospective buyer is when it comes to buying a business. My first piece of advice is to get your head around the newsagency business of today, so you know what you’re getting into. And, I do mean today. The newsagency of today and into the future is not the agency focussed business of the past.

Here’s a list of data I suggest prospective newsagency buyers request from the vendor or their representative:

  • The accountant’s P&L for the last two years. Not a spreadsheet that’s been created for the purpose. You need the real P&L.
  • A list of add-backs used to calculate the profit figure on which the asking price is based.
  • Tax returns for the same two years. While not always appropriate given business structures, they can be used to cross-check the accountant’s P&L.
  • Sales data reports from the POS software for the last two years. This is the key data to verify the income claim.
  • Sales data reports from the lottery terminal to verify the income claim.
  • BAS forms to confirm the data in the P&L.
  • A list of all inventory in the business, including the purchase price and date last sold for each item. And copies of invoices that you can randomly select to verify.
  • A copy of the shop lease.
  • A copy of any leases that the vendor expects you to take on board.
  • A list of all forward orders placed on behalf of the business.
  • A list of all employees, including their name, hourly rate, nature of employment, start date, accrued leave, and accrued long service leave.

This is all basic information that any buyer should have access to in order to assess a business. A business for sale for which this information is not readily available is not, itself, ready for sale.

Once you have the information, analyse it yourself. You should not outsource your decision as to whether a business is a good business to buy or not.

My advice to newsagents who are looking to sell and are concerned about this list is to think about it now and focus on your business so that the data I’ve listed looks good. The time to prepare your newsagency for sale is every day you’re in the business.

This is why I say that every day is your payday. Run a smart, lean, and profit-focused business and you’ll have a good payday today and a good one when you come to sell.

The most appealing businesses are those that are easy to run and are making money. Sure, a buyer can turn a business around, but they should get the rewards if they’re expected to do that for your business.

The price you can sell your business for will be based on what it is making now.

So get your house in order and make your newsagency as appealing as possible to buyers. The rewards will be worth it.

I first shared a list like this more than 15 years ago. Today’s list is the latest refinement.

buying a newsagency

It’s not smart to pitch local with products made overseas

I was drawn to the celebrating local souvenirs stand in the WH Smith store at Adelaide airport. What a terrific pitch I thought, until I checked out some of the products.

Pitching products made overseas on this display represents a fail in my view. But, hey, maybe enough shoppers either don’t check or don’t care. It’s up to the individual as to how they read this.

For plenty of the products on this stand, the celebrating local part is the local image or Adelaide printed on a product. It’s hardly a celebration of local in may opinion.

Back in my own shops I know most people who are keen to support local want to know where products are made. Some make the point they do not want to be caught buying something made overseas and presented as local.


Newsagency sales benchmark results Jan-June 2023 vs. 2022

Thank you to the 107 newsagents trading under a variety of shingles and in a variety of settings (rural, regional and suburban high street) who provided sales data for this benchmark study. The only connection is that they use newsagency software from my POS software company. Their transparency will help many in our channel.

Retail sales grow in the Aussie newsagency channel in the first half of 2023.

Many newsagents who participated in the latest newsagency sales benchmark study have reported a good first half of 2023 compared to 2022.

While growth has slowed that there is growth at all is good news given the stellar results for the channel through the Covid peaks of 2020, 2021 and 2022 when retailers in our channel were essential and open.

The best growth is in non retail newsagency traditional categories such as collectibles, higher end gifts, homewares and self care.

Old-school retail newsagencies focussed primarily on lottery products, papers, magazines and convenience lines made up most of the less successful pool.

After comparing data from the businesses in the benchmark dataset here are the averages for business performance measurement points and categories, comparing 2022 with 2019:

  • Revenue: Up 2.2%.
  • Sales transaction count: Down 9%.
  • Basket value: Up 6%. This is an incredibly important number.
  • Items per basket: Up 4%. This is an incredibly important number.
  • Average item value: Up 3%. This is an incredibly important number.
  • Greeting card revenue: Up 3%.
  • Magazines unit sales: Down 5%. This is an unfair measure because of the big difference between businesses, bigger than for any other category.
  • Newspaper unit sales: Down 7%.
  • Toy (incl. plush) revenue: Up 11%. 30% of those in the study have this category
  • Gift revenue: Up 12%.
  • Plush: Up 16%,. But this is not your every day low price point plush. rather it is plush bought for other purposes, often for an older person.
  • Book revenue: Up 22%. 10% of those in the study have this category.
  • Fashion: 50%. 10% of those in the study have this category.
  • Stationery revenue: Up 6%. This is also an unfair measure because of the big difference between businesses, bigger than for any other category with the best reporting growth of 27%.

There is also interesting data within departments, like stationery and magazines:

  • In magazines, special interest titles are the winners, often delivering double-digit growth.
  • In stationery, everyday is patchy but special interest, fringe, stationery is doing very well. Journals are having a moment, with excellent growth recorded.
  • In cards, lifestyle is terrific in some stores and poor in others. I think suppliers need to do more work here to understand the differences.

For a few stores I have done a deeper dive to look at the last 2 months. This was illuminating because for those stores, which all reported growth in the six months, reported flat results or a decline for May and June. Not a big decline, but a decline nevertheless.

My advice to any retailer right now is to run the business as if conditions are tough, sales are declining, and people are being more careful with their spending. Following that advice will not hurt the business. Indeed, it should achieve the opposite with you buying more carefully, promoting for new traffic more consistently and working to turn the stock you have at a faster rate.

Sightseer retailers will have stories to tell. Not is not a time to be a sightseer. Be ahead of the curve, the wave, the lava from the volcano, whatever image you have – and if it never catches you, you’re ahead, and if it does catch you, you’re ahead. But the sightseer, they’re done.

If you want better results it is up to you to act.

There is no one size fits all solution, anyone who says there is is wrong.

The first step is to understand where you are at, from the data evidence in your business. next, you need a plan. Then, you execute with clarity and commitment, and draw on the support of others who have done this.

I own newsXpress, a marketing group supporting newsagents. newsXpress helps with this. If it interests you, please email help@newsxpress.com.au or call Michael Elvey on 0400 331 055 – he’s not a sales person, he’s part of the team encouraging success.

Mark Fletcher
M | 0418 321 338

Newsagency benchmark

How to easily identify dead stock in your newsagency

Dead stock is a waste of money and space in any retail business. In newsagency businesses, we tend to see plenty of dead stock in the stationery department. Too often, we see it in the card department too.

newsXpress provides contextual training to its members for sharing with staff. These short, snackable, videos relay training in a way anyone can understand. Here’s the latest (six-minute) training video on dead stock:

Here is a short video on how to easily identify dead stock using the newsagency software from Tower Systems, software used by more than 1,700 newsagents:

Working on dead stock is an easy win for any newsagency business where it has not been an active focus for a year or more. These videos are designed to encourage that engagement to release capital and space for more productive use in the business.

Why am I sharing this today? Primarily, to encourage all newsagents to work on dead stock. I know of one newsagency not that long ago where working on dead stock unlocked $15,000 in cash and a chunk of space. I know of another where the party buying the business contracted for a discount for old stock – they ended up paying less than half wholesale for 25% of the stock in the business.

This advice is designed to help newsagents today to run more efficient and valuable shops.

There is the bonus benefit from freely sharing this information of showing another way my businesses, newsXpress and Tower Systems, help newsagents to run more efficient and valuable businesses. It is important to me to show rather than tell. You can watch both videos without logging in or giving over your details, or signing up to some training course.

If you’re not a Tower newsagency software customer you can find out more here: https://www.towersystems.com.au/newsagency-software.html

If you’re interested in newsXpress, you can find out more here.

Now, if you think you don’t have dead stock, I think you’d be wrong. Every business I have looked at for dead stock has had dead stock. Yes, every business. Often this is because of a attitude of denial. Something does not exist if we deny it, right?!

You can easily see it it’s an issue in your business. In a couple of minutes you can see the value of dead stock. That alone is likely to have you making good decisions in your shop.

If you act and remove the bloat of dead stock you have a fitter, healthier and more focussed business.

But you have to act. As the leader of the business you have to act, even if it is to delegate the work. The videos are designed to be shared that way.


Newsagency management

We need to grow the card shopper pool in Australia if we are to grow card sales in our newsagencies

Australians don’t buy as many greeting cards per capita as in the US or UK. I think our poor performance in per-capital greeting card purchases is, in part, due to the poor engagement of card suppliers and card retailers in nurturing the value of giving cards.

Currently, we offer cards to destination shoppers. It is only rare in retail that there is any consistent and considered effort to guide people to purchase cards on impulse, and to guide people to make their first-ever card purchase.

We have to grow the pool of card givers if greeting cards are to be usefully viable in retail in Australia.

So, how do we do that? I have some suggestions:

  • Co-locate cards outside of your usual card department: in the window, at the counter, next to a high traffic dwell area in-store, among gifts. Count what you place so you can easily check if that co-location worked.
  • Offer to write on cards: from the words to write to the handwriting itself, this offer from you could eliminate two barriers to people giving cards.
  • Show what card memories are worth: connect with some customers who have cards going back many years,. Ask them for a photo with their collection. tell their story and do so with joy. Ensure your words capture the heart warming feeling the card collection has for those who have collected them. People need to see and understand the value of giving a card beyond the few seconds of handing it over and the recipient reading it.
  • Talk about cards you love and why you love them on social media: Especially if you are a bloke. Make cards feel accessible. Give something of yourself in the posts. Show, don’t tell. And, do it in a way that people can connect with, and be encouraged by. This is especially useful it you are talking about cards outside the traditional.
  • Offer first-timer training: host an event for a first time card buyer. Throw on some drinks and food. Offer support for them in making their first purchase. Have some fun. Be sure to actively pitch this at first time card shoppers.
  • Hey check out this new card we just got in. Choose the right card, one you love, one that is truly different, one that pits a pitch you like (maybe locally made, and fun). Think carefully about the card and then, try the pitch for a day at the counter: Hey check out this new card we just got in. Hold up the card. Don’t say it to everyone as you don’t want customers hearing it and thin king it’s a script. Count the times you say it, and track the engagement., If it works, do more of it, with other cards. if it does not work, maybe re-calibrate the pitch, the card, or both and try again.

These 6 ideas are a sample of the ideas I have in this kit. They are all about trying to grow your local pool of card customers. All it takes is for someone giving their first card to see joy and delight on the face of the recipient. If they see that, they are likely to buy more cards, and hopefully do this from you.

Having your entire greeting card pitch in the newsagency in the card department is a missed opportunity in my view.

Expecting your card department and your card suppliers to take card of marketing for you is a mistake in my view.

Growing the pool of people who will purchase cards is critical.

Helping people purchase a card when their destination was another category in-store is critical.

Guiding card shoppers to purchase more cards each visit is critical.

Bringing card shoppers back more often for card purchases is critical.

For too long the Aussie newsagent channel has done well with card sales despite itself. It is time we invested in growing the card shopper pool and nurtured their efficiency for us. It’s on us to do this. We are the card retail specialists after all.

Greeting Cards

Inspiring quotes from Mary Tyler Moore

Back in the 1970s Mary Tyler Moore was a force to be reckoned with on television around the world. She smashed through the glass ceiling, creating successful TV shows, producing them and starring.

Mary fought against the odds, she confronted extraordinary competition. She won on her own terms.

Here are some quotes from Mary Tyler Moore, published by Huffington Post, on the news of her passing years ago. Some of these quotes are relevant to our businesses today.

  • “Whatever it is, it’s OK because it’s what it is. Don’t be looking for perfection. Don’t be short-tempered with yourself. And you’ll be a whole lot nicer to be around with everyone else.”
  • “I knew at a very early age what I wanted to do. Some people refer to it as indulging in my instincts and artistic bent. I call it just showing off, which was what I did from about three years of age on.”
  • “I’m not an actress who can create a character. I play me.”
  • “You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.”
  • “Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.”
  • “Having a dream is what keeps you alive. Overcoming the challenges makes life worth living.”
  • “I’ve had the fame and the joy of getting laughter — those are gifts.”
  • “Sometimes you have to get to know someone really well to realize you’re really strangers.”
  • “You truly have to make the very best of what you’ve got. We all do.”
  • “My grandfather once said, having watched me one entire afternoon, prancing and leaping and cavorting, ‘This child will either end up on stage or in jail.’ Fortunately, I took the easy route.”
  • “I’m an experienced woman; I’ve been around … well, alright, I might not’ve been around, but I’ve been … nearby.”

The highlighted quotes are my faves.

Mary Tyler Moore has been on my mind recently because of the new documentary, Being Mary Tyler Moore, that shares plenty of fresh behind the scenes content of this icon.

Newsagency management

I can’t see any value in newsagents selling vape products

I am surprised that even with recently announced plans to ban recreational vaping in Australia some newsagents have reportedly been pitched to take on the category.

The legal future of recreational vaping is all but dead in Australia, thankfully. That alone should take it off the radar of any retailer. But, as can happen with things that are challenging to access, there can be value for some in carrying the product, even if it is done under the counter.

Given the new regulations outlined by the Health Minister on May 2, 2023, at the National Press Club, there is no legal place for vape products in any retail setting other than behind the prescription counters in pharmacies. That’s the clear message.

Hopefully, this government has acted early enough for Australia to not be shrouded in a vape cloud like in the UK, where on the high street even few shops is either a vape shop or a betting shop.

Social responsibility

Special interest magazine titles continue drive traffic

Vintage Made is an Aussie magazine for lovers of all things Vintage. It comes out twice a year. It’s a good magazine for newsagents as it reflects a point of difference. It’s not a magazine for petrol stations or supermarkets.

It’s also a magazine around which you can sell other items, which is a good way of nurturing value from a low margin low unit sale product. It’s a way to make the product more valuable.

I use Vintage Made as a title through which to reach out beyond the shop and attract new shoppers. It works for us by doing this, on Facebook especially.

Vintage is a popular keyword in Australia with more than 50,000 searches each month specifically related to vintage clothing.

Sometimes, something that can feel niche or fringe to us is big, sought after by plenty of others. This is where we can play, and find new shoppers, who will easily purchase more than a single magazine.


Beware fake $50 notes

Fake $50 notes appear to be in circulation at the moment. The first sighting this time around was in the Northern Territory. The news is a reminder to be vigilant.

The Reserve Back website has excellent details on how to spot counterfeit Australian banknotes. I urge you to print this and ensure all team members have read and understand it.

The photo is of one received at one of my shops some years ago.

Social responsibility

Which magazine publishers are pitching newsagents on Twitter right now?

This is all I could find on Twitter from the last few weeks.

For sure Twitter is less relevant today than last week, last month and last year. But, it takes nothing to pitch on there.


Are Aussie shoppers more accepting of a surcharge for paying by card?

It feels like there is more acceptance of a fee for paying by card than there was a few years our so ago.

I suspect wider use of fees and the ACCC led controls on the value of a surcharge that can be applied are key reasons for this.

In our channel with low margins for newspapers, magazines, lottery products and agency lines more broadly, there is little capacity for the retailer to cover the cost. A surcharge can make accepting a card as a method of payment for viable.

Newsagents playing significantly outside the old agency space are under less pressure, especially if their product GP is north of 50%.

A surcharge also eliminates the minimum spend requirement.

The biggest challenge we have is that shoppers see us as all the same, meaning as more newsagents run with surcharges the more shoppers will expect we all do.

I’m not sitting here writing for newsagents to impose a surcharge. Personally, I don’t like them and don’t want them in my own shops. This post is an acknowledgement off the growing application of surcharges and what feels like less pushback from shoppers.

The key, like anything is business, is good communication, a narrative people understand and believe.

If you do do it, use your tech well to streamline the process and provide transparency to shoppers.

Newsagency management

Newsagents save time and money with POS software connection for The Lott lottery tickets

Newsagents have benefited from the connection between their lottery ticket terminals from The Lott and POS software for years. The lottery ticket sales transfer automatically, without re-entering ticket values.

The link was completed by several software companies years ago. I know my newsagency software company, Tower Systems, did. Tower also made the link available for free.

I mention this today because of a story this week from one newsagent, using other software, who has been manually entering ticket purchases on their EFTPOS machine for customers who want to pay by card and to even recording the purchase in their POS – to avoid manual entry for a third time.

I know plenty off newsagents stop by this place. This post is a reminder.

The more keystrokes you can eliminate at the counter the more mistakes you eliminate and the more time you save.

Newsagency management

For Arts Sake gone?

I first heard that For Arts Sake was closing last week. I put it down to rumour. A couple of days later I was told staff were locked out of their head office. I reached out to the CEO but did not receive a response.

It does seem like the business is in a challenging situation.

I am sure other card companies are reaching out, seeking opportunities.

I feel for those who worked at the company and for small businesses who may be out of pocket if it comes to that.

If the reports turn out to not be true or if a positive resolution is found – great news for those who do rely on the company.

For what it’s worth, what I want from a card company is:

  • Cards that sell.
  • Cards I am proud to showcase.
  • Regular range refresh.
  • Opportunities to reach new shoppers.
  • Aussie made.
  • On time delivery.
  • Good communication.
  • Differentiation compared to big retailers.

I think the Aussie card market is undergoing change. There is growth in engagement in some co-horts and this is uncovering people buying cards not traditionally offered by the biggest suppliers in Australia.

There is less price pressure, which I like because the $1 and $2 cards look and feel awful.

Shoppers are responding to smart promotion of the category.

Newsagents can shine as specialty retailers compared to supermarkets, convenience stores and Australia Post corporate stores, which tend to mediocre in their engagement with the category in my view.

Greeting Cards

Scathing reviews for Herald Sun subscription management

News Corp’s management of subscriptions for the Herald Sun has received scathing reviews at the ProductReview.com.au website.

From 102 reviews, the company is rated at 1.1 out of a possible 5 stars.

While some reviews talk about the complex and cumbersome steps needed to cancel a subscription, others talk about home delivery, including this one that may interest newsagents:

Been receiving news paper HOME DELIVERY for over 12 years from local new agency never a problem. Once News Corp Australia took over on the 4th July WE HAVE NEVER RECEIVED A PAPER SINCE it’s now NOVEMBER. Contacted them many, many times, emailed, repeatedly asked the same questions and no follow up. NOW BEEN SENT AN INVOICE emailed and called to say NOT PAYING AS I HAVEN’T RECEIVED THE SERVICE NOW I HAVE BEEN SUSPENDED FOR NOT PAYINIG FOR A SERVICE THEY HAVE NEVER FULLFILLED. Apparently they DO NOT DELIVER OUT HERE (Yarra Valley) Very disappointed.

This reviewer is not alone in having such experiences following the takeover of newspaper home delivery by News Corp from local newsagents.

For a company that likes telling others how to think and what to do, you;d think they could benefit from investing some of that arrogance internally.


Christmas in July is the new online sales opportunity for retailers with websites

Over seven days we bagged $5,708 in online sales from our Christmas in July promotion. Some of this was product we wanted to quit while some was bought in on a deal for the sale.

We spent nothing on marketing other than a small amount of time on two emails and some social media posts. $0 spent.

Looking elsewhere online in Australia and I can see that Christmas in July is being done by enough retailers online, with enough heft to say it is a thing, something that any retailer with an on line presence should do.

We didn’t pitch it in-store. Rather, this year, we wanted to try online only. We are very happy with the results.

Every purchase was made by someone hours and more away from the shop – to people who would never walk past our front door. This is one of the values of online, it opens the reach of the business, positions you to be less reliant on local even though all of us in local continue to pound the shop local drum.

Online itself is critical in retail today. Spike opportunities like Christmas in July, Black Friday and even Prime Day are opportunities to move stock that slow. They are also opportunities to connect with new shoppers.

In our situation, we won some good business because existing customers referred friends, for which we are grateful. We did this without leveraging are special tech skills or platforms. We use Shopify for the website and it is integrated with our Tower Systems POS software. Sales flow from Shopify to the Tower software and from there to Xero, another integration. For shipping management, choosing the most cost effective, we have an integration there – to reduce not only shipping costs but labour costs too.

These integrations have been closed to reduce labour cost and improve the customer experience – both critical to any online operation.

We have more sales events planned outside of the majors I have mentioned in this post. we have a terrific email database of engaged shoppers as I know if we use that with respect it will deliver more good news.

Footnote: around Melbourne plenty of businesses are pitching Christmas in July, including, of all places, KFC.

Newsagency opportunities

Ready for wedding season in the newsagency

Wedding season,  is something our channel can easily own thanks to some awesome suppliers of bridal charms, keepsakes and more. Shoppers who find what hey want will tell others. The word of mouth for this is terrific. Customers also respond to social media posts. People buying these buy cards, bags and more. Such value there for the taking.

Like I said, this is a category our channel can own.

If you are in a marketing group, check their suppliers as wedding shopping is well under way. It’s a Winter bonus.


Selling VHS tapes

I was in Perth yesterday and walked past this big shop on Hay street selling VHS tapes of movies.

With growth in vinyl sales of music, I wonder if some are anticipating a return to VHS. I can’t see it myself because the playing tech is old and the playing method is out of touch with how we consume content now.

Still, the shop looked interesting, and it presented well.


Poor form by one newsagent competing with another newsagent

There is a town in Australia where one newsagent travels to the trade shows near and far, seeking out new suppliers and offers regular innovation on the shop floor. In this same town, another newsagent copies what they can, what willing suppliers let them get away with, and without the cost of travelling to trade shows.

It’s happening in more than one town though.

It sucks when you invest time and money to find new suppliers, especially suppliers who have never supplied retailers in our channel before, only to have a shop close by copy you.

It’s pathetic really, flattering to be copied, of course, but pathetic.

In my experience, these copiers don’t think they are doing anything wrong. If challenged, some have even claimed the innovation was their idea first, which, of course, it was not.

This lazy copying means the innovative newsagents work harder at their innovation, and they change their shops more frequently. This means the copiers need to pick up their pace, or give up at the thought of hard work.

Lazy retailers are ultimately found out, either by themselves when they feel exhausted at copying innovators or by suppliers who block them from copying or from local shoppers who eventually see what is happening.

If you are the retailer being copied, make a loud noise about new products, launch them so the locals know you were first, and, if you’re game, congratulate your copier on joining you in selling something you brought to town first.

If you are the copier, take a look at yourself in the mirror, know what you are doing, stop cheating.

Copying another local retailer’s innovation is like cheating on a school exam. You are the only one who loses, eventually.

It’s easy to get in your head about being copied. It’s disheartening to see your investment diluted by spoon copying you. It can make you angry. It can be demotivating. It happened to me. The marketplace can have a way of dealing with it though. When you see your business three of four times bigger than the business copying you, when you continue to innovate while they work in darkening shadows, your own dark thoughts can feel good.

The best advice I have, I think, is to not spend any time thinking about competitors. They are not relevant to what you do in your business. Since you have no control over them, there is no point worrying about them. You’re better off worrying about, investing in and working on that over which you do have control.

Social responsibility

Retail sales up in May: ABS report – insights for retail newsagents

The report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics on retail sales in May shows growth. The newsagency channel falls under other retailing: up 2.2%.

This is a little on the low side compared with I have seen in data from several retail newsagency businesses comparing May 2023 with may 2023, but not too far off.

Given the ABS data and the data I have seen from some newsagencies, if you were down in May you have to figure out why and have a plan to reverse the trend. The last position you want to be is revenue decline while others in your sector are experiencing growth.

While, for sure, there is noise in the press about consumer confidence, I am seeing people spend on what they love: strong card, gift, homewares and self-care product sales.

The state / territory results are interesting.

This does show a different in performance between the states and territories. NT, ACT, VIC and NSW, in that order, are the places to be. Tasmania, at the other end, has challenges. These geographic results are no excuse or justification for individual store results though.

Look, this data from the ABS is already a month old, and it’s general. The best thing any retailer can do is look at the performance of their business, comparing themselves now with the same period a year ago. We truly are our best competitors. That’s why I think, for sure, be aware of the BAS results – but look at your own business in more detail as it is from that analysis that a path forward will reveal.

Now, in case you are wondering about other retailers in other and worry that other retail may skew the results enough to explain where you sit compared to others, here’s the list from the ABS:

  • Other retailing
    • Newspaper and book retailing
      • Newspaper and book retailing (4244)
    • Other recreational goods retailing
      • Sport and camping equipment retailing (4241)
      • Entertainment media retailing (4242)
      • Toy and game retailing (4243)
    • Pharmaceutical, cosmetic and toiletry goods retailing
      • Pharmaceutical, cosmetic and toiletry goods retailing (4271)
    • Other retailing n.e.c
      • Stationery goods retailing (4272)
      • Antique and used goods retailing (4273)
      • Flower retailing (4274)
      • Other-store based retailing n.e.c (4279)
      • Non-store retailing (4310)
      • Retail commission-based buying and/or selling (4320)
  • Cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services
    • Cafes, restaurants and catering services
      • Cafes and restaurants (4511)
      • Catering services (4513)
    • Takeaway food services
      • Takeaway food services (4512)
Newsagency management

The Lott bans the use of BNPL, AfterPay, ZipPay etc for purchasing lottery tickets

The Lottery Corporation has issued an update to the manual that documents rules for retailers selling their products. The rule update bans the use of Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) payment methods for the purchasing of lottery tickets.

While this is a matter for The Lottery Corporation to determine, operationally in retail there are implications as I covered in correspondence from my newsagency software company, Tower Systems, to senior management at The Lottery Corporation.

I have just seen the rule changes in relation to buy now pay later.

The problem is that this rule will be very difficult for retailers to enforce given that AfterPay gives customers now a virtual card on their phone and it presents across the counter as a credit card payment.

We have looked at whether we can automatically block the payment from within the POS software. With tech today, it’s the banking organisation that manages types of payments.

We could do something along the lines of what we have done with the Indue, cashless welfare card, work, check what’s in the basket and manage restrictions. But that would cost a chunk of money and it would involve tech changes from many parties.

What POS companies like Tower could do, but it would have a cost, is interrupt a transaction with lottery products in the basket where card payment is presented and require the retail staffer visually check the type of card being used before allowing it to proceed or not.

The challenge here is that your company has issued the new rules without thinking through real world implications.

I can see situations where retailers unwittingly accept AfterPay as a method of payment, costing the retailer valuable margin dollars and putting them in breach of the rules that govern their sale of lottery tickets.

With the way BNPL payments are handled across the counter today, it is only with a visual check of the virtual card being used that the retail associate can have the information required to know what type of card has been used.

In high traffic settings the time disruption for such a check will be challenging to deal with. There are also shoppers who will not want to show their phone to show the method of payment.

An integrated tech solution is better for all concerned. But, doing this properly would be expensive.

The less there is a requirement for human engagement on checking the better for all concerned.

While BNPL providers have their own rules, I think The Lottery Corporation is more likely to enforce the rules than the BNPL providers.

Hopefully, a workable solution can be found.