Australian Newsagency Blog

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

I’m thrilled we have Women InPop magazine

Mark Fletcher on January 29, 2019 11:59 AM

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Pitching Valentine’s Day behind the newsagency counter

Mark Fletcher on January 29, 2019 6:15 AM

Here’s the pitch for Valentine’s Day behind the counter ion one of my stores. There is also an impulse offer at the counter as well as the main display on the lease line, facing into the mall.

Here is a version we created for social media, leveraging the collateral and Beanie Boos:

Online and in-store, we are using consistent collateral to help drive shopper engagement. The Boo pitch online is one of many. In fact, our core online pitch is about creating memories. Oh, and educating guys to shop early so as to not miss out.

Valentine’s Day is one of those seasons where there is a rush in the last week. In my experience, you benefit in the rush by educating people weeks out that you are in this space.

A note on the collateral: is deliberately targets a younger demo for the season. That’s how we see a big opportunity for the season, targeting those who do not regularly buy cards.

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News Corp does a deal with Australia Post promoting literacy

Mark Fletcher on January 28, 2019 7:51 AM

News Corp has partnered with Australia Post on a literacy campaign. This, from the report at Mediaweek:

News Corp and Australia Post join forces to boost literacy levels

Raise A Reader is News Corp’s consumer education and advocacy campaign, designed to highlight the importance of developing early literacy skills among Australian children and the critical role parents play as educators and role models in demonstrating a love for reading.

Toni Hetherington, national education publisher, News Corp Australia said: “We are proud to partner with Australia Post in this important initiative with The Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun, The Courier-Mail and The Advertiser alongside our regional mastheads. News Corp Australia will proudly be supporting this campaign from both an editorial and retail perspective.

“Literacy skills are fundamental in ensuring future success in our country. At News Corp, we understand that it is our responsibility to utilise our platforms to inspire more children to enjoy reading.

“Our journalists around the country will encourage their audiences and communities to ‘Raise A Reader’ through this strong editorial campaign.”

Raise a Reader complements the launch of Australia Post’s Legends stamp series, which recognises living Australians who have made an outstanding and inspirational contribution to Australia’s communities and culture. In 2019 this series recognises Australia’s leading children’s authors.

An exclusive survey of 1000 parents and grandparents commissioned by News Corp Australia found 86% of respondents wanted their children to spend more time reading books with more than 88% reading to their child at least once a week.

UNICEF has rated Australia as 39 out of 41 countries “in achieving quality education”. Nearly one in five Australian children are not meeting international benchmarks for reading, according to the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study released in 2017 by the Australian Council for Educational Research, assessing grade four students from 50 countries around the world.

It feels like News Corp. no longer sees the newsagency channel as a channel.

There are plenty of newsagency businesses in the book space.

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→ 14 CommentsCategory: newsagency of the future · Newspapers

News Corp. disrespects newsagents with Disney promotion

Mark Fletcher on January 27, 2019 6:42 AM

News Corp has announced details of a Disney book promotion to start in a week. This promotion is designed to sell more newspapers. While promotions like this often sell more papers while they run, I see no evidence of them delivering sustained sales growth for the associated newspapers.

What frustrates many newsagents is the disrespect shown by News Corp with the 7.5% margin offered. Factoring in labour, space, shrinkage, cashflow cost our to timing of payment, this promotion is loss-making for retail newsagents.

Here is the table showing margin from the News Corp. letter:

  1. Distributing Agents with a retail outlet – commission: 15%
  2. Retailer commission: 7.5%
  3. Direct Relationship Retailers & Sub Retailers will receive 7.5% commission for each book sold.
  4. Distributing Agents will receive 7.5% commission for each book sold by the participating outlets & sub retailers at the conclusion of the promotion.

The News Corp. response on the meagre commission could be – we are bringing in the traffic, it;’s up to you to sell them more. To that I would say: spend time in a shop, observing this traffic. See for yourselves how single minded these shoppers are, that they want something for free or next to free. There is no opportunity for up-sell, none at all.

Shoppers redeeming for the types of offers are not efficient or valuable for retailers. They are often rude, demanding and angry when you have exhausted your allocation because that is the fault of the newsagent.

There will be retail newsagents who have received all stock already and been billed for all of it, having to pay it by Monday. Whereas the distribution newsagents will be billed March 24, based on the letter from News Corp.

No wonder there are retail newsagents who refuse to participate.

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Lottoland blitzing social media for Australia Day

Mark Fletcher on January 27, 2019 6:40 AM

Lottoland blitzed Facebook and Instagram last week with an ad pitching an Australia Day promotion. This from a company federal politicians thought they had dealt with.

This company has not gone away. It is not going away. Lotteries, especially app / online access lotteries and ‘lotteries’ continue to be in play.

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Will harmonised commission from News Corp. cut newsagent revenue in some areas

Mark Fletcher on January 26, 2019 7:03 AM

I have heard from plenty of newsagents following my post earlier this week about harmonised commission, which News Corp has announced in some regions is coming.

Every newsagent has the same explanation, that where News Corp has two or more titles on different commission for newsagents, the lower will be the selected harmonised commission for all titles.

Until News makes its announcement, all we have is speculation … and nervousness, concern and, for some, stress.

The company has been walking toward this for two years. I can’t see any reason for it to delay telling newsagents what it plans to do, and why.

If the speculation is right, it will be another example of the company sprouting one view in its papers and another to the small businesses with which it partners.

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My 2009 (and beyond) story

Mark Fletcher on January 23, 2019 6:35 AM

Given some recent comments here, I have decided to share here a video that I shot, unscripted and in one take, in my office early on April 13, 2017, and shared that day with newsXpress members and selected others. It was also placed on a video platform, accessible to the public.

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Harmonised commission coming from News Corp

Mark Fletcher on January 22, 2019 5:27 PM

In an announcement about cover price increases to regional Queensland newsagents earlier this week, News Corp amounted that a harmonised commission structure is coming. Here is that part of the announcement.

Additionally, as part of the ongoing integration of the Australian Regional Media Publications which merged with News Corp Australia in early 2017, a new harmonised and consistent commission structure is planned to be introduced in May 2019. 

This harmonisation forms part of an ongoing commitment to progressively achieve full systems and process integration across all mastheads. 

All Newsagents and Retailers will receive an individual communication early in 2019, outlining the specific details of any adjustments relating to your business and the publications you currently range. 

Several newsagents have contacted me, concerned as to what harmonised means. Like any corporate-speak, it does not sound good.

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Unfortunate news coverage for the newsagency shingle

Mark Fletcher on January 22, 2019 6:53 AM

The news coverage this week of the arrest of a newsagent in Sydney in relation to a crime syndicate is unfortunate for the channel. While I don’t have media monitor data, I suspect we have seen more mainstream media stories published with the newsagency keyword already this week than in all of 2018.

While people are smart enough to not connect the whole channel with the actions of one, I have heard from a couple of newsagents about comments being make across the counter already.

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Lottery vending machines

Mark Fletcher on January 22, 2019 5:57 AM

I am back from being part of a retail study tour covering four major cities in the US and in each I saw lottery vending machines like these. Usually in public places, often outside of shops. You can buy game tickets as well as scratch tickets.

While Australia is way ahead of the rest of the world in terms of online lottery ticket purchase options, the US is way ahead in terms of self serve physical ticket / game purchase.

No matter how you look at it, the route to market disruption is supplier driven in this space.

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7-Eleven offers delivery in the US

Mark Fletcher on January 21, 2019 6:11 AM

7-Eleven offers a delivery service in the US. The products are not just convenience lines such as drinks, donuts, bananas, candy and similar. No, the range includes frozen food, stationery, gadgets, personal care, health and more categories. The range is quite broad.

Offering delivery makes sense in this era of considerably disrupted retail and in a time when people have been educated to have prepared meals delivered to them for minimal fees with minimal fuss, through App access, like 7-Eleven offers.

To get people engaged, the priest three deliveries are delivered free.

The service is broadly available, including in  cities smaller than some Australian cities:

The App was launched mid last year and I am told the uptake has been terrific and let to market expansion for the offer.

As has happened with Uber Eats, retailers in the convenience space will need to be aware and engaged.

This move shifts what it means to be convenience. Location is not necessarily everything.

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→ 1 CommentCategory: Competition · Newsagency challenges

Why some people only make negative comments on this blog

Mark Fletcher on January 20, 2019 7:16 AM

I was asked last week why some people make negative comments here, especially on innocuous posts that others find useful. Here are some reasons I think some come here only to mock, criticise or denigrate:

  1. They failed in their newsagency business.
  2. They failed in their newsagency supply business.
  3. They could not raise the money to buy a newsagency
  4. They own a newsagency and hate it.
  5. They are a competitor of a newsagency.
  6. They are a supplier representative I have pissed off at some point.
  7. They get off trolling.
  8. They are a competitor.

Trolls are easy to pick. They do not use real names. Most have commented here under multiple names. None has ever taken up my offer to talk through their concerns or disagreements.

The majority of comments are from people who use their real name.

I welcome criticism / debate as this is essential to success. If I didn’t, I’d moderate comments, or have no comments at all.

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Another take on cashless, in convenience

Mark Fletcher on January 19, 2019 7:03 AM

A single-brand convenience business opened last year in Tribeca, New York, offering their beverages from a small shop that runs cashless, without a sales counter and in-store staff. The business is primarily a marketing front for the hip healthy beverage brand.

Their cashless process is an honour system. They expect theft.

They ask you to choose your drink, text them and they send a link for payment.

The text that I sent upon choosing a drink failed, several times.The process is messy and cumbersome. I suspect they want the text so they can market to you. However, there are other ways they could have made that work for them.

Regardless of what people think, cashless is gaining in popularity among retailers and shoppers. While the example here is not ideal, it has gained media interest because of the connection with the no in-store staff approach.

Over the last year the number of retailers switching to cashless in the US has spiked. This will happen in Australia.

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Self checkouts for lotteries

Mark Fletcher on January 18, 2019 6:27 AM

Self serve vending machines for lotteries in the US have been around for years. This unit, which I saw at the New York Lotteries office near Wall Street, is new to me. It leverages the self checkout technology that is similar to what we see in local Aussie supermarkets.

You can buy and check lottery tickets. There are quick pick options as well as the opportunity to select your numbers. It also reads paper prepared tickets. It’s easy to use.

With the labour cost of selling lottery tickets a big cost per ticket sale, it makes sense that engaged lottery operators continue to look at ways of cutting the labour costs in each ticket purchase.

This self serve machine does not validate the age of the customer. In the US the closest you get to that with any o the self-serve and vending machines for lotteries that I have seen is a sign declaring that you need to be 18 or above to purchase lottery tickets.

I don’t know of Tatts in Australian  is working on self-serve machines like this one. It would make sense if they were as they need to combat the growing competition for everyday gambling and this means being more accessible to customers … being in more outlets and making online even easier too.

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Lottoland under spotlight following launch of financial system betting games

Mark Fletcher on January 17, 2019 4:16 AM

Lottoland have confronted the ban in Australia on their lottery betting from January 1, 2019, launching jackpot betting on financial market results.

This looks and feels like a move to get around the ban. Following a complaint, ASIC is considering an investigation, as reported by The Sydney Morning Herald. ASIC is one of several bodies looking at what Lottoland is doing.

The Herald understands the complaint, lodged on Friday, suggest Lottoland may be offering a financial service through the “jackpot betting” product.

Sources with knowledge of the complaint said it raised concerns that by using financial market data to create a lottery draw, Lottoland may be making a market for its own over-the-counter products.

Other industry sources told the Herald if Lottoland was using financial markets to simply generate a string of random numbers to determine a win, which would not be a financial service, this could instead leave it in breach of the Interactive Gambling Act.

However, Lottoland chief executive Luke Brill said “jackpot betting” was just the start of a series of new products the company expected to bring to the market this year.

I can’t see how this will end well for Lottoland given the 9investment by politicians already. However, the people at Lottoland have plenty i nested in Australia so it should have been anticipated by the politicians and those who wrote the legislation that they would look for ways around it.

What is interesting with this latest financial market product is that it is based on the financial markets, including the US. If you try and access Lottoland in the US you see this:

While the bigger challenges for newsagents are the migration of lottery purchases online as well as diversification in easy to access gambling products, Lottoland will draw more attention as it is an understood and unifying target for retailers, and because it launched in Australia with a campaign mocking newsagents.

It is unfortunate that stage based VANA and NANA newsagent associations backed Lottoland last year in the organisation’s fight to offer its lottery betting products.

ALNA has engaged on the latest moved by Lottoland. Read here.

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→ 3 CommentsCategory: Ethics · Lotteries · Social responsibility

Back to School marketing on social media

Mark Fletcher on January 16, 2019 2:53 PM

Here is one of several marketing videos created for newsXpress members [pitching Back to School. Based on engagement data, this video is loved. It is deliberately short and not product specific. Anything newsagents can do to promote outside the usual type of ads is important now.

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Australia Day public holiday confusion

Mark Fletcher on January 16, 2019 7:03 AM

There is confusion among some retailers as to which day is the public holiday. Click here for a link to the FairWork web page that has the information if your business trades under an award. While an EBA could be different, I suspect most coming by here will not have an EBA in place.

For the record, no state lists January 26 as a public holiday. This means public holiday rates will not apply that day.

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New year resolutions for POS software users

Mark Fletcher on January 15, 2019 7:18 AM

I wrote this for the Tower Systems blog yesterday and share it here as it’s relevant to newsagents, regardless of the software they use.

The goal of the resolutions is to encourage using software more than it hard been used. The list is like a menu, choose the ideas (resolutions) that appeal, one, two, or as many as you like.

TWENTY-FIVE 2019 POS SOFTWARE RELATED SMALL BUSINESS RETAIL NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS.

  1. Maintain better quality business data.
  2. Order based on actual sales data rather than gut feel.
  3. Spend more time away from the shop by managing remotely.
  4. Eliminate manual processes.
  5. Take action on employee theft.
  6. take action on customer theft.
  7. Reduce dead stock.
  8. Eliminate more paperwork.
  9. Engage in more data based business planning.
  10. Declutter my business data.
  11. Declutter the shop based on the business data.
  12. Delegate more.
  13. Set KPI goals, measure, track and engage.
  14. Learn more about the software.
  15. Learn something new from the software every week.
  16. Start believing the business performance data.
  17. Only sell products with a barcode.
  18. Establish new rules designed to protect data integrity.
  19. Deal more with suppliers that make doing business easier and less with suppliers that don’t.
  20. Leverage more control over the business.
  21. Manage staff performance more.
  22. Engage in more free training from Tower Systems.
  23. Ask Tower to tell me what they see about my business in my business data.
  24. Get more from the software.
  25. Treat data as an asset and not as a chore.
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Refreshed school holiday marketing ideas for newsagents

Mark Fletcher on January 14, 2019 9:53 AM

School holidays are a wonderful opportunity its for finding new shoppers for your business.

But most of all, to make the most from school holidays, you need to have fun!

Here are refreshed marketing suggestions to help school holidays be more valuable for your newsagency. They are just some of the ideas you could embrace. Hopefully, you will think of plenty for yourself.

  1. Stack the counter with items kids will love and want to buy or want to have parents and grand parents buy for them. Go to their side of the counter and build it for maximum engagement.
  2. Give educators a discount and a thank you. Give it a name. For example: a Thank you for teaching 0ur kids discount. Run it for school holidays.
  3. Make shopping for last-minute school supplies easy.
  4. Host local show and tell. Invite kids to create something, art, a poem, or something else connected to a local place of interest or local history. Host an in-store show and tell event where parents and kids can participate. The prize is less relevant than giving kids a voice.
  5. Teach about local. Host events in-store where kids can learn more about the local area.
  6. Let people play. Have products out and open for people to play with in-store. be the destination fun shop in town.
  7. Do product demonstrations in-store during the expected peak days, demonstrating thinks like a slinky, kinetic sand, slime, jigsaws and the like. Create some retail theatre.
  8. Publish posts on your business Facebook page with ideas of what people can do locally during the school holidays.
  9. Host an event appropriate to the season:
    1. A papier machier pumpkin mask competition for September holidays.
    2. A paper plane throwing competition for summer holidays.
    3. A Easter art competition for all ages for the Easter break.
    4. A winter bake off for Winter – maybe connected with the cookbooks you sell.
    5. Run a best joke of the holidays competition.

These refreshed ideas are designed to help you create a business during any holidays period that is looked at differently to the rest of the year, to help you gain a reputation as the best school holidays place locally.

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Linda Ronstadt from 35 years ago on journalism

Mark Fletcher on January 13, 2019 10:22 PM

So true today…

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How to make the news less relevant in a newspaper

Mark Fletcher on January 13, 2019 7:44 PM

Stick an ad over editorial content, like this from Fairfax, which I was sent today.

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Brilliant ad from Optus about locked-in contracts

Mark Fletcher on January 13, 2019 6:16 AM

With some locked-in contracts holding newsagents back and the suppliers using legal threats on newsagents who want out, this new ad from Optus will appeal to some here…

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What an awesome video from Bundaberg Brewed Drinks

Mark Fletcher on January 12, 2019 6:38 AM

What a wonderful way to appreciate your customers!

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The security risk of an ATM in a newsagency window

Mark Fletcher on January 11, 2019 2:41 PM

This report of theft of an ATM machine, k from a newsagency in the UK:

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Beware retail business consultants who have all the answers

Mark Fletcher on January 11, 2019 5:40 AM

There are some retail business consultants pitching their services and ideas to newsagents and others in our channel.

My advice is to beware, approach with caution, question the suggestions and advice from business consultants and self-proclaimed retail experts. Ask for evidence that supports their suggestions. Seek our references from indie retailers who have benefited from their advice. Ask the basis on which they make suggestions. Most of all, ensure they understand the channel and what is being confronted.

What newsagency businesses is experience is unique. It goes beyond ‘traditional’ disruption. There are multiple factors at plays, each impacting the other and the whole picture resulted is what I think is best describes as super-disruption.

I say super-disruption because we hear plenty about super-storms, super-cyclones and the like. They are bigger, more ferocious, more confronting versions of the singular.  That is what we are dealing with, disruption on a level not often seen elsewhere.

I have heard from consultants working with newsagents and read some of their suggestions. While their ideas are okay, they do not consider the bigger picture, they do not deal with more of what newsagents are confronting. This is why I say about consultants and advisors…

My advice is to beware, approach with caution, question the suggestions and advice from business consultants and self-proclaimed retail experts. Ask for evidence that supports their suggestions. Seek our references from indie retailers who have benefited from their advice. Ask the basis on which they make suggestions. Most of all, ensure they understand the channel and what is being confronted.

Some of the disruptors playing into each there in our channel include:

  1. The decline of print media.
  2. Migration of lottery purchases online.
  3. The decline in physical stationery use.
  4. Migration of the stationery shopper to online and big business.
  5. Migration of local school stationery business to online and big overseas businesses.
  6. Growth in corporate convenience businesses.
  7. Migration of transport ticket top-up to online.
  8. The closure of many newsagencies and the resulting impact on channel suppliers.

I don’t see these disruptors as problematic … if you engaged early and transitioned your business. The opportunities for change and growth in a ‘newsagency’ business remain considerable.

My key concern about the consultants and retail experts who are plying their trade in our channel is for those yet to transition, those keen for advice and guidance. Unless the consultants and retail-experts do thorough homework, I fear their advice will be of little real value.

Like anything, buyer beware.

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