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

Aussie stationery suppliers to newsagents are missing a valuable opportunity

There is the stationery people buy because they need it and then there is stationery people buy because they want it, the obligation purchase versus the emotional purchase.

Traditional stationery suppliers to our channel serve us well with stationery that fills a need. Most do not serve us at all with stationery that serves a want.

It is in this want or emotional stationery purchase space that we can make the most money.

The failure of existing stationery suppliers to our channel to offer stationery for the want / emotional purchase has plenty of newsagents looking elsewhere.

Our channel was built in the 1800s to serve a need. Today, serving what people want is proving to be an appreciated value-add for retailers.


Newsagents should be aware of the Viva Energy Australia takeover of SA’s On the Run

Viva Energy Australia has completed the purchase of the On The Run group, a network of 170 fuel and convenience businesses in South Australia that have a track record in the lottery space.

The merger amalgamates On The Run and well as Smoke Mart & Gift Box into Viva Energy’s convenience business, creating, as I understand it, a network of  1,000+ convenience retail outlets, including Coles Express, and Liberty.

This acquisition may have no impact on newsagents with lotteries or it may be a step to moves that do have an impact. On The Run outlets are good, consistent and broad in what they offer. Only time will tell what from the On There Run product mix makes it into the other outlets – like lotteries for example.

c-store.com.au offers good context:

Viva Energy’s CEO and Managing Director, Scott Wyatt, said today’s acquisition is transformational for Viva Energy and that OTR will become Viva Energy’s flagship convenience brand.

“The introduction of OTR’s superior convenience offering, including quick serve restaurants, will help revolutionise the diversity and attraction of our retail offering,” Wyatt said.

“As our stores increasingly become retail destinations, we expect convenience earnings will grow and reduce our dependency on traditional fuels.

“OTR outlets offer an attractive and welcoming store environment, supporting increased dwell time, which is likely to be a key factor in successfully introducing electric vehicle recharging facilities over time.”

What they are planning is what any retailer in channels impacted by change must plan: revolutionise the diversity and attraction of our retail offering.

My goal today is to ensure newsagents are aware of the acquisition, to be aware.


The challenge with being part of a franchise or a national branded business

I was in a regional town New Zealand over the weekend for a wedding and went to a local Paper Plus store to buy a wedding card. I didn’t like any of the wedding card designs they had, the range felt tired, like the shop.

It was my first time in a Paper Plus for five years and as such it’s what I’ll think of as the standard for Paper Plus until I see something different.

The shop fixtures were old school – traditional gondolas, high with products stacked. There was no flair or enticement to the retail displays, nothing to draw me into the shop. The light was bright fluro, which is now out of date for interesting local retail. There was no sense of being local.

Franchise businesses and businesses that trade under a common shingle are as strong as their weakest store.

This is one of the reason newsXpress years ago ditched requiring businesses to trade under the newsXpress shingle. It is also why the group restructured its contract and its offer to not fall under the franchise code of conduct.

Local retailers need the freedom to flourish is ways appropriate to their local setting. In a franchise this is challenging to do since the franchise approach is about a cookie-cutter approach, based on what some call a ‘system’. I can’t think of any ‘system’ or franchise model that is appropriate in the newsagency channel today. That’s my opinion at least, others will have theirs.

Our channel is going through rapid change, much of which is outside the lines of what has been traditional for newsagency businesses. What drew people to our businesses even five years ago has changed in 2024. Change is good as it opens opportunities.

So much of the growth I am seeing in newsagency businesses that are growing is outside of traditional and this is where a ‘system’ or a franchise model created decades ago will struggle to be relevant. Retail in 2024 is not relevant to what we did in 2000, 1990 or 1980. How, when and where people shop has changed. What people will buy from what was once a traditional newsagency has changed.

Local newsagents need the freed to be what they can be. This is why I moved from a franchise model years ago.

Back in the day, Paper Plus was a terrific business a model for consistency and growth. If what I saw on Saturday is any indication, it has some distance to go to be relevant to 2024 – if not the group then certainly the shop I visited.

I love owning and running my newsagency businesses today, for traditional products but more so for the opportunity to play outside the lines of tradition.

Newsagency management

The all important front window of the newsagency, or any retail business for that matter

The front window display of your shop is your headline. It announces you, defines you to those passing by for the first time and can catch the attention of regular and possibly store-blind shoppers.

Your front window display is your opening statement, your this is what to expect from us not.

The front window is the best place to play against assumptions about your business and the newsagency shingle more broadly.

The front window display needs to change regularly. How regularly will depend on your local traffic cycle.

I love this front window display from the awesome team at our Westfield Southland store.

This front window pitch introduces new products, excellent margin products. It’s successfully attracted new shoppers, which we love.

I think the best way to approach a front window as it being one of the most important marketing activities in retail. And, as local independent retailers, we can pitch a front window that feels warm – unlike the soulless windows we see in franchise and corporate chain stores.


If you think closing your newsagency is the only option …

Sometimes, the road ahead can appear to have so many obstacles and the air heavy with fog that a pathway can be hard to find.

If you feel like closing is your only option, I am writing this for you. It’s an update to something I have shared before. I share it today as a supplier asked me to remind folks here.

If you feel like closing your newsagency is the option, ask for a second opinion. I and plenty of others in our channel will do this, based on your business data: sales data, P&L, and more.

Usually, in the evidence of data is opportunity. The challenge is that often opportunities cannot be seen because of the noise of obstacles and fog.

My hope is that in your evidence there is sufficient opportunity to find a path forward for the business, and for you.

Turning a situation away from closing is my only option can only come about by one or a mix of:

  • attracting new shoppers
  • getting existing shoppers purchasing more
  • making more from some of what you sell
  • reducing costs

It’s pretty simple when you read the list. The hard part is the action, that’s where retailers can get stuck. I mean, attracting new shoppers is difficult, especially in small business where the levers we can pull are limited.

The best way to attract new shoppers is to introduce new product categories and to pitch these outside of the business.

I get that it may be challenging to find the energy and money to make things work with new products. If the survival of your business matters you’ll find a way.

The best way to get existing shoppers spending more is through a smart loyalty mechanic and having a shop people enjoy.

The best way to make more from what you sell is by charging more or buying better, or both. Don’t go crazy. A modest increase in GP% could work wonders.

While doing these things you also need to work on reducing costs. That’s a common approach to saving a business. While it could help, rarely in my experience have I seen reducing costs alone be enough to save a business. Sure, it can be in the mix, but it alone is not enough.

Key to the success of any turnaround is starting on the road early, before fog and debris block the past. It’s important to all of us who own businesses to be looking well ahead, over the horizon, cultivating assets we can deploy when we think change may be needed.

If you think closing your newsagency is the only option, reach out. There are plenty of us in the newsagency channel who will listen, and offer advice if you’d like it.

You are not alone.

Mark Fletcher
mark@towersystems.com.au mark@newsxpress.com.au

Newsagency management

6 tips to help drive the sale of journals in your newsagency

Gen Alpha and Gen Z are journaling more than Gen X and Gen Y according to some commentators in this space of journaling. And, among Gen Alpha and Gen Z, journaling is for guys and girls. Reading this a while back got me thinking since it challenges my assumptions about journaling, based on decades in retail.

I think it is time for a reset in our approach to journals in our shops. They and more than pretty notebooks.

Journals are creative outlets, productivity boosters, data recorders, lyric books, poetry books, brain dump spaces, therapy and treasured keepsakes. Journals mean something different to each person engaged. This is what we have to understand.

Fear not! Here are 6 tips to turn those passing glances into happy journal purchases:

1. Showcase the Spectrum

People journal for all sorts of reasons. Some crave a space for daily reflections, while others seek a bullet journal for ultimate organisation. Cater to this diversity by offering a range of journals. From classic hardcovers with lined pages to funky softcovers bursting with dotted grids and blank spaces, create a selection that caters to different styles and purposes.

Don’t forget niche interests: travel journals, gratitude journals, food journals, fitness journals, drawing journals, star sign journals.

2.  Be Seen, Be Desired

Place journals front cover facing at the counter. Yes, people will purchase on impulse.

3. Cross sell

Pair journals with pens, covers, book marks, posi-it notes and other items that make sense to purchase with them.

4. Storytelling Sells

Have a journal open on a table, preferably with a chair where someone can sit. Have a chair nearby. Encourage people to journal anonymously in the shop. Leet them experience it, and maybe get hooked as a result. Let your customers be their own storyteller.

5. Pitch on social media

Showcase journals on social media. Use this platform to speak to the range of journaling situations you cover: male, female, young, old, work, hobby. Be sure to show off your range.

6. Train Your Team

Make sure everyone working in the shop understand your products. Nurture in them a love of your pens and your journals and the feeling that comes from writing on the page.  If they journal themselves, give them a deal. This may help them talk about they own experiences journaling with shoppers.

By implementing these tips, you can transform your retail space into a haven for journal enthusiasts.

You are not selling stationery. Rather, you are selling keepers of memories and much more, things they will value for many years.


Sugar-free gifts popular this Easter

We did well with Jellycat, Squishmallows and other sugar-free treats this Easter. Card sales were excellent and customers loved the gift bags too. Our social media posts helped attract shoppers. Here are couple of the ready to go gifts we offered.


Time away from the business is important: don’t lose yourself in your business

It is easy when you own a business to get lost in the business, for it to become your whole life, to be solely how people see you.

It’s important that business owners have time for themselves, beyond family even.

This is on my mind today because someone commented to me this week that they think I work crazy hours for my businesses, saying they strive to do that for their business.

I don’t work crazy hours. A typical week is 60 – 70 hours. My recharge is what I do outside of work. It’s refreshing and enjoyable. Beyond family time, of which there is plenty as my commute to the office is 5 minutes each way.

My relax and recharge passion is writing. It has been for many years. I’ve had plays produced here in Australia, the US, Canada and Ireland and a couple of short films made, including Chasing Rabbits, which won a bunch of awards. There was even a musical adaptation of a play, which won a Green Room Award in Melbourne. There have been some awards along the way, which have been validating.

Most recently, my book, Not Dead Yet was published. This was a 4-year project leading up to publishing and then promotional activity following. It has nothing whatsoever to do with my businesses.

If you’re interested in this life outside of business, you could read Visiting Mum in her nursing home was a shock at first. I didn’t expect it to become a joy, an article the folks at Guardian Australia asked me to write for them in December last year, on a topic related to the book.

I am grateful to host David Hunt for the interview we did for The Art Hunter about the book:

And this podcast episode too for the Staying Alive & Rich podcast with host Maria Ugrinovski:

I mention these things to demonstrate activity far away from business, activity that offers other life experiences and perspectives that I find rejuvenating and enjoyable.

While I appreciate this post will read as promotion, which it is, it is primarily here to show that I value a life outside of business. I think all of us who own and run businesses need outside interests that do more to define us as a person than the businesses themselves.

For sure, business is important is provides for so many who rely on it. I guess my point is that you rely on you and allowing yourself to get lost in business is unhealthy.

About us

Is there a move away from deep discount retail and what could it mean for us?

The recent announcement by Dollar Tree, Inc., the parent company of Family Dollar, to close 600 stores has sent ripples through the retail industry in the US. I am sure it has plenty of Aussie retailers watching on with interest.

Not only are they closing 600 stores, the company announced will also shut down 370 Family Dollar and 30 Dollar Tree stores when each store’s current lease ends. That’s a lot of closures for a business that is a significant player in the deep discount space.

This move has many wondering: Is this the end of the deep discount retail model, or just a strategic shift for Family Dollar?

In Australia, deep discount is national represented by the Reject Shop. Locally, the model is represented by the many of what we call $2 shops, or junk retail is , I suspect unfairly, call them.

I think we are seeing a shift in this deep discount space. Online is playing a role, especially Temu from China.

I do note that Dollar Tree itself remains committed to the deep discount market. They’ve emphasised that the closures are designed to strengthen Family Dollar, not abandon the concept entirely. But they have also said they want to drive business financial performance.

It’s possible the deep discount space might be reaching a saturation point. With so many discount retailers vying for customers, some consolidation may be inevitable.

While affordability remains important, shoppers might be prioritising quality  over the rock-bottom prices traditionally associated with deep discount stores.

We will have to see what plays out in Australia.

Here’s what we know though – discount variety shops, $2 shops, deep discount shops, regardless of what you call them, focus on selling at the lowest price. That shopper will not be loyal unless your price remains low. So long as there is someone desperate enough to go lower, you’ll find shoppers today gone tomorrow. This is one reason I have never played in the discount space in retail. I don’t see how there is sustainable profitability in it frankly.

I think online, Temu and others, as well as local independent $2 shops will keep pressure on this slim margin channel. I think this means retailers in this space in Australia will find it tough. We can make it tougher for them if we continue to focus on quality products sold at a better price and likely a price that has a lower cost when you consider valuable product lifetime. People notice this.

For me, value is more about quality than the ticket price of the item. They key is for us to communicate this in an understood and cut through way to our shoppers in-store and those we seek to attract.

Pitching solely on price is weak, and we can exploit this.

Newsagency management

How to save money on fixtures for your newsagency or any retail business

First up: spend as little as possible with a shopfitter, preferably nothing. Shopfitters only make money from shopfits. What they make is purpose built and, naturally expensive.

Besides the people who work in the business, your products are what matter the most. People notice the products more than the fixtures. Shopfitters will tell you something different, of course.

Years ago, it was common for newsagents to spend $1,500 and more per square metre of leased retail space, and we would do this for fixtures made for the business. magazine specific fixtures, card specific fixtures. There was plenty of noise that the shift made the business, set the business for success. Some groups considered their shopfit to be valuable intellectual property. Even if that was true, it’s not true today.

Today, retail is about the feeling of the shop and nothing achieves feeling like furniture items that look everyday. Even better if they have some scars that bring some lived history to the shop. Indeed, some of the best fixtures I have seen have been found on the side of the road, at an old farm or in an op. shop.

The more fixtures in your shop the are sourced from these everyday situations, the lower the cost of fitting your shop.

Take this table and bench set. It costs only $179 from Fantastic Furniture. I suspect there may be secondhand ones out there for less and other pliers with similar for less.

It’s tremendously flexible. Here it is in the window of one of my shops right now.

The table and benches work hosting these ducks.

The best advice I can provide when it comes to shoplifting in a newsagency or and local retail business is to be frugal.

  • Pre-loved is loved: Look for second-hand furniture and fixtures at op. shops,  garage sales, or online marketplaces.
  • Upcycle & Repurpose: Get creative! Old pallets can become shelving, crates can be turned into displays, and pipes can make clothing racks.
  • Think Multi-Functional: Invest in furniture that serves multiple purposes, like ottomans with storage or tables with built-in displays.
  • Buy off the shelf rather than purpose built every time you can. This is the best way to save money.

There are some in our channel who boast about their shopfit, what it cost, what is unique about it. I suspect if they were as open about the financial performance of their business few of the boasters would have must to boast about.

While there are parts of the business over which you have control, like lotteries, there is plenty over which you do have control. Don’t overthink it. If you fit out frugally the cost pot changing your approach is not that much. Also, being able to financially justify constant change can help give the business a feel of regular change, which is good.

Oh, and if you really do need something made specifically for your shop, consider a local handyman (person) as they are likely to cost less.

Anything you spend on fittings or furniture for your shop needs to be fully recouped from sales in absolutely no more than three years, preferably less.

Newsagency management

Let data guide whether you open over Easter

Look at your sales last Easter before setting the newsagency staff roster for this Easter. If you can’t cover your costs, including real labour costs regardless of whether you do the hours yourself or not, don’t open.

Back in the day, newsagents would open out of obligation, as a community service, or because of supplier dictates, or both.

While it is nice to run your business as a community service, that does not pay your bills nor does it support you as you may need.

With penalty rates, a casual employee working on a public holiday is paid 250% of their base hourly rate. Based on the current General Retail Award Rate that would be $57.78 an hour – plus superannuation, taking the hourly cost to $64.14. This is for a Level 3, which would apply if they are opening or closing.

Opening because you think shoppers may expect you to open is not reason enough, nor is opening because you always have. The only reason to open is because it commercially viable.

Now, to newspaper and magazine publishers and staff reading this, you are part of the problem here. Your paltry margins are insufficient on a regular day let alone on a trading day attracting a 250% hike in the hourly cost of labour.

Newsagency management

More suppliers are going direct to consumers competing with retailers they supply, and it’s breaking long term relationships

Imagine the shock of seeing a supplier offer products they wholesale to you being offered to consumers for not much more than your wholesale price.

The shock turns to anger when it continues months later, with the supplier competing with you for Google ad positioning. They can spend more since they have more margin with which to play.

Their words of no we are not trying to take business from you and we only want to grow the marketplace don’t land as you see customers you have nurtured for years switch to them.

As I told one supplier representative, what they have done in copying our business and chasing our customers disgusts me.

All of us in business have to put our needs ahead of everyone else and that is what this supplier is doing. The thing is though, they get childishly upset when we reduce our commitment to them having found a more valuable relationship elsewhere.

Maybe it is just meh but it feels like, in these early months of 2024, that we have more suppliers going direct to consumers.

Some suppliers are getting it right. One I spoke with this week who was pitching for our business said up front that they sold direct but at a price that was 10% higher than the suggested retail price they had on their items. What I liked even more was that their products, at their suggested retail price, gave us a gross profit of 62%.

This supplier is smart to structure their retailer relationships and their own online pitch such that it’s a genuine win win for supplier and retailer.

Not enough suppliers think through how to approach selling direct.

Some don’t announce it, they sneak around thinking retailers will not notice.

Some use spin from marketing to make it sound like retailers will benefit.

Some lazily copy what they see their retailers are doing and refuse to acknowledge they have done this.

Where the move has been made poorly, ignorantly and / or selfishly, it is understandable relationships break down. Trust is challenged and retailers who do not trust a supplier will not want to do business with them.

Each of us in business has to make decisions that serve our business and those who directly rely on it first. We need to be honest in our decision-making and respectful of long term relationships – if our decision means a change, we need to be upfront rather than secretive.

In my own case, I am more invested in seeking out direct supply relationships, from manufacturer direct to us rather than through a wholesaler who control a brand in the country. I am also happier working with suppliers who have no commitment to go direct to consumers.

Disruption is here to stay. Our role as business owners is to navigate this to our advantage.


Hey magazine publishers here’s how to use social media to pitch retailers, preferably newsagents

British publishers appear to be more engaged in marketing that pitches retailers than their Aussie counterparts.

Are media and Lovatts are the two biggest Aussie crossword publishers and they each offer cash prizes. This ad above is something they could easily do if they wanted to drive retail sales.

There are many Aussie craft titles for which I can’t see any pitches like the one above.

I can’t figure out why Aussie magazine publishers are so disinterested in newsagents.


Buy Now Pay Later disappearing as fast as it arrived

The release by the government of the new Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) regulations proposed, the retreat from offering BNPL products is expected to be swift.  BNPL businesses lose access to some of their revenue drivers:

  • Late fees capped at $10 per month (Afterpay currently $68).
  • Annual fees capped at $200 in year 1 ($125 thereafter).
  • Australian Credit Licence required.
  • Real credit and affordability checks.

We have already seen moves of retreat. Humm, for example.

Click here for the explanatory document from Treasury explaining the changes. Click here to see the draft legislation.

What does this mean for us? BNPL helped people purchase who didn’t want to use traditional credit or LayBy. To retain these shoppers retailers will need alternatives. While the banks have adjusted and are planning more in this space, we could consider refreshing our approach to LayBy. Doing nothing is not an ideal approach.

Newsagency management

Pitching local through what we sell

There are many ways to pitch local in retail: buying from local suppliers, supporting local community groups, speaking to your localness. These are all good ways. certainly, show, don’t tell is a good approach to pitch local. I think people are tired of the lazy social media post from a local retailer asking people to shop local. We need to show reasons.

One way we are doing this in my shops is with locally personalised signs designed to inspire dreams of travel destinations. Here’s the sign i9n the window of our Malvern shop.

No other retailer in Malvern has this. I can say this with certainty since we commissioned the product, choosing the list of cities carefully.

The sign is a talking point, as well as a fun gift for someone who does enjoy travel, or dreaming of travel. It also speaks to our localness without telling people to shop local.

It’s a small move, one already we are seeing working well for the business.

There are so many ways we can be smart about pitching local without overtly pitching local in our shops. The more we do this in smart ways and the less we see retailers calling people to shop local the better in my view. Those social media posts almost begging people to shop local are tiresome. I’m not aware of one ever working in a way that is measurable.

Show, don’t tell really is the best way to pitch local. Locals need to feel it without being told, without it being shoved in their face.

On the sign we had made, it sells for $19.99 and has a GP of 75%, which we are happy with.

Newsagency opportunities

Beyond the Need For a Pen: Selling Stationery to the Joy Seekers

If you stock stationery to serve a functional need, this post has been written for you.

I like pens and have more than 200 of them. Most are unused. When I am in a good stationery shop, I am likely to buy another pen. I go for colour, weight and how it feels across paper.

I also like notebooks and journals and have more than 100 of them. I go for small format, few pages, nice feeling paper and something that I can easily travel with.

I buy these things because I love them, not because I need them.

We all know people like this. Those who walk into a stationery store and emerge with items they did not need, but items they love.

I have a friend who buys stationery by colour, a specific colour. They gave boxes of it, and want more.

I met someone recently who buys sticky notes. They have a collection of more than 400. They want more.

While you can make good money selling stationery to whose who need it, the everyday stationery we all stock, there is this other, sometimes more lucrative market, some of us miss serving.

Here are a few tips on tapping into this opportunity:

  • Focus on the Experience. It’s not just a pen, it’s an extension of their personality. Highlight the smooth glide of a gel pen, the luxurious feel of heavyweight paper, the whimsical designs that spark inspiration.
  • Embrace the Unique. Cater to the collector’s heart. Offer limited edition lines, locally-made artisan products, or quirky finds you won’t see anywhere else.
  • Curate, Don’t Just Sell. Become a trusted source of inspiration. Feature themed collections, recommend perfect pairings (like a specific pen for that incredible notebook), and showcase how these products can elevate their creative process.
  • Speak Their Language. Use evocative descriptions that go beyond functionality. Talk about the “satisfying snap” of a good binder or the “velvety caress” of a high-quality pen.
  • Don’t Forget the Fun. Host workshops on calligraphy, sketching, note taking, letter writing, bullet journaling, or creative writing. Offer gift-wrapping services that turn a simple pen into a delightful present.

Remember, you’re not just selling stationery, you’re selling a feeling. You’re offering a chance to indulge in a little luxury, to spark creativity, and to express oneself through beautiful, well-crafted tools.

When considering buying inventory for this lover of stationery, approach it with a different mindset. Don’t look at it as functional stationery. Look at it as stock items that bring joy to others. Take care. Take your time. There is plenty of opportunity here.

This is a big opportunity for Aussie newsagents.

newsagency of the future

Newsagents have the best Easter cards in Australia

If you are looking for an Easter card, your local newsagent is the best place to shop and there’s why:

Your local newsagency is likely to have the best range of cards available.


Range matters when buying an Easter card or any card because range gives you choice. Whether is a religious Easter card, a funny Easter card or a money wallet for Easter or an easter card sharing love, your local newsagency has Easter cards for many situations.

Plenty of people use Easter as an opportunity to send a hug to someone they care about. Cards in your local newsagency provide options for this.

A bonus is that many newsagents stock Easter cards that are made in Australia. If supporting Australian jobs and Australian businesses matters to you, buying your Easter cards in your local Aussie newsagency supports this.

Now, if you are wondering why should I send an Easter card this year, here are some reasons:

  • For many, Easter is a time for joy, hope, and new beginnings. Sending a card is a way to share those feelings with others, even if you can’t celebrate together.
  • Respecting the season. Easter is an important time on the religious calendar. A card and let a loved-one know you respect that.
  • If you have friends or family some distance away, an Easter card is a thoughtful way to let someone know you’re thinking of them.
  • It’s a tradition: Exchanging Easter cards has been a tradition for many years. It can be a nice way to connect with that.
  • Easter cards aren’t just for religious folks. Many cards feature springtime imagery or secular greetings that anyone can appreciate.
  • Make someone smile: A handwritten note or a funny Easter card is a guaranteed pick-me-up for many people.

Remember, the Easter card you send will hole a memory they are likely to cherish for many years to come. Write something memorable, so these memories of you live on years later when they open the old shoebox and find this year’s easter card.

Footnote: I have written this post for Google as people go there to ask where to buy Easter cards.

newsagency marketing

Are you missing sales growth for your newsagency?

We’ve all been there. You walk into a trade show looking for ideas about the next hot product. Yet, a nagging doubt lingers: are these trends relevant to my customers?

Too many local small business retailers have a blind spot when it comes to what actually sells in their shops. This can cost the business a chunk of money.

I was talking to a newsagent not long ago who said they can’t  sell gifts prices at more than $30. When I asked why that was the case, they didn’t have an answer.

Another newsagent told me that they can’t sell pet related gifts. They, too, could not explain why.

Another newsagent told me that they could only sell cards priced at under $5.00. When asked, they told me they had never stocked cards worth m ore than $5.00.

These barriers we put upon ourselves created the narrative we listen to when stocking our shops. We make decisions that make the narrative in our head true.

You are not your customer.

Listening only to ourselves and surrounding ourselves with people who think like us limits what we see and hear. Sales reps push what’s hot with other stores, trade shows limit who can display and industry publications focus on broad trends. This can create an echo chamber, making it hard to hear the whispers of what your specific customer base truly wants.

Sticking with what’s “always sold” feels safe. Customer needs and preferences evolve. Clinging to the past can leave you with a dusty inventory and dwindling sales.

Data. Numbers don’t lie, but sometimes we don’t listen. Are you analysing sales data to see what moves quickly and what languishes? Ignoring your own in-store intel is a missed opportunity.

How do you fix this?

  • Watch TikTok. Currently, it provides the best out of left-field ideas from what I see. I have picked up excellent retail related ideas that I have not seen elsewhere from TikTok. Some have shocked me. Every single one of them has taught me something.
  • Embrace Customer Feedback: Talk to your customers! Conduct surveys, run polls on social media, or simply chat with them at the counter. What are they looking for? What problems do they need solved?
  • Listen: Everyone else working in the business, on the front line, hearing customer needs directly. Empower them to share insights and make informed suggestions about product selection.
  • Dig into the Data: Sales figures, abandoned carts, website click-throughs – these numbers tell a story. Use analytics tools to understand customer behaviour and tailor your offerings accordingly.
  • Embrace Experimentation: Don’t be afraid to test the waters with smaller batches of new products or surprise pop-up displays. See what resonates with your customers and what doesn’t.

What we can sell in the local newsagency is not bound by any rules. Play as far and wide as you are able. See how far you can take your business.

Be ready to be surprised. Embrace it.

We tried a category this past week in one of my shops, a category several thought would never work for us. $500 in sales in 5 days. 60% GP. It was an easy and valuable win.

You don’t know what you don’t know!

You are not your customer.

Newsagency management

Advice for local card makers seeking to place their cards in retail shops

I have noticed an increase over the last six months in approaches by local card makers seeking to get their cards placed in the shop. It’s a challenge with complexities.

  • Some local card makers have not considered the margin retailers need when pricing their cards for sale from their own website or at local markets.
  • Some have not thought though how to display the product.
  • Some have never considered whether they would accept product for return.
  • Some have not researched what sells and what does not sell.
  • Some have made poor choices on card stock.

Cards are premium margin products in our businesses. To deliver the value we need, they need to sell. At minimum, we need to sell at least 12 of each card each year to break even on space, labour and capital investment cost. This is the benchmark: a pocket turn of 2 times a year, or in the case of these indie maker cards, a turn of 12 of a design in a year. And that is at a minimum.

While many of us want to support local card makers, too many of these makers have not through their go-to market strategy in a way that connects with potential retail partners.

When we say no, some take it personally about their designs, while this is not the case. It makes for a complex conversation.

While I am all for supporting local designers and makers, the arrangement needs to be commercially viable for both sides and have a plan behind it that shows the relationship to be sustainable.  There is one card maker I supported years ago who did not have replacement stock when I needed. It took three months.

Here are some things we have done to make it easier for the business to support local card designers:

  • We have a good space in the shop dedicated to displaying their product full face.
  • We have a stand for the counter that pitches 2 or 3 designs, for impulse engagement.
  • We show customers the local connection.
  • We use social media.
  • We share performance data so they can consider this when developing product.

While there are complexities with local card markers, there are some out there that get it and work to ensure the relationship is mutually viable.

Newsagency management

Gift related suppliers are concerned about a trend

Gift suppliers have mentioned a trend that concerns them. It emerged around just over a year ago. Whereas in the past they would win a customer and receive follow-up orders from almost all of them, over the last fourteen months less than a third reorder.

Most of the suppliers who have mentioned this have good products, sought-after. A few are brand names.

A common reason by the retailer for not reordering is that they want change. This is despite the products performing well. I can’t work out why a retailer would ditch a range after selling through the first order.

In a couple of instances it was because an agent for a supplier placed their products in a nearby retailer soon after the first retailer ordered and before the products had had a chance to show how they would perform. I’d be unlikely to reorder in that situation.

There are legitimate reasons too. For example, a business transitioning to a higher average price point in gifts, or a business reallocating shop space to a whole new category they anticipate will perform even better. these are legitimate decisions for retailers to make.

One supplier is so frustrated by the trend that they have amped up their direct-to-consumer activities. I know a couple of others considering this.

I think this is an interesting topic for exploration between suppliers directly impacted by the trend and retailers, preferable retainers who have stocked those suppliers.

Looking at sellout data for a range of retailers this year, it appears that if product out of stock situations did not exist, retail turnover in those shops would be up between 5% and 10% based on previous sales analysis for that time of the year.

While there is an appeal for change in retail to show the business as evolving, there is the practical aspect of the evidence, data, that indicate certain sales if you have the stock. There is good reporting to demonstrate a trend for a product, so you can know when to cut it.

Suppliers do need to understand where they city in the retail business lifecycle. For example, not so long-ago newsagents focussed on gifts priced at $20 or thereabouts. Today, most engaged newsagents focus on gifts at $100, $200 and even more. While the lower priced gifts have a place, it is not the dominate place they occupied a few years ago.

As I noted, I think these are all things we ought to discuss.

Newsagency management

Appointment retail is retail where you can only shop when the owner decides, and it is not what shoppers want

Before streaming services launched, the TV networks decided when we could watch something.

Before podcasts, radio stations decided when we could listen to something.

Before the internet, newspaper publishers decided when we could read news stories.

People love being able to watch, listen and read when they want. They love not having to consume to a time schedule set by a business.

Choice is important.

Appointment retail is retail where you can only shop when the owner decides.

If the shop does not have a website, you can only shop when the doors are open, you miss selling to people who prefer to choose when they do this.

In this video I share some thoughts about appointment retail and provide context for its relevance today.

I first shared the video around a week back. I am re-upping it today with additional context.

Appointment retail matters to newsagents since our channel is one of the slowest to adopt online. This sees many newsagents missing sales. I know because I have websites that have sold things to be delivered a few streets away from newsagents with the same products.

People want to shop when they want to shop and while your shop may feel busy, if you are not online you have no idea what you are missing.

There are other benefits of online:

  • You are more likely to know exactly what the shopper is looking for.
  • You can easily reach out to past shoppers based on what they purchased.
  • You have an alternative pricing outlet.
  • You can more easily win sales from a browser.
  • Sales are not limited to shop floor manpower.

What has happened with consuming entertainment is happening in retail.

If you say there are not enough shoppers in town, online could be helpful.

If you say this or that won’t sell here, you’re restricting your shopper reach.

If your business o=is not making what it needs for the rent or labour costs, being online can spread the load of carrying those costs.

If people around you are shopping online, which they are, being online can balance that.

Appointment retail is about you being where and when shoppers may purchase what you sell, without deciding when they can do this. It is about you being more flexible, available and ready.

My goal with this short video about appointment retail was to provide a context that gets people thinking about being online. What you do in your business that is up to you.

newsagent software

Byline Times in the UK is gaining traction, demonstrating the value of genuinely independent journalism

The trust matters and if you want to support the truth, buy a real paper.


Small business retail advice: avoid being a victim in your business

If you find yourself blaming others or external factors for situations over which you have some level of control, it may be that you have a victim mentality.

While it can be easy to blame others and be self-forgiving, it serves no value to you or your business, though.

Some examples of blaming others are worrying about competitors who you think are copying your business, complaining about employees and things they did did that did not work out, being upset about the rent you pay, anger at being short of cash.

You choose what you stock, you hire and train employees, you signed the lease and you decide what money is spent.

Blaming others for any situation over which you have had some control holds you back; it denies you the opportunity to learn and improve.

Wallowing in self-pity can be destructive; it can lead one to want the comfort of failure, the right to blame anyone but themselves for a negative situation. It can see you seek negative situations, which is an utterly destructive place to be.

I have encountered plenty of newsagents with a victim mentality. In such situations, they miss what could be achieved by spending all their time blaming others.

If blaming others for business situations is something you notice yourself doing, consider seeking professional help. While you can break the cycle yourself, a professional can help you understand why and provide ways to identify and deal with it.

If seeking professional help does not appeal, consider meditation as a way to find calm and stillness and to be less controlled by negative victimhood thoughts.

I am no psychologist or therapist. My recommendation is that you start with a professional. That said, here are things I have done that help me focus on my role and the positive.

  1. On a noticeboard, at your desk, or somewhere in the business, have photos and other reminders of your successes. Be sure to look at them regularly.
  2. Celebrate your failures, the product that bombed, the ad that achieved nothing, the business initiative that lost money. Own them and your role in them.
  3. Exert your control. If you see something impacting your business you don’t like or want, be the business owner and say no early.
  4. Trust your gut. If you sense something is wrong somewhere in the business, address it immediately rather than wait for it to become an issue.
  5. Say no. If you don’t want to do something, say no.
  6. Make more informed decisions. Research more. Learn more. Be smarter.
  7. Always look beyond your border. Victims can think of their world as one in which they have minimal control when, in reality, they have control beyond what they allow themselves to see. Find a way to jump that wall.
  8. Nurture a workplace of accountability, where it is okay to make a mistake or take a bad decision.

Blaming someone else or other factors for something over which you have some control does not help you or your business. It may feel good. It achieves nothing.

Newsagency management

Strong February card sales in the newsagency

We have  good results for February in our bigger high street newsagency in Melbourne. It did almost $13,000 in card sales, up 6%. This is good growth in what or proving to be a first quarter of low card sales growth, around 2%.

We also did $1,000 in sales from the cards we direct-imported from the US and UK that we pitch away from our traditional card department and to a younger demographic.

The growth is spread across everyday as well as lifestyle. Valentine’s Day was also good.

Cards remain a vital category for our businesses given the margin and that card shoppers are loyal.

In my experience, the card department delivers good rewards for in-store investment by the business. We work the category on social media as well as in-store with co-location promotion in the window and at the counter as well as the more traditional location.

On February comparison, be sure to look at February 1 through 28, don’t use the extra day as that may provide a rosier picture that is unhelpful for month on month analysis.

Greeting Cards