Australian Newsagency Blog

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

Like Christmas

Mark Fletcher on May 28, 2021 6:44 AM

Trading in my own shops in Victoria yesterday had a Christmas-like feel to it, because of the lockdown coming into effect from late yesterday here in Victoria.

Shoppers brought forward purchases of cards a gifts. Jigsaws, candles, crosswords and other nesting items sold well, too.

It was busy, right up to the later close.

Even though we will remain open through the lockdown, most of the other shops around us will be closed and, as happened previously in indoor shopping centres, traffic is way down.

So, yes, yesterday was a good day, a really good day, and for that I am grateful.

3 likes

→ 2 CommentsCategory: Newsagency opportunities

Magazines moved to the back of Coles

Mark Fletcher on May 28, 2021 6:20 AM

A popular and successful Coles supermarket in Melbourne has moved magazines and cards to the back of the shop. Whereas previously they were at the entrance to a busy aisle, near the entrance to the self checkout area, they are now located at the quieter end of an aisle.

I am not sure if the moves reflects a store specific decision of a Coles supermarket fleet decision. It will be interesting to see. This Coles also has no representation of magazines at any checkout lane.

Where newsagents place magazines is an on-going discussion within our channel. Flat and falling sales, low cover prices and a meagre margin mean we have to take other steps to try and reach a form of viability.

1 likes

→ 1 CommentCategory: magazines

Customers say the funniest things …

Mark Fletcher on May 27, 2021 6:18 AM

newsXpress stores were offered access to two limited mintage coins celebrating the Queen’s 95th birthday. The available allocation was taken up quickly. Then, a few days ago, the coin was withdrawn. It never left the mint, not only for newsXpress but for all retailers. We don’t know why. But, we had to communicate its unavailability to retail customers, coin collector customers.

Here is a terrific story from one newsXpress member and their interaction with a customer …

Was talking to one of our regular coin collectors today when the subject of the Queen’s coin recall came up. Innocently I said ”I wonder why”. Well, you hear it hear first folks – ”It’s because the Queen has been dead for 10 months!” AND he also informed me that Prince Philip has been dead for 5 months (that one I couldn’t dispute because he looked like death warmed up for quite some time). But it all has to do with the economy you see. I did not hear much more of what he said because all I could think of was ‘A Weekend at Bernie’s’. You’ve gotta love retail 😂

I agree, you’ve gotta love retail!

3 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: Fun

Superman pitching to newsagents back in the day

Mark Fletcher on May 26, 2021 7:55 PM

3 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: magazines

Newsagencies are good businesses to buy right now, popular, too

Mark Fletcher on May 26, 2021 6:17 AM

Newsagency businesses are selling quickly in today’s business market. They are popular in part because they had a good Covid, in part because of the relative certainty of revenue and in part because of the opportunities of change.

Newsagencies are seen as being a safe investment, because of the multiple options and opportunities for driving value from the investment.

I’ve seen businesses sell within a few days of going on the market – city and country.

This is great news for those in our channel keen to sell their businesses. It is also great news for people looking to invest in our channel.

We are in the midst of a kind of renewal in the channel. New capital, fresh energy, fresh ideas. This is all good for the channel.

What we are also seeing is more change in the channel, less cohesion as to what a newsagency is, and that’s okay.

There’s the core of papers, magazines, cards, and lotteries for most but not all. Outside the core we are seeing more engagement in more recent categories like homewares, niche gifts – not the usual low cost imported gifts but higher price point, locally made and less likely to be in mass retail.

So, it’s good news for newsagents selling their businesses and good news for people joining our channel by buying a newsagency business.

Like any business investment, you get out of it what you put in outside of the money itself, the strategies, energy, mood and embrace of change. It’s terrific seeing some of the fresh ideas coming with new business owners.

Yes, now is a good time to buy a newsagency business. There are good businesses for sale and plenty of opportunities for leveraging growth through them, and therefore a good return on your investment.

Now, before people get in a lather and say the old newsagency is dying, I agree. That purely old newsagency model that relies on legacy products is significantly challenged. But, plenty of older style newsagencies are doing well. These businesses present opportunities to evolve into new traffic and revenue models.

I have written the above because of some who comment here who have sold or closed their newsagency businesses and talk down the channel of which they are neo longer part.

7 likes

→ 1 CommentCategory: buying a newsagency · newsagency of the future · Selling your newsagency

Henderson Greetings wins Bluey card contract

Mark Fletcher on May 25, 2021 6:58 AM

It’s good to see the primary licence for the design, printing and distribution of Bluey greeting cards go to an Australian company.

The folks at Henderson have every right to be proud. This is a big endorsement for the company with the Bluey licence a prize I am sure many chased.

The range of cards and gift packaging are an excellent representation of the Bluey brand.

I am grateful to have seen the Bluey cards first-hand, under embargo a week ago. From the design to the production, these are good cards, really good cards. Excellent quality. Wonderful and engaging design. Themed envelopes. And, a counter unit perfect for impulse purchases.

I am sure those receiving the Bluey cards will want to keep them. I also expect some cards will be bought by collectors – not even to give.

With the cards being available in-store from mid next month, newsagents have an excellent opportunity for in-store engagement, including a launch not only of the cards but of kids items that could sell to Bluey card companies. That’s what we are planning in my own shops – an in-store event around the release of the cards.

This is an excellent mid year in-store promotion opportunity presented by the release by Henderson Greetings of the Bluey licence cards.

11 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: Greeting Cards

Regional / rural newspapers far from dead

Mark Fletcher on May 24, 2021 6:58 AM

The Conversion recently published a terrific report on the results of a comprehensive survey of 4,200 country newspaper readers.

Newspaper readers in rural and regional Australia are five times more likely to go directly to their local newspaper website than Google or Facebook for local information, and almost 10 times as likely to go to their local news website over a council website for news and information.

Nearly two-thirds of local newspaper readers also indicate policies affecting the future of rural and regional media would influence the way they vote at the next federal election.

These are some of the key findings of a national survey of almost 4,200 Australian country newspaper readers we recently conducted as part of a project to drive greater innovation in the rural and regional media landscape.

The report is worth reading, especially if your business is in regional / rural Australia as to reflect the value association with newspapers in these locations, value documented in the evidence of this professional and thorough research. The results are especially supportive of print:

Many respondents expressed resistance to their newspaper being made available in digital format only. They offered comments such as:

There is always room for improvement, but if this newspaper went digital, I would not be interested.

And this from another:

The day it goes digital only will be the day I stop reading it.

Our survey also found that respondents overwhelmingly (86%) view a printed copy of their newspaper as an essential service for their community.

Newsagents already know the value of local independent newspapers. They see it in their shops.

I guess what’s interesting to me is the growth in this space on the back of News Corp. closing so many of their local papers last year.

4 likes

→ 3 CommentsCategory: Newspapers

Promoting throw rugs online

Mark Fletcher on May 23, 2021 8:16 AM

Further to my post from a few days ago about success with throw rugs versus magazines, here is an example of what we are doing on social media to pitch the rugs. This is one of a range of posts. The posts work because we have customers coming into the shop and asking to see the rugs.

2 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: newsagency marketing

Focussing on self care in the newsagency

Mark Fletcher on May 22, 2021 7:26 AM

We have been pitching self care on the lease line in one of our Westfield centre businesses. It’s working a treat.

This multi-category pitch is attracting shoppers and purchases. Coming out of Mother’s Day with this has worked a treat as it appeals to a comfort people have sought through Covid and a comfort that is familiar in Winter.

You know a pitch is working when you have to refresh the products on offer regularly.

3 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: marketing tip · newsagency marketing

What is the new normal?

Mark Fletcher on May 21, 2021 6:23 AM

It seems we have been asking this since Covid really kicked off early last year.

The thing is, the question what’s the new normal (or similar words) keeps evolving.

In early 2020 it was about a world dealing with Covid. Then, as 2020 progressed, it was about Australia doing pretty well. Then it was about a vaccinated world. Now it is about a vaccine challenged world and the realisation that it will be years for the world’s population to be vaccinated.

It’s on my mind today as this week I have had a number of meetings with business people who have been asking the question. In big businesses, it is the question being asked and explored.

Thinking about the discussions with people this week from banking, national product suppliers, national retail landlords, insurance and business strategy consultants, the collective view is that big employers of office workers have reset their view of work – where it needs to be undertaken, when it needs to be undertaken and even by whom.

I know I have written about this topic before. Today it’s a bit different in that today I am reflecting on what people from major businesses have told me. Whereas six months ago most were expecting a return to what was, not all of the ones I have spoken with expect that now.

A senior person in a national retail tenancy business they are recalibrating their tenancy mix because of what they see as a long-term shift.

The insurance person said that in their case hundreds if city based employees they expected to return to the office will now permanently work from home. Less than six months ago this was not their expectation.

This is good for regional, rural and high street businesses as it keeps more people closer to those situations.

Yes, there is a huge challenge for CBDs and office tower reliant businesses. But, that’s for the. to consider.

Smart small business owners and local councils are embracing opportunities for the shift. I am seeing employees, too, embrace the shift. One of my businesses has run a couple of ads recently for new roles and the mix of people applying has changed since the roles are offered for remote engagement with more flexible hours because of this. We have a deeper and more interesting pool from which to choose and many who applied have themselves transitioned from office based work to home based, often more regional, work.

It’s this core sustained economic shift that is interesting to me and it is in this space that I think businesses, like local newsagencies, can better play.

The slow vaccine uptake in Australia coupled with the realisation that vaccinating the world’s population has big challenges and what this means for the level of international tourism we are used to and the impacts, too, on immigration all play into economic growth on which businesses big and small rely.

I know many in our channel are seeing and leveraging the shift now. My suggestion is do even more, really lean into the opportunity and be a retail leader into the opportunity … because the opportunity, I think, is bigger and more sustained than you currently think. That’s my take away from. discussions this week.

9 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: Newsagency management · newsagency of the future · Newsagency opportunities

Looking at Father’s Day 2022 cards and beyond

Mark Fletcher on May 20, 2021 6:28 AM

I am grateful for the opportunity to see seasonal cards well ahead of release. It was terrific seeing Father’s Day mid-development like I did this week.

The Father’s Day 2022 range I saw was fresh and innovative. The locally made story provides another shopper engagement reason.

What I saw for Father’s Day 2022 is on the back of similar insight opportunities for Valentine’s Day, Easter and Mother’s Day 2022. In each case it’s terrific to see seasons in development and to be able to discuss opportunities at this relatively early stage.

Small business retailers have historically been told what will happen by suppliers long after decisions are made. Thankfully, some suppliers are more engaged with indie retailers. This will benefit their sales results.

With card sales up this year, fresh designs are more important than ever, so we can all maximise the opportunities from renewed interest in the category.

FYI I have flipped and otherwise modified the image to make details less obvious to any card company competitors.

2 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: Greeting Cards

Off topic. Extraordinary video from Greenpeace UK re plastic and the environment

Mark Fletcher on May 19, 2021 7:09 PM

4 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: Social responsibility

Magazine sales decline 9.5% in Q1 2021 compared to 2019

Mark Fletcher on May 19, 2021 6:32 AM

I am close to completing the January – March 2021 versus 2019 newsagency sales benchmark study and am surprised by the extent of decline for magazines.

Magazine unit sales are down, on average, 9.5%. The surprise that only 2 of the 150+ businesses that submitted data reported an increase in magazine sales. What highlights that for me is that 78% of the respondent businesses reported an increase in overall revenue. This is the surprise – the extent of business revenue growth in businesses reporting significant decline in magazine sales.

The trajectory for magazines pre Covid continues.

Note: I am comparing 2021 with 2019 as 2020 for many businesses was an aberration because of lockdown and our channel being open while plenty of competitors were closed.

0 likes

→ 8 CommentsCategory: magazines

The throw rug sale that’s worth 60 magazine sales in the newsagency

Mark Fletcher on May 18, 2021 6:26 AM

The story of the sale of this woollen throw is one magazine publishers could benefit reading as it speaks to the common margin opportunity for gift and homewares items that so many of us are selling in our businesses now. It also speaks to stock turn and the broader business narrative opportunity for us … as opposed to the challenged narrative for print magazines.

We received the throw rug in-store Tuesday afternoon. We sold it Thursday lunch time. The price was $180.00 with a cost price of $90.00. The $90 in gross profit translates to what we would make from 60 magazines based on overage cover price.

Selling items of this value and more is easy from the high street newsagency. The key is to buy well. For the rug, the keys were product quality, colour and the cold weather in Melbourne.

The throw rug was space efficient. It didn’t have any time-consuming data management requirements. We chose it. It expanded the reach of the business. These are all factors that don’t play when it comes to magazines.

I could just as easily write about a lamp shade, an ottoman, a work of art or a beautiful hand made vase. Many newsagents are diversifying into mid to higher price point items and having success with quite short stock-turn cycles. With GP sitting at 50% and more and with many of these items helping to attract new shoppers, it’s natural we compare their performance to newspapers, imagines and other legacy agency lines.

I mention magazines in this post as our channel continues to be a vital channel for magazine publishers. However, as more newsagents do well from a more diverse and GP valuable mix of products, the more we will look across at magazines and wonder.

7 likes

→ 5 CommentsCategory: magazines · newsagency of the future · Newsagency opportunities

Emailing and then calling … ugh!

Mark Fletcher on May 17, 2021 4:43 PM

It happened again today. Someone emailed about a matter and called a couple of minutes later. They started the call saying I just emailed you. They then proceeded to cover each point in the email.

What a waste of time duplicating communication.

4 likes

→ 3 CommentsCategory: Ugh!

Advice on reducing visual noise in your newsagency

Mark Fletcher on May 17, 2021 6:47 AM

If you give your customers too many things to look at inside or outside your business, they will notice less.  Your choices show them what you want them to look at

Less is more. Have less visual noise, less visual pollution, and more will be noticed.

Show your customers what you want them to notice by giving that product, range or display fresh air (visually) around it.

Stand at the door of your business and scan around counting the signs you can read and displays you can see. How many are there? More messages, more signs = less noticing them. yes, less is more.

Here is advice for less visual noise in your business:

  1. Edit. Every few days stand at the front of the shop and review your signage and edit the mix.
  2. Posters. Do not put up magazine or newspaper posters. There is no evidence doing so increases sales.
  3. Housekeeping notices. Have all customer notices, such as your exchange policy, discount voucher policy, minimum eftpos charge etc, all in the one unobtrusive place.
  4. Call to action signs. If you have items on sale or discounted, place them all in the one location, a designated sale location in your business, with simple and professional signage.
  5. Product signs. For product signage in-store, be consistent in style and look. Smaller signs next to products will work better than big signs from the ceiling – how often do your shoppers walk in looking up anyway?
  6. Colour block. Colour blocked product is more appealing to the eye, it looks less messy, less noisy.
  7. The counter. Again, edit for clarity, edit for focus on the messages that really matter.

Reducing visual noise will improve the experience for your shoppers and for those who work in the business. It will focus everyone on what you decide matters the most right now.

This is part of an extensive package of business management advice newsXpress provides its members.

5 likes

→ 1 CommentCategory: Management tip · Newsagency management

Tech and newspaper home delivery – an interesting discussion

Mark Fletcher on May 15, 2021 7:21 AM

If you are in the newspaper home delivery business, you may find this discussion interesting.

4 likes

→ 1 CommentCategory: newspaper home delivery

Check out newspaper home delivery in Japan

Mark Fletcher on May 15, 2021 7:13 AM

5 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: newspaper home delivery

Dog delivers newspapers in Florida

Mark Fletcher on May 15, 2021 7:02 AM

1 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: newspaper home delivery

The simple product sticker move that works

Mark Fletcher on May 14, 2021 6:40 AM

Major retailers often use was / now price labels to show shoppers a product discount. This type of product discount labelling is rarer in small business retail. But, it shouldn’t be. It works.

I am grateful to have been able to see how was / now price labels work in retail compared to the more traditional for small business larger poster with or above discounted products.

A trial was done is a small business retail situation in a controlled way with the only changes as noted – introducing the was / price stickers and removing all other discount related messages. The products were maintained in the same location in-store.

Switching to was / now labels and removing the posters increased up-take 500%. The base was okay. The growth from the was / now price label move will see the end of line items quit sooner,. freeing cash and space for the business and better addressing the opportunity cost issue.

This type of label can be produced through your POS software. it’s easy, low cost and likely to work. If you have items you are quitting, I recommend it.

8 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: Management tip · Newsagency management

The AFL record remains the title that most consistently promotes newsagents on Twitter

Mark Fletcher on May 13, 2021 10:35 AM

0 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: magazines

Beware the end of shift balance fail cover-up

Mark Fletcher on May 13, 2021 6:36 AM

I heard about a retail business where the store manager was sick of dealing with the register not balancing and so they introduced a cash tin under the counter into which they added cash when they were over and from which they took cash when they were under.

The owner was furious when they discovered this cover-up. And, rightly so.

Rather than get to the root cause of an over or under at end of shift, the manager was lazy and hid the problem. No wonder the business has not been performing well.

Discipline is key in retail as in the use of any retail management software. Hiding problems is not good for business. A manager doing this secretly is not serving the business or its owners well.

My advice on balancing the register to to do so in a way that is accurate and in service of the business.

I have seen systems that show up front what the expected cash is. This is a mistake as people can pocket any cash that is over.

There are many reasons a register can balance over or under. The only way to address any systemic causes of this is to see the problem, track back to the cause each time and improve the management of the business.

Having a tin of cash under the counter to enable you to always balance is a fool’s game. It looks and feels like fraud. It’s as bad as retailers who do a no sale on the register to take out cash for personal spending. That behaviour in front of employees shows them what’s acceptable.

7 likes

→ 12 CommentsCategory: Newsagency management

The federal budget misses a small business led job creation opportunity

Mark Fletcher on May 12, 2021 7:54 AM

The federal budget last night promised the spending of truckloads of cash on projects designed to create jobs. Almost all the forecast spending would be big business related.

While big projects do help the economy and deliver much-needed new or enhanced infrastructure, there are other ways the federal government could spend more to more immediately boost jobs, and boost the economy.

It’s in small businesses, like retail, local service businesses, local software companies and other local businesses where job creation is easy and fast.

The challenge for the government is that a small business focussed job creation investment would be based on many channel specific investments. They may see that as too hard. They could see it as spreading the risk and thereby spreading the reward.

Thousands of targeted investments could deliver more sustainable economic and jobs benefits than one big billion big project spend.

But … I am not against the big projects. What I propose is in addition to those big projects.

Let me unpack this from the small business software company perspective since that a space I know well. My POS software business competes with a bunch of overseas businesses. While we are doing well, we’d be grateful to do even better.

A dollar spent with us provides more value for Australia than a dollar spent with an overseas competition, much more.

The government would say we benefit from the extension of the instant asset write off. They are right, we do. But, so do all software companies.

Personally, I’d prefer to see the government offer a financial incentive to retailers buying or renting Australian made and Australian supported software. This would see the government investment spent in Australia, more tax revenue for Australia and more job creation.

Let me break that down. In a company like ours, we respond quickly to demand and can hire for entry level help desk roles quickly, offering people new to software and tech entry-level roles. We could be creating jobs in months, and not years like the big projects funded in the budget. And, the jobs we create come with training that positions the new hires for long-term roles in tech.

We can offer a pathway for people with retail experience to develop good tech skills. We can also offer a pathway for older folks to develop a new career in tech. We can offer people with families and challenging schedules flexibility that is family-friendly. We are not alone in being able to do these things. Indeed, there are plenty of service related businesses that can do this.

Another benefit of supporting local specialty business software companies like ours is that they nurture better business efficiency, benefiting the businesses in which the software is used. This benefits the economy. And, since they are small businesses, they will be nimble in leveraging the improved efficiency within their community.

In both of these examples, the software company and local specialty retail, tax dollars stay in Australia, employment growth is more certain and faster, local communities benefit and the economy is, overall, stronger sooner.

My example here is one of hundreds or thousands the federal government could employ to rapidly boost employment. They should look at businesses that can respond quickly to demand. They would be local businesses serving local communities.

Covid has proven the importance of local. Many who started working from home through Covid will continue, permanently. This presents opportunities for local infrastructure and this is where local small businesses can play a role – businesses that will make a more valuable tax contribution and businesses that can hire for demand more rapidly.

The federal budget is a missed opportunity in the job creation front. It reads like it’s from people who have little understanding how small business works – that we can respond quickly.

I get that politicians will say dealing with a small number of big businesses is easier than wrangling thousands of small businesses. To that I would say try it.

Small businesses in Australia are a resource that few politicians have ever successfully tapped. I am in federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s electorate. I have written to him about these things. He’s not responded. However, he continues to email me about all the good things he has announced.

I am confident that many investments in buy Australian initiatives with and for a variety of small business channels could deliver early job creation wins, a boost in tax revenue and welcome economic support for regional and rural Australian communities.

17 likes

→ 2 CommentsCategory: Social responsibility

Make sure you are fully across the changes relating to casual employment

Mark Fletcher on May 11, 2021 6:52 AM

Changes to casual employment in Australia are now in effect. Click here to see the details as pblished by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Employers have to give every new casual employee a Casual Employment Information Statement (the CEIS) before, or as soon as possible after, they start their new job.

Small business employers need to give their existing casual employees a copy of the CEIS as soon as possible after 27 March 2021. Other employers have to give their existing casual employees a copy of the CEIS as soon as possible after 27 September 2021.

Also, the Fair Work Commission has issued a decision that impacts the award under which employees in newsagencies are paid. This from the Fair Work Ombudsman website:

Modern Award Review – Junior rates under the Retail Award

The Fair Work Commission has issued a decision that changes the way juniors are paid under the Retail Award. From the first full pay period on or after 1 May 2021, junior rates will only apply for classification levels 1, 2 and 3.

Use our Pay guides or Pay Calculator to find the new rates and allowances.

A junior is an employee under 21 years of age. Use our Pay Calculator to calculate junior pay rates.

Juniors get paid a percentage of the relevant adult pay rate unless the award, enterprise agreement or other registered agreement doesn’t have junior rates.

The percentages that apply are usually based on the employee’s age and increase on their next birthday.

These are important changes newsagents need to be across.

2 likes

→ No CommentsCategory: Newsagency management

Washington Post pitch makes Nine and News look expensive …

Mark Fletcher on May 11, 2021 6:41 AM

Okay, this is not local news, but Washington Post digital access for A$1 a week is cheap.

0 likes

→ 1 CommentCategory: Media disruption