Australian Newsagency Blog

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

Australian Geographic promoting newsagents

Mark Fletcher on January 3, 2020 4:59 PM

The latest Australian Geographic magazine is out and newsagents are being pitched as the go to retailers for the title on social media. Right now is a good time to leverage this coverage for our channel.

In store, this is a good title to pitch with greeting cards that feature animals as well as plush animals – to tell a more complete visual story. You don’t need much space to take this initiative.

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13 POS software related 2020 New Year resolutions

Mark Fletcher on January 3, 2020 6:50 AM

I shared this with Tower Systems customers a few days ago. Some here may find the list useful.

THIRTEEN 2020 POS SOFTWARE RELATED SMALL BUSINESS RETAIL NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS.

  1. Maintain better quality business data. because data matters, good data helps you make more money.
  2. Order based on actual sales data rather than gut feel. Stop buying stock that will not sell.
  3. Spend more time away from the shop by managing remotely. This is easy with tech.
  4. Eliminate manual processes. Do it.
  5. Take action on theft. The tools are at your fingertips.
  6. Declutter the shop based on the business data.
  7. Delegate more, use the software to help.
  8. Set KPI goals, measure, track and engage.
  9. Learn something new from the software every week.
  10. Establish new rules designed to protect data integrity.
  11. Deal more with suppliers that make doing business easier and less with suppliers that don’t.
  12. Engage in more free training from Tower Systems.
  13. Ask Tower to tell me what they see about my business in my business data.
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The devastating bushfires

Mark Fletcher on January 2, 2020 6:35 AM

The devastation wreaked on families, property, businesses and infrastructure across Australia, especially regional Australia, over the last week, and even before, has been extraordinary.

Watching and listening to the excellent comprehensive coverage on ABC TV and Radio I heard towns and smaller communities mentioned where I knew of businesses.

Through my POS software company, I have reached out to all customers with an offer of help. I have put the same offer to the newsXpress community. From help with an insurance claim, help restoring a backup to fast-tracking replacing hardware to establishing urgent alternative comms to be connected when the phone lines are down. Our people will help as much as possible.

I’ll also use connections with suppliers to help with inventory issues reported where appropriate.

None of this, of course, helps with the deep personal pain of the devastation. It is something though.

Getting help starts with a call or email. I have let our team know to prioritise fire related calls for help.

CLIMATE CHANGE.
While bushfire season is an annual ‘event’ in our country, what we are seeing, and experiencing, is recent weeks is different.

I accept the science, that climate change is real, human caused and that the earth is facing an urgent existential crisis.

I am tired of those who say now, during the bushfires, is not the time to discuss and confront this. They are, in my mind, ignorant fools. The politicians in this camp are worse, they are criminal in their neglect, especially since 2013.

I am tired of the politicians passing legislation for their mates and ignoring the needs of everyday Australians.

I am tired of those who say Australia is too small to make a difference. Such statements are ignorant and selfish.

We urgent action to reduce carbon emissions.

The bushfires will impact an already slowing economy. The best response is stimulus. The best stimulus in my view is cash in the hands of those who will spend it. In economic terms, this should be an urgent focus of the government. My November 11 post lists valuable and economically stimulating investments the government should consider.

If you are going to comment here denying climate change, don’t bother as you are wrong.

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2019 vs. 2018 newsagency sales benchmark study

Mark Fletcher on January 1, 2020 9:45 AM

I have emailed newsagents this morning inviting participation in a whole of year sales benchmark study, comparing 2019 to 2018.

I hope to have this completed mid January.

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Happy New Year

Mark Fletcher on December 31, 2019 8:36 AM

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I love this story of a Blue Mountains local who supported their local newsagent amid bushfire challenges

Mark Fletcher on December 30, 2019 4:28 AM

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Easy sales at the newsagency counter

Mark Fletcher on December 29, 2019 10:25 AM

With candy not viable at the counter in many newsagency situations, alternating product lines are important to leverage value from this important location in-store. Here are some products are working a treat in my experience: reusable shopping bags, small format blind boxes, small inspirational books, small (sub $10) plush, greeting cards, pop culture products.

The keys are regular change to the range and pitching product people would not expect you to offer.

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Massive Boxing Day

Mark Fletcher on December 28, 2019 7:02 AM

I expected Boxing Day revenue to be down this year on 2018 given the considerable growth in Black Friday / Cyber Monday sales this year over last. It was not to be, Boxing Day 2019 was terrific as was yesterday. This Aussie retail tradition is running strong.

Boxing Day sales are an excellent opportunity for a clear out ahead of a reset. They are also an opportunity some suppliers leverage well, to help retailers maintain much needed margin.

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Advice: don’t discount calendars

Mark Fletcher on December 27, 2019 7:01 AM

While Calendar Club and some others have been discounting calendars for weeks, we are at full price and will remain so because we will sell out at full price.

We stopped playing the calendar discoing game years ago and have never looked back. Discounting primarily educated shoppers when to purchase. Once we stopped people soon learnt to buy what they love.

The decision to not discount also adjusted our buying for the better. We are focussed ion brands and categories that people want as well as titles that fit well with other successful product categories in-store.

While we still play at the lower price point end, it is the premium special interest calendars that make up the bulk of our revenue.

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Starbucks ditches print newspapers

Mark Fletcher on December 26, 2019 7:08 AM

The massive Starbucks coffee chain has ditched newspapers from its stores and, instead, offers free access to digital news platforms, as the in-store sign indicates.

This move makes sense in terms of space use, waste and the digital engagement with customers.

For newspapers more broadly, it is another step in the retreat from print. All that is up for speculation now is timing in my view.

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Merry Christmas…

Mark Fletcher on December 24, 2019 2:03 PM

I put together this video for newsXpress members a few weeks ago using resources from a couple of commercial services I subscribe to. I agree it here as I wish all who stop by a happy and enjoyable Christmas time. Play with sound on.

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Typo Christmas cards under scrutiny

Mark Fletcher on December 24, 2019 1:56 PM

Cotton On, the owners of Typo, are looking into greeting card sourcing following reports about the use of prison labour. This, from the ABC News report:

A Chinese printing company accused of using prison labour to make Christmas cards sold at Tesco supermarkets in the United Kingdom is also a supplier to Australia’s Cotton On Group a relationship the group is now investigating.

The forced labour allegations emerged after a six-year-old girl in London discovered an apparent plea for help written inside a Christmas card, which was made by the company Zhejiang Yunguang Printing and sold at the supermarket chain Tesco.

“We are foreign prisoners in Shanghai Qingpu Prison China. Forced to work against our will. Please help us and notify human rights organisation,” the note in the Christmas card said.

However, Zhejiang Yunguang Printing also manufactures products for the Cotton On Group, which owns a variety of retail brands across Australia, including Cotton On, Typo and Supre.

The Chinese company was named in Cotton On’s most recent official supplier list, and Zhejiang Yunguang Printing also claimed to make products for the Australian brand in a corporate video on its website.

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News Corp and tax

Mark Fletcher on December 23, 2019 9:40 AM

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp in Australia: sales over five years = $13.9 billion, tax over five years = zero. Source: this month’s ATO Transparency data for News Australia Holdings Pty Ltd.

A Tweet from the skilled business journalist Michael West.

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Captions matter for cards, especially at Christmas

Mark Fletcher on December 23, 2019 7:25 AM

Obligation card shoppers like captions on cards they purchase to be targeted for the recipient. While more creative card shoppers, those more likely to buy blank cards and fully express themselves are less concerned about captions, the obligation card shoppers want it simple and clear, they want the caption they need.

With some Christmas ranges being reduced, obligation card shoppers have been less satisfied. I think this is a reason we see more newsagents ranging Christmas and other seasons from multiple cards companies.

The obligation card shopper is important in that a good seasonal experience that is satisfying for them and their recipient could be useful in getting them back in through the year.

We need more caption depth and less loading of the most popular captions in 2020.

Caption depth is a focus of some re-energised competitors outside the newsagency channel and that is a challenge we, and our card suppliers, need to step up to if we are to hold or grow our position in overall unit sales.

The card category is critical to our businesses for the net traffic delivered and the margin achieved.

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Another free unbranded Christmas video you can use

Mark Fletcher on December 22, 2019 7:11 AM

Click here to access this unbranded video for local download.

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A free unbranded shop local Christmas video you can use

Mark Fletcher on December 21, 2019 6:13 AM

Click here to download this unbranded video.

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Woolworths and News Corp want people buying newspapers at Woolworths on the weekend

Mark Fletcher on December 20, 2019 2:45 PM

This coupon offers weekend newspapers at a discounted price at Woolworths outlets. The offer is available until March 31, 2020.

I doubt that Woolworths would be funding this promotional offer.

It makes other outlets look expensive. Either the newspaper is worth the cover price printed on it or not. Offering variable pricing based on where it is purchased is unfair.

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Sunday penalty rates in newsagencies

Mark Fletcher on December 20, 2019 7:08 AM

Newsagency businesses are covered by the General Retail Award. In the Award there is this coverage relating to Sunday penalty rates.

I mention this today as two employees of a newsagency (with which I have no connection) contacted me this week about their pay for Sundays. My answer to them was there same as I give every current or former newsagency asking abut pay – contact Fair Work and go through their process to determine if you have been paid correctly.

In their situation they were being paid cash in hand at a rate that was higher than what they would have got had it been taxed but at a lower cost to the business had it been paid at the required gross rate and on the books. Also, being cash in hand there was no super contribution.

With employee entitlements being in the news so much recently – 7-Eleven, Woolworths, the ABC and others – the last thing we need is the actions of some reflecting on the channel.

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ACCC publishes statement of issues with Bauer acquisition of Pacific Magazines

Mark Fletcher on December 19, 2019 9:57 AM

The ACCC today has published Statement of Issues with the proposed Bauer take over of Pacific Magazines. The statement includes:

The ACCC’s preliminary view is that the proposed acquisition is likely to substantially lessen competition by reducing the number of major print magazine publishers in key magazine categories from two to one. The focus of the ACCC’s concerns is in relation to the loss of competition in the supply of content to readers/consumers between Woman’s Day (owned by Bauer) and New Idea(owned by Pacific Magazines) and the loss of competition between Take 5(owned by Bauer) and That’s Life! (owned by Pacific Magazines).

Bauer has released a statement:

ACCC HAS PRELIMINARY CONCERNS WITH BAUER MEDIA GROUP’S ACQUISITION OF MAGAZINE PORTFOLIO FROM SEVEN WEST MEDIA

Sydney, 19 December, 2019: Bauer Media Group is disappointed that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has today indicated that it has preliminary concerns with the proposed acquisition of Seven West Media’s Pacific Magazines portfolio.

Adrian Goss, Bauer Media General Counsel says: “In view of the ACCC’s own findings in its recent Digital Platforms Inquiry, we are surprised that it has not cleared the acquisition at this stage. While we are confident of receiving clearance in the New Year, the ongoing uncertainty is enormously challenging for Pacific Magazines’ staff and the business more generally. Bauer Media has always seen the acquisition as a positive step towards ensuring the sustainability of print magazine publishing in Australia.”

Bauer Media will continue to cooperate with the ACCC in addressing the matters raised in its statement of issues and expects the acquisition to be cleared in early 2020.

 

-ENDS-

While I agree it will lessen competition, so to would the closure of Pacific.

Magazine publishing has changed dramatically in recent years, with more changes coming. Blocking the takeover, if it did come to that, would serve little purpose in my view.

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The desk calendar opportunity for newsagencies

Mark Fletcher on December 19, 2019 6:56 AM

Desk calendar refills are one of a dwindling number of counter impulse lines in the stationery category that commercially work in the newsagency channel.

In my own shop, we have had them out in a small space situation at the counter since they became available and have been topping up regularly.

A common comment is I better get this while I can. Customers often tell us they see them in less shops now.

In addition to the counter pitch, we have pitched the refills one social media.

While this is a small win, it is a win and any win is worth taking while we can.

Overall, desk calendar refill sales have been declining for several years, like diary sales and, to a lesser extent, calendars. With digital calendar access on our watches, phones, tablets and computers, the need for the print versions is less. From what I see, sales are not at a point to exit the category yet. However, to warrants watching.

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I love this Tweet today from Lomas News in the UK

Mark Fletcher on December 18, 2019 8:08 AM

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Westfield misses with fake snow theme for Christmas

Mark Fletcher on December 17, 2019 8:11 PM

I was at Westfield Southland in Melbourne today and saw their centerstage Christmas feature event – a snow village, complete with fake dry snow falling at regular intervals. I heard one kid say this is Australia mum, we don’t have snow at Christmas while most kids were standing under the falling ‘snow’.

The snow theme interests me as one of the push ks I hear from shoppers and newsagents is relates to snow themed cards and gifts at Christmas. People usually say it’s not appropriate for Australia. The marketing ‘experts’ at Westfield disagree based on how they spent the considerable marketing dollars provided by their tenants.

For me, the snow theme is a fail. However, the queue of families wanting to experience it and have their Santa photo moment was long.

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Website advice for newsagents and indie retailers

Mark Fletcher on December 17, 2019 6:05 AM

Here is a video I created a few weeks ago for retailers using POS software from my Tower Systems company. In the video is advice that could be useful to newsagents considering websites for their business. I see many retailers app0roach their online presence with a plan to place all in-store inventory online and to do this under the banner of the physical shop. I think both these moves are a mistake, and I explain why in the video.

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Attracting new shoppers to the newsagency

Mark Fletcher on December 16, 2019 7:16 PM

Usual product categories attract usual shoppers. If we want new traffic we need to do this with products that reach beyond what is traditional for us.

Here is a video I made Saturday to promote Pushed, a very successful new traffic products for us.

I shot the video using my iPhone. I used iMovie to clean up the sound and freshen the colour. Then, I used a web app to lay in the text and underlay music.

The whole process took fifteen minutes. I have a video that we will use four or five times. Already,k it’s resulted in some welcome revenue.

This post is not about the content but, rather, about the process of creating the content. More newsagents should do this as contents you have created will be more meaningful and more connected to your business. This makes it more valuable to you.

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An early look at Christmas trading in newsagencies

Mark Fletcher on December 16, 2019 6:11 AM

I have looked at sales data for ten newsagencies for the last four weeks, comparing 2019 performance to 2018. The businesses are: 3 x capital city shopping mall, 3 x high street suburban, 2 x regional (pop. 25K+) and 2 x rural (pop. 2,000 – 4,000). None of them are mine.

The businesses are not all in one newsagency marketing group. I did seek out businesses that traded in all of the reported product categories.

While this is not a statistically sound sample size to project results for the channel, the numbers are interesting. Here is a summary of the overall stats.

  • Cards (overall): down 3%.
  • Cards (Christmas): down 2.5%.
  • Christmas specific gifts / homewares: up 6%.
  • Gifts: up 6%.
  • Toys/games: up 10%.
  • Jigsaws: up 5%.
  • Homewares: up 2%.
  • Newspapers: down 14%.
  • Magazines: down 11%.
  • Stationery: down 9%.

Looking at the businesses in the data pool of 10 that are performing better, they share several things in common:

  • The front of their shops, as much as permitted for those with lotteries, do not look traditional.
  • They are active on social media with 500+ followers, daily posts, engaging and entertaining posts.
  • They offer diverse product and overall non-traditional range.
  • They encourage shoppers to try what they sell.
  • The encourage staff to have fun.
  • They are community connected.
  • They don’t see themselves as newsagencies.

Now, what does all this mean? Well, that’s up to you and how you see your business. Digging into the data deeper, for the majority of the 10, Christmas is under way and is, overall, slightly better than last year. I think they are seeing Christmas under way because of how they are engaging with the season in-store and out in social media and elsewhere.

We really do make our own success, through our buying, visual merchandising and out of store messaging.

I appreciate that most news outlets are reporting on declining retail sales. National data represent that. Below the national data is the battle between rooftops, retailers winning retail revenue from competitors. While there is plenty to not like about being in a shopping mall, it is in a shopping mall situation that you can more easily engage in competition with a nearby rooftop.

There are retailers doing well and, yes, there are retailers not doing well. I think that we have more control over where we land than we think. The more we actively manage for success the more likely we are to achieve it.

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