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

Promoting Star Wars magazines and Itty Bittys

starwPromoting the Star Wars Itty Bittys from Hallmark with the Star Wars part series is a no brainer move to us even though on first glance you could say they appeal to different shoppers. Our experience is they appeal to the same shopper. A guy who collects all things Star Wars will happily add the Hallmark Itty Bitty plush to his collection.


Promoting the Madonna cover

madonnamagsRolling Stone and MOJO next to each other will perform much better than away thanks to the Madonna cover story on each. Investing time to get placement right drives better sales.  We can encourage shoppers to purchase more than they intended.


Promoting the Win a Car competition

winacarkWe are promoting the new Win a Car competition from Pacific Magazines in three locations at the moment including on the lease line facing into the mall and this placement in our women’s magazine aisle. This popular competition drives sales and entries.

Since it is not running in supermarkets I encourage newsagents to get behind the new Win a Car competition from Pacific Magazines.


A terrific TV program for newsagents serious about business

Be Your Own Boss on SBS2 is an excellent program for anyone in business to watch. I rate it as better than Shark Tank and other reality shows where investors seek funds. It is more practical and offering more valuable business insights to the viewer.

This show is particularly relevant to newsagents as they reinvent their businesses.

Produced by the BBC, this is a TV program I highly recommend. It’s available on SBS on demand.

Newsagency management

Will the Netflix of magazines challenge print

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 5.54.20 amMagzter is a new digital magazine newsstand. For A$9.99 a month you have unlimited access to digital editions of more than 2,500 magazine titles, their back issues, notifications of new content and access on all devices.

You can sign up for a year for A$99.99 and it only costs A$8.33 a month. There is a lite version costing A$4.99 a month for access to five issues.

It really does sound like the Netflix of magazines. Check out this from a recent article in the US PCMag:

For $9.99 per month, mobile, tablet, and Web users get unlimited access to a library of 2,500 digital periodicals. Gold Lite also offers unlimited access to any five available titles for $4.99 per month.

The this from Girish Ramdas, Magzter CEO:

“The ‘all-you-can-eat’ model is an increasingly popular format for all media, from movies to music, and magazine publishers can’t ignore the demand,” said company president Vijay Radhakrishnan. “With our user base, technology and content, we expect even more to join our newsstand in the coming weeks.”

Bloomberg wrote about Magzter in January offering a more tempered view.

Magazine publishers have said that digital editions will not cannibalise print. I tended to agree with them. Today, I am not so sure, especially in the special interest area. Sites like Magzter annoy me access to a vast library for A$9.99 a month. Those with a love of special interest topics but who do not want or need stacks of magazines at home will be drawn to the Magzter type of service.

I have spent the $9.99 to try Magzter out for a month. My initial reaction is wow! I am stunned at the number of titles covering topics I am interested in which I had not heard of. For example, Retailer – an indian magazine about retail and consumers. It offers a fascinating insight into retail from which I can learn.

There is a mix of Australian publishers with product on Magzter but some equally interesting omissions. It is a relatively new service – it is too early to assess long term potential impact for our Australian titles.

If I was a magazine publishers I’d want to be in this space. My justification is that it would be incremental to more print subscription and over the counter single copy sales. I’d also want to be in this space in case it becomes the new normal. That is a possibility. You only have to look at how we consume filmed entertainment now.

Where are newsagents in this world? The smart ones have diversified, attracting shopper traffic through new product categories, enhanced services and locally engaged marketing. This is what I am doing.

magazine distribution

Special interest magazine business strong

Fairfax published a profile recently on niche magazines titles and MagNation, a speciality magazine retail business which is 10 years. While it is a good story and supportive of print magazines, the article fails to acknowledge that many newsagents actively support niche titles.

One reason our channel does not support more is because of the barriers within magazine distributor processes to us taking on nice titles in an equitable way.

Frankie was once niche and it did well for us. Once they moved into supermarkets, it lost some interest for newsagents.

We want a point of difference in the magazines well sell and niche titles can help us with this. I am all for nice magazine publishers reaching out to newsagents direct.

magazine distribution

Proof the right gift with purchase drives magazine traffic

IMG_5690We had a customer yesterday come in specifically to purchase Dolly because of the gift with purchase. Unfortunately, we did not have stock of the specific gift they wanted but they did browse and make another purchase. That they came in specifically because of the gift is good news to celebrate. This is the second month in a row of a good gift with Dolly.


Sunday newsagency management tip: be a specialty retailer

workshopNewsagency businesses are your quintessential independent specialty retailer … but how much of a specialty retailer are you? What do you offer in your business that is specialty or unique?

What do you offer to differentiate between your business and other retail businesses offering items in the same categories on which you rely to drive traffic?

Specialty retailers are sought out for their specialisation. For a newsagency business this could be magazine range, gift categories, in-store services, collectible lines or something else.

What is your specialisation? If you have one (or some) what are you doing to leverage your specialisation? If you don’t have a specialisation, you have to wonder what makes your business different, what will drive new traffic and loyalty?

The photo shows how one retailer I visited recently leverages specialisation – promoting a crafters night. In addition to offering a service, this promotion promotes the business as being a specialist in the crafter space.

With the changes we are seeing in and around the newsagency  channel today, specialisation is important. To me, specialisation is about offering products and or services which are unique to the business in the area.

If your business is convenience focussed the only point of difference will be convenience. That’s a highly competitive space requiring a different focus and skill set to specialty retail.

Management tip

Sunday newsagency marketing tip: attract new shoppers to your retail newsagency

What are you doing to attract new shoppers to your newsagency?

Yes, I am talking to you – if you are a newsagent.

What are you doing today, this week, this month, this quarter to drive traffic to your store?

Newsagents used to rely on suppliers to drive traffic to their businesses. No more. With our major suppliers supplying other retail channels, few actively promote a single channel over another. So, it falls on us to promote our businesses.

While banner groups will market stores under their banner, this marketing is more about brand awareness. The reality for any newsagency business is that marketing to attract new traffic to your shop falls to you – as it should.

So, what are you doing to market your business, to drive new traffic?

It is vital you have an answer to that question and that the answer is good and successful for your business. Too often retailers will say they don’t know what to do, that they have no experience. I say you don;lt need much experience to get started marketing your business. It’s like learning to walk: take a step, fall, get up, take a step.

Driving traffic is about differentiation in range, local community connection, out of store advertising and other smart marketing engagement.


WH Smith increases profits on flat sales

UK newsagent group WH Smith has reported increased profits off of flat sales reports the Daily Mail. City AM has a similar report. Do your own search and you’ll see most reporters writing the same ‘assessment’. The group does not appear to be as adventurous in its UK newsagency businesses and some newsagents in Australia are in theirs.

WH Smith in Australia is really five businesses in one group and I am told they plan to keep the five businesses under their current names. However, I am also told they expect to significantly expand rooftops to provide outlets for their wholesale product lines.

What will be most interesting to watch in Australia is how card company John sands manages their apparent strong relationship with WH Smith while maintaining their strong relationship with the nextra group.


Now that’s a magazine cover

magcoverWho doesn’t hate the IRS (the ATO in Australia) or have had frustration with them? This cover will have excellent cut through for those of that mind. A guy next to me pointed it out: finally, a magazine cover that makes sense, he said. He bought the magazine for the first time ever.


Digital offer with print issue of People magazine

magsdigiofferThere is a digital offer on the shelf in retail with the latest issue of People Style Watch. You get access to a digital issue if you purchase the print issue. This marketing drives sampling of the digital experience. It is a key component of the education strategy of a number of magazine publishers.


Small format magazine floor display unit

magfloorstandI like the single purpose floor display unit supplied to retailers for holding and promoting the 2015 swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated magazine. This stand has lower profile than the floor stands we see in Australia. Italy has a terrific shelf at the bottom for holding bulk stock – this stabilises the stand and provides excellent storage space … very clever.


I miss a national weekly magazine

weeklymagsWhile I understand our market size does not support it, I do miss the weekly news magazine in Australia. While The Saturday Paper plays in this space and is a favourite publication of mine, I likes the broader range of articles in The Bulletin. I have found myself enjoying the selection of weekly titles available in the US.


Loading the card pockets

fatcardsIn a discount variety store yesterday I was surprised at the number of cards shoved into a pocket. There were 11 of one design and 8 of another design – in the one pocket. Australian newsagents would be angry if this happened. In this shop most pockets were heavily loaded. It could be part of the supply model to discount variety.

Greeting Cards

The $20 pack of lead pencils

20pencileNew York based fashion designer Kate Spare has released this pack of pencils which I have seen in several different shops in the US. $2.00 a pencil is a new benchmark by Australian standards.

Priced at $20 it shows how adding fashion to an everyday item can change the shopper and the price you can achieve.


A week of newsagency management benchmarks: #5 basket size/depth

Each day this week I am sharing a newsagency management benchmark which I hope you find useful. The benchmarks are not rigid, use them as a guide. I have developed these and other benchmarks over years of working with a variety of newsagency businesses in many different situations.

Management benchmark #5: basket size/depth

By basket I mean the items purchased in a single transaction.  By size I mean total purchase value.  By depth I mean the number of items in a basket.

These benchmark measures will vary by type of newsagency. For example, in a shopping mall business basket size will be deeper. In a newsagency selling lotteries and including this in their basket calculations, the depth will be higher. The key is to measure yours, which your newsagency software should do without effort for you and to make it a goal to improve on this regularly.

The two measures I include here are overall averages for the channel as we are collectively performing at the moment. For ease of comparison, the numbers do not include lottery product sales.

  • Basket size: $9.94
  • Basket depth: 1.63 items

You can increase basket size and depth by offering impulse purchase opportunities at high traffic locations and not just at the counter, through out of store offers to drive traffic, with over the counter offers and through some loyalty programs – to list just some of the options.

The reality is, with the changes impacting retail generally and our channel in particular, our benchmark aspirations for the two measures noted above need to be 20% ahead of these numbers. Achieve this and you are in a better position to weather the changes playing around us.

I hope this series helps newsagents look at their businesses differently and to ask questions about their performance in the context of best practice in our channel. Newsagencies with the brightest future are those where data is respected and benchmarks are set to be achieved and passed.

Management tip

Engaging with the Brony movement

bronyIn October 2013 I wrote about the Brony movement and how it was an opportunity in Australia. A report in The Age at the time, as I wrote, was the first I had heard of it. Since them I have kept an eye out and noticed more being written about guys who buy My Little Pony products for themselves as well as with their own kids. Interest has grown overseas as well as in Australia.

A couple of days ago, in a store selling plush here in the US, I noticed a poster promoting the Midwest Brony Fest – a festival for Bronies – male collectors of My Little Pony. That there is a festival speaks to the interest among these niche collectors.

Newsagency management

Terrific Scotch tape product

3mI love this Scotch tape home moving pack available in the US in stationery outlets. In the pack is six rolls of packing tape labelled for different rooms in the home – making identification nice and easy. I can’t recall seeing anything like this in Australia.