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

Strong diary sales in the newsagency already

2022 is set to be a busy year if diary sales are anything to go off. We have had diaries out for a few weeks and sales are ahead of 2020 and the all important 2019 (given that last year was odd). Like, way ahead.

Like many newsagents, we have a good range, which we are pitching mid way into the store. We have done a bit on social media but not much. I mention this to note that diary sales are primarily to people seeking them out.

Even though our general stationery sales are way down, because we have ranged that department to be that way, diaries are a focus because they connect with other categories and because they make good gifts. We pitch them this way, too … as gifts and connected with other categories such as journals, notebooks and similar.

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Diaries

Should retailers take a stand on vaxxed or unvaxxed in their shop?

There was noise on social media this week when some retailers said they would welcome anyone to their business, vaxxed or unvaxxed.

Vaccination is a vexed (sorry) issue. You’re damned if you speak up and damned if you do not.

I can understand retailers say they welcome anyone as it presents as inclusive. I can also understand retailers saying they prefer shoppers to be vaccinated, especially if they have family and loved-ones who for some reason cannot currently be vaccinated.

While I am not a fan of fence-sitting, I think with this issue we are better off saying nothing because saying something will attract fringe-dwellers and these folks can be demanding, nasty and distracting. I know a retailer who said anyone is welcome and then found tribes of fringe dwellers on their social media doorstep.

By all means have a view for yourself and those who work in the business as it is your workplace and you have obligations. However, I don’t see how that can extend to customers when the government itself does not have a view.

For sure I want everyone who can to be vaccinated, and urgently. If I was in government with the authority, I’d try and find a way to force that, for the health and safety of the community. I’d tie it to some funding or benefit, as happens already in child care. But, I am not in government and owning a shop does not give me the right to dictate what my customers believe, no matter how much I see my shop as my little kingdom.

So, for me, I’ll have my wish and hope that everyone who can gets vaccinated while, at the same time, serving anyone who comes into the shop. And, while doing this, the shop will remain clean, happy and as Covid safe as possible with masks, hand sanitiser, free face masks and the other steps in place that have kept us safe and trading so far.

Covid has a long long way to go I think. This vaxxed and unvaxxed can shop here pitch is another pot-hole on the road that, when we look back on it, will be a small distraction.

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Ethics

Berejiklian leadership failure by cancelling Covid press conferences

For weeks now the premier of NSW, Gladys Berejiklian has been warning that the Covid situation is expected to peak in early October, that this is when the hospital system will be under the most stress.

This morning, the Premier announced that she and her political colleagues will no longer run daily Covid press conferences.

This is an appalling decision in my opinion. Cutting opportunity for scrutiny at the time it is most needed speaks volumes and crushes trust. The decision also sends the message that infection is no longer the story, opening it up to people to be less vigilant.

The NSW state government failed to appropriately deal with the latest Covid outbreak. Their decisions relating to reducing infection were weak, late and not backed with appropriate regulations and infrastructure. These failures let Covid infections increase – landing NSW where it is today, with an outbreak at a point that the government appears unable, or unwilling, to control.

Even yesterday, when the Premier was announcing plans to open up, she made it clear that local businesses would have to do the heavy lifting to check Covid vaccine status if they wanted to trade. This is yet another pass of of the buck by a government that is a master of abrogating responsibility.

It is right at this point, at the expected peak of Covid infection rate and hospitalisation, that people in the community crave leadership, they crave faith that it will be okay at some point in the future we can see. But, rather than provide that leadership, the Premier of NSW has decided, for some reason, to go into hiding.

The announcement today will negatively impact community confidence, consumer confidence. It also reduces the opportunity for scrutiny, which weakens democracy. This announcement today is bad for business. I am surprised that the Premier and her cabinet don’t see or understand this.

Right now, confidence is fragile. It needs support, from political and community leaders, for it is this confidence that fuels economic activity.

With the Premier Berejiklian and her state government going into hiding, it will be up to local small business more than ever to comfort and lead, through offering safe and easy shopping, connecting with the local community and helping keeping the wheels of commerce flowing. I see so many local small business retailers doing this every day. They should be proud of their service and the comfort this provides.

The announcement today by the NSW Premier to reduce opportunity for scrutiny would usually be ripped apart by news outlets. I have my doubts that will happen given the lobbying role News Corp and Nine Media outlets seem to play for the conservative side of politics.

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Social responsibility

Deleting your business data prior to selling your retail may not be a wise move

A former newsagent got into some legal hot water about the performance of the business as represented through the sales process.

It was when the purchaser discovered historic business data had been deleted that they became suspicious. That kicked off a legal process that was expensive for both sides and resulted in a financial payout to the purchaser.

When you sell a business you sell it with a set of assets necessary to the running of the business. Data are such assets, especially data relating to sales performance. How can someone buying your business expect to achieve results close to yours if they do not have the historic data to guide decisions?

I mention this today as my newsagency software company has a process around any request from a customer for help with deleting data. We ask for the request to be in writing, signed by the owner. We do this based on legal advice. We do not want is to be drawn into a legal battle between vendor and purchaser. We have been in the past, several times, when vendors found business performance that did not match representations made in the sales process.

In the legal fights I have seen at close range (as an expert witness)  it has been expensive for the business purchaser as well as the vendor. If data is deleted, the vendor can’t prove their position and this tends to not play well for them. I’ve reluctantly become involved as an expert witness relating to the management of the data.

My advice to anyone selling their business is don’t delete recent (within the last 7 years) historic business data on which you would, in the usual course of business, expect to rely for decision making.

If any asks me I say don’t delete business data. It is what it is. There is nothing to fear from the truth.

Now, on the matter of data. It is a core business asset, genuinely valuable. Collect it, cultivate it, treat it with care, analyse it. The most successful retail businesses I see do this. A retail business of any size can do it, and expect valuable results from it.

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buying a newsagency

Sensory key to sales success

  • If you sell products with a scent, let customers smell them.
  • If you sell products people can eat, let them taste them.
  • If you sell products people can drink, let them have a sip.
  • If you sell products for their feel, let people feel them.

Okay, this is basic retail advice. Yet, too often it is ignored. I tried this with a business recently. They sell fudge. Setting up a safe taste test option and sales took off, way beyond anything they had achieved in the past. I also tried it with a business that sells tea. They were struggling. the sip offer drove excellent sales. Finally, I tried it with a business that sells expensive candles ($75+). They had not lit one because of the cost. After they lit one, the candles started selling.

Even in this Covid world, retail is sensory. Engage with the senses and you will sell more. 

My advice is take a look through your shop and embrace opportunities to engage with the senses. It’s easy, and should drive an immediate response from shoppers. And, yes, this even applies to things you have had forever, like the old Turkish Delight chocolate – people like it and remember it when reminded. Remind them with a taste offer.

Footnote: There are plenty of people telling newsagents right now that they can supply this or that for better margin. You cannot bank a percentage. You can only bank dollars. You make dollars from selling things. So, get the retailing right, the engagement right, and then work on the margin for the items you choose to sell.

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Management tip

Why I’m not supporting National Newsagent Week

Besides it having a truly awful logo, National Newsagent Week does not interest me since it seeks to pitch all newsagents. This encourages the channel to by judged as a channel.

A retail channel is only as strong as its weakest link.

I think about the newsagency I saw recently that was dark, with half the lights off. Or the newsagency near my office with more than half the card pockets empty. Or the newsagency that sells topped magazines at a discount. Or the newsagency with stationery covered in dust.

And, then, I think about the newsagency doing close to $500,000 a year in gifts. Or the newsagency doing $100,000 a year in online sales. Or the newsagency that stopped selling magazines and tripled the money they used to make from that space.

All of these, the good and bad, could be businesses loved by local shoppers. All of them identify as newsagencies. But, can they all be promoted as one? I don’t think so.

I get that some folks want to promote the channel to nurture relevance in the mind of consumers. Their hearts are in the right place. Their intentions are good. But this execution? It’s off in my view, not developed by professional marketers.

A black and red logo that has no emotion other than what you attach to black and red: anger and stop.

As a channel we need to address the worst of the worst and understand the negative impact their businesses can have on the perception of all other businesses in the channel. This has to be addressed if we are to run a successful national campaign.

I understand that some will embrace the campaign and say they do well from it. Good luck to them and kudos to the suppliers supporting the campaign.

It’s not for me. I am happy promoting my businesses, locally, and in service of my own local communities … by offering products they want / love and doing this in a way that is truly local.

Good marketing starts from within a business. It is embedded in business decisions, which reach out into the community to attract shoppers. It does not, in my opinion, start with a campaign outside the business pushing people into any business with a common shingle. That’s very 1970s and 1980s. We have evolved from that agent world.

So, what’s the alternative? My proposal would be to take the money pitched by suppliers and somehow have this available for investment in local communities by newsagents who engage with the campaign. rather than a campaign saying come and shop with us it could be action of businesses engaged in local community support, and thereby reinforcing, through the actions, a value proposition that folks in the local community can understand. Participating newsagents could match dollar for dollar the supplier contribution.

Plenty is written about the importance of newsagencies in the local Australian communities. I think there needs to be fewer words and more action.

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Newsagency management

ICYMI: Officeworks had an excellent year

In the Wesfarmers results released Friday last week, you can read about the good year had by their Officeworks business.

Officeworks’ revenue increased 8.7 per cent to $3,029 million for the year. Earnings increased 7.6 per cent to $212 million.

“Officeworks delivered solid earnings growth for the year, supported by strong sales growth, despite some margin pressure from continued investment in price, changes in sales mix and higher supply chain costs.

“Officeworks continued to invest in the every-channel model, including through a new Print and Create website, launch of a Geeks2U subscription program and development of its data and digital capabilities to provide more timely, personalised and engaging communication to customers.”

Here are key pages from their investor presentation, which is available publicly. They speak to focus, which I find useful. Their progress on strategy and outlook are instructive as to opportunities we can consider, regardless of business size.

Officeworks has come a long way in the last few years. What was a struggling business is dominant, almost unassailable in the stationery space that was once dominated in Australia by newsagents

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Competition

A start-up local community newspaper closed when a big competitor offers free ads

Mackay Local News launched in February this year following the sudden closure of the Daily Mercury by News Corp.

Established by local business people, the Mackay Local News quickly filled a gap, an interest in genuinely local news.

A few days ago, the folks behind the Mackay Local News decided to close. I’ll let them explain, in their own words:

Mackay Local News newspaper ceases publication

The directors and shareholders of Mackay Local News Pty Ltd announced to staff on Thursday September 2 that the paper would cease publication immediately.

 

The directors and shareholders of Mackay Local News Pty Ltd announced to staff on Thursday September 2 that the paper would cease publication immediately.

Despite being recognised as the best quality newspaper based in Mackay, with the highest content of local community news, views and sport, and with the largest staff of any local publication, the directors believed the market was entering a destructive ‘media bloodbath’.

Advertisers had been approached by competitors with offers of ‘free ads’.

Rather than reduce quality or participate in a destructive media war, the directors believed this to be the fairest outcome for all involved.

The directors would like to thank the thousands of locals who regularly bought, read and responded to the paper, and the tens of thousands who visited the FREE mackaylocalnews.com.au website, as well as the local businesses who showed real dollar support by advertising their wares and services at a fair and reasonable price.

Mackay Local News was first published in February 2021, in response to vocal local concerns about the sudden closure of the Daily Mercury by foreign controlled News Corporation in June 2020, and protests about their paywalled website.

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Ethics

My newsagency software company is hiring again

At my newsagency software company, Tower Systems, we are keen to hire someone who knows and has used our Retailer POS software for an additional role on our help desk. This is a technical role. It would suit someone looking to work in a software company, someone keen to learn and keen to help others learn POS software technology.

It’s the second role we have added to the help desk this year.

We need someone who can manage themselves in that almost all of our help desk team members now work from home. Location is not all that important given this.

If you know of someone who could be right for the role, please encourage them to reach out to me at: mark@towersystems.com.au.

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newsagent software

News Corp rejects outback Queensland and offers of help from newsagents

The ABC has this story:

News Corp confirms newspaper distribution will cease to much of outback Queensland

For some regional Queenslanders heading to buy a News Corp Australia paper from their local newsagent this weekend, the purchase will be one of their last.

News Corp has confirmed it will stop delivering its titles to certain parts of regional Queensland after September 26 and following more than three months of lobbying from concerned newsagents.

News Corp wrote to select newsagents in March informing them it planned to cease physically distributing eight mastheads including The Courier-Mail, The Australian, and The Daily Telegraph, due to the “very high cost” of distribution.

Longreach newsagent Rob Luck said he offered a range of solutions to the media company to try to reverse the decision.

However, on Thursday afternoon he received an email from News Corp confirming it would go ahead with its plan of ceasing distribution after September 26.

Towns further west than Charters Towers in the north, Emerald in central Queensland, and in some parts of the state’s south-west will be affected.

Distribution will cease in the regional centres of Longreach and Mount Isa.

Charleville in the state’s south-west will remain unaffected, after News Corp organised a cheaper, alternative freight arrangement.

Residents in impacted towns will no longer have access to a physical daily newspaper covering state, national, and international affairs.

Consultation just for show, says newsagent

In June, News Corp’s managing director for Queensland and News Regional Media, Jason Scott, visited Longreach to meet with concerned newsagents.

Mr Luck, who has owned one of Longreach’s two newsagencies for 26 years, said he was told “the door is ajar” but was sceptical there was any intent to reverse the decision.

“It took from March to mid-June for someone to come and I will, in inverted commas, use the word ‘consult’ with us,” Mr Luck said.

Read the whole story published by the ABC  as it provides details of offers of help from newsagents.

News Corp’s decision is all about money, as its shareholders would want.

Why politicians pander to News Corp. is beyond me. In my opinion, the company is a bully, using its media pulpit to tell us what to think and our state and federal governments what to do. I’d go further and say that some days in their papers it reads to me like political interference. Thankfully I don’t watch the trash on Sky News.

Here News Corp. is just after receiving additional government funding, turning their back on outback Australians.

Given the continued slide in over the counter sales and the decline in real terms of margin, maybe it is time to stop stocking News Corp titles. I am sure Harvey Norman would put the catalogues in their locations.

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Ethics

Remembering inspiring retail

One thing I do miss is getting to see many inspiring retail situations overseas. This morning I was reminded of a visit in late February 2020 to Cold Rock in upstate New York and this gift and homewares shop. I’ve met the owners many times over the years and this was my first visit to their out of Manhattan flagship store. Here are some photos from this shop.

I have around 1,000 photos from similar inspiring shops from mid 2019 to early 2020.

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retail

Boxed Christmas cards popular in the newsagency

Over a month ago we put out a small selection of boxed Christmas cards that we had sourced to test our feeling that Christmas products would sell earlier this year.

Here is a photo from back then.

It’s been a success. Plenty of boxes of cards have been sold, along with other Christmas items that we have sourced, including decorations, soap and other Christmas gifts.

Our space and capital investment has been modest. The return on the investment has been substantial, far more than we anticipated at this point.

I know I am a broken record about this, but, Christmas has started early this year. It will run for longer. Also, it has the potential to be bigger, even in areas impacted by lockdown.

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Greeting Cards

Why is the federal government funding Job Saver in NSW yet no similar program in ACT or Victoria?

From mid July in NSW, through the state government, the federal government has half funded Job Saver. This is essentially a re-branded version of Job Keeper, made for NSW, but no other state or territory, apparently.

Given extend lockdowns in the ACT and Victoria, it does not make sense to me that the federal government would not put in place similar arrangements.

Here is the announcement about the NSW program from the federal treasurer’s page:

Small and medium business support payments

From week four of the lockdown, the Commonwealth will fund 50 per cent of the cost of a new small and medium business support payment to be implemented and administered by Service NSW.

Eligible entities will receive 40 per cent of their NSW payroll payments, at a minimum of $1500 and a maximum of $10,000 per week.

Entities will be eligible if their turnover is 30 per cent lower than an equivalent two week period in 2019.

The new small to medium business support payment will be available to non-employing and employing entities in NSW, including not for profits, with an annual turnover between $75,000 and $50 million.

To receive the payment, entities will be required to maintain their full time, part time and long term casual staffing level as of 13 July 2021.

For non-employing businesses, such as sole traders, the payment will be set at $1,000 per week.

Businesses can register their interest from 14 July 2021 at Service NSW.

The assistance will cease when current lockdown restrictions are eased or when the Commonwealth hotspot declaration is removed.

I am drawing attention lion to this today in response to contact from several retailers doing it tough in lockdown with almost no support available for their businesses.

The Covid situation in Australia right now flows from NSW failures to suppress the Delta strain. Their approach, endorsed by the federal government, has placed us where we are. It is for this reason I think the federal government needs to step up and provide base level funding for businesses with even a modest decline. Doing so would be a boost to business owner and consumer confidence, which is something the country needs right now given the prospect of another recession.

I appreciate this is a political topic. It is also a personal topic for businesses owners in Victoria and the ACT, as well as business owners elsewhere that sell into NSW, ACT and Victoria. One WA based business owner I spoke with 2 days ago is down almost 70% because their customers on the East coast are not ordering. It is stories like this that make it a federal government issue.

If only there was leadership for average people and small business owners, and not just the big business groups.

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Social responsibility

Australia Post suspends parcel collection in NSW, ACT & VIC

Australia Post has just announced a temporary suspension of parcel pickup in NSW, Act and VIC;

Temporary suspension of Parcel Post collections in NSW, ACT & VIC

Dear  ,

Thank you for your ongoing partnership with Australia Post.

As you know, across the country we are all managing the sustained challenges of the COVID pandemic. With two of our largest States and some 15 million people in lockdown, the fluctuations in customer online shopping have significantly increased.

We are also dealing with the impacts of the Delta strain and in any given day, we have close to 500 people out of our workforce as they follow necessary self-isolation and testing before clearance back to work.

This is putting increased pressure on our network like nothing we have experienced before, as we manage staff shortages, temporary facility closures, and parcel volumes as high as Christmas peak period.

To help us clear excess parcel volumes in NSW, ACT and VIC due to these impacts, we will be suspending customer collections in these areas.

All Parcel Post collections from customers and merchants in NSW, ACT and VIC will be paused from 7am Saturday 4 September until 7am Tuesday 7 September.

The safety of our people is our highest priority and this temporary measure will allow us to responsibly clear record volumes in parts of our network.

Our team will be processing all weekend to reduce these volumes to a safe and manageable level and help free up capacity with ULDs and pallets.

Services provided for Express Post, Premium and Startrack Express remain unchanged across our network. Lodgements at Post Offices and SPB’s will also continue to be collected and collections in all other States remain the same.

Normal medical shipments (normally lodged Parcel Post) will still be accepted subject to confirmation and by arrangement.

We’re sorry for the inconvenience

We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience this may place on you and your customers. Thank you in advance for your patience and understanding as we continue to navigate these challenges together.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact us with any queries via your Account Manager and continue to check auspost.com.au/service-updates for the latest information on impacts across our network.

Stay safe,

I feel for the LPOs in areas impacted by this and what iOS coming their way in terms of customer frustration.

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Social responsibility

Early Father’s Day 2021 sales success for small business newsagents

Looking at comprehensive Father’s Day card sales data for a number of newsagencies reveals some terrific results. I am not sharing this as channel-wide results. Rather, the results are the results for the five businesses.

Here is data for the 5 retailers up to the weekend just gone:

These results are excellent.

The factors for success include going out early with product and offering range from more than one supplier.

Now, looking at the results more deeply, this next table shows sales by segment.  Included is the number of stores that participated in that segment because  it shows some segments that are punching about their weight.  Eg Husband, Pa.

Not shown above, for privacy reasons, but in the data provided is evidence of opportunity for at least two retailers where they have bought some captions from a supplier but not others. Looking at their performance compared to retailers with a broader range of captions and we can see missed opportunity.

As part of the performance analysis, we looked at the difference it makes having the niche cards in the mix. In every store that carried niche diversity shows they add about 35% to 40% of Father’s Day card sales.

But we are not sharing this to drive Father’s Day for you as that season is all but over for 2021. Rather, we are sharing this because achieving growth in card sales is possible. We can help. Our data analysis / data insights approach is key to excellent card sales growth in participating newsXpress businesses.

Too often, newsagents put out a seasonal range, keep the display tidy, and take it down at the end of the season with the next time of engagement being either agreeing to the order for next year or receiving the stock for next year. I think this is a mistake, a missed commercial opportunity.

Diving deep into your own business performance data, even for a modest season like Father’s Day, can reveal opportunities that you can leverage for sales success. That is what some of the retailers in the small dataset above have done. And to be clear, the success noted above only documents card performance. Once you add in related gift performance you can see terrific financial value from this deeper data engagement.

The work I am outlining here, the data collection and analysis work, is part of the newsXpress intellectual property around greeting card sales performance and management for success. What I have shared here is a peak into a much bigger offering from newsXpress that is helping retailers significantly grow card sales.

Greeting cards are the best margin product in a newsagency. They respond to engagement. That is, it is easy to grow their sales. Card customers are sticky, they return if they like the range and experience. You can bank on the results from engagement with cards.

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Greeting Cards

Newsagents: beware claims of fast profits and stellar growth

There must be something in the water, something bringing out people with loud claims of fast profits, amazing results for newsagents, the best offer ever put to newsagents, a revolution for newsagents.

These are some of the claims being pitched to newsagents in recent times.

Not one pitch I have seen recently provides evidence. Sure, there are newsagents talking them up, but, again, no evidence, no facts that can be verified.

We all want success, right?! Any pitch that feels believable, that offers success that feels attainable, can be successful for the party making the pitch.

History has shown that get rich quick schemes are not likely to succeed, that fast profits are not easy, or fast, that revolutions tend not to be.

If you’ve received a pitch that interests from you, be inquisitive. Ask tough questions. Seek evidence, get it in writing, making it clear that you want it in writing should things not go as promised.

Asking for evidence in writing will have some back off. They’ll probably say that you are not a good fit for them our that your question demonstrates lack of trust or that they don’t have time to answer you because they are too busy with people who want to proceed.

Slick sales people leverage the fear of missing out to get people to sign up quickly, before they have done any due diligence.

I have researched a couple of recent claims that have been put to newsagents and can’t find any evidence to support the claims of success.

In one case a claim about margin failed because the sales price needed for items was found to not work in shops. The real margin at which point the products did sell was half what was claimed.

In another case, online sales claims feel inflated in that the website is getting around 50 visitors a month and is ranked at the bottom of page 2 on Google.

My point is, buyer beware, do your research. It may turn out the pitch is right for you, that it delivers what you hope for, which would be terrific. It is better you make the decision with the facts and not the hype, because anyone can hype.

And, yes, I have made claims myself here at this blog. Most recently about card sales growth of 50% and more. These claims from me are based on evidence in the data. Greeting cards continue to be the best margin and easily grown products in a newsagency today.

Absolutely chase growth and success for your newsagency. But … do so based on evidence.

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Ethics

Looking at UK newsagency businesses for sale

It’s fascinating seeing examples of our shingle overseas. Travel used to satisfy that interest. Today, with our international border closed, looking online is all we have got. Ad listings for newsagencies for sale in the UK provide a useful insight into the model there. This new listing is a good example.

The community needs and local retail commercial situation is very different between the UK and Australia.

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Newsagency management

Covid support for VIC, NSW and ACT businesses

I helped a Victorian newsagency business to land $7,600 in Covid related grants last week. They aren’t the only ones. there are plenty of grant opportunities available.

NSW, ACT and Victorian businesses have access to a range of grant opportunities. Our advice is:

  • Review each grant opportunity. yes, it is worth the time it takes.
  • Apply even if you do not quite meet the criteria as the rejection provides an opportunity for you to make a stronger case.
  • Make the application yourself. There is no need to pay your external accountant to do this for you.
  • Do this now. Don’t wait.

Here are some of the grant opportunities by region.

NSW newsagents. Click here to access the overall Covid grants page. Of particular interest is JobSaver, a wages subsidy that to Jobkeeper rebranded by the federal government for NSW. Click here to see a useful side boy side comparison of grants.

ACT newsagents. You have access to several grants if turnover is down by 30% or more. Click here for the page with details. The business grant looks interesting too. Check out the business $10,000 grant. You’d use the Monthly Sales Comparison Report to determine if you are eligible. Note: this report has some selection options that could be useful.

VIC newsagents. Click here for the page that lists all grant options. If you are down 70%, the hardship fund could be interesting. if turnover is down 30% or more, you and your landlord could work together on funding support. If you are Covid impacted and need to do a deep clean, click here for a rebate.

Nationally, click here to a web page from the federal government that acts as a portal for all states and territories.

I think what is happening in NSW with the messaging around Covid is interesting from a business perspective. Reading between the lines, there is likely to be commercial value in vaccination of everyone working in a business, as well as vaccination in your local community. My point is, if you can get vaccinated, do so, as there may be a point down the track where that is a bankable advantage.

This is small of the advice provided to newsXpress members as part of the on-going Covid support and communications package.

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Newsagency management

This doesn’t look like a newspaper

And while we’re talking about the Herald Sun, Crikey published an interesting article this week:

There’s a changing of the guard in Australia’s media: long-time Melbourne circulation kingpin the Herald Sun has tumbled way down the rankings. Now, it looks like it’s not only runner-up to local competitor The Age, it’s fallen to fourth spot among News Corp’s remaining Australian mastheads.

It’s the second blow to News Corp’s market supremacy, following the ABC’s leap to displace news.com.au at the top of the Nielsen Digital News Content rankings since the 2020 summer of bushfires.

The Herald Sun — boasting an audited circulation over twice its competitor with 600,000 copies when it first merged back in 1990 — is down more than three-fourths, with 146,026 subscribers across its print and digital products, according to June 30 internal figures reported by the company to the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

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Newspapers

Videos of 4 free workshops this week for local small business retailers on how to take your business online

Monday through Thursday this week I hosted four free workshops covering a range of topics related to creating POS software connected Shopify sites and how to drive traffic to them. The goal was to share insights and offer free advice and training for retailers looking to grow online sales.

All up, the four sessions covered close to six hours.

Here are videos of the workshops for anyone interested. If you are considering a website for your business, buyer beware. There are plenty of shonky business people in the web development space. My hope is that the four workshops share information that you find useful in navigating a path to growing your online sales.

This last session is all about writing good blog posts and how they play a key role in driving traffic.

We are grateful to the retailer who participated.

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Newsagency management

It’s fun watching newspaper publishers criticise each other

In the Australian Financial Review today, Tony Boyd takes a ‘look’ at the performance of Nine Media over News Corp It includes burns like:

Shock, horror: Nine beats Murdoch at his own game

First, the results confirm that Murdoch’s newspapers in Australia are losing the bitter and long-running competitive fight with the mastheads created by John Fairfax & Sons.

Now, questions must be asked about the strategic and operational moves by News Corp Australia’s managers who have overseen successive years of poor financial performance.

They appear to have squandered News Corp Australia’s dominant position by failing to transition fast enough to a digital and data-driven business model.

It is in this area that Nine’s publishing arm, which includes The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review, stands head and shoulders above Murdoch’s publishing assets, which include The Australian and tabloids in every major city except Perth.

On the readership front, Nine’s publications are showing News Corp’s publications their heels.

Beaten at his own game
When it comes to earnings, Nine appears to be comprehensively beating Murdoch at the newspaper game. That’s got to be galling for a man who mastered the art of newspapers at the age of 23 at a small afternoon tabloid in Adelaide.

In 2021, Nine’s publishing arm had earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of $117 million, up 28 per cent on the prior year. This was on revenue of $504.5 million.

The News Media arm of News Corp had EBITDA of $US52 million ($72 million), which was about the same as the previous year. This was on revenue of $US2.2 billion.

News Corp insiders will argue that the performance of the Australian publishing business cannot be fairly compared with Nine’s because News loads some international costs on to the local business.

News Corp’s snail’s pace approach to cost-cutting in editorial, which includes another round of redundancies this month, is in stark contrast to the hiring in Nine’s publishing business.

News Corp’s digital strategy appears to be repeating a decision that was made by Nine some years ago and reversed because of its damage to masthead brands.

To save costs, News Corp is centralising its news-gathering across all its tabloid mastheads, except for its political coverage. This goes against the fundamental principle that each city in Australia is different and deserves its own unique coverage.

Fairfax, before it was taken over by Nine, merged the business reporting newsrooms of the Financial Review, SMH and Age. This was rapidly unwound after a more sensible analysis of the commercial implications.

In the context of retail newsagency businesses, newspapers play only a small role in our businesses. Bottom line wise, they are almost irrelevant. Foot traffic wise, they count for something, but not that much. Their key value recently has been tom provide products that bestow upon us essential status, and that is worth something.

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Newspapers

How to write blog posts to drive traffic for your online shop

Today at 10:30am I am hosting a free workshop for small business retailers on writing blog posts for websites to attract online shopper traffic.

This is the fourth free Zoom workshop this week for local small business retailers seeking advice and help in creating beautiful websites for their businesses. From the workshops, a common question from people was about writing blog posts: how to, when to, why to and how to.

Writing blog posts can feel daunting. Let’s talk and see if we can help show a pathway to make this achievable free marketing for you. Plus, we will answer any Shopify / online sales questions:

Today, Thursday August 26 @ 10:30am Melbourne time:
https://zoom.us/j/94814612952?pwd=L25FRVkyVmFybzI1TjVmYzUrYXhvUT09
Meeting ID: 948 1461 2952 Passcode: 941762

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Newsagency management