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

SEN promotes local newsagents on social media more than any other magazine publisher

Kudos to SEN for their relentless support of local retail newsagents when promoting their flagship AFL Record. For each issue they hit their socials and promote our channel. I have not seen any other publisher do this with such consistency. Their call out for our channel is wonderful, something Victorian newsagents especially should appreciate and applaud.

newsagency marketing

Another selling online and click and collect Zoom meeting today

Thank you to those who could join the website discussion yesterday morning. I am doing this again today, Wednesday, at 10am 10am Melbourne time, talking about POS software connected Shopify websites. Anyone can join. No booking necessary.

Bring your questions or concerns about selling online. Our goal is to provide useful facts that could help guide your own business decisions. I think we could speak more about shipping, loyalty and bundles.

Here is the link for today @ 10am:
Meeting ID: 994 8311 3349 Passcode: 830738

Click here to access our website customer questionnaire. This is designed to help you clarify your needs. A copy of your responses is sent to you.

newsagency of the future

5 reasons to buy your Father’s Day cards and gifts at your local newsagency this year

Father’s Day 2021 will different to what people expected. Plenty thought 2020 was disrupted. 2021 will be even more so in some parts of Australia.

Local newsagencies offer wonderful opportunities for celebrating dads, grandfathers, friends, include, step-dads and mentors this Father’s Day. I urge anyone shopping for Father’s Day cards an gifts this year to consider their local newsagency and here’s why:

  • Newsagency businesses are 100% local. Locally owned. Locally run. What you spend is more likely to stay within the local community.
  • Newsagency businesses offer Father’s Day cards that support charities. Charities like RU OK?, which do wonderful work in the community.
  • Newsagency businesses have the best range of cards, usually more than you will see elsewhere. From fun to serious, Fram dad to pa to pop to grandpa to uncle to step-dad, the caption range is excellent.
  • Newsagency businesses often have gifts to go with the cards. Plenty of them have Australian made cards and gifts, too, which further serve the local community. If you are not sure what to give, ask for help.
  • Newsagency businesses are likely to offer easy shopping, grab and go. Plenty have father’s day gift bundles made up, ready for treats for Dad.

Shopping early for Father’s Day is good because you get to choose from the broadest range. Then, you have time to post the card and gift.

So, when shopping for Father’s Day cards and gifts this year, consider your local newsagency. They would be grateful to get your business and do their best to serve your needs.

Social responsibility

Helping newsagents step toward selling online

The Zoom meeting yesterday with retailers about the first steps toward selling online had 30 or so participants. I am hosting the same session this morning at 10am for anyone interested.

Here is an email I sent to newsagents yesterday, announcing two free workshops, today and tomorrow, for anyone considering a website for their retail business:

The next session will be Tuesday morning, August 24, at 10am. Here is the link:

Meeting ID: 932 1716 3735 Passcode: 847150

Any one is welcome to join. You don’t need to book, click on the link and show up.

I hope the sessions will be informative and offer you a pathway to getting online if that is what you want, getting more online shoppers if that is what you need or sorting out whether online is right for you, if that is where you are at.

Selling online is hard and relentless work. There are no shortcuts. But, there are decisions you can make to narrow your focus, so you can have some early learning opportunities.

Based on what we are seeing and based on the data from major retailers here, online is contributing more and more to business bottom line. What Covid has done is speed up that transition.

Oh, and if you think online is not impacting you or not being used by your shoppers, based on my experience I am sure it is. Hopefully, we can offer advice that helps you see what is next for you online.

newsagency of the future

An open letter from News Corp at odds with it’s own behaviour through Covid

What an odd letter given what the company has published / broadcast over the last year and a half.

You only have to look at the shouting from News Corp to the Victorian government Andy who support them through 2020 and plenty of 2021, or watch Sky News After dark, or read The Australian or read opinion pieces by Dolt and others to see my point.

Social responsibility

If you are considering a website for your newsagency

Here is an email I sent to newsagents yesterday, announcing two free workshops, today and tomorrow, for anyone considering a website for their retail business:

Sunday update.

The email I sent yesterday (see below) resulted in a bunch of emails and phone calls from business owners keen for advice on getting online, setting up click and collect and getting people finding you online.

Thinking about the questions, I have decided to schedule two free and open Zoom meetings where we will answer all your questions. The first is tomorrow, Monday August 23 @ 2pm. Here is the link to connect:

Meeting ID: 994 9423 3308 Passcode: 708035

The next session will be Tuesday morning, August 24, at 10am. Here is the link:

Meeting ID: 932 1716 3735 Passcode: 847150

Any one is welcome to join. You don’t need to book, click on the link and show up.

I hope the sessions will be informative and offer you a pathway to getting online if that is what you want, getting more online shoppers if that is what you need or sorting out whether online is right for you, if that is where you are at.

Selling online is hard and relentless work. There are no shortcuts. But, there are decisions you can make to narrow your focus, so you can have some early learning opportunities.

Based on what we are seeing and based on the data from major retailers here, online is contributing more and more to business bottom line. What Covid has done is speed up that transition.

Oh, and if you think online is not impacting you or not being used by your shoppers, based on my experience I am sure it is. Hopefully, we can offer advice that helps you see what is next for you online.

Anyone is welcome to these sessions.

Newsagency management

Advice for newsagents considering a website for their business

I sent the following email to small business retailers on my database yesterday morning. I share it here as I know newsagents are being encouraged to go online, including by some with dubious claims about their success and what they can do:

Good morning this Saturday morning.

Like many of you, I guess, I am sitting here getting some work donw while rgularly checking for Covid updates, to find out when the various press conferences will be. I’ve also been checking emails.

I am frustrated at some of the email pitches I am seeing to retailers offering websites. I am especially frustrated by those who claim it is cheap and easy.

Like anything in this world, you get what you pay for. 

There is one shonk emailing claiming that you’ll make a ton from selling online from a. website they setup for you. I check the traffic they get to their own online shop and it’s under 100 visitors a day.

I own Tower Systems and I own several retail shops. Each shop has a website connected to it. I know how hard it is to get the website up and running, attract shoppers and maintain traffic. The rewards can be worth it.

There is no easy road. But, that should not put you off for if you get it right, the reward can be wonderful.

Click here to see some of the many websites we have created.

I have a small high street retail shop in suburban Melbourne that will do more than $160,000 in online sales this year. What we have done for that shop is what we advise our POS software and web development customers to do. It runs a POS software commented Shopify site, which we created here at Tower Systems.

A website is a hungry beast. If you leave things to someone else, I guarantee the results will not be as good as they could be.

There is no easy road. We have a pathway that focusses on early wins, good commercial outcomes you will like.

We develop POS software connected websites for our customers for $6,600.00. But, we expect you to get your data ready, in the POS software, so it flows across. We guide you through this.

We also develop Magento websites. They are for more complex needs. One of our magento websites does around $500,000 a year in sales. It’s connected to a group of retail businesses, which are owned by local retailers.

We have used WooCommerce but no more. It’s expensive to maintain. Anyone who asks our advice, we say don’t go with WooCommerce.

With the news our of NSW yesterday about click and collect, we can help you with this. It’s part of what we do for customers through a POS software connected website. We can also help you navigate complex shipping requirements as well as connecting with a variety of payment options.

If you are interested in a POS software connected Shopify site, click here to see our fixed price quote.

In addition to developing a beautiful site for you, we can help with the planning by sharing data for your competitors, guiding you on keywords and making suggestions on look and feel.

Given what has happened in NSW, VIC and the ACT in the last few days, we can fast track a site for you. let us know if this interests you.

To find out more, email sales@towersystems.com.au or call Tim on 0401 833 917 or Justin on 0434 365 789.

If you have the time, check out videos some of the workshops we have hosted in which we discuss with retailers web development and how to make some of the decisions you need to make around this.

Thanks for reading. I hope you are safe and well. And, please, beware claims offering cheap websites setup entirely by others.

Mark Fletcher
Managing Director
Tower Systems
0418 321 338.

PS. As a guide, online should by now be at least 10% of your product revenue.

Newsagency management

Respecting being an essential retailer in Covid

With newsagencies open in areas under lockdown due to Covid, it’s important that we do so in a way that respects the opportunity. Having gone through this 5 times already and now into lockdown 6, here is what we have found works for us, the community and nearby retailers who are closed:

  • Retail as a service. You’re open because you are essential, not to overtly take a position against a competitor.
  • Make shopping easy. Reduce clutter. Put sought after items at the front. Make shopping easy for grab and go.
  • Make it safe. Have face masks and hand sanitiser next to your QR code check in at the entrance and at the counter.
  • Offer click and collect. Either through your website or for phone orders, offer to bring the items to the shop door for easy collection.
  • Play happy music.
  • Don’t do awesome VM displays. Be practical.
  • Be grateful to customers and grateful on social media.
  • Reduce promotion of non essential products on social media.
  • Keep the counter cleaner than ever.
  • Give staff what they need: free masks, breaks for washing hands, time to recharge.

If there are retailers nearby that can’t open with considerable stock they are worried about, maybe offer to help them move some of that stock. I mention this for areas where the lockdown is extended.

While it is terrific having a shop that is permitted to be open during Covid lockdowns, it can be a curse sometimes with how others, competitors and customers, see you. This is why it is important that we trade in a way that is respectful of the unique situation and thoughtful of others.

Social responsibility

Tabcorp results show a slowing of online migration?

The latest results released by Tabcorp in their Annual Report reveal that the percentage of lotteries revenue from online has increased, but not on the previous trajectory. The year on year comparison shows a jump from 28% in FY2019/20 to 32.8% in FY2020/21 and while that jump is sizeable, it’s the 6 month jump that is lower. Six month earlier they were 32.1%

32.8% of revenue coming from digital (online) must interest lottery retailers, especially since Tabcorp says it would like to see online revenue grow.

Another possible concern for retailers will be Tabcorp’s focus on continued diversification of the retail channel. Plenty of retailers have already complained about new outlets opening nearby and an ineffective and opaque appeals process run by Tabcorp.

You can see from the Annual Report that they are only part way through this engagement with expanding the retail network. Note below: Evolve retailer mix and CX uplift. (cx = customer experience.)

These slides from the Annual Report deck don’t contain detail useful to retailers. But, there is enough there of concern. The company, in its accompanying press release, spoke re retail:

Lotteries digital turnover grew a healthy 27%. Digital accounted for 32.8% of total lotteries turnover in the year. Customers continue to transact predominantly through the retail channel. Investments to uplift lotteries’ presence and role in retail illustrates the value Tabcorp places on it as part of an omni-channel model that supports customers to buy when, where and how they wish.

The bottom line from my perspective is that lottery products, while important to retailers do present challenges in terms of upside along with channelise in terms of increased outlet competition.

My tip if you have lotteries through Tabcorp: do everything to meet your obligations while at the same time working on the business to attract new shoppers for better margin product over which you have more control, as this will be your future.


News Corp. subscription systems failures let home delivery customers and newsagents down

I hear from newsagents about failures in News Corp. notifications about newspaper home delivery situations, about how the News Corp. notification is evidence of internal systems failures. Here is a recent example – they ask the delivery to restart on August 11 while then noting that the paper was failed to be delivered on August 10 to the same customer.

I am told no amount of reporting situations like this to News Corp. helps as the company ignores such reports.

So much for News Corp. providing newspaper home delivery customers a better experience than local newsagents provided – as the company claimed would be the case in its letters to customers.

Newspaper distribution

Should the federal government support businesses outside NSW that rely on NSW for revenue?

There are many businesses outside of New South Wales that are experiencing financial challenges because of the NSW Covid mess. These are businesses that usually derive considerable revenue from selling to NSW businesses.

Talking with a couple of retail business suppliers this week, they say that orders from NSW clients have all but stopped for the last 4 to 6 weeks. If they supplier businesses were in NSW, they’d qualify for significant financial support. Since they are outside of NSW and not in a lockdown area, they are not eligible.

One supplier told me that this lockdown in NSW is different to what they have seen through Covid til now in that it is the first time there has boon such a drop in orders from retailers.

NSW retailers are, naturally, being cautious with ordering. This is impacting their suppliers, plenty of whom are located outside of NSW. This is where the current financial support grant process is challenged.

It’s time for the federal government to see the NSW mess from a federal lens.

Social responsibility

Tabcorp pushing online purchase of lottery tickets during lockdown

I received these two text messages Friday morning from Tabcorp. While they do mention in-store purchase in the text message, the link, of course, if for online purchase.

Tabcorp people know what they are doing here – leveraging uncertainty over lockdown to drive online purchases. And, yes, I checked, the link in the text message does take you to their site for online purchase.

I think the mention of in-store is only so they have a defence in case retailers complain. This text message is all about online purchase, which reinforces my view that there is little to no upside in over the counter lottery sales in retail.

What could Tabcorp have done? They could have setup a page on their website listing all their retailers permitted to be open, and promoted that.


An update on using the new Facebook jobs platform

Okay, so last week I posted a job on the new Facebook jobs platform, for one of my shops. The result was 30+ applicants is a couple of days, only 3 of whom had a set of skills close to what I was looking for. While this is okay, the platform is cumbersome, and slow, at weeding this out, saying no thanks and managing. But, hey, it’s free and in a couple of days I got to 3 good candidates worth speaking with.

Yesterday, I posted a second ad and this has gone better, although the process remains cumbersome and lacking some of the features of other jobs boards.

Would I use Facebook again to advertise a job? Maybe, probably, I guess. I do prefer some of the other platforms like Jora and Indeed, and have found them to be easier to use and more successful.

What Facebook has going for it is the local community connections. I think if the platform is refined it could be a good tool for finding local employees.

overall, even though I have complained about it, I say it’s worth a try. Hey, it’s free.

Newsagency management

Join us on a walk …

It’s a trend on social media in lockdown situations to bring the shop to people who otherwise may not get to see it, by using video. Here is a video I shot at my Southland business Tuesday last week using my iPhone and a bit of software to add music and text.

With shopper traffic down, creating video content is a good use of your time, from walkthrough videos to product videos. You can collect content for release over the next couple of months.

Now, if you think this is too hard to do … seriously, I spent less than 10 minutes on this whole thing. I’ll pitch it 2 or 3 times of social media. It’s content unique to the shop, which matters with so much same same content out there.

newsagency marketing

What a terrific story: Carrara village news: boutique newsagency

Newsagency management

Fundraising for RU OK? with Father’s Day cards

The decision by Henderson Greetings to partner with RU OK? for Father’s Day cards provides another differentiator for the business. In addition to being Australian made, which is a big plus, the charity connection makes the purchase more valuable in the minds of plenty of shoppers.

RU OK? is a respected organisation with plenty of corporate and community backing. Offering cards that raise money for the charity connects the purchase to all of the other good work and understanding out there.

We have had the range in-store for a month and shopper reaction has been terrific. People have commented about RU OK? as well as the Australian made note on the back of the cards. It is terrific when shoppers notice these differentiating points.

We are leveraging the RU OK? charity connection through social media posts and in other ways. I think with Covid impacting people and business the way it is, it is timely to make the RU OK? charity and Father’s Day connection for people.

With so much of Australia in lockdown, Father’s Day 2021 will be odd for card retailers. I suspect that it gives supermarkets an advantage. This is why newsagents need to leverage social media and other platforms for promoting easy and safe shopping for Father’s Day. It is also why the bonus of the RU OK? connection as well as the Australian made connection are important.

The easy win moves for sure are:

  • Placement of Father’s Day at front of store.
  • Secondary placement at the counter.
  • Cards placed with easy to purchase gifts.
  • Speaking to caption range on social media.
  • Asking customers if they have their Father’s Day card yet.
  • Connecting purchase to a loyalty reward.

Right now is the peak opportunity, especially because of the lockdown situation – people will be posting cards and gifts.

Greeting Cards

Advice for small business retailers on making their own Covid support package

I am tired of the news reports about businesses doing it tough through Covid and calls for government support. I get that asking someone else to give you cash feels like an easy answer, but it’s not the answer.

Covid has been with us long enough for us to be able to deal better with it and the associated challenges ourselves, long enough for us to have our own plan. It will be here long into the future, too. We knew a pandemic was coming, just like we know that extraordinary disruption from climate change is coming, hell, it’s already here for too many.

Here is what we know, and have known for well over a year.

How people shop, when people shop and where people shop has changed fundamentally. Online has grown and continues to grow. People shop more with purpose now. There is less browsing. More people work from home permanently. What interests people has changed. People think more about the future now. People are less physically connected now, and more connected as a result. Australian made is more interesting to shoppers now. Shopping local counts for more than it used to. Tech barriers from before have been overcome: think QR codes, click and collect and the number of people shopping online for the first time.

These are some of the changes Covid has brought our way and in each of these is opportunity. While some business owners ask governments for cash to deal with today, it’s tomorrow that will really challenge as what Covid has kicked off and pushed forward will not u-turn.

We need to make our own Covid support package as it is this package that will be more useful to us in the future.

  • Expand sources of revenue. Carry products and services that attract people who have not shopped with you before. Expanding your shopper reach insulates your business.
  • Smooth the peaks. Look at your key business data points: sales by product category, sales by supplier, sales by staff member. Look at the peaks in these and if they are considerably higher than average, lift others so you are less reliant on the peaks.
  • Expand your sales points. Having only the in-store sales counter as a sale point is a risk. Make sure you are online through your own website, on eBay and on social media so people can purchase where they want. Selling to people you will never see is key.
  • Nurture loyalty. Run an easily understood loyalty program that differentiates your business.
  • Chase efficiency. Efficient shopper visits have more items in the basket. Develop a strategy for driving this. It starts with understanding your current position.
  • Entrench in the community. Supporting the community groups that support you is good for business. Doing this in a consistent and mutually understood way delivers benefits that can insulate the business when rocky roads present.
  • Be frugal. Covid has taught us the value of having money in the bank. The trimmed roster, reduced inventory in the back room, lower overheads, early settlement discount taken … they all free cash that can be banked for when you will need it.
  • Reduce debt. Every additional dollar you pay off business debt is a saving greater than the dollar itself.
  • Look for the pivot. Keep asking yourself what if this or what if that. Think about pivot opportunities in those situations. Always have a pivot move or two and, if it makes sense, pivot early, ahead of the need.
  • And, have your shop reflect how people shop now: make it easier, safer, serving quick shopping, packaging bundles, offer browsing without touching.

By being actively engaged in these and allied areas in your business you can create your own insulation against the challenges of Covid or similar. These suggestions and others they trigger make up  your own made Covid support package.

Management tip

Isubscribe has record July for magazine subscriptions

I picked this news up from a LinkedIn post:

isubscribe.com.au just cracked a $1,000,000 in new subscriptions revenue for the month of July, record July sales figures since inception. Launched this fantastic business in 2000 and so proud that in our 21st year we keep breaking sales records. In recognition and appreciation to our valued clients that continue to produce thousands of the worlds best magazines every month… All credit to Hunter Drinan and our dedicated team.

That’s an extraordinary result, something on which newsagents may wish to reflect. Meanwhile, here is the pitch from their website:

Australia’s original and largest subscription marketplace
isubscribe has the largest range of print and digital magazine subscriptions in Australia, and a fantastic, growing number of subscription boxes. Since 2000, we’ve sold over 4 million subscriptions across our Australian, UK and NZ websites to happy customers all over the world.

There are big discounts and great offers on the site every day. With free Australia-wide delivery, you’ll find some of the best prices on the most popular subscription product at isubscribe.

Treat yourself to some me-time or give the gift that keeps giving. We’ve got over 3,000 different subscriptions on offer from Australia and overseas. Every interest is covered, from Food to Fashion, Homewares to Hardware – and everything in between. Subscriptions make great gifts for loved ones and friends. Think Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries and ‘just because’ occasions.

And, here is one way the do it. I searched them online yesterday and was subsequently pushed ads for magazine subscriptions from them. Ads that were of no interest to me, but, hey, I clicked on some anyway.


The opportunity to grow newsagency card sales in this pandemic impacted economy

Here is a video of a meeting last week between newsXpress and Henderson Greetings card experts in which the data-driven process that is at the core of excellent card sales growth is outlined.

The data-driven process outlined is newsXpress intellectual property. It leverages data collected and curated buy the Tower software, layers over this in-store evidence and then brings to life card company data.

The result is excellent year on year card sales revenue growth.

I hope the video encourages newsagents to actively engage with cards, to take control in pursuit of revenue growth.

And, yes, there is a subtle newsXpress marketing pitch here. newsXpress brings excellent experience to this, in rural, regional and high street suburban newsagencies. To find out more: help@newsxpress.com.au.

Greeting Cards

News Corp continues to interfere

From the Herald Sun and the Daily Telegraph, two different narratives. It’s pathetic, but on brand for News.


The important thank you card in online selling

Including a thank you card with items you ship to customers is critical in how you pitch your business to shoppers are are unlikely to ever meet. Big retailers include a card as they know it is a simple yet effective point of customer service.

In my own online businesses we have tried several options over the years. They keys are to have a professionally designed and printed base from which to work with,. This means a professionally designed and printed post card or similar in size.

Depending of your volume and the types of shoppers you deal with, a pre-printed message or personal note could work best. It comes down to individual choice, based on the types of shoppers you serve.

Here are tow recent examples from two my businesses.

The first, from my POS software company, offers a thank you for business to business sales of items shipped from the office. The design is refreshed every six months.

The second, produced and provided free to newsXpress members, offers space for a personal note of appreciation. This is more suited when shipping to individuals. This design, too, is refreshed every six months.

The thank you note is one of several key elements in providing an appreciated unboxing experience for the recipient. When selling to individuals especially, leveraging each element – outer packaging, internal packaging, unexpected treats, product protection, thank you note – is key to their future engagement with the business.

A professionally designed thank you note, printed on quality stock, positions even the smallest of businesses as professional and customer-caring … keys to success online.

Newsagency management

Powerball jackpot a blow to east coast lottery retailers

While newsagent lottery outlets are able to be open in lockdown areas, foot traffic is down by between 50% and 75%. This will impact the role they get to play in the $80M Powerball jackpot.

The jackpot itself presents an opportunity for Tabcorp to move more in-store shoppers to online. Once you have purchased online for the first time, I think you are less likely to purchase in-store again based on the ease of the experience.

Tabcorp could recalibrate its advertising for the jackpot to pitch in-store. But that does not play well for the Covid messaging. They could reconsider compensation for lottery retailers as it is their faithful service of customers that has been key to Tabcorp having a customer pool to migrate online.