… and all the other newsagents who write in with the same story. It is so depressing that such distribution practices almost bring these small businesses down and cause them turn away from magazines. What do you think they should do?
LETTER FROM NEWSAGENT 21 October 2014
We are a small family owned Newsagent in regional Western Australia, I’m writing to complain about the contempt that we receive from our magazine suppliers. Although our Newsagency has been a part of this small regional town for over the past 40 to 50 years, we have only owned it for the past two, and are still very new to the industry.
Background; we operate our business in a small country town population approximately 3000 people; we sit in the hinterland of two large regional towns in the South West of Western Australia. Therefore you may be able to imagine that we have some strong competition, further to that I have just found out that we have no loyalty from the major magazine distributors.
Today I went to buy some bread and milk from our local supermarket, and low and behold what did I see, a lovely three stand display of the New RSPCA Pets and Creatures, approximately 20-30 card trading folders. Whereas the magazine supplier to this stage has only supplied us with four folders and no option for a display stand or promotional material, obviously we are too small an operation. Immediately I called the magazine supplier as they are the distributers of this title, and asked if they knew how the Supermarket received this title as they are our subagent. I understood that we held the supply for the area. This phone call resulted in the operator telling me that they would look into to it. We then spoke to staff at the supermarket who told us that they were under obligation to stock these titles as it is in their catalogue although they didn’t want to, as they understand we are all in a small community.
We then called the magazine supplier again, to question our distribution agreement, and we were told that we didn’t have a distribution area; if anyone meets the criteria they can distribute their magazines.
My questions are,
Do these magazine distribution companies want Newsagents to survive, or are we just that small pain in their back pocket, which they have to play the polite little game with. The impression that I am beginning to believe, is all we are to these companies is an advertising platform, we are not seen as genuine business as we are not big enough.
Some reasons that have made me come to this decision are:
Firstly the amount of magazines that we get delivered each week is ridiculous. On a monthly basis we would send over half for the magazines back to these companies. I am beginning to understand very quickly that the game behind this is to hold our money for their cash flow benefits. I know as a small business I would much prefer it in my pocket. I have found that some months, our accounts with these companies are higher than our sales rates, in other months we may break even. So as you can see it is imperative on our part that we resolve these issues for our cash flow benefits.
Secondly; part works: We get distributed numerous part works which we endeavour to get out to our customers, we hold copies for them, and give them good old fashion customer service. As soon as they are short in supply we get forgotten about, therefore we end up having customers losing faith in us as we have some editions of part works on back order for weeks, if not months, therefore these customers are not able to complete their projects. If they had subscribed however I am sure that all the copies would be delivered on time!
Thirdly, subscriptions…. I can’t compete with these, only yesterday I had an elderly customer, whom we have become quite friendly, asked me if I could set up a subscription to a new magazine for her as she doesn’t have a credit card. I know that we will lose sales on this but who am I to stop her from getting a nice set of mixing bowls and measuring spoons. As much as I hate doing this, as I have just lost a sale of this book from my shop, it is also a customer relation exercise. Every magazine I get in store has subscription flyers or pages all through them. Once again it comes back to subscribe, subscribe, subscribe…. I’ve done the maths, if you subscribe, you basically get the magazine for what I receive it wholesale, therefore, it is once again the magazine companies way of cutting out the middle man (in our case the Newsagent).
Lastly do these companies understand how many hours a week we devote to their magazines in our stores? From putting magazines on shelves, to doing all the returns! Then to find out from them that we get absolutely no loyalty from these suppliers, we in fact are just get bombarded with their magazines.
I do understand that retail is a competitive industry, and I’m not a lonely Newsagent on this issue, but how can we call these companies to task on these issues? Does the competition watch dog, do anything to help small business? In fact does the government care at all about small business, or are we all disposable assets like small businesses are becoming in other industries? Are we to disappear like the smaller grocer, small farmer, small miner, and small manufacturer?
What is going to happen to the economy of our country when we are owned by only a few multinational companies? Where are locals going to find work as we all know that small business are the major employers of local people in their communities.
Who should we lobby on these issues? Does our Government really care about the small business owners of this country??? Where do we begin?