My heart bleeds for these newsagents

… 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?

 

 

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10 thoughts on “My heart bleeds for these newsagents

  1. “My heart bleeds for these newsagents” What sort of comment is that. How about “Lets all get together and do something about this situation”. ANF needs to show leadership, not sympathy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well Peta, I (Carolyn for the National Newsagent blog) show sympathy – I have written about about these issues for years and it is more than frustrating; the issues are complex but it is the small independent newsagent who continues to bear the brunt, so yes I am very sorry for those dealing with it.
    As for the ANF, it is working very strategically right now with the MPA to get these things resolved – you will have read about all the meetings, the ACCC, the political lobbying, the pressure on publishers and yet the problems continue because in the end someone has to lose – and we don’t want it to be newsagents.
    I think better news is coming (but I always think that), so sympathy and hard work to rectify are both important.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I find that we are getting more & more of the not so popular titles, while our supply of the magazines that sell well are being cut back…….doesn’t make sense to me. As for the oversupply, we return them the day they come in. At the end of the month we have returned more than we have kept.

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  4. Hi Peta, you should voice your concerns directly with the Publisher if you want to have ANY impact what-so-ever. Newsagents must remember that the Distributors are truck drivers with a small (and getting smaller) office in some remote Australian town (Sydney) who are paid to distribute. Whereas the Publisher must SELL product to achieve their goal and they need retail outlets such as Newsagents to do this. Publishers are concerned that they will be beholden to the majors and we know how tough they can play ball! (see recent ACCC media articles)
    Simon Richards, CLAYTON NEWSAGENCY

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  5. @Gary, you can show sympathy and at the same time, work strategically to make the situation better. Nothing wrong with that. There are many that beat their chests, threaten legal action, boycotts, etc that do no good to the newsagency industry. We’ve seen what happened when associations/groups do this in the past – no one wins.

    So while it is difficult waiting for results, we need the unison of publishers, distributors, and newsagents to work together on a common ground for the benefit of the magazine industry. Until then, we can show sympathy and work together to find ways of improving a bad situation.

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  6. You have hit the nail on the head Luke – unison of publishers, distributors and newsagents is the only way forward – and the ANF is trying to achieve that. But as you say, we have seen all the beating of chests and threats for no result so now it takes careful, considered time to find a solution acceptable to all.

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  7. i totally agree to the article, it has been the same situation with us, we have to do something we have the number on our side, if we take a stand all of us together(newsagents) we can get them down to what we want but everybody has to be on the same page. there is no sense of unity atall

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