Tower Systems has completed another in its series of newsagency retail sales benchmark studies. We have been doing these quarterly for more than 15 years, serving newsagents, their suppliers and others.

We gather the data, collate it, analyse it and share the results widely, in pursuit of a stronger and healthier newsagency channel.

It is a free process for all involved, transparent, too.

This study, like all we have undertaken, reveals trends, from which we and newsagents can learn. Here it is…

The results of the June 2020 quarter newsagency retail sales benchmark show the extent to which COVID-19 is impacting businesses.

There are winners and losers.

  • The winners are regional and high street retailers.
  • The losers are shipping centre based retailers.

Looking at comprehensive retail sales data from 137 newsagencies for April – June 2020 compared to April – June 2019, the results underscore the value of the retail newsagency channel to local communities. This is a same-store comparison, making the results meaningful. FYI, I removed stores that were closed for any time in the reporting periods.

Data include a mix of rooftops from several brands. The benchmark includes data from businesses using the Tower newsagency software and several who are not.

Given the extraordinary gap in performance, I share the results separately, because reporting them as one dataset does not make sense.

Shopping centre based retail newsagencies.

  • Transaction count change: down 42%.
  • Revenue change: down 36%.
  • Basket size change: up 11%.
  • Newspaper unit sales: down 15%.
  • Magazine unit sales: down 21%.
  • Cards revenue: down 27%.
  • Stationery revenue:  down 11%.
  • Gift revenue: down 45%.
  • Toy revenue: down 42%.
  • Puzzle revenue: up 5%. A quarter of reporting businesses sell puzzles.
  • Instant lottery revenue: up 9%. Half reporting businesses have lotteries.
  • Lottery revenue:  down 5%.

A note about shopping centre data. The dataset in small, just under 10% of respondents. However, the gap between respondents is small.

High street newsagencies.

  • Transaction count change: down 5%.
  • Revenue change: up 27%.
  • Basket size change: up 20%.
  • Newspaper unit sales: down 5%. early din, there was a jump, which has disappeared.
  • Magazine unit sales: up 5%.
  • Cards revenue: up 7%. There are pockets of success – female birthday and thank you cards, in particular.
  • Stationery revenue:  up 13%. Homeschooling and home office, of course.
  • Gift revenue: up 25%. Some categories are down while others, like nesting products, are in triple-digit growth.
  • Toy revenue: up 13%.
  • Puzzle revenue: up 150%. Less than half reporting businesses sell puzzles.
  • Instant lottery revenue: up 16%. Just over half reporting businesses have lotteries.
  • Lottery revenue:  up 4%.

A note about this high street data: it includes regional and rural as well as suburban high street. The performance of regional and rural is considerably better than suburban high street for the most part. How much, you ask? Around 33% better is my response.

Embarrassed.

Plenty of regional and high street newsagents are embarrassed to be reporting such good numbers. Their growth while other businesses nearby are struggling makes them not want to be too open about their success. Even within the newsagency channel there are those in growth who do not want to talk about it with newsagents who are way down.

A moving feast.

Looking at early July data, I’d note that it would be wrong to lock the April – June  results into a view for the long term. We are certainly in a period of significant change. The next quarter results could be different again.

What have we learned from the last 3 and 6 months?

  • Shopping local has been embraced.
  • The high street feels safer than a shopping mall.
  • Newsagencies are trusted and appreciated businesses.
  • Our channel is essential.
  • A newsagency is a good business to own overall.

While we have learned more, this list is my key points.

Finally, we are grateful to all newsagents who shared their data for inclusion in this study.

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