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Home & Gift Harrogate a month ago was busy. Across halls and pavilions, gift and homewares retailers packed stands looking at products to stock through the Autumn and Winter.
Suppliers offered greeting cards, gifts, toys, calendars, homewares, outdoor products, jewellery, spa products and plenty more. The product mix was similar to what I see at Gift fairs in Australia where my business is based.
In my two days at the Fair I didn’t encounter one newsagent. This surprised me as newsagents make up a third of all attendees at Gift fairs in Australia now – and that number is growing.
I had travelled for thirty hours to get to Harrogate. I was looking for unique products through which I could explore even more change in my established newsagency business.
While plenty was on offer that would fit in my newsagency business, visiting newsagents in Leeds and Manchester after the Harrogate Fair I realised why UK newsagents were not in attendance.
The majority of UK newsagents have chosen to either remain in the traditional newsagent space or adopt a convenience model. Both are challenged. The traditional newsagent business model has no upside for most while the convenience model faces competition from the large supermarket groups.
Talking with several newsagents I think the traditional model and the convenience model represent relatively easy decisions – or decisions they at least understand. I can appreciate that it is too difficult to change the floor space allocation of your business to products your retail channel has either never sold or only sold in a passive way.
If I was running a high street newsagent in the UK right now I would embrace opportunities I saw at Harrogate and dramatically change the direction of the business. I would leverage traffic generating opportunities, build a strong core and surround this with better margin products than crisps, lottery products and drinks.
Walking along high streets where I saw two and three newsagents near each other and with supermarket group local stores nearby I could see the benefits of not playing in that competitive oceans and, instead, offering shoppers something different that would make my business stand out.
The biggest successes I am enjoying in my newsagencies right now are not traditional to the newsagency channel. The ideas have come from exploring ideas from other retail channels and finessing these so they could work in a newsagency. The result is a new type of business that challenges the newsagency shingle but that also gives me the traffic, revenue and gross profit growth I want for a bright future.
Harrogate was packed with opportunities. UK newsagents ought to explore more outside what is usual for their channel. There are other retail channels newsagents can take on and win from. All it takes is being open to the opportunity of success.
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