The newsagents has traditionally been a vital and valued retailer on our streets, but changes in technology, how we shop and in what we buy has challenged the sector over recent years.
Before you jump in, consider these 10 questions….
What’s your idea of a good work-life balance?
The first, and most important thing to know about buying a newsagents is the long hours you will be required to put into the business.
Unless you can employ staff (unlikely at the offset), you will be working very lengthy days. The profit margins in this retail sector can be slim, so many newsagents stay open very late, or become a 24hour service, in order to harness all the passing trade possible.
Do you have a head for business?
Running a newsagents is not just ‘playing shop’ - you will need good business acumen to be profitable.
As well as sourcing competitively priced stock that your local demographic will want to buy on a regular basis, constant attention your own pricing is essential.
Newsagents are ‘pennies’ businesses where a drop in sales in a certain area can tip things over the edge. What you pay out for stock, rent, utility bills and tax must be carefully balanced against income.
Do you embrace change?
As the way we live continues to evolve alongside new trends and technologies, so you will have to adapt your service.
20 years ago, there were no lottery terminals, cash points, travel cards or phone top-ups available at newsagents whereas now they are ubiquitous.
Similarly, as the popularity of on-line newspapers and magazines has grown, so newspaper sales have fallen and an over-all decline in smoking due to 2006’s ban and graphic picture health warning in packaging has meant that what were once the lion’s-share of profits are now skinnier cash-cows.
Are you in the right place?
Location is vital to a successful newsagents. You will need to bear in mind what level of footfall will pass your shop on a daily basis.
Obviously, shops near stations and travel-hubs will have plenty of passing trade, as will those in shopping centres and built-up residential areas.
City pitches, near offices may have plenty of customers during the week, but will be dead at the weekends so it’s important to work out if you can afford the high rents that go with these locations.
Are you a ‘people-person’?
It’s all very well owning a newsagents in a busy area, but unless you build up customer loyalty, your business will likely fail. There will always be another newsagents up the road so you will need to work on your people-skills.
A friendly word, a bit of banter about the football or the weather will bring people back to you on a daily basis. A little kindness goes a long way too – if a regular is 20p short, letting them off the hook may ensure their custom for weeks to come.
Are you thick-skinned?
Despite requiring a friendly demeanor to win over customers, you will no doubt encounter all manner of unsavoury folk in your working-week.
Newsagents are a shop-lifters paradise and there will be late-night drunks and occasional agro to deal with. Ask yourself if you are tough enough to manage these situations.
Are you competitive?
Although there will always be a demand for well-run newsagents, they have faced keen competition over recent years from supermarket outlets such as Tesco Express and Sainsbury’s Local, convenience stores and petrol station forecourts.
You may have to think outside the box to keep profits up. A utility bill payment point or money transfer facility may be an idea as would providing competitively priced sandwiches and coffee.
Think about your local residents – if there is a large student population, stock up on scratch cards, energy drinks and pot-noodles! If you are in a busy commercial area, widen your range of newspapers and magazines.
What is the local economy like?
It’s important that the local business infrastructure and economy, around your newsagents, is healthy.
If there have been recent factory or office closures and business failures in general, people are more likely overlook the convenience factor, and head to the nearest cheap supermarket to save money.
How will you keep up with trends in the sector?
If you are behind your till for all hours, you are unlikely to hear about the latest energy drink or low-cal snack to capture the public’s imagination.
Joining a trade association is a good way of keeping up to date with industry developments. The National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) is a great resource as is the Retail Newsagent magazine.
Also, the Periodical Publishers Association (PPA) provides useful information on magazine launches and circulation.
Do you want to make a living or make a million?
Let’s face it, you are not going to make a fortune running a newsagents.
However, you can earn a decent living and become a valued member of your local community. If you can achieve the right balance of business-sense and customer service – owning a newsagents can be a satisfying and rewarding life.