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verandah post. We bought the Santa sacks in each night
when we closed the store, but the trees stayed tied to the
posts at all times and we’re proud to say we didn’t have
any lost or vandalised. Our windows, of which we have a
street frontage of about 18 metres, were outlined with
coloured strip lighting. Inside we had Christmas Carols playing
continually and we decorated the shop with tinsel and
It was also at this time that we found out that we had won
the National Retail Newsagent of the Year Award in the
ANF’s Awards for Excellence scheme so we had commercials
made up and played on the local radio station for the three
weeks leading up to and including Christmas, promoting this
achievement. One of the adverts was a simple five second
commercial that led into a syndicated talk back program that
simply said, “This program brought to you by the
award-winning Peterborough Newsagency”—it was
astonishing how many people actually mentioned that they
had heard the commercial.
Now it might have been very coincidental but as a result of
this we had an immediate response, with our Christmas sales
rush starting almost straight away. It was as if someone had
turned the light on and everyone realised that Christmas
wasn’t far away. We had a lot of customers from surrounding
towns come and visit us and spend a significant amount of
money buying products that they hadn’t seen anywhere else.
In one of our windows we had an eye-catching display of
3D aluminium wind spinners that retailed for around the $50
mark which turned out to be a really good seller (especially
amongst the men).
One of the other things that amazed us was the amount of
locals who made a point of coming into our business just to
say thank you for putting in the effort to promote Christmas
and how good the shop looks. (It also helped that the stores
around us hadn’t made much of an effort, in this respect.)
We also participated in and distributed quite a number of
catalogues. Amongst the catalogues was Jaycar (of which
we are an agent), Newspower and two toy catalogues. It was
hard work keeping up with the stock but it turned out to be
worthwhile in the long run.
One of the items in the Jaycar catalogue that we found
interesting was a robotic frill neck lizard that came in kit
form. I assembled it (it took about an hour and a half to put
together) and demonstrated how it would either follow or
run away from you. They sold for $49.95 and we sold a lot of
them as a direct result of showing people what they could do.
Our staff were brilliant during the lead up to Christmas. Our
employees Dawn and Denise have wonderful demeanours
and a sound knowledge of what we have in stock. I noticed
on many occasions how people would come into our store
looking for gifts not really knowing what they wanted and
within 15 minutes would be walking out with bags full of gifts.
As part of the “Christmas Spirit” we also offered to wrap
presents for our customers.
We have owned the newsagency for just on 11 years now
and generally we have a year-on-year increase on sales
of about 5% for the Christmas period. This year we were
amazed to find that we had increased our sales by 12%.
I remember reading an article in National Newsagent
magazine not long after we had purchased the business,
which basically said that the worst thing that you can do
when times are tough is to reduce your stock to a very low
level. The business owner had gone through the ‘depression’
of the 80s and had been tempted to reduce her stock
holdings but decided against it, which was convinced helped
her get through some tough times. From memory, I think her
reasoning was that it was not very appealing to customers to
see a shop half empty. From that time my motto has been, “If
you haven’t got, it you can’t sell it.”
As anyone who has been in our store will testify I have
probably taken this advice a little too far, as our variety and
levels of stock are probably a bit too high. However we
have done well out of it and will continue to strive toward
excellence and find new ways of improving.
Words: Chris Woodman, Peterborough Newsagency, SA
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