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ANF DIARY DATES
ACP Connections Conference
11 August 2011
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21-24 August 2011
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GNS Market Fairs
Perth 31 July
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Sydney: 17 - 20 September
Reinvent or die
Change and how you manage it is never
more evident than the stories around
traditional companies like Darrell Lea,
Fletcher Jones and Harris Scarfe—retail
icons in their time. They were almost brought
down by failing to keep up with change.
Fletcher Jones is now online, Darrell Lea
is in receivership but buyers queuing up to
buy and Harris Scarfe is regrouping, having
been bought by an overseas company.
Newsagents will know the feeling. From
being iconic small businesses that were a
‘license to print money’, newsagencies now
have to reinvent or die.
Fortunately, most newsagents are very
close to their business and can see, taste
and feel the change; there is no Board of
Directors in an ivory tower refusing to face
it. Good newsagents are managing change.
Patrick Stafford wrote in SmartCompany
how South Australian retailer Harris Scarfe
was brought back from the brink.
After a tumultuous decade in which the
company has faced administration, near
collapse and a private equity deal, the
company has finally been acquired—and has
intentions to keep growing.
The department stores were founded in
Adelaide in 1849, but the company ran into
trouble during the late 1990s due to rising
debts and management issues. In 2001, the
business was paced in to receivership.
So how did this company manage to
escape from near-collapse to a multi-
million dollar private equity deal, and then
1. Getting some critical mass
Following the management buyout in
2001, Harris Scarfe closed a number of
stores in Queensland and New South Wales.
But to get back on its feet, the company
needed to gain a critical mass. So it bought
a small network of stores, Allens, in South
2. Simplicity of product choice
Plenty of entrepreneurs have spoken
about the power of simplicity. And in the
case of Harris Scarfe, it’s actually worked.
They focus on men’s fashion, women’s
fashion, homewares and manchester.
3. Staying out of low-margin
A lot of the pain being felt by department
stores such as Myer and Harvey Norman is
due to their exposure to low-margin items,
including flat panel televisions, DVDs and
other electronics products.
Harris Scarfe made it a point to stay out
of those categories, sticking only to its four-
4. Bring in the big guns
Being acquired by a retail-specific brand
will help the company’s expansion; the
private equity purchase in 2007 also brought
some professionalism to the business.
Having some extra expertise can never hurt.
5. Completely new branding
After the 2001 management buyout,
Harris Scarfe completely rebranded itself
with new signage and a new logo. After
such a public event, the company needed to
do something to appear fresh. A new look
allowed the business to do two things—
modernise itself and separate the new
company in consumers’ minds from the
older, troubled business.
In the newsagency channel...
The above could be applied to the
newsagency channel as a whole.
We need to retain critical mass and
therefore it is essential that the channel
remains viable, strong and united! This
mass is unique, valuable with enormous
New branding will show the public that
newsagents are more than they were in the
’old days’. A program which is underway and
will be more visible in the next 12 months
needs to be supported with all our might.
Newsagents can’t focus on low margin
products—they already have those—there
has to be a focus on high margin products.
A successful future will see individual
newsagents applying their expertise and
their industry associations providing the
big guns to see that the channel remains
relevant. We all must work together.
Newsagents who decide to focus on retail will need all the help they can get to create
successful independent retail stores. Reading and learning from others is a good way to start:
Small specialty shops have a very bright
future as they return to their historical place
of providing personalised service, according
to shopping centre expert, Michael Lloyd.
Lloyd says it’s becoming apparent to
shoppers that speciality shops’ premium
ranges cannot be matched by the big
department stores or even niche chains.
“We are seeing the re-emergence
of small retail outlets as they offer
convenience, personalised service, and a
specialised range of goods,” says the former
board member of Lend Lease Retail.
“We are seeing specialist bakers, coffee
shops and butcheries springing up all over the
country, especially in the inner-city, catering
for people who are looking for better service
levels and are prepared to pay for it”, he says.
“Many of these specialist retailers have
come from different fields but they have a
passion for and knowledge of their products,
which translates to a great business.
“These attributes are diametrically
opposed to the big stores which have
disaffected staff and a limited range—
especially at the premium end of the market.
“We are seeing bicycle, specialist food,
golf and menswear shops thriving, becoming
destinations for shoppers who are prepared
to go out of their way to find them and find
parking on High Streets.”
“These are great businesses that will
continue to thrive in the future as the big
department stores fade in relevance to their
Source: Inside Retail online
Bright future for specialty shops
National Newsagent September 2012
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