With the impending launch of Apple’s new iPad does this mean the end is nigh for those retailers who sell magazines and books? While I don’t think the end is here just yet, it isn’t hard to see a future where the local newsagent will be a thing of the past.
In Australia, most newsagencies sell items including newspapers, magazines, books, greeting cards, lotto tickets and stationary supplies. I am sure that in the past few years the increase in popularity of email, Facebook and other social networking sites has reduced the sales of greeting cards. I for one, am a consumer who rarely buys greeting cards anymore and would rather send a greeting to my friends via Facebook or via an email. Is this less personal? Perhaps! I am still taking the time and effort to connect to that friend and wish them well on their special day. When I receive an E-greeting from a friend I am thankful for it and have never thought I would have preferred a card. I don’t think I am alone here.
As for newspapers I rarely buy one. I get my news from online sources like http://www.news.com.au. News online for now is a free service, however reports over the last few months, particularly from News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch has indicated that online news in the very near future will not be free as it is now. And nor should it be. Real journalists are paid to compile those reports as well as a myriad of behind the scenes people to load the content, keep the servers going etc and all of this costs money. Yes I hear you saying that these online sites have advertising on them but I would doubt that a high percentage of readers click through to the advertisers. I am happy to pay a subscription for online news, but only if it presents exactly the same as reading a newspaper does now, which the iPad and similar devices will allow. I also won’t be the same as it costs for a current newspaper. With no need for printing or retailers to sell them and therefore commissions, the cost of an online version of the daily paper should be considerable less.
Magazines will go the same way as newspapers. Available on line for a nominal fee. That is fine. The pictures and articles will look much better and with embedded video added into stories it will improve the quality of those stores 100%. I look forward to reading my favourite magazines online. The bloke in me definitely looks forward to seeing the iPad Playboy magazine with more than just pictures!
Books are already a huge online business for companies such as Amazon.com who is now selling more online books than paper books for the first time in history. While Amazon’s E-Reader the Kindle is in danger of becoming a dinosaur itself with the iPad now only weeks away, consumers have shown there is a huge business in online books and this has to have retailers of hard copy books very concerned.
The remainder of items that newsagents sell like lotto tickets are now available to purchase online in Australia but their little cousins, the Scratchie Ticket. which really is just an impulse buy anyway while you are at the newsagent buying your current newspaper, are not. Stationary supplies can be bought elsewhere at department stores and dedicated office supply stores like Officeworks and are generally easily accessible.
The same can be said about video stores. With the massive increase in downloading movies either legally or illegally plus the increase in subscriber numbers to pay TV operators such as Foxtel, your local video store will not be able to compete. A source tells me that his Video Ezy store has really become a DVD retailer rather than a DVD rental outlet and that is how he is staying in business. He just doesn’t make the same money he once did on rentals. He has added computers for customers to surf the net on at his store as well as a photocopier as another way of increasing revenue but it is a battle he is losing. The reality is that as broadband services improve and ISP’s lower their costs in an ever increasing competitive market place, more and more people will download their movies, whether to rent or own at a much cheaper price than a DVD retailer will be able to offer. Let’s face it. DVD retailers such as Video Ezy have massive rents and labour costs to pay as well as other costs such as electricity, insurance, security, bank loans etc. They just simply will not be able to compete.
So my friends, the days of the humble newsagent and video store are numbered. Add onto this list book retailers like Angus and Robertson and it is easy to see a future devoid of these retailers. While it will take time for older generations to either catch up with technology or die off, there will be a time when it just won’t be feasible for these current day retailers to survive.
I honestly don’t think that in 10 years time you will a Blockbuster or Video Ezy around the corner. Newsagents will be few and far between as will book retailers. They will all need to find ways to reinvent themselves or become dinosaurs.
What do you think? Do you buy less greeting cards than you use to? Do you download books now rather than buy hard copy versions? Do you buy your lotto online? What is the future for these retailers?