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Thanks, we’ll take the Lotto too!

Friday, 23rd January, 2015

Chris Niarros of the South Newsagency reckons the big supermarkets have taken enough off small businesses like his already. Chris Niarros of the South Newsagency reckons the big supermarkets have taken enough off small businesses like his already.

By Craig Brealey

First the big supermarkets started doing newsagents and corner shops out of business by selling newspapers, magazines and greeting cards.

Now they are after their lotto sales as well.

“They don’t leave you much,” one Broken Hill newsagent told the BDT. “They’ll be selling cars next.”

Until now, the newsagents and some small shops held exclusive rights (called “Agency Protection”) to lottery tickets but on April 1 that will expire and the State Government intends to let big businesses, such as the major supermarket chains, into the game.

The Newsagents Association of NSW & ACT has been fighting this proposal without making much headway but this week it welcomed an announcement from the Labor Opposition that it would negotiate a better deal for small business if it won the State election in March.

Chris Niarros, owner of the South Newsagency, said he was encouraged by the news but was not cheering yet.

“I think it’s great but they have to get into office first, and they (Labor) haven’t put a lid on it. It’s good news but I’d like to see it permanently quashed,” Mr Niarros said.

“How much more of the pie do Woolworths and Coles want?”

He also said that he wondered whether the government realised just how much revenue it would lose if it allowed the big supermarkets to put so many small shops out of business.

Around 1,500 newsagents and other businesses would face financial hardship and could even be forced to close when the Agency Protection Period expired, according to NSW Opposition leader Luke Foley. 

If Labor won office, Mr Foley said, newsagents and other small businesses would remain the main distribution agents for NSW Lotteries, which is now owned by Tattslotto.

“The NSW Lotteries business was built by small business and a Labor Government will enact a positive plan to ensure they remain the cornerstone of the franchise in a fair commercial agreement with the private operator,” he said.

Labor would enact laws that preserved the agency protection “until such time as the parties reach agreement on new terms,” Mr Foley said.

“Newsagents are frequently the beating hearts of local shopping villages, especially in regional communities. I don’t want to see them disappear because of a commercial decision that could cause the financial ruin of these family-run businesses.

“Thousands of young people have been given their first job and their first taste of adult responsibility by their local newsagent, either behind the counter or the newspaper delivery route. This important role in the community should not be put at risk.”   

The Shadow Minister for Small Business, Adam Searle, said that income from lotteries was typically around 40 per cent of turnover in a newsagents and could be as high as 90 per cent.

Phil Day of Newsworld said Labor’s promise came as a relief.

“That’s good news,” Mr Day said. “I don’t think the changes would affect Broken Hill very much because we’re quite isolated but anything to stop this sort of thing happening to newsagents and small business is great.”

Mr Day said that the present government had ignored the concerns of small business owners and that it was good that Labor had a different approach.

“At least they’re talking - that’s encouraging.”

The Newsagents Association also stated its appreciation.

“Labor has listened to our concerns,” it said in a statement this week.

“More importantly, they have translated them into a very workable, practical and viable solution. 

“This proposal is the right balance. It inserts a circuit breaker to allow unhurried negotiation. It removes the looming fear of the drop dead date of 1 April. It has negotiation oversight to ensure fairness.

“We call on the Government to put politics aside and embrace the mechanics of this proposal.”

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