News Direct is a daily newspaper delivery service that I have been trying to get off the ground in the Abernethy area.
For the last ten or twelve years I have been trying to buy the paper shop from originally Sandy and Betty and latterly Betty, each kept saying that they would sell but the other one wasn't sure. After Sandy died Betty said that Sandy would have wanted her to continue so eventually I gave up asking, and as time went on it became clear that there wasn't really anything but bricks and mortar left to buy.
When I heard about her attack and that the shop was closed, I approached Betty and asked if she would mind if I tried to resurrect the delivery side. She was quite happy with that as she felt that her old customers would be getting looked after newspaper wise. She said she would be opening for a few hours to let people pay her the outstanding paper accounts, and that she would give out leaflets to all of her customers letting them know of our service. I approached Brian Grieg to ask what his intentions were regarding the sale of newspapers in Abernethy, as he had started selling The Courier and I didn't want to stand on his toes as it were. He told me that he had no interest in continuing selling papers and he was only selling The Courier as a good will gesture until someone else took over. He also agreed to give out leaflets on my behalf.
I was of the opinion that I was in with a fighting chance.
I canvassed every house in Abernethy and surrounding area both by delivering leaflets and by taking advantage of the publishers D.C.Thomson's kind offer of their door to door canvassers. The response has not been as good as I would have hoped for, I have even struggled to get children to take on the job of delivering the papers. The wages I am paying is more for six days than the Newburgh shop pays for seven.
All along the way when speaking to potential customers I have made it quite clear that I would give it my best shot but if we get to around August or September and things have not improved I would consider stopping the deliveries because if I can't make it pay in the summer months I have no chance during the winter.
I have been in this trade for over 30 years and I think that I can say that if anyone can make a go of this I can, but I really need the village to support the venture, not that I am of the opinion that the village. Owes me a living, if ,at the end of the day the message is they don't want a delivery service then that's fine, as long as I have done my best I will be happy.
My fear is that there are more people who will want to take advantage of the service as the year goes on but if they leave it too late the service won't be there for them or the people who are currently using it.
At this present time I am about half way round the village doing a door to door canvas myself in an effort to drum up some extra business and to see what the problem is, if indeed there is one, and if I can resolve it I will try my best to do so. To cover two delivery rounds I have one six day paper boy who is excellent and so far no Sunday deliverer. As for the second round I am delivering it myself Monday to Sunday along with the Sunday deliveries of the first roundWhat I have found so far is that some people who once having done without a paper for a few weeks have realised that they don't miss it, and that is fair enough, I agree in that case it's a waste of money.
Some people have got into the habit of buying a paper at work and reading it at night.. This is not something I had planned
The cost of delivery seems to be a factor to some people, at 30p per day it could be seen as expensive, but when you compare it to the cost of going to Newburgh or Bridge of Earn ,easily £1 per return trip, it compares favourably. I think the fact that Betty and Sandy delivered papers for such a small fee makes 30p seem a lot, in reality we deliver to 800 houses in Perth all paying 30p per day and happy to do it. I am absorbing the cost of bringing the papers from Perth every day, seven days a week so I could not reduce the delivery charge by even a small amount.
The other main reason for people not having a delivery is that they want to look after the local shop, this threw me a bit because as far as I was concerned the local shop had closed and there was not much chance of it opening up again. In fact the shop they were referring to was Brian Grieg's, now it made sense. As I had already talked to Brian and I knew he was only keeping papers on a temporary basis I realised there had to have been a bit of a misunderstanding, this part had not filtered through to the general public. I went to see Brian to ask what his future plans regarding papers were, he said that he would now be keeping Couriers as some of his customers had asked him to keep selling them. This came as a bit of a blow but that's business, you win some you lose some. The bottom line is that if I had known that Brian had been continuing with papers I am not so sure I would have come into Abernethy as The Courier is the backbone of any local newspaper delivery. Still, we are where we are and I am going to give this my best shot. As I have gone around speaking to the older locals, they tell me Abernethy had up to nine shops at one time and all but one has been lost. It would be a pity if this venture were to suffer the same fate.
Thanks for your time Ian Morgan