A lot of retailers think that they should be in charge of their supplies. You know what you need to sell. Pretty simple. You look at your shelves, your sales and you place your orders.
It has never quite worked like this with news and magazines.
Subhash Varambhia is a name known to many of you as he has both the energy to run a busy newsagents in Leicester and to fire off a steady procession of letters to trade mags, suppliers, MPs, you name it, whenever he spots iniquities.
He wrote to me recently: "For months my business has suffered from news/mags supply shortages. And for months I struggled to pinpoint the culprit so that I could resolve the problem and get on with my business."
At the root of it, he says, is a centralised allocation system "operated by someone who is totally detached with no retail experience".
Subhash wrote to the CEO of his wholesaler to complain. The chief exec passed it on to the ops director, who passed it back to Subhash's local house manager who has no control over allocations.
"It's like pass the parcel," says Subhash. "So off we go back to the 'chief'. It is his system. It is his responsibility to tidy up the mess - the music has stopped."
Subhash thinks that his wholesaler is contravening the Industry Standard Service Agreement (ISSA) which he believes says a retailer has a right to manage his supply.
I spoke to Neil Robinson, chairman of ISSA and, as usual, the devil is in the detail.
Part 4.1 of the agreement says: 'Wholesalers will fulfil retailers' orders providing they are in line with individual publishers' sales and unsolds guidelines'. In other words, wholesalers work within the parameters set by publishers.
"However, clause 4.2 is there to protect the retailer," says Neil. "It's known as the 48-hour rule and relates only to magazine launches and promotional allocations. Wholesalers should notify retailers about any changes 48 hours in advance so retailers can make amendments to their supply. So it is balanced."
All wholesalers work on central allocations and the system is still a 'push' supply chain rather than a 'pull' one. Even the entry by the multiples with their vast clout post-1993 hasn't reversed the system to the point that retailers call the shots.
However, at least there is a complaints process and one that retailers should use. Neil and his team of arbitrators can investigate if you have a legitimate beef and they have made some progress in getting a fairer system for newsagents.
In fact, I hear that the industry is on the brink of agreeing that publishers will pay compensation if they're responsible for the lateness of supplies. That would be welcome.