The move follows similar decisions by distributors Frontline, Seymour, Comag and Associated Newspapers, and raises fears that the market is polarising around just two wholesalers, Smiths News and Menzies Distribution. Distribution contracts for Trinity Mirror and Marketforce are due to be renegotiated this month.
National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) head of news and magazines Stefan Wojciechowski is understandably wary of the changes. "While all state their decision is in the interests of efficiency and service in the marketplace, it seems that the key driver is financial," he said.
"I sincerely hope this is not
at the expense of deteriorating service to independent retailers and I shall be monitoring
the situation extremely closely."
David Standing of Weston PO & Stores in Hertfordshire was contacted by Smiths News, which will deliver his News International titles from July.
"Apart from the loss of competition, there are serious financial concerns for retailers in this change," he told C-Store.
"Firstly we will have two delivery charges to pay, although I'm told my current delivery charge from Dawsons could reduce. Even so, my overall cost of delivery would undoubtedly rise. Secondly there is the issue of Minimum Entry Level (MEL) surcharges. Are we going get MELs from both suppliers?
"Thirdly there will be two sets of paperwork and procedures, and two phone calls to report shortages and so on."
David added: "This appears to be another example of the heavy-handed tactics by the publishers, without any regard for the thousands of retailers without whom they would struggle to get their publications to market."