The rise from £2 to £2.20 on September 19 means retailers' cash margin rises by 1.7p per copy but their proportion of the price shrinks from 25% to 23.5%.
The move was immediately damned by trade bodies. Association of News Retailers managing director John Lennon called it "short-sighted, money-grabbing and deplorable" and said the reduction would put further pressure on the survival of many community retailers.
"With publishers ignoring eye-watering carriage charges while further directly reducing retailers' margins, many businesses will be wondering why they should support certain titles at all," Lennon added.
National Federation of Retail Newsagents national president Parminder Singh admitted that, despite emergency meetings, the Federation had failed in its attempt to influence the publisher's decision. "It appears they have been stringing us along," he said. "How are we meant to work with a company that offers progressive dialogue on one hand while having its other hand in our members' back pocket and robbing them blind?"
Individual newsagents have also taken action. Melvyn Cotterill of Haughton Post Office in Staffordshire said he would actively discourage customers from buying the Sunday Times. In a letter to NI he said: "What you fail to realise is that the more small stores you put out of business with your greed, the more circulations will fall."
In a letter to newsagents, NI said: "While the retail margin is reduced in percentage terms, the cash margin which retailers receive per copy actually increases. The Sunday Times still offers the highest cash margin of any Sunday newspaper and, as the best-selling quality newspaper, remains a significant profit and footfall generator."
Asda withdrew the title from sale in 260 stores in protest.