Independent wholesalers have been squeezed further out of the magazine market after Dawson gained control of another big chunk of the country.

Northern & Shell - which publishes Express Newspapers along with magazines such as OK! - awarded Dawson a five-year contract in three new areas: Chester/North Wales, Preston and Canterbury.

It follows the news last month that a consortium of WH Smith, Menzies and Dawson had won the Frontline contract.

Association of News Retailing managing director John Lennon criticised the decision to move business away from the independent wholesale sector.

He said: “If you allow a monopolistic supplier to use their national buying power to undercut smaller regional wholesalers, or prevent the threat of entry by other traditional wholesalers, then the inevitable will happen - competition will be eliminated and costs will increase.”

The industry is still awaiting the Office of Fair Trading’s decision on the wholesale system, which is due any day.