The London Evening Standard's surprise announcement that it would become a freesheet from this week could cost the capital's news vendors an estimated £25,000 a day in profit, and have a knock-on effect on the sales of other titles.

Announcing the move, the paper's owner Alexander Lebedev rang a warning bell for retailers across the country, saying he believed other quality newspapers would follow the Standard's lead in adopting a free circulation model.

The shock decision also sees the Standard more than double its print run to 600,000 a move which retailers believe could hit their sales of other paid-for titles.

National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) head of newspapers and magazines Stefan Wojciechowski said London members were disappointed by the move but accepted the inevitability of change, as sales of the paper have fallen sharply in recent years.

In August, just over 100,000 copies were sold through newsagents and street vendors at the full cover price of 50p. A larger number were distributed free.

Wojciechowski said the biggest losers would be aged and infirm Londoners who relied on home delivery to receive the paper, and questioned Evening Standard Ltd's ability to distribute such a high volume without the support of newsagents.

NFRN London district president Omkar Patel, who owns a store in Worcester Park in South West London, also believes the publisher may regret the decision.

"Once you go free, you have to stay free," he said. "When the Standard removed distribution from 3,000 shops in 2006, it took out around £1m of journalist costs and the quality of the newspaper has floundered since."

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