It's encouraging to read about the National Federation of Retail Newsagents lobbying the government to support newsagents in their struggle with rising carriage costs and eroding margins, but if I were a CTN I would be worried.
The real issue is that the news and magazine market is in serious decline. My news bill is down nearly 20% over the past two years, none of that attributable to competition.
Most customers who buy my newspapers are over 40 and I no longer see young professionals buying the broadsheets to read on the train. Technology has taken over with iPods, laptops and mobile phones the norm.
I no longer consider news and mags as a core part of my business, as it is not an area I can grow, and I wouldn't take a lot of convincing to give it up. We offer home news delivery (HND), but my customer base is slowly eroding. Most of my HND customers are elderly, so I do not even benefit from the footfall as bills are paid by cheque or a third party.
There will come a point where the return on selling news and magazines no longer justifies the workload. Opening at 5am to receive and prepare the newspapers and all the administrative headaches mean it's not the most rewarding aspect of my business. Although as a local store I feel a sense of responsibility to provide HND, it won't be long before I question its viability.
It's not just news where margins are under attack. Who monitors the margins on offer at cash and carries and delivered wholesalers? Nobody. I am astounded at the difference in margin offered by some cash and carries and I am not referring to comparisons with promotional items. I acknowledge that I at least have a choice with my cash and carry purchases, but the variance is so great sometimes it's hard not to feel aggrieved.