NFRN national president Stuart Reddish has condemned the announcement from Smiths News regarding the imminent increase in its carriage charges.
The charges are due to rise by 3.02% from 30 August this year.
“I am absolutely appalled that Smiths News should decide to ratchet up its carriage charges, especially at a time when Covid-19 forced the closure of many small stores and left many other of its retail customers struggling financially,” said Reddish.
“Yet again, retailers are forced into accepting another increase in costs and a further erosion of margin. With an average 97p increase, this means that independent retailers will have to find a further £50 a year to pay to have their news supplies delivered.
“I believed that the NFRN and Smiths News had a strong working relationship; one that included assurances that we would be consulted on carriage charge issues. How wrong could I be, as the NFRN has not been consulted ahead of today’s announcement?”
The outrage comes after NFRN and ACS raised concerns about the future of the newspaper supply chain in a joint letter to the Minister of State for Media and Data, John Whittingdale MP.
In the letter, NFRN and ACS outlined a number of areas to help the newspaper supply chain to operate more efficiently and effectively, including carriage service charges, requested delivery times, territorial protection and coupon redemption processes.
Now, with the announcement of the increase of carriage charges, Reddish said this move could result in shop closures.
“Coupled with recent margin cuts – from both national and regional newspaper publishers – this increase can only result in the closure of some shops, while in others retailers will drop the news category completely in favour of products that offer enhanced margins and far less hassle,” he said.
“At a time of such uncertainty for independent retailers, something has to happen if publishers and news wholesalers want a supply chain from print centre to letterbox.
“I have made my thoughts abundantly clear in a message to Smiths News’ chief executive Jon Bunting and now await his reply.”
The NFRN secured an assurance that it would be consulted ahead of any future carriage charge increases after protesting outside Smiths News’ Swindon head office in 2017.