While I am still reeling from the recent takeover by Menzies of our wholesale news distribution, our other distributor News International now informs us that it is reducing the margins on The Sun.
This is very ominous news and reminds me of one of the mobile phone networks which some years ago started to reduce its margins and they all followed suit, regardless of the outcry. Is this the start of a similar chain of events? How long before the other publishers do the same?
My first reaction to the news about The Sun margins was to consider how I could fight back. Should I take a stand and refuse to deliver The Sun, or maybe give it a less prominent display position?
The other option I have, as with any other price increase or margin reduction, is to pass it on to the customer. I intend to increase my delivery charges from January 1. I had been considering this anyway after the increase in charges as a result of paying two distributors and the extra workload this has created.
More importantly, I am now starting to question the viability of continuing HND. The majority of my delivery customers are elderly and I feel a sense of responsibility to them, but at what cost?
I arrive at 5am, and the busiest part of the day commences, counting newspapers and marking up rounds, assuming they arrive on time. News International's, in particular, rarely arrive by the agreed delivery time.
I open at 6.30am, when one of my managers starts the time-consuming task of dealing with paperwork, credits and so on. Is it all worth it? I am not convinced.
I will watch how things develop in 2010, but I suspect that I won't be the first to give up on HND, and possibly the 50 Suns that I will not deliver might actually be some form of retaliatory action.