I have been providing a home news delivery (HND) service to my customers for the past 17 years, and until recently I saw it as an integral part of my business. It was always a guaranteed revenue stream with good margins, increased footfall from customers coming in to pay their bills and, most importantly, it provided a valued service to the local community.

Sadly, after all these years I am now starting to question whether I should continue to provide the service.

These days it seems that every aspect of HND is beset with problems. It’s fine when the delivery turns up on time, but when it’s late, as is often the case, the pressure is on. In the past seven days, for example, I have had only one day when the delivery was on time and no titles were missing. To add insult to injury, my wholesaler has just put its carriage charges up!

I have eight rounds and a reliable group of news deliverers, but even they get sick or go on holiday and I end up using my diesel and my time to get the papers delivered. At the moment I have four off, which is a real burden. When I do take on a new delivery person, many give up after a few wet and windy mornings and so all the effort I have put into training them is wasted.

My customer base is predominantly elderly and new accounts are quite rare. I recently refused Homelink’s offer to canvas for new customers because on their previous attempts all I gained was a few bad debts. As many of our elderly customers are housebound I pay someone to collect their accounts, and others send in cheques – so much for the increased footfall.

With a book debt of about £3,000, and the inevitable bad debts which are likely to increase in the current economic climate, I am starting to question the viability of it all. As a community store I feel a responsibility to provide HND, but at what cost?