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Publisher criticised for margin cuts aimed at giving weeklies ‘sustainable future’

Stuart ReddishA regional publisher has been criticised for cutting margins on six weeklies in a move it says will give the titles a “sustainable future”.

The Federation of Independent Retailers has publicly opposed the move by Newsquest, which affects a number of its weeklies in North Wales and the North-West of England.

On the Leigh Journal, the retail margin will decrease from 50pc to 21pc, meaning retailers will receive 15p less for each copy of the publication they sell.

On five other titles – the St Helens Star, the Messenger series, Wirral Globe, Rhyl Journal and the Chester & District Standard – the margin will go from 25pc to 21pc, resulting in retailers earning between 2p and 4p less per copy.

In a letter to retailers explaining the move, Newsquest North West and North Wales newspaper sales manager Chris Strong wrote: “Retail margin reductions are never comfortable for retailer – or publisher – but the longevity of these titles is paramount.

“Local journalism is absolutely vital and we have fought for our communities for more than 100 years.

“We are determined to ensure we are still doing so long into the future and by reducing retail margins we can invest in a sustainable future.”

The changes, which come into effect from 20 July, are being introduced without any increase in cover prices.

Responding on behalf of members, Federation of Independent Retailers president Stuart Reddish, pictured, said: “Terms reductions are unpalatable at the best of times but usually they occur alongside cover price increases.

“To make such a move without any price adjustment has left retailers reeling. Newsquest is demonstrating complete contempt for hard pressed and hard working newsagents by expecting them to take a massive hit.

“Yes, local newspapers are an essential part of communities but publishers have to wake up to the fact that if they want retailers onside they must make it worthwhile for them to stock their titles.

“Doing otherwise could mean the essential information they provide could disappear as members re-examine the profitability of these titles and decide to cut back on their orders or even remove the titles from their shelves.”

A Newsquest spokesman said: “We have nothing to add to Chris’s explanation which makes it clear why we are reluctantly introducing these changes.

“We are determined that the titles should continue in print but we cannot sustain the previous terms which were well ahead of the market average.”