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Newsagents threaten ‘mass deselection’ of regional newspapers from shelves

Stuart ReddishNewsagents have warned regional newspapers could be “deselected” from their shelves on a mass scale amid a row over retailer margins.

The Federation of Independent Retailers, also known as the NFRN, says a number of regional publishers have “breached the line of acceptability” with many of its members after cover price increases at more than 262 regional titles over the past two months.

According to a report in trade website Better Retailing, there have been cuts to retailer margins on more than 150 local and regional editions over the same period.

Its report claimed that while publishers JPIMedia and Iliffe Media retained the retailer margins after increasing cover prices on their publications, Newsquest and Reach reduced theirs.

The NFRN has confirmed it has met with Reach to raise its members’ concerns about the issue.

It  national president Stuart Reddish, pictured, told Better Retailing: “While regional press news remains a vital component in our members’ communities, these continued percentage reductions across the respective stables have now breached the line of acceptability with many of our members.

“Unless alternative strategies are found, I fear mass product deselection could become more commonplace. The profit gap compared with the national press and also magazines is no longer marginal.

“It’s certainly not justifiable, and sticks out as a greater concern when carriage charges are considered. Publishers must wake up and ask questions about fairness in what are meant to be mutual trading relationships.”

JPIMedia, Newsquest, Reach plc and Iliffe Media were all cited in the Better Retailing story as having increased cover prices recently.

The report says Reach increased prices on 111 of its local and regional editions by 10p, with newsagents being given a reduced share of the total cover price in all instances.

Examples cited in the report include the Bath Chronicle, where the share was reduced from 17.8pc to 17pc, and Retford Times, which decreased from 20.8pc to 19.6pc.

It was noted, however, that Reach had chosen to maintain percentage margins on one of its flagship titles, the Scottish Daily Record.

The report claimed a total of 55 Newsquest titles had their prices increased between 3p and 10p, with retailer margins on these being cut from 18pc to 15pc.

Another Newsquest publication, Marlow Free Press, cut its retailer margin from 20pc to 15pc, according to Better Retailing.

JPI Media is also reported to have increased the price of 60 titles by an average of 3p, with the Hartlepool Mail rising from 75p to 80p and the Shields Gazette increasing from 88p to 90p, although the publisher confirmed retailer margins would rise on a pro-rata basis.

Elsewhere, price increases have been reported at 36 Iliffe Media titles, with an increase of 10p being recorded at the Grantham Journal.

HTFP has approached the NFRN and all of the publishers named in the Better Retailing story for comment.

Reach, JPIMedia and Newsquest have yet to respond, but Iliffe editorial director Ian Carter said: “All retailer percentage margins were maintained when we increased the cover price of our titles.”

An NFRN spokeswoman told HTFP: “The NFRN was pleased to have the opportunity to meet with Reach executives when we reminded them of the need for pro rata terms when cover price increase occur.

“We were also to explore ways of working together.

“We are disappointed not to have the opportunity to discuss our concerns with other publishing companies.”