Menzies pledges its commitment

Menzies is aiming to deliver newspapers and magazines to retailers when they need them, the company told delegates.

Speaking to the district council, the company repeated its commitment to the market, saying it was still the most important part of its business. Menzies regional manager for the south Ian Nesbit said: “We have diversified, but the main focus is still the newspaper and magazine business. We will have very few shared vehicles.”

Discussing the company’s new routing plans, Mr Nesbit said: “In terms of efficiency, of course we expect to make some savings.

“It’s part of it, but it’s also about trying to get titles to retailers at the time they need them.” He admitted, after questioning from East Kent member Hitesh Pandya about Menzies’ tagline of “Blue Vans Mean Business”, that it only owned 25% to 30% of its vans, with the balance being from contractors.

And while he further noted that agency staff were needed to help pack during busier times, he added: “There isn’t any evidence to suggest that agency pickers are worse than staff pickers.”

Responding to calls from retailers such as North West Kent members Jeet Chopra and Ron Rushbrook, who outlined problems they and other members had been experiencing with late deliveries and mispacked orders, Mr Nesbit pledged to look at ways to ensure HND customers get their papers first when there are problems. He also promised to attempt to prioritise independent retailers.

Mr Nesbit further promised that Menzies would investigate illegal sales of magazines at market stalls, including one notable seller in the Chelmsford area.

“We need to find out where they are coming from and put a stop to this,” Portsmouth member Colin Fletcher said.

Have you noticed changes to your soft drinks sales in the light of
increased concerns in the media about sugar content and health?

Drinks sales are buoyant and sugary drinks are still doing well, although people are drinking a lot more water. Smartwater has become a top seller, the 850ml and 1.5l are most popular. Cheaper waters aren’t really working, people aren’t sure of the taste.

Hitesh Pandya

Toni’s News, Ramsgate

Customers don’t seem to be changing their habits. People are still buying the same drinks they have always bought. Sugary energy drinks are still selling really well. Price isn’t a factor when it comes to whether or not they buy soft drinks.

Bob Patel

Dunwells News, Ramsgate

People are more health conscious now and children are becoming more health-oriented too. There are a lot more options with less sugar and a lot with zero sugar and I’ve noticed younger customers are starting to move towards the zero options now.

Pradip Amin

Birds Newsmarket, Portsmouth

Carriage charge clarity ‘pursued’

The NFRN will challenge Smiths and Menzies to provide clarity on how their carriage charges are calculated following the latest set of rises published last month.

NFRN chief executive Paul Baxter outlined to South East district council members some of the ways the federation is tackling “unfairness” in the news sector.

He said: “We’re seething. We demand to see how their outrageous 4% rise was worked out. I want them to justify it. How can they launch so many businesses alongside distribution, keep the papers later and still charge us without recompense?”

North West Kent member Naresh Purohit added: “We can’t maintain our business with carriage charges from wholesalers going up, margins going down and publishers pleading poverty. Surely they both understand to sustain the industry all of us need to make money?”


District’s future in the spotlight

NFRN districts in the south-east have always been forward-thinking, but more needs to be done to prepare for the future.

That was the message from visiting NFRN president and district member Linda Sood.

“We have to look further than restructuring of branches and even districts 10 years down the line. We need to start thinking about the future of the districts,” she said.

Paying tribute to the support of the South East district, she added: “I want the federation to carry on, but we have to change. Let’s get some ideas together.”


Zapper ‘levels the playing field’

Working with payment system Zapper enables independent convenience stores to keep up with the multiples by offering customers their own loyalty card, the company’s NFRN account manager Grant Forrest told the council.

“It offers a level playing field with yourselves and supermarkets,” he said.

“You can have your own club card for customers. Your opportunity ends when a customer walks past your store, but Zapper gives you the chance to contact them, drive them in-store and drive the frequency of visiting. It’s a real gamechanger.”

He further pledged that Zapper was for independents only.

“We won’t be dealing with Co-op and Tesco and others,” he said, responding to retailers’ questions.

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