Take action now against price hike
NFRN members must engage with publishers and assess their ranges to prevent further newspaper price rises, following Johnston Press’s decision to cut retailers’ margin cut amid price hikes, the meeting agreed.
During a debate on the issue, retired newsagent Raymond Hamilton said he had heard the Belfast Telegraph was set to rise to £1. He said NFRN members should take action to prevent further price rises.
“We did nothing about it last time and by the looks of things we’ll do nothing about it this time,” he said.
Johnston Press, which owns titles including the Ballymena Times, the Coleraine Times, The Lisburn Echo and The Ulster Star, cut retail margins by as much as 5% across 41 of its regional publications despite increasing cover prices.
“We’re working for nothing,” said Ken Chapman, of Ken’s News in Belfast.
“We should go back to the publisher and ask them what they want us to do, because they aren’t giving us enough of a margin.”
Joe Archibald, of Archibald’s News in Coleraine, said he has taken publications he does not break even on off his shelf and keeps them behind the counter instead. Customers now have to ask if they want to buy a certain title.
District president Gwen Patterson told members she would call an urgent meeting with representatives of the Belfast Telegraph. She also promised to speak again with Johnston Press to address the price rises.
“What worries me is that other publishers might think if Johnston does it, they can do it,” said Mrs Patterson.
Members agreed they needed to find out what deal was in place bet-ween publishers and distributors, and that action should be taken as soon as possible.
Is the way customers pay changing in your shop, or are customers
asking you for new ways to pay?
We’re seeing a lot more cards – debit card and contactless payments, that’s where we’ve seen the big increase. Cash payments are definitely declining – fewer people are paying with credit cards now as well, it’s more the debit cards.Gwen Patterson
We don’t take any cards – just cash. Our shop is in a working-class area, and we have a lot of pensioners who are used to paying in cash. It was never really a consideration for us, getting a card machine in.Ken Chapman
All our payments are cash but we’re looking to bring in a card machine soon. We’re just looking at the different options at the moment. Customers haven’t really been asking for it but we’re bringing it so we can offer it anyway.Joe Archibald
Stormont meeting to go ahead
Members “need to be ready” to act quickly as soon as a government has been formed in the Northern Ireland Assembly, Gwen Patterson told delegates.
An NFRN event in Stormont has been planned for September, despite ongoing political uncertainty in the region. At the time of writing, the main parties were still deadlocked in talks and facing the prospect of direct rule if an agreement had not been reached by 29 June.
“We need to be ready to tell the MLAs about the pressure we’re under,” said Mrs Patterson. “The rates are killing us, we’re struggling. Thousands of us will be on the way out if we don’t get some help.”
The Stormont event is intended to bring Northern Irish newsagents together to raise their concerns directly with politicians.
Issues to be raised include Brexit, the falling commission rates on some products, stifling council rates, water charges and rising retail crime.
Crime takes to cyberspace
Northern Ireland’s NFRN members were reminded of the ongoing rise in retail crime, including cyber crime.
Joe Archibald informed the meeting about a recent incident outside his shop where a group of young men were fighting in the street. He called the police to report the incident at 7.30pm, but they didn’t arrive until almost 9pm.
Meanwhile, former newsagent John McDowell told members he had been targeted by cyber criminals in an ongoing phone campaign.
“I called BT and they said that it’s a scam. They told me to ignore it,” he said.
Gwen Patterson advised members to stay on top of their security, including CCTV reviews, emergency response protocol, reporting crime, passcodes, till security, cash drops, and more. She also warned them about the current spate of cyber attacks, adding “if it doesn’t read right, delete it”.
Retirement time for Ken Chapman
Northern Ireland District Council veteran Ken Chapman announced he has sold his store and retired after 49 years in the business.
Ken’s News, which was based in Belfast’s Shankill Road, ceased business on 27 June, when the deal was finalised. It has been bought by a developer who owns four properties next door. They plan is to combine all five premises to create a new supermarket.
Mr Chapman intends to remain a member of the district council.