News still matters was the title of one of the sessions at the NFRN’s recent Annual Conference and it’s true that newspapers and magazines are still of huge importance to independent retailers despite the challenges thrown at us on a daily basis.

Indeed, as I write this column on one day this week I failed to receive a single copy of the Daily Express, supposedly down to a combination of production problems and Menzies not being prepared to rerun the missing papers.

Instead, I was told they would be 24 hours late. Can you imagine telling your loyal customers this? And why would they want Tuesday’s newspaper the next day when the news had moved on apace?  Don’t the lost sales matter to the publisher or the distributor, I wonder?  Apparently not, and do we get a reduction in our carriage charge when titles fail to arrive? The answer is a resounding no.

That’s why as the NFRN’s National President I intend to spend quite a lot of my time this year engaging with all sides of the news supply chain. I want to get them to take responsibility for their actions and to find ways to bring to an end the injustices and unfairness that plague us.

And recent events have given me plenty of ammunition. Firstly, a recent – and shocking – survey run by Retail Express and its sister title RN discovered that news retailers are losing a staggering £211 million a year through supply chain service issues, such as late or missing deliveries and damaged stock.

Secondly, and after receiving a 4.28 quality of service rating out of a possible 10 in the same survey, Smiths News announced that come September it was hiking its carriage charges by an average of 2.1 per cent, with no consideration as to how its retail customers will meet those extra costs within their own businesses.

I will be making it perfectly clear that it is time both publishers and wholesalers stopped thinking about themselves and their shareholders and gave news retailers better support by demonstrating a real willingness to work with the NFRN to tackle late deliveries, rising costs and falling sales.

That’s the key to a successful supply chain. The alternative – and it’s not one I care to consider – is to see the entire distribution network collapsing.

Mike Mitchelson
NFRN National President

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