Comic publisher Egmont has been accused of treating independent retailers with contempt after advising that it is to substitute another title from its portfolio into a controversial trial that sees multiple retailers receiving their copies first with smaller stockists supplied with returns some four to six weeks later.

The unwelcome news came just under a week after toy manufacturer Lego stepped into the row between the publisher and the NFRN, securing a promise from Egmont and its distributor Seymour that independent retailers would receive their supplies of Lego Star Wars magazine at the same time as the multiples.

However, this week the NFRN learned that Egmont is to include another of its titles into the trial from January next year.

National President Mike Mitchelson said: “I cannot believe that Egmont is going down this route again. The publisher’s sheer arrogance astounds me.

“This latest move is nothing short of despicable. Egmont is treating independent retailers whose customers are loyal purchasers of its titles with huge contempt.

“Justifying its actions, Egmont says it has the full support of its partners but as we discovered last week that certainly wasn’t the case with Lego who thanked the NFRN for bringing the issue to their attention and took steps to ensure that all retailers, regardless of size, could order and receive their titles at the same time.

“When the trial was first announced I vowed to leave no stone unturned to get it halted and NFRN members can rest assured we will continue to fight against this unwelcome and unacceptable two tier system.  As a first step we are pushing for an urgent meeting with Egmont.”

The NFRN is also due to meet with executives from Seymour Distribution, which distributes Egmont titles, next week.

Mr Mitchelson added that he was disappointed that despite protestations from affected customers and lobbying from the NFRN, neither Smiths News nor Menzies Distribution had listened to common sense and called a halt to the trial.

In a statement released to a retail trade magazine this week Egmont said it remained “100 per cent committed to testing a sustainable distribution model in the UK independents channel.”It added: “As this is such a small scale test we will include another title from the Egmont portfolio into the UK trial from January, to ensure our findings are as robust as possible. We have the full support of our partners and firmly believe that this initiative has the potential to improve sustainability whilst answering the concerns of consumers and growing sales in the Independents channel.  As we have said from the beginning, this is a test, and any future roll-out will be determined by the results of the test.  We look forward to sharing the results of the trial next year.”

NFRN national vice president Stuart Reddish, who is chairman of the NFRN’s news operations committee, commented: “We are completely in the dark as to the title that is being added so will be left with no choice but to advise our membership of all the publications that Egmont publish and we will, again, take whatever steps are necessary to stop this discrimination.”

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