Go Girl joins Egmont trial – Live Updates

Comic publisher Egmont has been accused of reducing independent news stockists to second class retailers after launching a pilot scheme that sees some of its titles supplied to supermarkets first.

Commenting on the trial, NFRN National President Mike Mitchelson said: “The NFRN has 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.”

See below for the latest updates.

Dismay as Go Girl joins Egmont trial

13 December 2018

The NFRN has learned that Go Girl is the latest Egmont title to join a controversial trial that sees multiples and supermarkets receive their copies first.

The name of the title was released to the Federation at a meeting between senior officials and Egmont’s magazine distributor Seymour yesterday (Wednesday December 12).

During this meeting, the NFRN delegation – which included National President Mike Mitchelson and Vice President Stuart Reddish – expressed members’ dismay that the trial that involves customers served by Menzies, Wakefield and Smiths News in Newcastle was continuing, despite  intervention by toy manufacturer Lego.

Mr Mitchelson reiterated the concern of members surrounding the lack of communication and the measurements that Egmont was using to gauge its success.


NFRN accuse Egmont of treating independent retailers with huge contempt

7 December 2018

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.”


Lego steps in to end Egmont debacle

30 November 2018

A controversial trial that saw Lego Star Wars magazine distributed to multiple retailers first has been dramatically halted thanks to the NFRN protests.

When news of the trial first broke in October, National President Mike Mitchelson said he would leave no stone unturned and as part of his lobbying he wrote to the chairman of Lego Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, warning that the distribution rights that he had granted publisher Egmont to distribute the comic were being violated.

In a letter Mr Mitchelson received from Lego headquarters today (November 30), the manufacturer thanked the NFRN for bringing the trial to its attention and said that in subsequent discussions with its licensing partners, retailers supplied by Menzies Distribution in Wakefield and Smiths News in Newcastle would now receive their supplies of Lego Star Wars at the same time as the multiples.

Andrea Ryder, Lego’s senior director of licensing and publishing, wrote: “Thank you for sharing your concerns in relation to the praxis of how the Lego Star Wars magazines are distributed by our co-publishers Egmont UK in the UK”, advising that an explanation had been sought from Lego’s licensing partner Blue Ocean Enterprise GmbH and Egmont.

The letter continued: “As an outcome of the discussion I am pleased to inform you that we have been assured that the praxis in handling the distribution of Lego Star Wars magazine will be changed to allow all retailers to have the ability to order and also to receive the Lego Star Wars magazine without a differentiation in delivery timing.”

National President Mike Mitchelson described the news as a “huge victory”. He added: “It was totally unacceptable for independent retailers to be treated as second class so we are extremely pleased – and relieved – that our efforts to get this unfair decision reversed so that independent retailers will now receive their copies of Lego Star Wars at the same time as the multiples. There were so many things about this trial that were wrong – not least, the discrimination against independent retailers. My hope now is that our supply chain partners will not act foolishly like this again.”

Stuart Reddish, Vice President, said: “The NFRN is 100 years old this year, but we will never grow tired of supporting our members and addressing injustice in the news industry nor in any other supply chain. The NFRN holds a significant share in the news and magazine markets and, therefore, we must be involved in any changes that suppliers are considering when the future of our members and their ability to trade fairly are at stake.”

Head of News Brian Murphy added: “We cannot rest on our laurels as this trial involved two titles and we need to ensure that the publisher of Toxic magazine also sees the light and realises that was a poor decision from the start.”


Eight in ten independent retailers “let down” over wholesale silence on Egmont trial

16 November 2018

Eight in ten independent retailers feel let down by their news wholesaler for supporting a trial that sees two children’s titles supplied exclusively to multiples and supermarkets.

The results were revealed from a poll on the NFRN website (see below) which showed that eighty per cent of members were disappointed with Smiths News and Menzies Distribution for allowing the trial of Egmont’s Toxic and Lego Star Wars publications in their Wakefield and Newcastle depots to continue.

Under this scheme, which was denounced as “hare-brained” by NFRN National President Mike Mitchelson when first announced, multiple retailers are supplied with their copies of the two Egmont publications first, with independents receiving their unsolds some four to six weeks later.

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Both news wholesalers have also been heavily criticised for failing to respond to individual NFRN members’ complaints. After the trial was unveiled, several members wrote to senior news wholesaler representatives including Smiths News chief executive Jon Bunting and Menzies managing director Greg Michael. Around a dozen letters were sent, but to date only one retailer has received a reply.

Commenting on the Egmont trial, Mr Mitchelson said: “This is a real game changer for the magazine supply chain and the NFRN and its members are aghast that while independent retailers are apoplectic, Egmont, its distributor Seymour, Smiths News and Menzies Distribution are simply burying their heads in the sand. Through Egmont’s actions – which are deeply unfair – retailers are reduced to second class outlets. We are now some weeks into the trial but despite repeated requests, no-one from the publisher, distributor or either wholesaler has made the NFRN aware of the measurements that are being used to decide whether it is successful or not.

“In addition, this has to be adding cost into the supply chain but we are none the wiser over who is paying for the returns to the processed.”

Head of News Brian Murphy added: “Just this week I have seen many copies of returned magazines which are destined for re-distribution yet were in such a bad state that reusing them is highly unlikely and a fruitless waste of resource that can better be used elsewhere.”

The NFRN is due to make strong representations to senior executives from Seymour – the company that distributes Egmont’s titles – at a meeting in early December.

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Results from our second Egmont Poll

Do you feel let down by your news wholesaler for allowing the Egmont trial to continue?

Yes: 80%
No: 20%

Results from our first Egmont Poll

Do you agree that multiple retailers should get copies of Toxic and Lego Star Wars weeks before you?

Yes: 6%
No: 94%


Direct Retail Discrimination trial to continue but outcry from the NFRN will lead to a formal review

11 October 2018

In meetings held this week with news wholesalers, the Press Distribution Forum and magazine distributor Frontline, the NFRN voiced its immense dissatisfaction that a trial by Egmont to put two of its publications – Lego Star Wars and Toxic –exclusively into multiple retailers has been allowed to continue. The NFRN went on to warn that unless this was properly reviewed and the views of all parties taken into consideration, then material damage could take place in the magazine category, especially if the trial was rolled out without correct considerations and measurements being in place.

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Commenting, Mike Mitchelson, National President, said: “Unfortunately, this is being seen as a simple trial, and is not considered important, but the NFRN has placed this issue at the top of all meeting agendas and we have entered into frank and robust discussions with industry bodies. We have highlighted the failings of the supply chain to communicate with and to retailers, and asked for greater transparency and involvement to help sort the mess out.”

Stuart Reddish, NFRN National Vice President, added:  “There was an acceptance that this could have been dealt with much better, and that the NFRN needs to have a say in the measurements of the trial as well as being part of any review that takes place and in any decisions going forward.”

Brian Murphy, NFRN Head of News, commented: “It was of the upmost importance that  supply chain representatives heard our dissatisfaction on this matter and we will continue to highlight the issue and our concerns until a resolution is found.  To move forward, and at the earliest opportunity, we will be holding meetings with both Seymour, the company that distributes the two titles, and with publisher Egmont, and have not ruled out formal protests that will attract significant media attention.”

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War now declared on Egmont’s discrimination

21 September 2018

Despite attempts to get common sense to prevail, the news supply chain appears intent of continuing a trial that sees independent retailers receiving copies of Star Wars Lego and Toxic magazines some six weeks later than the multiples are supplied.

National President Mike Mitchelson said: “Our efforts to get the news wholesalers to see sense and stop this hare-brained idea has, unfortunately, fallen on deaf ears, but members can rest assured that we will not simply roll over and accept this and I urge all members to join me in venting their anger and to refuse to be treated as second class retailers.

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“Since hearing of this move, we have tried in vain to engage – and maintain a civil and transparent working with the suppliers responsible – but we have been advised that the trial will carry on regardless and may take up to six months to conclude. We maintain that this is an ill-thought out scheme that has seen no communication to retailers or consumers and such a complete lack of transparency can only indicate that direct discrimination against the independent retail sector is being allowed to take place in the news supply chain regardless of the effect or consequences it could have.”

Brian Murphy, Head of News, commented: “So-called supply chain partners too regularly state that independents are a vital part of the supply chain but endorsing such a scheme, whereby products are only made available for sale after one group of retailers has already had those same titles for four to six weeks, is against all fair trading practices and this must be stopped. Members are reminded that they can invoke their right to only receive the titles that they want. Any refusal by your news wholesaler to allow you to do this is a breach of your terms and conditions of supply and must be reported to the NFRN so we can progress this further with our legal representatives and the competition authority.”

Mr Mitchelson continued: “I am mindful of the growing anger against Egmont and Seymour’s actions and know of many instances where members are refusing to handle these titles. I will continue to press Smiths News and Menzies Distribution on whether they have considered the longer term strategy of Egmont, and the effect that this could have on their businesses. What I will make abundantly clear to them is that the NFRN and independent retailers have had enough and that we will not rest until this trial is stopped.”

To share your thoughts with the NFRN please contact NFRN Connect on 0800 121 6376 or email connect@nfrn.org.uk

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NFRN publishes UPDATED Q&A guidance on Egmont publishing trial

20 September 2018

The NFRN has published a new Q&A guidance document to help answer any questions you may have regarding the Egmont publishing trial.


What members are saying

Have your say by calling NFRN Connect on 0800 121 6376 (free from UK landline) or add a comment on our Facebook page.

Delisted all of their titles already, they don’t need independents apparently.

I personally will delist their titles. What would be the point in selling old second hand stock a month after it is released!

Second hand magazines will come damaged and look pre-handled.

If publishers are looking to kill off independent newsagents this is a great way to go about it. When I first read about it I thought it was a joke. I’m astonished that having had time to reflect that Egmont are still intend on pressing ahead with the trial.

This will drive custom to the supermarkets. If rolled out, this will damage my trade significantly.

Publishers need to understand just how valuable independent retailers are to the industry. Independents are in all corners of the country where multiples are not. The proposals are insulting and disgusting and create a feeling that independents are second class retailers.

It’s a sad day for the newspaper and magazine industry that this proposal was even given the light of day. Where will this end?

My shop is in a small village around eight miles away from a supermarket or multiple so my customers will either have to wait longer to get the two titles or, what particularly concerns me, will cut him out and get them will their are doing their weekly shop.

Industry Views

NFRN condemns Egmont for game changer that reduces independent news stockists to second class retailers

7 September 2018

Comic publisher Egmont has been accused of reducing independent news stockists to second class retailers after launching a pilot scheme that sees two of its titles supplied to supermarkets first.

This week, all retailers were due to receive copies of Lego Star Wars and pre teen title Toxic. But from the next edition, supermarkets and multiple retailers who are served out of Menzies in Wakefield and Smiths News in Newcastle will be exclusively supplied with copies of these two titles first. Independent retailers in those areas will only receive their supply four weeks later and the copies they receive will be ones that have not sold in the larger stores and have been returned.

This trial was condemned at the NFRN’s national council meeting in Leicester this week (September 4 and 5).

Addressing national councillors, NFRN National President Mike Mitchelson denounced the move as “hare-brained”, adding that it would reduce independent news stockists to “second class retailers”.

“Egmont and Seymour are looking at an experiment of putting copies into supermarkets exclusively and following the recall after four weeks distributing the returns to independent outlets.  This is wrong and ludicrous and we should not be treated as second class retailers”, Mr Mitchelson said.

Both Egmont and Seymour, who distribute the two titles, had been challenged by the NFRN and it would continue to make forceful representations to get the companies to think again, Mr Mitchelson continued.

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Remonstrations would also be made to the Professional Publishers Association (PPA) and to the Press Distribution Forum (PDF) as the pilot represented a major shift in the way that magazines are distributed.

NFRN Head of News Brian Murphy added: “This is a real game changer. Egmont is actually discriminating against independent retailers and that is totally unacceptable.

“It could also have repercussions for consumers too as it’s a well known fact that many comics are bought by mums and their children at their local independent store. As a result of this trial, consumers could unwittingly, but easily, buy the same edition twice. The independent retailer will then be the one who has to refund them.

“I’m sure that the CMA will be interested to hear of our concerns, especially about the negative impact this will have on the consumer.”

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