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Tom Dant, who is managing director of Gill Marsh Forecourts, wrote in to say: “I have a problem at one of my stores with Menzies. It’s the first time we have had dealings with them as our new site was a bit far north for Smiths News.

“The first problem is we changed banks at the beginning of Feb and using the bank switching scheme it should have switched automatically. This was not the case and they just cancelled the direct debit and charged me an administration fee for the privilege! I have been having to ring up and pay every week which is a massive inconvenience. I had sent a direct debit form off but Menzies lost it even though I sent it by special delivery and the tracking number confirms that someone at Menzies signed for it! I spoke to someone yesterday who told me to fill in another direct debit form and email it to them (which their terms and conditions state that you have to send the physical document to them) I have sent this off this morning and will see how I get on.

“The second problem and the most important one is our deliveries. We opened the store in September and have deliveries fine from the beginning up until around the 7th of Feb when supplies stopped arriving or only came certain days despite being charged for the missing deliveries and missing out on the returns credits as when they finally do pick them up they are past the cut off!

“We are still getting charged the full weekly delivery charge even though some weeks we get only one delivery. The manager has rung Menzies countless times but they just tell us they are investigating it and never get back to us.

“I then had a phone call from a retailer at the other end of our road who told me that he had been receiving our newspapers and that he is sick of telling Menzies about it and he is getting annoyed as he is having to throw our papers away because Menzies refuse to collect them. I feel like I am banging my head against a brick wall!”

Tom also sent me a list of the dates that they hadn’t received newspapers at the Grimsby site which added up to 22 days from the Feb 7 till March 15.

He even sent me the address that Menzies had mistakenly sent the papers to – a Lifestyle Express.

I referred Tom to Linda Windsor who handles the complaints process for the Press Distribution Forum and the issue was sorted. However Tom is going back to Menzies on the issue of some credits.

“They had indeed credited me the week they said they would but then the supplies dropped below the minimum billing amount and they just surcharged me right back again! I am also looking for some sort of compensation as it has really damaged the business as customers stopped coming into the store as they couldn’t get their newspapers!”


This retailer is having to sell newspapers at a loss

Stanley Kydd, who runs three sites in N. Ireland, wrote: “As you know one of my pet hates is the fact that newsagents have to pay carriage charges and as a result are unable to pass this on to the customer unlike every other product purchased by any other business.

“In Northern Ireland we have two wholesalers who distribute newspapers and magazines, EM News and Newspread. I have just carried out an exercise for the 13 week period Newspread account from 1/12/2020 until 28/2/2021 and the results are staggering.”

He itemised them at his Portavogie store as follows:

Invoice total for the 13 weeks = £4,245.21

Delivery charge total for the 13 weeks = £733.07

Invoice net cost = £3,512.14

Average % profit is approx 19% = £667.30

Loss = £65.77

“As you can see we are losing £5 per week on average against weekly sales of £321. I am amazed that the National Fed of Newsagents have not been able to have the cost of carriage incorporated into the price of the newspaper.”

I spoke to Stuart Reddish about this. Stuart is the national president of the NFRN and is also a newsagent himself (the NFRN is run by its members) and he explained that Northern Ireland is ‘unique’ in having two wholesalers which both deliver to the same retail customers (unlike the rest of the UK where two wholesalers, Smiths and Menzies, have dedicated geographical bits of turf, in essence a duopoly). So, in N. Ireland, they are both allowed to levy carriage charges.

Stuart says: “It’s down to the publishers to allow retailers to set their own prices. We have lobbied them.”

If they were allowed he adds, there could be a down side to that: supermarkets could treat newspapers as loss leaders. And there is also the point that newspapers are fully sale-or-return.

As far as Northern Ireland newsagents are concerned, Stuart suggests sub-retailing where one or preferably more retailers club together and put in one order between them. “The wholesalers won’t want this but they can’t stop it. And wholesalers cannot refuse to distribute to their customers.”

He also notes that many retailers in N. Ireland have just given up on selling news altogether because of carriage charges, leaving some parts of the country with no supplies at all.

And in Stanley’s case, newspapers are loss leaders. He would prefer that were not the case.


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