The National Federation of Retail Newsagents has called on Johnston Press to postpone price increases of between 10p and 20p on 41 of its news titles while simultaneously cutting retail margins to as little as 10 per cent.
President of the NFRN, Linda Sood, said she was “absolutely livid” and “shell-shocked” by the changes, which come into effect today.
Margins have fallen from 15 to 24 per cent for retail newsagents down to between 10 and 13 per cent. Margin cuts range from five to 11 per cent.
NRFN head of news Brian Murphy has called for newsagents to be given six weeks to decide whether they will accept or refuse the changes “as is their right under their terms and conditions of supply” before they come into effect.
Murphy said: “Raising the cover prices by as much as 20p while cutting the retailers’ margin to between 10 per cent and 13 per cent is misguided, unprecedented and downright disgraceful.”
Murphy said he had “summoned” Johnston Press’ group publishing director Richard Thomson to the federation’s London head office to explain the publisher’s decision.
In a statement, Thomson told Press Gazette: “Our partners in the retail trade are very important to us, and we don’t make changes to terms lightly. However these are tough times for smaller local newspapers as they face competition from the likes of Google and Facebook.
“Johnston Press’s larger titles are responding dynamically to the changing market, for instance by growing their already substantial online audiences and developing fresh advertising propositions.
“But for some of our smaller titles, these changes to terms are driven by a need to ensure they stay viable in print, and by doing so, to continue driving footfall into retail stores.”
Titles affected include those in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Yorkshire and the North West of England, including daily the Wigan Evening Post.
The Dromore Leader, Northern Ireland, has seen its cover price rise by 20p to £1.80 – the highest of the 41 affected titles – with its retail margin cut to 10 per cent.
The Evening Post has risen by 10p to 95p with retail margins cut to 10 per cent.
The price rises will help offset reduced circulation revenues caused by falling circulation (whilst at the same time possibly hastening circulation decline).
Picture: Johnston Press