Smiths News has raised its carriage charge by 2.9%, prompting a backlash from the Federation of Independent Retailers (NFRN).

Customers of the news wholesaler received a letter today informing them of the intention to raise prices, which could see them paying more than £63 per week to have their news and magazines delivered.

“While Smiths News’ action is not surprising – in fact, its CEO Jon Bunting alluded to it at our April national council meeting – as the cost of living continues to bite and our bills go ever upward, we are dismayed,” said NFRN national president Jason Birks.

“There is no guarantee from Smiths News as to how or even if, this new income from carriage charges will be reinvested into its business. Currently, for too many of our members, the service levels they are receiving remain unsatisfactory.”

It comes as Menzies Distribution and News UK also raised carriage charges earlier this year, by 3.5% and 3% respectively.

Birks called for the newspaper industry to look at alternatives to carriage charges, warning that retailers would be unable to absorb the increased costs, leading to higher prices for customers and threatening the viability of home delivery services.

“It is disappointing that year in, year out, newspaper wholesalers just look to adjusting carriage charge rates without ever considering or implementing any alternatives,” said Birks.

“It is apparent that there remains a real reluctance among some of our supply chain partners to change the carriage charge model.”

“We strive to support our customers in extremely challenging economic times. We froze the Delivery Service Charge in 2021 in recognition of the difficult and uncertain trading environment during the Covid lockdown, but over the past 12 months unprecedented cost inflation has meant that we had no option but to pass on to our customers a small proportion of the cost increases we have experienced,” said a Smiths News spokesman.

“We have worked hard to ensure that this remains as low as possible, with an average increase of £1.26 a week, Those customers with a weekly Delivery Service Charge of £40 or less will be excluded from the rise.”