Retailers and publishers have warned that the proposed exclusive magazine supply deal between Tesco and WH Smith News must not be allowed to destroy the viability of smaller outlets. The supermarket plans to have national distribution arrangements for magazines in place with WHS News by 2001. The deal is a radical departure from the existing supply model, under which publishers appoint wholesalers exclusively to supply all outlets in a particular area. Any of Tesco's 660 stores currently supplied by John Menzies or Sturridge Dawson ­ the other two major wholesalers ­ or by any independent suppliers, would switch to WHS News. National Federation of Retail Newsagents chief executive Roger Clarke ­ who also heads the recently formed News Retailers Association ­ said the development made it urgent for the government to ensure independent outlets are adequately protected. The NFRN has already gone to the Office of Fair Trading for guidance on the legality under the new Competition Act of the relationship between wholesalers and newsagents. Clarke said: "We're getting to the stage where if we don't get some support from the competition authorities, we are going to have no alternative but to go down the route of court action." Ian Locks, chief executive of the Periodical Publishers Association, also said any changes to the supply system must not be allowed to undermine availability of magazines. "The central emphasis of the talks is on ensuring that the buyers of newspapers and magazines can continue to have full availability in retail outlets through the country." The Tesco/WH Smith News deal was high on the agenda at last week's meeting of the Joint Industry Group. Neil Robinson, executive director of the Multiple Newsagents Association, said the supply agreement represented make or break for JIG. "We are at the start of a massive period of change. It is up to JIG to prove itself by managing that change and preventing the industry from going into freefall." {{NEWS }}