While the top supermarkets continue to eat into newstrade market share, many independent retailers see newspaper rounds as their secret weapon.

There's no doubt that the major multiples have shown their unwillingness to become embroiled in newspaper and magazine deliveries. The classic example is Tesco, which, having bought T&S Stores in January 2003, set about divesting itself of stores offering newspaper rounds as well as the newspaper rounds themselves.

One of the core beneficiaries of this process has been TM Retail. The company has been steadily building a formidable home news delivery (HND) service by buying accounts from chains such as One Stop, absorbed by Tesco following the T&S Stores takeover.

Stefan Wojciechowski, head of news and magazines for the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, which claims to represent nearly 20,000 newsagents in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, says: "HND is a major unique selling point for the independent retailer."

The NFRN is focusing heavily on building newspaper rounds through its Homelink initiative, launched in January 2005. As the NFRN says, newspaper rounds are big business, with an army of more than 300,000 engaged in HND deliveries across the UK.

Newspaper groups are also aware of how vital HND is to arresting the decline in overall newspaper sales and Associated Newspapers works closely with the NFRN to support Homelink. For example, it has devised an HND calculator, accessible from the NFRN's web site, to enable retailers to calculate their HND profits.

Homelink enables consumers to sign up to newspaper rounds and identifies newsagents near them who can make the deliveries. Wojciechowski says: "By the end of this year we will have generated 100,000 new delivered sales through Homelink. Our staff are making 80,000 calls per week to consumers and selling up to 3,000 orders per week off the back of that."

He says that the results represent growth of almost 1% in overall newspaper circulation, which is proving vital in helping to combat market decline. Retention figures are also impressive.

Individual independent retailers are also convinced of HND's importance. Tony Wright, MD of CTN retailer Maynews, ranked 49 in The Grocer Top 50 list of independent retailers, believes that HND brings in extra trade and improves footfall. He says: "From my perspective, HND is extremely important. It's where we are moving our business."

Wright says newspaper groups are also aware of how crucial HND sales are. nIndependents: it's your round