John Wood questions independent retailers on the service they get from news wholesalers

The future of news and magazine distribution is a hot topic at present with the government considering whether to ban the news wholesalers’ monopoly.
This week’s Reader Panel (see page 6) highlights some of the problems faced by retailers, and at Dhamecha’s cash and carry depot in Croydon we asked independent retailers for their views on the subject.
Jitendra Patel, of Niki News in Battersea, south London, believes he is not getting a good service from his news wholesaler.
“Saturday and Sunday supplements are a real problem. If I’m short of any I ring the wholesaler but they never do anything about it. This Saturday I had 65 magazines missing from The Sun. I could not sell them because customers would complain so I lost 65 sales.”
His wholesaler also makes it difficult to control what he is receiving. “If I’ve got a magazine and it’s not selling I cancel it. It’s OK for a few weeks and then they start sending it again. I think there should be competition then news wholesalers would have to give better service.”
But Bogdan Wujek of Rye Harbour Stores in East Sussex has been selling newspapers and magazines for a year and is very pleased with the service he gets from his news wholesaler T Cox & Son (Tonbridge), although it was a struggle to get deliveries. “I had to write to my MP and it was only when he got involved they let me have the service,” he says.
But now he has the service he says even when there is a problem it is sorted promptly. “When they found they were not hitting morning delivery deadlines, they even introduced a second van.”
Kaushik Amin of Smiths in West Ewell, Surrey, says he is generally satisfied with the service he receives from WH Smith.
But he adds: “We do have a problem with newspapers arriving late. Wholesalers should give priority to newsagents doing home delivery over the supermarkets.”
While he has sympathy with the argument about introducing competition between wholesalers he fears that removing the monopoly could actually make things worse.
He argues that if news wholesalers are not able to control the market at all, many more outlets will try to sell news. “We need some sort of control over supplies to retailers,” he warns.
Suryakank Patel, of Shreenathji Newsagents, Wandsworth, says he has no major problems with his wholesaler, but he does not believe that he is getting value for money. The carriage charge is too much. Every year the cost goes up, but the margins are very small and it is eating into my profits every year.”