Would independents welcome greater freedom in the distribution of magazines and newspapers?

Retailers’ magazine and newspaper distributors are currently restricted by wholesalers’ exclusive territories.
But that could change once the Office of Fair Trading concludes its investigation into the issue. Preliminary proposals announced on February 23 did not fault the distribution of newspapers, but magazines were a different story.
One of the OFT’s main suggestions was that retailers should be able to approach any wholesaler they wanted for the supply of magazines.
It also refused to renew block exemption, which officially sanctioned wholesalers’ exclusive territories and expired on May 1 last year.
With fuller draft proposals due for publication later this month, followed by further debate, The Grocer asked retailers at Hothi Cash and Carry in Park Royal, north London, for their opinions on the subject and received a mixed response. Ishwar Modi, owner manager of Ham General Store in Richmond, which is supplied by WHSmith News, has recently broadened his offering to include local newspapers as well as the tabloids. He said he was happy with the selection of publications he could draw on and was satisfied with the service.
But he added: “I would consider going to other wholesalers if I had the chance to see if I could get even better deals.”
However, Sriranjan Arul, owner manager of Nogs Supermarket in Notting Hill Gate, painted a different picture. He said magazine deliveries sometimes arrived late, causing him to lose business.
He also complained about the system for returning unsold magazines: “If you don’t return them on the right day or if you miss the deadline, then you lose the money for them. That issue makes retailers angry.” In addition, the extensive paperwork involved in returns often took too long to complete, Arul added.
He concluded: “At the moment, wholesalers can do anything they want, because they have all the power in their hands. The system proposed by the OFT would be better, because you would have the power to fight back and take your business elsewhere.”
Amirthalingan Paramplam, owner manager of Saini Supermarket in Acton, commented: “I know newspaper and magazine deliveries are likely to change and that’s a good idea. It would allow us to get a wider selection of publications and we’d definitely take that opportunity if we could.”
But he added that he was happy with the way newspapers and magazines were delivered to his shop and could not think of ways to improve the supply chain.