Multiple and independent newsagents are joining forces in a bid to fight off threats to their business posed by newspaper wholesalers and publishers. The News Retailers Association officially launches on March 1 and represents a marriage between the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, which includes 23,000 independent news-gents, and the Multiple News-agents' Association, which has 13 members each with more than 5,000 branches. The new group immediately threatened legal action against newspaper distributors under the Competition Act, which comes into force in March, unless they get better terms for their members. In the firing line are the big three wholesale companies ­ WH Smith, Menzies, and Surridge Dawson ­ that control 80% of the distribution business. NRA members claimed they received just over 20% gross margin for handling papers, compared with 26.5% in 1993. This is further eroded once carriage charges are taken into consideration. The NRA's articles have been drafted to allow other organisations to join at a later date. Six out of 10 board members have been appointed so far. These include MNA executive director Neil Robinson, MNA chairman Rob Scott, NFRN president Alan Dryden and NFRN chief executive Roger Clarke. Two more will be appointed at a later date. Many retailers are facing up to a future without newspapers, it is claimed, especially with the added problems of loose inserts and bulky deliveries. A spokesman for the NRA said: "Going through the courts may take quite a while, but we have already been battling for a long time to improve our terms and conditions. "Our margins have been steadily eroded and the profitability of the newstrade is being called into question." {{NEWS }}