Newspaper and magazine wholesalers need to improve their service to independent retailers dramatically as 96% of shop owners would consider switching distributor if they were able to, according to research by The Grocer.
In light of the recent OFT ruling recommending that retailers should be allowed to ask wholesalers outside of their current suppliers’ territory to deliver their magazines, wholesalers not only need to improve their service drastically but improve it quickly, too.
Publication of the OFT’s final conclusions is due on May 1.
The OFT has been conducting an investigation into the newspaper and magazine supply chain and has rejected wholesalers’ and publishers’ calls to reintroduce block exemption, which sanctioned their exclusive territories and expired on May 1 last year.
Every single shop owner questioned said they would like more freedom to choose their wholesalers, although one felt that “they were probably all as bad as one another”. Not one positive comment was recorded about any of them.
Retailers were upset about every aspect of the service they got, whether it was the time of deliveries, incorrect deliveries, and mistakes on invoices and, most annoyingly for most, the reaction they got when they phoned the wholesaler. “They make you ring on an 0845 number and keep you hanging on for ages and then don’t do the thing you asked them to,” said one retailer. “When they make a mistake, we are asked to make exceptions for human error, but woe betide you if you make a mistake on your returns.” One north east-based retailer said: “I have customers coming in for their monthly magazines they’ve ordered from me that they’ve already seen in Tesco but which I have not had delivered yet. It happens all the time.” Another bone of contention was mistakes in invoices. One retailer was so mad about the time it took her staff to go through invoices that she was sending the wholesaler a bill for staff time wasted.
Delivery times on newspapers were getting less reliable and they were becoming more of a problem because wholesalers had rationalised their sites. “When newspapers were late we used to go and pick them up ourselves from Oldham but now the wholesaler is in Southport, it is not worth it,” said one.
Retailers also doubted if switching wholesalers would solve the problems. Most did feel, however, that increasing competition could only improve payment terms and service.
Gail Hunt
Reader Panel: independent retailers