Comic publisher Egmont has been accused of reducing independent news stockists in the north of England to second class retailers after launching a pilot scheme that sees two of its titles supplied to supermarkets first.
From their next editions, supermarkets and multiple retailers who are served out of Menzies in Wakefield and Smiths News in Newcastle will be exclusively supplied with copies of Lego Star Wars and pre-teen title Toxic first. Independent retailers in those areas will only receive their supply four weeks later. The copies they receive will be ones that have not sold in the larger stores and have been returned.
The trial was condemned at the NFRN’s national council meeting in Leicester, held on September 4 and 5.
Addressing national councillors, NFRN National President Mike Mitchelson denounced the move as “hare-brained”, adding that it would reduce independent news stockists to “second class retailers”.
Both Egmont and distributor Seymour had been challenged by the NFRN and it would continue to make forceful representations to get the companies to think again, Mitchelson added.
Remonstrations would also be made to the Professional Publishers Association and to the Press Distribution Forum as the pilot represented “a major shift in the way that magazines are distributed”.
NFRN Head of News Brian Murphy added: “This is a real game changer. Egmont is actually discriminating against independent retailers and that is totally unacceptable.
“It could also have repercussions for consumers too as it’s a well-known fact that many comics are bought by mums and their children at their local independent store. As a result of this trial, consumers could unwittingly, but easily, buy the same edition twice. The independent retailer will then be the one who has to refund them.
“I’m sure that the CMA will be interested to hear of our concerns, especially about the negative impact this will have on the consumer.”