Comic publisher Egmont has been accused of reducing independent news stockists to second class retailers after launching a pilot scheme that sees two of its titles supplied to supermarkets first.
This week, all retailers were due to receive copies of Lego Star Wars and pre teen title Toxic. But from the next edition, supermarkets and multiple retailers who are served out of Menzies in Wakefield and Smiths News in Newcastle will be exclusively supplied with copies of these two titles first. Independent retailers in those areas will only receive their supply four weeks later and the copies they receive will be ones that have not sold in the larger stores and have been returned.
This trial was condemned at the NFRN’s national council meeting in Leicester this week.
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”.
“Egmont and Seymour are looking at an experiment of putting copies into supermarkets exclusively and following the recall after four weeks distributing the returns to independent outlets. This is wrong and ludicrous and we should not be treated as second class retailers”, Mitchelson said.
Both Egmont and Seymour, who distribute the two titles, had been challenged by the NFRN and it would continue to make forceful representations to get the companies to think again, Mitchelson continued.
Remonstrations would also be made to the Professional Publishers Association (PPA) and to the Press Distribution Forum (PDF) as the pilot represented a major shift in the way that magazines are distributed.
NFRN Head of News Brian Murphy said the move could be probed by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
“It could 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,” Murphy pointed out.
“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.”