Menzies Distribution today announced a carriage charge increase of 3.5 percent on average in the UK ostensibly to compensate for increased labour costs caused by forthcoming National Living Wage (NLW) rises.
The company said the hike will take effect from 4 April. Retailers in Northern Ireland will see their charges rise by an average 2 percent.
“Whilst we are able to control and partially mitigate some of the costs directly relating to the delivery and collection of newspapers and magazines, there are wider economic influences outside of our control,” Menzies managing director Greg Michael said in a letter to its customers.
He said the company was “committed to the long-term sustainability of newstrade”, adding that it was working with retailers, distributors and publishers to implement efficiency measures that drive out costs where possible with a view to enabling us to “support the long-term health of our shared supply chain.”
Stuart Reddish, national president of the NFRN, termed the move as “deeply disappointing.”
Commenting on the assertion that the 6.2 percent increase in the NLW from April 1 was the trigger for the rise, Reddish noted the increase is equally applicable for retailers.
“Does Menzies not realise that news retailers are also facing rising labour bills from April 1? But unlike Menzies, our members do not have the opportunity to pass these onto their customers in the form of increased prices,” he said.
Reddish warned that the hike will will jeopardise livelihoods and could cost retail jobs.
“Mr Michael says he and his company are committed to the long term survival of the news industry but these increases will cost jobs, will cost livelihoods and, most important of all, could deprive communities of their only shop. It seems that Menzies has no true understanding of the plight of independent retailers.”
Reddish added that Menzies MD had agreed to meet with the NFRN on February 24 to discuss the issue.