Leicester Mercury faces newsagents backlash

The Leicester Mercury is being lobbied by local newsagents angered at its decision to increase its Saturday cover price by 20p.

When the 60p cover price was introduced two weeks ago the retailer percentage margin was slashed from 24.5 per cent to 16.3 per cent, claim the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, which has warned the Mercury it is facing ‘mass protests’from local shops.

More than 100 NFRN members met in the city this week when they reported a drop in sales since the rise was introduced – a claim denied by the Mercury which said sales were up 2 per cent. Some newsagents have reportedly threatened to stop displaying the title.

The meeting agreed that the federation should now step up its activity against the newspaper, including sending letters to local advertisers warning of the dispute and the fact that ‘retailers could prevent their advertisements reaching the consumer”.

NFRN national president Kieran McDonnell said: ‘The key theme we have been stressing in all of our recent meetings with regional publishers has been ‘working together for mutual benefit’.

‘That has to be the way forward and publishers have to understand that there is no more blood to be extracted from the stone by way of further reduced margins.

‘No retailer in his right mind is going to stock his shop with products that make a loss and if publishers want to keep retailers support, then they have to make it worthwhile to the retailer to sell their titles.

‘I run my shop to make a profit and a living for my family, I will not hesitate to delist and replace any product that thinks I will support it as a charity.”

A source at NFRN said there were also fears that Northcliffe could introduce similar arrangements on its other regional titles.

Responding to the claims Leicester Mercury publisher David Simms said: “Local retailers and the Federation of Newsagents were informed of The Leicester Mercury’s intentions, and a full explanation was given.

‘The full 20p increase will be invested to develop the Saturday proposition. We have launched a 48-page magazine that is inserted into the Saturday paper and introduced eight pages of ‘grass roots’ sport. This represents great added value to the reader with 176 pages in the whole package.

‘Sales for the product have improved by 2 per cent since the launch and of course retailers benefit from selling more papers – albeit on their current terms.

‘We are launching a retailer incentive to reward those retailers who put effort into selling our titles and the vast majority of retailers understand our strategy.”

According to its latest ABC figures sales of the Mercury were down 7.2 per cent in the first six months of the year to 54,105.

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