The Co-op has withdrawn the Telegraph from sale in many of its stores over an alleged commercial dispute over margins.
A member of the convenience chain’s customer service team said they had received numerous calls about the move and said stores “up and down the UK” were affected by the title being cut from its newsstands.
A staff member at a London store told RN: “We’ve received communications that the Telegraph is to be removed from sale.” This was confirmed by another staff member who said it had been de-listed due to low sales. Three further stores confirmed to RN they had stopped selling the Telegraph, with only one contacted still listing the title.
An industry source said they were also aware of communications from Co-op head office that had to the publication being de-listed or having supply levels cut. Another industry source claimed the Co-op had previously threatened to de-list titles over commercial disputes.
Both industry figures said the Telegraph’s decision to slash retailer margins was to blame. “They got away with it last year, but this time they went too far,” one said.
The publisher reduced store terms from 21.5% to 17.2% on weekdays, giving it the worst percentage margins of any national daily newspaper by nearly three percentage points. The move by the Co-op follows WHSmith relegating the title to its business magazine section, the same action it carried out in 2017 during a dispute with News UK.
RN has also seen evidence that news wholesalers had received orders from independent retailers to de-list the Telegraph. “I’ll swap those customers to more profitable newspapers, using the existing Telegraph slots for those papers,” one said.
The Co-op appears to have taken the same approach. Co-op customers said the Telegraph’s space has been given over to the Times, and allocation of the Telegraph’s rival has been increased to encourage readers to switch. Commenting on the disputes with both major news sellers, one industry figure said: “The Times is gunning for the Telegraph left right and centre.”
Both the Telegraph’s national sales controller, Paul Reeves and the Co-op’s news, magazines and concessions manager John Barn refused to comment.
A Co-op spokesperson said: “We regularly review the sales of all products in stores to ensure they are stocked to meet customer demand. The Daily Telegraph remains readily available at thousands of Co-op stores but some allocations have been reduced to account for a fall in sales at some locations.”
When challenged, the Co-op admitted that the reduced allocations amounted to all copies being removed from some stores. The company refused to deny that it had previously threatened to de-list titles during commercial disputes.