This month, the NFRN will gather for its annual conference in Torquay. With key trade topics such as retail crime, news supply issues and business development the focal points of the event, outgoing national president Linda Sood told Chris Rolfe about improvements made in these areas during her presidential year

Smiths News Protest

“In October, I led a protest outside Smiths News’ headquarters in Swindon. At that time, retailers in Hemel Hempstead had been receiving their papers as late as 11am, but these problems are UK-wide and are worsening. You have to take a stand somewhere, which is why we organised the protest – it was time to tell the wholesalers enough is enough.

“Shortly after this, Roy Greenslade’s article in The Guardian did an excellent job of showing the public how newsagents are suffering at the hands of wholesalers and why many are giving up selling or delivering papers. 

“Ultimately, news sellers need to get the supplies they need on time and to earn sustainable margins. News supply remains a serious problem and we have to address this. We won’t stop – if the bad service doesn’t improve, we’ll protest again.”

CMA Submission

“The fact Theresa May has called for an investigation into the newstrade shows how serious the industry’s decline has become, and one of the most rewarding moments of my presidency was our submission of a 32‑page report to the CMA. 

“In it, we called for an investigation into the news supply chain to secure an improved trading environment for members. The whole supply chain is broken and we need answers. A retailer I spoke to recently said that after carriage charges he is making just 3% on news. My question is, how long can retailers go on like this? Every time there is an increase in price our margins go down. Unless something is done, I think there will be very few people handling news. I hope the CMA will investigate this thoroughly and come up with a strategy that offers an effective solution.”

Retail crime

“Business crime remains a huge issue for members and working at parliamentary level to address this has been a key focus. Last month, we helped launch a new all-party parliamentary group on crime, and we have met with police commissioners and home office officials to provide better statistics, because retailers are affected by crime daily. 

“The lack of police response is a real problem – recently a member told me some men had entered his shop and demanded he hand over cigarettes. He had customers in the store who managed to get them out and lock the door, but to date the police still haven’t come to the store. Retail crime will remain a big issue, and I’m confident new national president Mike Mitchelson will take our fight on this forward during his time in office.” 

Improved engagement with members

“Another priority this year was improving our engagement with NFRN members by organising more trade shows, seminars and networking opportunities. People will leave their shops if they know they’ll take back something that will benefit them, and we need more events like this to attract members. 

“But making members aware of what federation membership has to offer them is a big challenge.
Many don’t realise they’re covered for tax investigation or issues with trading standards, for example. 

“We have a lot to offer on the commercial side too. During my presidency, we’ve worked to provide new sources of income. We’ve brought our commercial operation in-house, created a business development department and launched NFRN Direct, our buying group, and we need to get the message out about offers like these. 

“We need to think about our future and how we engage members with the NFRN. We need to progress from the way the federation was set up – it’s time for change.”