Partworks publishers have been accused of offering additional items online that cannot be bought in-store and relying on independents to promote the products.

Retailers are considering delisting partworks in response to publishers incentivising customers to subscribe directly and cut out independent stores.

Trudy Davies, of Woosnam & Davies in Llanidloes, Powys, said the practice unfairly affected independent retailers.

“Independent retailer partworks sales have been eroded by publishers offering free giveaways to subscribers, which are sent through the post but not offered to customers who buy partworks directly through independents,” she said. “It creates an uneven playing field.”

Julia Bywater, of Bywater News in Dudley, West Midlands, agreed that partworks publishers bypassing retailers was becoming more common.

She said: “We promote the partworks when advertised on TV, but if customers subscribe online, they receive extras they can’t get from retailers. The worst example was a build-your-own chess set, where customers could only receive the free board if they subscribed online.”

Both retailers have reduced their stock of partworks as a result.

Bywater added: “I will use the opportunity to maximise sales on the first edition while the TV advertising is taking place, but after that I will only stock copies for those ordering. You may sell 100 copies of the first edition, but be lucky to sell one of the second.”

NFRN head of newspapers and magazines Brian Murphy told betterRetailing buying partworks in stores still brought consumers a number of advantages.

He said: “When subscribing online, the consumer has to commit to a big spend up front and they are unable to gain a refund or cancel if they change their mind.”