The NFRN responded with anger at Smiths News announcing its largest annual increase in carriage service charges since 2017.

A letter sent to retailers on 17 July announced a 3.02% rise in weekly carriage service charges will come into force from 30 August. The move represents an average weekly increase of 1.97% – equivalent to an additional 89p per week. The maximum bill will rise from £59.65 to £61.45.

The NFRN said it was not consulted about the ‘higher than expected’ rise. The move comes amid warnings high carriage charges are restricting access to newspapers, with more than 1,500 Smiths News customers exiting the category in 2019 alone.

Graham Doubleday of Doubleday Newsagents in Mossley, Ashton-under-Lyne is one of those looking to exit the market due to the ‘unviable’ costs. He said the move would cost him an extra £93.60 per year.

NFRN national president Stuart Reddish responded: “I am absolutely appalled that Smiths News should decide to ratchet up its carriage charges, especially at a time when Covid-19 forced the closure of many small stores and left many other of its retail customers struggling financially.

“Yet again, retailers are forced into accepting another increase in costs and a further erosion of margin. With an average 97p increase, this means that independent retailers will have to find a further £50 a year to pay to have their news supplies delivered.

“I believed that the NFRN and Smiths News had a strong working relationship; one that included assurances that we would be consulted on carriage charge issues.  How wrong could I be, as the NFRN has not been consulted ahead of today’s announcement?

“Coupled with recent margin cuts – from both national and regional newspaper publishers – this increase can only result in the closure of some shops, while in others retailers will drop the news category completely in favour of products that offer enhanced margins and far less hassle.

“At a time of such uncertainty for independent retailers, something has to happen if publishers and news wholesalers want a supply chain from print centre to letterbox.