Almost 40% of regional titles have increased their cover prices this year, new figures have revealed, as retailers hit out at two publishers for not sharing the benefits of higher prices.

Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) figures for the six months to the end of June revealed 27 out of 71 regional titles had increased their cover prices.

It comes as the cover prices of regional newspapers published by Trinity Mirror and the Kent Messenger Group, covering Surrey, Essex and Kent, increased on Monday, but retailers saw no or little change to their pence per copy margin.

The KM group had notified retailers in a letter with their supplies. The change will affect all of its newspapers, with editions priced at £1.20 rising to £1.30, while percentage margin per copy was reduced from 23% to 22%. The publisher, however, said the price rise will deliver more to retailers, even if it is as little as 0.001p per copy.

NFRN Kent district president Christine Southern told RN the publisher also said it was supporting independent retailers, stating that merely publishing its newspapers was a sign of its support. “I was disappointed by the dismissal of the question of what they were doing,” said Mrs Southern. “Readers have already complained about the content before the rise, and we’re going to lose sales.”

Fiona Maddison, sales and distribution manager at Kent Messenger said: “We’re facing an 8% rise in print costs and this wasn’t taken lightly. We’re investing in photographers, journalists, court reporters – all of that has a price.”

NFRN head of operations Brian Murphy added: “There might not be a financial loss to retailers, but all the benefits of the price rise are going straight to the publisher.”

The latest regional ABC figures also showed a steep decline in sales of most newspapers, including the Wigan Evening Post, Hartlepool Mail and Birmingham Mail by more than 20%. Only the Leicester Mercury, owned by Trinity Mirror, recorded growth, up 2% on the previous six months.