Independents fear the consolidation of magazine packing into central wholesale hubs is creating a “two-tier” system that puts supermarkets at an advantage.

NFRN head of news Brian Murphy told RN that a combination of late inbound deliveries by publishers and the inability of hubs to sort and pack titles for thousands of customers in a restricted amount of time meant independents were regularly missing deliveries of key titles.

Meanwhile, supermarket titles are leaving wholesale on schedule, as their bundles arrive ready for dispatch, Mr Murphy claimed.

“It is creating a two-tier system that is contributing to the decline of sales through independent retailers,” he said.

“Before hub and spoke operations, local depots were able to cope, but now we are hearing about titles failing to reach stores on time every week, showing there is a lack of contingencies in place.

“We are coming into the Christmas period where volume and weight will be at their highest and are demanding answers as to why the continued failures at wholesale are allowed to continue.”

North Yorkshire retailer James Wilkinson said magazine deliveries out of Menzies’ super hub at Wakefield have been a “mess”.

Before hub and spoke operations, local depots were able to cope, but now we are hearing about titles failing to reach stores on time every week, showing there is a lack of contingencies in place

“It’s too big. They have 8,500 customers, 95 new staff, and it is obvious that they can’t cope.”

Tony Rook, of Buckleys in Lossiemouth, said he had TV Times, TV Choice, TV & Satellite, and Match of the Day arrive three days late, on a Friday, with customers telling him they had already picked up copies at Tesco. “Is this how Menzies supports its HND customers? It doesn’t matter to the big boys whether they have a TV magazine on the shelf, but for us newsagents, it’s how we make a living.”

Smiths’ customers have also reported issues, with The Paper Shop in east Devon listing six of its titles as missing on Tuesday.

Smiths told RN: “Magazine distribution into wholesale has encountered significant disruption recently. Primarily this was caused by production issues at printers delaying departure of certain titles as well as significant shortages in supply.”

Menzies declined to comment.