by Ed Chadwick

Regional publishers have been warned some titles could vanish within years unless they start working with newsagents to stem sales decline after several dailies lost a third of their sales last year.

The NFRN said the recent report by the Audit Bureau of Circulations showed that too few titles were demonstrating commitment to grow sales and were fast approaching the “point of no return”.

Among the worst performers were the Lancashire Telegraph, Bolton News, South Wales Argus and Worcester News where sales were down 33.9%, 32.2%, 32.2% and 27.7%.

All moved from 45p to 65p last June – leapfrogging the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror – and terms were cut to 20%.

In total 1.34 million copy sales per week disappeared.

Cutting margins in the way many publishers have undermines a route to market which offers the best chance to slow the rate of decline

NFRN news operations controller Brian Murphy said the approach was symptomatic of an industry which was increasingly prone to “kneejerk” reactions to increase revenues.

“It is apparent that taking cover prices to excessive heights can further accelerate decline to a dangerous point of no return,” he said.

“At the same time, cutting margins in the way many publishers have undermines a route to market which offers the best chance to slow the rate of decline, which for many could see them vanish in a few years.”

Mr Murphy said that sales were performing better on titles which were working with the federation’s Store2Door HND intitiative.

During trials of Store2Door last year, retailers picked up 81 new customers for regional titles, with a third of all new accounts gained during canvassing.

Among retailers facing up to the latest squeeze on profits was John Vine of Newsworld in Church Stretton, Shropshire.

Terms on Saturday editions of the Shropshire Star have been cut from 13p per copy to 12.1p per copy.

“How am I supposed to pay for this?” asked Mr Vine. “Do I take it from my paperboys’ wages? I don’t want to put up delivery charges because I will lose more customers.”

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