Retailer complaints against Menzies and Smiths News rise to more than 7,000 per year

Newspaper delivery times are the number one challenge facing stores, accounting for more than 60% of complaints for the second year running

Retailer complaints on newspaper wholesaler conduct leaped last year, with delivery times the number one frustration in stores, according to newly released official data.

Wholesalers Menzies Distribution, News UK and Smiths News collectively received nearly 20 complaints per day from stores in 2022, a quarter more than 2021, according to figures in the Press Distribution Review Panel’s (PDRP) annual report, released this week.

Despite Menzies and Smiths News each supplying the same number of stores, Menzies received more than double the number of complaints as Smiths News. Menzies also took nearly twice as long to resolve issues reported by stores, with the average Menzies customer now facing an 18-day wait to have their complaint addressed.

While complaints per month against Menzies decreased over the year, Smiths News finished 2022 with 55% more complaints per month than when it started 2022.

Independent PDRP chairperson Steve Cripwell attributed the rise in complaints to a post-pandemic bounce-back in supply pressures, continued driver shortages and a new customer careline at Smiths introduced in 2021 leading to easier store complaints.

The report said driver shortages were “greater and more prolonged” at Smiths News due to a “training lag for new recruits”.

The number of more serious ‘Stage two’ (where a wholesaler fails to resolve a retailer issue) complaints and breaches each increased by more than 50%.

Cripwell said the rising complaints “highlights ongoing retailer frustration”. Despite the trend, the wholesaler-supplied data suggests compliance with required delivery times into stores increased from 91.1% to 91.6%. Stores also reported less issues with customer service, voucher processing and order management than the year before, though complaints about delivery times, delivery quality, returns, invoicing and claims all increased year on year.

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