Why is Egmont fobbing independent retailers off with unsold magazines from supermarkets and multiples?

The mystery of Egmont’s second-class retailers deepens the more I delve into it.

The basic plot involves magazines going on sale initially only in supermarkets and multiple retailers, with any copies left unsold by the off-sale date returned to the wholesaler, repackaged and distributed to independents for a second on-sale period. 

A trial covering most of the north of England started this month with two of Egmont’s children’s titles, Lego Star Wars and Toxic. 

The next issues of each title were to be distributed only to supermarkets and multiple retailers in the first instance, with independents receiving their copies later. 

That was the plan outlined to the NFRN, as RN reported three weeks ago.

It has since emerged, however, that two versions of Lego Star Wars issue 39, which went on sale 5 September, one priced at £3.99 with the usual four-week on-sale period, the other with an over-stickered price of £5.99, on sale for eight weeks. The latter was sent to independents in the trial area.

Lego Star Wars issue 40, due on sale next week, is also priced at £5.99, so independents in the trial area will only be able to offer their customers an out-of-date copy for the same price as the current issue on sale elsewhere.

If Toxic, now on sale at £5.99, is recalled and then redistributed to independents while the latest issue is on sale in the multiples, a similar situation will arise.

The excuse that the secondary scheme is being done to cut waste is not only rubbish, it’s also insulting

This is crazy, because it is putting independent retailers in the same position as market stallholders who sell near-current magazines that have fallen off the back of a lorry – a practice the whole industry claims it has been trying to stop since the turn of the century.

The excuse offered by Seymour, the distributor of Egmont’s titles, that the secondary distribution scheme is being done to cut waste is not only rubbish, it’s also insulting. 

Of course there is far too much waste, but that’s certainly not the fault of independent retailers.

If Egmont and Seymour think the supermarkets and multiples will have sufficient unsolds to supply independent retailers, doesn’t that provide a clue about their waste levels? 

If unsolds of Lego Star Wars and Toxic are rising, it is because sales are falling faster than the publishers are cutting their demand forecasts.

The latest figures from the ABC show sales of both titles have declined by nearly 40% over the past two years. 

So, why do Egmont and Seymour appear to be penalising independent retailers with a scheme that will offer them only second-hand and out-of-date copies of two struggling titles?

Egmont is one of the leading publishers of children’s magazines with its suite of Disney magazines, its popular character titles and its own classic Go Girl. 

Seymour, meanwhile, has a fine record of supporting independent retailers with promotions of its specialist titles.

Why, then, are both companies going out of their way to trash their reputations with a “hare-brained” scheme – as NFRN president Mike Mitchelson described it – that treats independents as second-class retailers?

Neville Rhodes is a freelance journalist and former retailer

Retailing by numbers

More than seven in every 10 independent convenience store retailers own their premises and 58% of independents have a trading area of less than 1,000sq ft. Across the convenience store sector as a whole, the top three categories are tobacco and e-cigarettes (20.4% of sales); alcohol (14.9%); and chilled foods (13.6%). News and magazines make up only 3.4% of sales. These and many other fascinating statistics are taken from the latest edition of the Association of Convenience Stores’ Local Shop Report, which is free to download from the ACS website (acs.org.uk). The report, brilliantly presented, is well worth a look to see how your shop compares with the other 46,000.\\

Read more: Newsagents set to boycott Egmont's Lego Star Wars and Toxic magazines