Retailers fear Johnston Press’s significant margin cuts to dozens of its regional titles around the UK could be repeated by other publishers unless they take a stand.
Johnston Press made the shock announcement last week that margins are to be slashed to as low as 10% across 41 titles amid a round of price rises.
The cover prices of the affected titles will all rise by between 10p and 20p.
The new percentages represent the lowest ever level implemented by a UK publisher and account for almost a fifth of Johnston Press’s portfolio.
Some retailers have reacted by refusing to stock the publisher’s titles, while others have threatened to sticker over the price with one that returns a “reasonable” margin.
David Woodrow, of Woodrow’s in Bishopton, Renfrewshire, said: “I’ve cancelled the three titles I take. It’s obscene they’ve chosen to go down this route.
“If other publishers think they can get away with it they will all try it.”
Eugene Diamond, of Diamond’s in Ballymena, in Ireland, said customers had supported his decision to cancel his supply of Johnston Press titles. Earlier this week, he tweeted the only regional title left in stock in his store was the Ballymena Guardian.
“During the Troubles, I had death threats from terrorists who didn’t want me to sell newspapers with stories they didn’t like and I still sold them,” he said. “I don’t like not selling newspapers, but this is the final straw.”
Muntazir Dipoti, of Todmorden News Centre in West Yorkshire, said he will see more than £3,000 per annum wiped off his bottom line as a result of the changes.
The NFRN has called for an urgent meeting with Johnston Press. Head of news Brian Murphy predicted the outcry from retailers would deter other publishers from taking similar action.
Richard Thomson, group publishing director at Johnston Press, said: “We don’t make changes to terms lightly. However, these are tough times for smaller local newspapers.”
He said the change in terms was “driven by a need to ensure Johnston Press’s smaller titles remain viable in print”.