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Menzies Distribution has been warned by the NFRN that its average carriage charge increase of 3.5 per cent in the UK to compensate for increased labour costs caused by forthcoming National Living Wage rises will jeopardise livelihoods and could cost retail jobs.

Menzies Distribution wrote to its customers today (February 14) advising of the increases which take effect from April 4.  In Northern Ireland, retailers will see their charges rise by an average 2 per cent.  In the Republic of Ireland the increase is 2.5 per cent.

Justifying its actions, the letter from Menzies managing director Greg Michael said the company was “committed to the long-term sustainability of newstrade”, adding that it was working with  retailers, distributors and publishers to implement efficiency measures that drive out costs where possible with a view to enabling us to “support the long-term health of our shared supply chain”.

However, the letter continued: “Whilst we are able to control and partially mitigate some of the costs directly relating to the delivery and collection of newspapers and magazines, there are wider economic influences outside of our control.”

Mr Michael said that the 6.2 per cent increase in the national living wage from April 1 was the trigger for it reviewing its carriage charge template

Responding, NFRN National President Stuart Reddish said: “These rises and the reasons behind  them are deeply disappointing.  Does Menzies not realise that news retailers are also facing rising labour bills from April 1? But unlike Menzies, our members do not have the opportunity to pass these onto their customers in the form of increased prices.

“Mr Michael says he and his company are committed to the long term survival of the news industry but these increases will cost jobs, will cost livelihoods and, most important of all, could deprive communities of their only shop. It seems that Menzies has no true understanding of the plight of independent retailers.

“Three quarters of NFRN members served by Menzies will see their carriage charge bills rise come April yet there is no indication of any improvements to service levels or any new measures that will make it easier for the news wholesaler and retailer to do business together.”

Mr Reddish added that Mr Michael had agreed to meet with the NFRN on February 24.

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