T & S Stores, one of the UK's biggest newsagency chains, said yesterday that its Supercigs subsidiary would soon be offering the top 200 magazines at up to 10 per cent below cover prices.
Radio Times, which with a circulation of 1.5 million is Britain's best selling magazine, is likely to go on sale for 55p instead of 60p. Among women's magazines Bella will cost 44p (49p) and More] 90p ( pounds 1).
T & S has about 210 Supercigs high street outlets, mostly in the North and Midlands. It specialises in selling discounted cigarettes and chocolates, although some 75 shops also sell newspapers and magazines.
Kevin Threlfall, T & S's chief executive, said part of the motivation behind the group's decision to expand discounting to the whole of the Supercigs range was a desire to move into the South of England. While buyers in the North are interested in cheap cigarettes, those in the South apparently find the prospect of cut-price magazines a greater attraction.
T & S has no plans to extend discounts to newspapers, nor at present, to magazines sold through its 371 Dillons convenience stores and newsagents. 'Around half the newspaper and magazine trade in those outlets is home-delivered. So price discounting would not generate extra sales, which is what we are after,' said Mr Threlfall.
Increased sales are essential, since the cost of the price cuts will come out of Supercigs' retailer profit margin. Typically, retail margins on magazines are about 26 per cent of cover price.
Mr Threlfall said he did not expect his main competitors, W H Smith and John Menzies, who are also leading magazine wholesalers, would be pleased about the development, but added: 'There is nothing they can do about it. We no longer have retail price maintenance, after all.'
A spokesman for W H Smith said: 'Who are T & S?'
Almost pounds 6bn was wiped off shares in London yesterday as the stock market dropped sharply in the wake of Friday's big Wall Street fall. That was triggered by the announcement by the US company Philip Morris that it was slashing the price of its Marlboro cigarette brand. The FT-SE 100 index ended 31.1 lower at 2,838.8.
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