WH Smith takes specialist titles off the shelves

WH Smith, the troubled retailer, was yesterday criticised by a number of special interest publishers for plans to reduce the number of stores where their titles are sold.

WH Smith, the troubled retailer, was yesterday criticised by a number of special interest publishers for plans to reduce the number of stores where their titles are sold.

The proposals will affect at least 30 titles including the film magazine Sight and Sound, the political monthly Prospect and History Today.

The reductions emerged from a review instigated by the company's new chief executive Kate Swann, who is facing a £940m takeover bid.

Sight and Sound, which covers world cinema, is one of the worst affected. If the proposals are put in place, the number of outlets where it is sold would drop from 300 to 40.

"The decision is completely crazy and what it will do is put a lot of small magazines out of business," said John Innes, Sight and Sound's publisher. "I think ultimately WH Smith want to become like a supermarket. They want to stock two different brands of beans instead of five different brands, but magazines are different from beans."

History Today will see the number of stores where it goes on sale slashed from 522 to 175.

"WH Smith represents around 50 per cent of our sales; therefore a reduction of two-thirds will make the difference between publishing on news stands being economically viable or not," said the magazine's editor, Peter Furtado.

A spokeswoman for WH Smith said: "News & Magazines is a core category for WH Smith which we are fully committed to. We are currently in the process of a full magazine range review ... The review is ongoing, no decisions have been taken and we have no plans to cut the space in store which we allocate to the sale of news and magazine products.

"Range reviews are a normal part of good retail practice. We regularly review all our ranges to reflect current trends and ensure we stock the most relevant products for our customers."

"Unfortunately it is not physically possible for us to stock all the magazines titles that are currently in print in-store, therefore we provide a magazine ordering service which allows customers to order any current magazine for delivery to their local store."

Richard Ratner, an analyst at Seymour Pierce, said: "I suspect they're looking at the sales of the magazines versus the cost of stocking them, and I suspect it's being done because it's necessary." A typical WH Smith store stocks 1,500 titles, and across the UK the company sells about 3,000 magazine titles.

An Early Day Motion and a Private Member's Bill are due to be tabled in Parliament, supporting a campaign by the left-wing monthly Red Pepper magazine to give all legal publications the right to be sold in newsagents.

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