Grocers try for slice of newspaper market

INDEPENDENT grocers claimed yesterday that the public would buy more newspapers if there was a free market in distribution and published the results of an opinion poll supporting their argument, writes Stephen Ward.

They say that wholesalers often refuse to supply newspapers to grocers when there is a newsagent near by, arguing it gives the customer a better service.

The poll was commissioned by Independent Grocer magazine and the VG group of convenience stores as part of a long-running campaign. They represent 40,000 independent grocers. Of the 700 VG stores, between 70 and 80 already sell national newspapers, and 150 sell local newspapers which are distributed differently.

A copy of the poll was sent this week to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, which is investigating newspaper supplies. It is due to report its findings to the Department of Trade and Industry in July.

According to the poll, carried out by NOP, 58 per cent of people would prefer to buy papers from a local grocery store. Three-quarters think there should be no restriction on who sells papers. Nearly a quarter said their preferred newspaper was 'frequently' sold out.

John Gardner, VG's managing director, said: 'The consumer is currently losing out because of an archaic monopolistic distribution system that prevents a free and fair marketplace.'