By Kristy Dorsey

Menzies Distribution has re-prioritised its delivery route to Kennacraig Port following complaints that Islay and Jura have been left “paperless societies” by repeated failures to meet ferry departure times.

Shop owners on the islands have written to Greg Michael, managing director of Menzies Distribution, to say that persistently late newspaper deliveries have hampered their ability to drive footfall during the pandemic. With papers frequently not arriving in the shops until 4pm – or in some cases not at all – they say they are struggling to operate profitably, particularly while tourist numbers are at record lows.

“When customers visit our stores they often purchase ‘add-on’ items – for example, a snack, drinks or their evening meal – a known retail mechanism that it crucial to our survival,” the letter states.

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“If people pop their head in the door and see no papers, often they won’t come in or even return a second time. And many of us have lost regular, long-standing orders from customers due to this poor delivery performance in 2020.”

The retailers go on to acknowledge that Covid-19, along with problems along the landslip-plagued A83, have “thrown a spanner in to the works” but add that this “does not negate the underlying issues with the service”.

The route from Menzies’ Linwood distribution centre in Paisley to Kennacraig, where the first CalMac ferry to Islay departs at 6am on weekdays, normally runs along the A83. Failure to make the first ferry means that newspapers don’t make it to the shops until late in the afternoon.

Responding last night, a spokesperson said Menzies Distribution has “urgently reviewed” the possibilities with the route.

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“Our proven route planning technology and packing schedule systems have been updated to reflect the most recent adverse road and weather conditions,” Menzies said. “Accordingly, this route has been re-prioritised to ensure our vehicle is dispatched to meet the earlier ferry times.

“Subject to our health and safety policy regarding extreme weather and being able to operate safe systems of work, we are committed to our ongoing role in the newstrade end-to-end supply chain, delivering service excellence to our customers and our customers’ customers.”

Islay and Jura have a total of eight newspaper retailers serving a combined population of about 4,000 people, though numbers can double or triple at the height of a normal tourist season. Each retailer pays a carriage charge to Menzies for its newspaper delivery service, which on the islands is said to average between £120 and £150 per month per retailer.