More on Minimum Pricing

Last week, we were speculating on why someone might want to force a minimum price in comics.

This week, a game retailer calls for manufacturers to use this ruling to stop internet discounting or he’ll know that those companies don’t support brick and mortar stores.

I only hope that they have the wisdom to use these tools and remove the supply of products from the deep discounters. Of course, I fully expect that some manufacturers with not do anything. … if a manufacturer truly supports Brick and Mortar game stores then they will find a way to track it through the supply chain and cut off distributors that deal with the deep Internet discounters. They will also quit selling directly to them unless they are in compliance with pricing guidelines.

It’s always easier to demand your competition be denied product than to deal with radical changes in what’s considered a fair price, isn’t it? The internet has given audiences a lot more information on what something should cost, for good or ill.


10 Responses to “More on Minimum Pricing”

  1. Randy Lander Says:

    I guess it all depends on how much one values the retail side of the equation. Online discounters get by with their low prices (which are often only a percentage point or two above what they’re actually charged to buy the product from distributors) by not having rent, utilities, etc. and by having much lower employee costs.

    I think a lot of retailers are way too paranoid about online discounting, but having seen first-hand the kind of discounts one gets for buying games and comics from distributors, I’ve become astounded at some of the prices Amazon and such can get away with. I literally have a hard time understanding how they’re making any money at all. Even if all their reviews/content are by fans doing it for free, even if their warehouse space is relatively cheap, even if all their tech back-end stuff was an upfront cost and now it’s just maintenance… they must be moving enormous amounts of product to be able to afford their prices.

    For my part, as a comics retailer who would selfishly like to continue to pay for my mortgage and feed my family, I’m all in favor of a minimum pricing enforcement. But I’m not gonna get out there and demand that the companies do it, because as a guy who *has* (and does) buy online, who used to judge his comics shops on whether or not they had a discount rather than the level of their selection or the quality of their staff and who understands that $3 for a comic can seem insane to anyone who used to pay 70 cents for them, I can see the other point of view.

    I just wish that those who say “Whatever the lowest price is, that’s the fair price” would be willing to see the other point of view on the part of guys in the retail market who know there’s more to selling comics (and games) than just marking it down as low as possible. And that it can be frustrating when people come into the shop where you pay a staff to answer their questions, and rent to hold all the stuff they want to browse, and then take all that useful information and go buy it online cheaper. Understandable, maybe… but also frustrating, and maybe a little short-sighted, because if you keep doing all your browsing and buying in one place, eventually the browsing part of the equation is gonna be gone.

  2. Randy Lander Says:

    Slight correction… that last sentence should say “all your browsing and buying in two different places.” Rather changes the sentence.

  3. Johanna Says:

    I very much appreciate you sharing your perspective, Randy. First, it gives me a chance to clarify: I wasn’t saying the lowest price is the fair price, just that our idea of what a fair price is has changed with more information available. And you’re right, our decisions have consequences.

  4. James Schee Says:

    Interesting, I don’t really know much about the gaming industry but I do know from my comic buying habits how much internet discount areas have helped me.

    Many of the things I buy now are because of the price I can get them at. If those discounts were not there, that would not mean “Oh, well I’ll have to buy them at full price from a brick & mortar store” It’d instead just mean I wouldn’t buy as many, if any of the books instead. (plus given local customer service, still wouldn’t likely mean that money would go to local shops)

  5. James Schee Says:

    BTW, just saw Randy’s post and it is a stance I can understand a bit more. While the other guy just seems, from my reading, to be wanting others to save his business by screwing the competition.

    I wonder sometimes how my comic habits would be different if I had a good local shop. The shops in my area have absolutely horrible customer service, while DCBS has had very wonderful service for me.

    Which is a very important thing to me, as after all I will pay a little more if I like the service. Such as with two local eating places which off the same type of food and are equal in food quality but different price levels.

    The cheaper one has a rude wait staff, while the more expensive one makes me feel like an old friend when I visit. So I rarely go to the cheaper one of course.

    So even if for instance DCBS was forced to price the same as the local brick & mortar stores I’d continue with them. Though as I said in the prior post, it would drastically drop how much and what I was buying.

  6. Randy Lander Says:

    I totally get that point of view… I have close friends who don’t buy from my shop, but online, because pricing is the most important part of their purchases.

    However, I think the last part of your paragraph is the most telling. If the customer service isn’t good, then you’re not providing any incentive for the customer to shop with you and not online.

    I think buying brick and mortar instead of online comes down to a couple important things:

    1) Wanting it right now – This is important, and probably a big reason for many people. Unless you’re willing to have fast shipping eat up some of the discount, it’s gonna be close to a week before you see the product. And lots of folks want what they want right now.

    2) Recommendations – A good comic or game shop employee should be able to help you find not just what you’re looking for, but something new next time you’re in the mood for it. They should be able to hear your tastes and find not what they want to sell you, but what you would enjoy, with more accuracy and interactivity than Amazon-like “Recommended for You” programming solutions or even a wide smattering of online reviews can do.

    And there are plenty of folks for whom the above, and whatever other factors, aren’t really that important. A lot of folks just prefer the convenience and pricing of buying online. Hell, I’m one of them, a lot of the time. Doesn’t have much to do with the discounts, I just don’t need anyone helping me find stuff. If all of my customers liked buying the way I do, knowing pretty much exactly what they want and where to get it and being willing to wait for it, I’d be out of business.

    I think that a lot of folks are more casual consumers, though. They want to buy stuff they’ll like, and not spend time on the Internet researching it to find out what else they might like. That’s where good customer service can come in. I’m not sure if that type of casual consumer will continue with the increasing savvy of kids when it comes to the online world, but given the number of younger teen girls and guys who are buying manga, comics and games in my shop, I’m generally optimistic.

    While being realistically concerned and aware of digital comics, online discounting and all the other stuff that affects the business, of course. :)

  7. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » July 3, 2007: Shorter Journalista 13 Says:

    [...] Jones has more on minimum pricing in light of the recent Supreme Court decision, as does Johanna Draper Carlson. Personally, I find the notion that a publisher would cut off (say) Amazom.com for discounting to [...]

  8. Justin Says:

    I will just echo James sentiments. My local shop… ugh. He has been in business twenty years, and you still have to struggle to find him. Not only does he not have the customer service qualities Randy listed… he doesn’t have basic customer service. He won’t keep an order, he would constantly add books he could swear you were getting (but you never had). He had never seen the indy books, and often looked puzzled when I might mention Conan even or something other than Marvel or DC.

    I would make him lists everytime I would peruse online preview solicits, probably a week after they were available, giving him the full time to order everything. And still a lot would be missing. I was doing everything, and getting very little. But he was the shop. Still is for current issues. Even his competition only sells back issues and toys. And that is a fellow I would buy current issues from.

    So, I went with DCBS, and get everything I order. I get outstanding customer service. I get anything I could want from Previews. No puzzled looks or lame excuses. I basically get to have my own personal shop of one.

    I do miss perusing though. I still do alot of that during trips about every couple of months to the shops in the bigger cities. The good shops make you want to buy things even when you have been elsewhere. Those shops don’t make me think of the cover price. I just get to enjoy them.

  9. Johanna Says:

    It does make traveling more fun, doesn’t it, to browse a really good shop? And service does make a lot of difference. I wish there was a reliable way for stores to learn more about good customer service, because I’d like to see more of them become stronger.

  10. Story Followup LinkBlogging » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] the topic of forcing minimum pricing: two cases have been filed in which companies try to use the recent Supreme Court decision to shut [...]

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