- Posted by Johanna on October 30, 2007 at 7:23 am
- Category: LinkBlogging
Why do some retailers think the answer to increasing competition is trying to force customers to behave in ways counter to their interests?
First it was Brian Hibbs (link no longer available), saying that comic shops need to be able to sell periodicals, so publishers should take longer to put out book-format collections. I’m over-simplifying his lengthy discussion of the topic, but it sure sounded to me like “customers prefer collections, so publishers shouldn’t put them out so quickly, which will make them buy the issues my store depends on.” Here’s a quote:
Were I in charge of Vertigo, I’d immediately institute a policy that trades will only be issued after the periodical “proves itself”, and I’d promote that policy change at the actual point of solicitation to encourage the customer base to actually support the serialization in the first place. I’d also find a way to encourage the purchase of the serialization by some form of “backmatter” that won’t be reprinted, even if that’s something as basic as a letter’s page. I think I’d also institute a policy that even if a book will get TPed, the wait will be pre-announced as being so long that you wouldn’t want to wait, if you’re interested in the title. Say, a year, minimum.
That’s one way to deal with competition, to wish the competing, preferable product out of the market. Not a very forward-looking way, though.
Now, it’s Lisa at Neptune applauding a game manufacturer who’s attempting to set a floor on allowable price discounts. Mayfair Games threatened to cut off any retailer that sells their product at more than 20% off list price.
Because, you see, those nasty internet stores are stealing the customers who rightfully belong to the local, higher priced specialty shops by deep discounting. Lisa says
it is hard to blame people for buying games on-line for 40% – 50% less than what I am selling them for in my store. But, when game stores can’t compete and have to close down, the consumer who isn’t buying from those game stores have to take some of the responsibility.
Yeah, and? If the customer isn’t shopping from them anyway, what does it matter if they continue to exist?
Leaving aside how realistic this plan is, and assuming that Mayfair really will follow through on their threat, I thought the American free market was built on the idea of knowledge and everyone acting in their own best interest? If I can find a better deal, I should take it. The alternative isn’t forcing me to spend more money (if I cared about gaming; I don’t even know how big a player Mayfair is in the industry); the alternative is that I don’t buy the product at all, or that I wait and get it used somewhere.
It’s a nice fantasy to wish for someone to shut down the competitors one is uncomfortable with, or to turn someone else into the heavy so you don’t have to change your business plan, but it’s not feasible in the long run.
I know this sounds harsher than I intend, because I like (from what I know of them online) Lisa and Brian. I just find this attitude disheartening, because it makes clear that their interests are not mine. I would hope that they would be trying to build business by figuring out what their customers want and finding ways to give it to them, but here, they seem to be taking the opposite approach: customers who want things they don’t agree with should be restricted, by law if possible. (The Mayfair price announcement was made possible by a recent Supreme Court decision.)
I want to shop at Brian Hibbs’ store one day because I hear terrific things about their selection and service and atmosphere. If I do (I’m on the opposite coast), I’m going to buy products I’m interested in, which are most likely original graphic novels or other book-format comics.
Publisher Simon at Icarus (NSFW) has additional response to Hibbs, where he points out
serial comics and trade paperbacks in their current forms essentially serve the same function for the end user. Between a complete set of singles and one collected book, the reading experience is pretty much the same. … It is obviously beneficial if publishers can get readers to pay twice for the same material… and the best way to accomplish that is to convince readers that’s they’re not actually paying twice.