Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Harry Potter Retail Circus

There is a copious absent of Harry Potterism on this blog, mainly because I’m not salivating for the final installment and can live with someone telling me who died before reading it. Already too much Potterism everywhere as July 21st approaches, me thinks.

But now I’m so excited I just have to have a say! Four major bookstore chains (MPH, Times, Popular and Harris) will not sell the latest book, in protest of hypermarkets selling them at RM69.90, as opposed to the retail price of RM109.90.

You can read on all the furor in the links below, both from major newspapers and local literati blogs. The bookstores are crying foul, the hypermarkets are feebly defending, while the publisher is serving up excuses. What a circus!

I think the problem could be just oversight. The hypermarkets are at war with each other, and I’m guessing that when one got the info that the other is selling it as x price, they follow suit as a marketing strategy. In the rush to quash the competitor they both forgot the bookstores – the ones who invested manpower and money in planning and promotion for the last few months. Nor did they value the Harry Potter mania – a book sale is just a money transaction, no care about the anticipation, no consideration about the enormity of what this book represents to die-hard fans.

I think the hypermarkets are to blame. The last Harry Potter book unveiling was suppose to be a magical event, a culmination of all that waiting and hyperventilating. Now here it’s turned into an ugly war – not a price war, but an ethics war.

And I think that the people who should be most ashamed are those other bookstores (no need names) that did not join these four brave ones taking a stand.

Read TheStar's main page news here.
Read NST's news item here.
Read bibliobibuli's take here.
Read eric forbes' take here.

8 comments:

nel said...

i was just wondering when you are gonna take a "shark-bite" on this one ... lol ... i will still stand by going with bookstore selling at retail price and not pull back commented at sharon place. On the long run it a good pr image for not potter fans but still buying books from them. It just like eating char keaw teow at a poch place where a person is paying for an environment or by the road side. Now, it looks like bookstore wants more profit out of the hype. I can understand that they have spend money on marketing strategy and some have ride the wave and a last minute kill was done to the plan. A good lesson to be learn here and should think far as well. Win some loose some, but still ride the wave. No publicity is consider bad publicity, it just publicity. That is how the ride goes.

Hope you don't mind my comment being honest here rather than me trying to be protocol ... :)

simon said...

good point. i think it's all good that mph et al are making a stand, but they'll still win in the end. the hypermarts have limited stock, and it'll won't last til the end of the day. after that, ppl will still go back to the bookstores, who have massive quants. They'll lose out a few hundred sales, but they'll make it back in the long run.

sharkgila said...

nel: hey everyone's entitled to opinion, no right or wrong side :).

I think that by making such stand MPH and gang are actually showing that they do value books for whar they are, and not just cash making assets. I like what they are standing for - the good conduct verses backstabbing thing.

simon: can't say about that, we'll just see how the next few days pan out. :)

nel said...

next few days will be over, infact i think it will be over tonight because everyone would have known what happen. all the build up for nothing but a good read will always be a good read. now, that i am not very sure how many people out there would understand ... :)

HairyBottle said...

Let's look at it from another perspective.

Would you rather:
a) Pay less for the book (in this case, RM40 less, can buy another new book already), and screw whatever promotional events that the bookstore has invested in.
b) Overpay for the book, knowing that part of the RM40 will go to the promotional events, and probably most of the part of it goes in as additional profit into the bookstore coffers.

Let's assume that Tesco/Carrefour earns about 5 bucks per book sold at 69.90. (I'm assuming the margin of profit is low).
This would infer that the margin of profit made by those bookstores selling at 109.90 is 45 bucks per book. That's a profit of 70% over cost price per book. I don't know how you can be sympathetic to the bookstores when the public is being fleeced by such a huge amount. The only way the bookstore can justify this price is if the number of books coming into Malaysia are limited, say, only 1000 copies for the entire country. Since MPH and Popular currently have an unsold stockpile of around 15 thousand books (read from some newspaper), I do not think the price is justified.

Price in Amazon is 18 USD, that's RM60+

So, Kino and Borders, you shouldn't be ashamed of yourself. In fact, you are most dignified for not joining in other bookstores' national tantrum.
And to the other 4 'brave' bookstores, just suck it up and stop bitching about the lost dollars. You are the ones who created this false economy, and you've raked in the dollars for the past few Harry Potter books, so deal with it.

bibliobibuli said...

they hypermarkets might well be selling at a loss!!! it isn't books they want to sell but the rest of their stock. i think you need to find out how "loss leaders" work ...

the bookshops were selling at what is the recommended retail price in the UK ... not a cent more added for the thousands of miles the book has had to travel. and i don't think any book lover would have had to pay full price with all the discounts and offers. in fact there were so many discounts in place that raman of silverfish decided not to sell the book well ahead of time.

i am worried that everyone is jumping to snap judgments without really understanding how the business works or getting the facts right

so many comments seem to say the bookshops were ripping consumers off when in fact the hypermarkets were ripping the bookshops off and making them look bad at the same time. very clever!

end of rant sharkgila!

Klaw said...

Biblio, you are right to say that the Hypermarts are doing this to drive more traffic to their stores. I am living proof. :D (Tesco Puchong has many many many copies left, probably in the lower hundreds as of 3pm Sunday).

I can understand the bookstore's disappointment at having been blindsided by the decisions that the hypermarkets have made.

I for one have no idea how the business works, but I do know that every business has risks involved, and unfortunately, the bookstores were not sufficiently prepared for such a thing happening.

By stopping the sales of books in their stores, what good are they trying to achieve, except to bring to light the injustice done to their business?
Do they think of the Harry Potter fans in small towns like Taiping, that has a Popular bookstore, but not a hypermarket?
By not selling it in their bookstores, what about those Harry Potter fans who want to show solidarity with the bookstores and buy their books at 109.90? By not selling at all, aren't they driving the traffic to the Hypermarkets (or their competitors like Border and Kinokuniya).

Who loses in the end?

sharkgila said...

hairybottle, I think you missed the whole point of my argument. It's not about the price. Thanks bibliobibuli for explaining the principle behind the protest.

klaw, yup it's sad that the small town fans lose out. but that makes the protest even more felt!


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