Paul Stock of Astro Books in Montreal, Quebec has been reading commentary on pricing and profits (see 'Fred Schultz of Cyberzone Toys & Sports on Pricing' and  'Joe Krolik of Comics America on Deep Discounting') and says that retailers setting prices is a function of competition in a free market:


I've been involved in these 'evil stupid soon-to-disappear discounter' discussions for many years. Almost as many years as I've been open as an evil stupid soon-to-disappear discounter; that would be 23 years and counting. I offer a basic 30% on comics and GNs, 20% on statues, toys and so on. Yes, I have to work harder for a dollar than someone who doesn't discount.


I don't believe in MSRPs, or to be more exact, I don't believe in Manufacturer DICTATED Retail Prices. We live in a free market. We live in a capitalist society. We live in a competitive society. Competition is what keeps us sharp, and one part of competition is pricing.


Keystone pricing is not the word of God. If it were, we wouldn't have Wal-Marts or Amazons or Zeller's or Canadian Tire or any one of hundreds, no, thousands of retail operations based on markups that are less than 100%.  What we would have is a world where consumers couldn't afford to buy comics because the disposable part of their incomes would have to go towards more expensive food and clothing...


Even given that disposable income remains for comics, there would be fewer comics in the hands of consumers. They can afford three of my comics versus (presumably) two of Joe's, and they buy three. If discounters are a significant part of this market (and there's no reason to be concerned about them if they aren't), locking into an MSRP would likely see the same dollars spent at retail for less product at wholesale. How much less, we can't know, but we can be fairly certain that we'd see titles that are just holding their heads above water no longer able to meet publishers' minimums, and getting axed. Less titles, less variety. Fewer titles, fewer creators working. Fewer editors. Fewer publishers. A smaller industry...


There's always the argument that it's hard to compete with the weekend warriors, with the eBay or flea market or convention dealers. Yes, it's hard to compete with them, just as it's hard for Circuit City to compete with them, just as it's hard for Kroger's to compete with a farmer's market. It's hard. LIFE is hard. We're entrepreneurs, not apparatchiks. The Soviet Union aside, I think we've had plenty of examples, from gasoline to milk, where government/producer mandated pricing has done nothing but handcuff the entrepreneurial spirit, more often than not to the detriment of the consumer.


Count me out from wanting this to happen to the comic/bookselling trade.


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