Comic Book Bin discusses comics pricing with Canada’s Competition Bureau

Despite the ups and downs of the currency exchange rates between the US and Canadian dollars, the issue of what price a store sells comics at has always been decided upon by store managers and owners based on (a) customer loyalty and (b) what the competition is doing.

Some stores offer a blanket discount on Canadian cover prices, others sell their comics at what is referred to as “US cover”, that is, if the book’s price is $2.99 US it is sold for $2.99 Canadian. A concern raised by some stores is that they cannot afford to match discount pricing with stores in the same region. I’m certainly aware of retailers in this position here in Canada.

Would this be an acceptable practice if we were discussing big stores vs. little stores? What is an acceptable level to undercut the competition in order to get (and/or keep) business. If one store sells at US cover, is it acceptable for another to sell at US cover + a % discount. At what point is competition on small items pricing prohibitive to profitability? These are definitely concerns in this climate of economic uncertainties (real and/or imagined).

While discounting of some kind is preferred by all customers — location, customer service and merchandise availability are just as important concerns in a niche area like comic book retailing.

Retailers are obliged, as Canadian businesses that are not exempt, to charge the applicable GST (and in some provinces PST) on the discounted price of the merchandise.

I’m not aware of retailers adding back the difference in the exchange rate back as a hidden additional tax.An additional retailer-created tax to offset an advertised discounted price would certainly be a cause for concern.

HOWEVER

With the advent of publishers dropping the Canadian price (due to fluctuating exchange rate). Publishers are basically saying that they can’t predict what the rate will be when the item will be printed and placed out for sale, so they are leaving it to the retailer to determine the correct Canadian dollar price. Retailers who do charge the Canadian dollar price are converting the printed US$ price to a Canadian$ price at the register based on the daily exchange rate.

To some extent that does actually contravene Canadian law as in Canada consumers are supposed to see a clearly marked price on merchandise for sale in retail outlets.  With no Canadian price marked consumers do have a cause for complaint when presented with a different price at the register.

What to do then? Many comic book readers and collectors are concerned about condition – these consumers are going to definitely rebel against price stickers with converted prices placed on the comics for sale, and bagged and boarded comics with price stickers may not be productive for store owners to re-price every day. However, proper signage with the daily conversion placed near the sales rack or by the cash register is probably the simplest way to solve that problem, it will keep customers informed and curtail potential complaints.

Anyway, the Comic Book Bin’s Herve St. Louis decided to check with Canada’s Competition Bureau to see what their position was on the subject. The article can be found here: Competition Bureau Weighs In on US Pricing in Canadian Stores.

Kevin

One thought on “Comic Book Bin discusses comics pricing with Canada’s Competition Bureau

  1. With the number of Canadian stores that have shut down in recent years (I know of no fewer than half a dozen stores in Southern Ontario that have closed up shop in the last two years), we should be doing whatever we can to help store owners survive. Comic stores in Canada pay their Diamond bills in US funds, and when the dollar swung as wildly as it did in October, it hurt us significantly. We recovered by placing a new policy in effect where we charge our converted rate back to our customers and give them a discount on that rate. It is fair, and it has allowed us to stay in business. Had we not done this, I don’t think we’d be open today (four months later).

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