Friday, October 30, 2009
"Price War" books are rationed to prevent other booksellers from stocking up
Two weeks ago, Walmart, Amazon and Target got into a price war, selling upcoming bestsellers for about $9 each-- far below their normal selling prices, and also below what the companies pay for the books.
While small independent booksellers lack the "deep pockets" to match the low prices, the price war seemed to offer them a way to stock up on popular titles at a lower cost than if they bought books through normal wholesale channels.
It was not meant to be.
The price warriors are limiting sales to two or three copies per title per order.
It's common for purchase quantities to be restricted on loss-leaders as merchants limit losses from individual customers who might also make more profitable purchases. It's also a way to keep competitors from depleting inventory that is meant for retail customers.
Arsen Kashkashian, head buyer at the Boulder Book Store, in Boulder, Colo., told The Wall Street Journal that he had intended to buy as many as 70 copies of Barbara Kingsolver's "The Lacuna" from Walmart, Target or Amazon, because their prices are "more than $5 cheaper than what we can get it for from the publisher, Harper." Kashkashian said he was surprised to see that the three retailers were limiting the quantities sold. "We're a big store, and if a customer wanted to order 100 copies of anything, we'd sell it to them," he said.