So Tesco are selling the Iron Maiden album in 55 Metro stores to see how it goes. They have priced it at £24 which has undercut Amazon who are selling at £24.99. It is worth noting that the price Independent shops are being charged for the new Iron Maiden 3LP set is £20 plus VAT. Or exactly £24. The buggers.
A spokesman said they are selling so many record players that they’d be as well start selling records too. That makes sense; it was only a matter of time. Tesco can sell what it likes and I’m sure it has made financial sense for Bruce Dickinson and the rest of Iron Maiden, although the mental picture of hordes of metal fans trooping in to pick up the new album under the harsh sterile lighting of Tesco does seem a little absurd.
Even if Tesco wasn’t selling records, I would have been reluctant to buy in this release unless asked to by a customer. If a record costs me £24, I’d have to price it at about £36 -so even without Tesco, Amazon have undercut us already. And even if the customer wanted to buy it from us and was happy to pay the extra amount, I’d be tempted just to drop in to Tesco to save having to go through the distributor’s new laborious ordering process then wait for a cardboard box. That way I’d also get a few Clubcard points.
I don’t even mind that there is a price difference. How could anyone really complain… VoxBox: “I’ll take 5 copies please and see how they do”. Tesco: “We’ll take 5000 copies and make a display in 55 supermarkets”. I’m sure Tesco only look at the profit to be made and that they honestly don’t look at how it might affect the smaller record shops at all. As to the band… It maybe shouldn’t have come as a surprise -they clearly shop on the high street and now look more like your well-spoken girlfriend’s dad than stadium rockers.
We have an account with Warner the (label and) distributor. I generally use it for ordering back catalogue classic albums. -Warner bought Elektra, Atlantic and Reprise and so distribute The Stooges, Love and The Doors as well as the Led Zeppelin reissues and Neil Young. More contemporary artists include The Flaming Lips, The Black Keys, The Dead Weather and Royal Blood who we also stock and Michael Buble who we don’t.
I try to roughly price match Amazon + P&P on these records and can just about keep the price down. With new releases on the major labels, it is usually more difficult to compete on price than with the Independent releases. The selling prices tend to start HIGH then come down very quickly as sellers that are at least nominally based in the USA sell via Amazon. [Shops in the USA pay about 20% less than we do].
In fact the “Amazon price” is often fine, but underneath, the sellers that sell through Amazon are often impossible to compete with. How they can buy the record, pay for packing materials, pay Amazon a seller fee, pay someone’s wages and then even make a loss on the postage cost itself and still make it worthwhile is beyond me. Especially if any profit is being properly taxed. [Records allegedly coming from the USA cost £1.26 for postage when the real cost would normally be nearer $8] Someone should call the cops.
Another reason I tend to avoid the more expensive new releases is that the record companies can often overestimate the demand for new records and the price will tend to drop as shops that have bought it in start to reduce the price to cost price or less to get rid of unsold copies and then overstockists can come in and sell the rest at a knockdown price. So we try to focus on the usual different records.
In an interesting scene cut from the Last Shop Standing film, Richard Hawley said that you’ll never find a 13th Floor Elevators album in Tesco. Now It may just be a matter of time.
Last Shop Standing, the book, deals with the closing of many of the UK’s record shops in the 1990s-2000s and delves into the reasons why. This was pre-downloads and a common theme was the supermarkets undercutting the traditional record shops and selling CDs as loss leaders in a battle against their competitors. This also hammered HMV, eating into its market share and making it look expensive. When the supermarkets would be selling the new releases for a price lower than the shops were able to buy in for, some shop owners would try to clear Asda out of CDs on the Monday morning to be able to sell them later in the day. This wasn’t sustainable and supermarkets offered no prayer for the dying independent shops -which is only to be expected -big businesses are run by accountants, not people.
A fear is that with a new Tesco-Amazon-HMV price war, some shops will be the collateral damage. It’s perhaps less of a worry if they stick to the big releases on major labels as smaller shops will have probably shied away from them anyway for the reasons above. A greater concern would be that they expand into independent label territory placing large orders to fill their shelves and depriving small shops of their usual small orders with top ups as and when needed. This can already happen with HMV and many albums both indie and mainstream can take off and sell out quickly as it is. [*see anecdote below]
On a positive note, an upside to supermarkets stocking vinyl could be that even more people will get into records and that could help shops in the long run. A kind of “trickle down” economics. So it’s a long blog post and Tesco are so far only dipping their toe into record retail. Maybe one day they’ll sell releases on our record label, FoxBox Records. It’d actually be great if, for example, they stocked and supported SAY Award winner Kathryn Joseph and local labels. Thankfully, I’m not too sure that Tesco really know what they’re doing yet [the turntables they sell are truly awful] and with their recent financial woes, I’ve decided now is the time to strike back.
*A wee anecdote: An Edinburgh shop ordered a Bob Dylan Box Set recently and had 10 pre-orders. They had ordered in good time, however, the order went unfulfilled as the label/distributor [Sony] had sent all the available copies to Amazon and HMV. The shop was advised by Sony to buy the 10 copies from HMV and Fopp and send them a copy of the receipts: They’d get a credit note to that value.
**Since typing this I’ve found a European distributor that is selling for about £18. It’s a strange time with vinyl, I might get a few in after all.