Kingsway Polls: Because the questions won’t go away…

Over the last few weeks we’ve been having a lively discussion about Kingsway’s practice of offering “discounts” at by comparing their own prices to their own RRPs, typified in the following screenshot of the new Very Best of Graham Kendrick album:

The Very Best of Graham Kendrick: Kingsway price, £11.99; Kingsway RRP, £14.99

The Very Best of Graham Kendrick - Kingsway price, £11.99; Kingsway RRP, £14.99

If you’re new to the story, you can backtrack by reading through these posts:

I have invited Kingsway to respond to retailers’ concerns about the situation, summarising the problem in the form of four questions:

  1. Do you consider it a fair practice to compare your own prices to your own RRPs in order to present things at a discount?
  2. If so, on what basis?
  3. Are you aware of the impact this practice is having on retailers, your trade partners?
  4. Does this concern you and if so, how do you propose to address it, please?

Kingsway’s only responses to date have come from John Paculabo, who has evaded the questions, made repeated attempts to dismiss this blog as a venue for discussion and, rather than prioritise or address the matter, has instead called for a meeting to be held in London on July 21, departing with a metaphorical stamp of his foot and declaring,

This is my last, absolutely once and forever last posting on this blog, which ensures you can have the fnal [sic] word Phil.

… and whilst it’s very gracious of John to offer me the last word, I take this opportunity to assure him and all concerned that I don’t want it: this remains an open forum and my invitation to John (or any other representative of the David C Cook group of companies if John himself really has spoken his last word) to contribute a guest post also remains open.

Before we get to the polls, however, a word to those inclined to vote in favour of Kingsway’s practice: please read the Government’s Pricing practices guide: guidance for traders on good practice in giving information about prices (pdf, 422kb | Google Docs ‘Quick View’) before you cast your vote. If after reading those guidelines you still believe that Kingsway’s practice of comparing their own prices to their own RRPs when they have never charged those RRPs is a fair business practice, then by all means vote in favour — but remember that by making that choice you are giving your approval to any other retailer who also manufactures their own products to do likewise: that dress, for instance, which you see advertised in the M&S Sizzling Summer Sale at Our price £15, RRP £25 would never need to have been offered anywhere at £25: the supposed discount becomes a deception and the so-called RRP becomes nothing more than a baited hook to lure you in.

Update, 13/06/2010: For a closer look at Kingsway’s pricing practice with specific reference to the Government’s guidelines, see Truth, Lies and CD Prices: Taking a Closer Look at Kingsway’s Price Comparisons

Update, 24/06/2010: Some thoughts on the poll results so far: Kingsway: The Poll Results – because the questions haven’t gone away…

Now, with all that in mind — to the polls!

If you don’t like the poll answers, feel free to give your own answers in a comment as usual…

24 thoughts on “Kingsway Polls: Because the questions won’t go away…

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Kingsway Polls: Because the questions won’t go away… « UKCBD: The Christian Bookshops Blog --

  2. We get this sort of thing in North America where customers are told a book as a certain “value,” when in fact it is the discounted price is the price that appears on the wholesale invoice to the retailer, and there has never been a case of a single copy ever being sold for the higher price.

    I believe this is akin to what you’re experiencing there. The best thing would be a comparison chart of what the exact selling price of the Kendrick CD in several different UK shops.

    With online shopping there are definite bargains, but there is also the danger of the online vendor creating a false “perception of a bargain.”

    • Thanks Paul – I wondered how the situation compared, and with John Pac having withdrawn from the conversation, I’ve now been in touch with David C Cook in the USA to seek their view.

      • Looking at David C Cooks main page & David C Cook Canada – they don’t practice the same tactic of cutting their own price or selling it at less than the suggested retail price, I also note that they include good links to finding a retailer or local shop. In fact the main site includes a ‘locate a christian bookstore near you’ link on the actual order/buy link square! That is fantastic supportive ministry in action so where did it go so wrong here?

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    • Kingsway are the sole supplier of Kingsway products, one of the things that makes their “Our price v/s RRP” price comparison particularly questionable.

      There are plenty of excellent Christian artists on other labels, however: check out Caritas Music and Elevation, both of whom offer free carriage with no minimum order requirement: see today’s post for links & more info.

      Also well worth checking out Kevin Mayhew: although they do charge carriage, it’s not too difficult to get up to their carriage-free order minimum if you order some books and greeting cards at the same time. and

  4. Here’s another way of looking at things: When price issues get confusing you can always settle everything by looking at it from the perspective of royalties.

    What we in North America refer to as the “list” price is the price that appears on wholesale invoices to retail shops. That is the price that the royalty is based on and determines the amount that the creator of the product receives.

    Here’s an example from your side of the pond. I recently purchased a copy of the 5-CD boxed set, “A Ton of Worship.” Printed right on the box is the price, £9.99. (Even on copies sold here in Canada; they didn’t bother re-doing it!)

    With 5 CDs and twenty songs on each disc, you could say it’s worth far more. It certainly has a much higher value but the price of the CD is £9.99 and as such, I think that for anyone at all to discount the product further is to cheapen its worth.

    That said, I don’t think anyone is stretching things if they say “£29.99 value,” and I’m sure it is such a value to the right person.

    The problem you’re dealing with here comes when the perception of discounting places the “discounter” in direct competition with the retail shops he or she is also selling to on a wholesale basis. Online customers don’t have access to those wholesale invoice documents.

    I think that is the point where it mysteriously crosses a line into mild misrepresentation.

    • Funny you should mention Ton of Worship: they’ve just announced a £1 off ‘pre-order’ offer on Ton of Worship 2. As you say, excellent value even at full price.

      Interesting phrase, “mild misrepresentation” … wondering at what point “mild misrepresentation” becomes dishonesty…

  5. Are you clear that this a Kingsway practice across the trade. The ‘kingswayshop’ does operate as an ‘island’ within Kingsway and often makes offers that only apply to the online customer

    • Bit of a tautology, that, Dave: is an online shop so it’d be kinda difficult for them to make offers to anyone other than “the online customer” — but as I pointed out to John Paculabo when he tried that argument (see Kingsway: John Paculabo Responds) there’s no such thing as “the online customer” … just the likes of thee and me who hunt down the best deals wherever we can find them, sometimes online, sometimes in store.

      The idea that is somehow targeting a separate online community is a fallacy, proven as much as anything by the fact that Kingsway advertise it in print media including Christian Marketplace magazine (in whose hallowed pages this discussion started). There is no targeting, just an unfair (and quite possibly illegal) price comparison practice: see my more detailed discussion at Truth, Lies and CD Prices: Taking a Closer Look at Kingsway’s Price Comparisons.

      There are two main issues at stake:

      1. Kingsway using their own RRPs which they themselves do not charge as a price comparison point. This is dubious at best, if not an outright misrepresentation. It can’t have escaped your notice that other retailers don’t do this: they either compare with other people’s RRPs or they compare with their own previous prices.

      2. In doing this Kingsway are drawing trade away from their trade customers — effectively using us as a shop window for their products but without the overheads that maintaining a physical shop front requires.

  6. Dave,

    The point being made is that this is to the customer and not being reciprocated to the trade in such a way as to enable a just and fair market, and it is because it is a tactic to entice the consumer to buy from kingsways own site that the regulations on unfair trading practice come into it as Phil has highlighted.

  7. Setting aside the RRP discussion for a moment. Kingsway and others are caught between a rock and a hard place. As the whole business model of entire industries changes with the advent of e commerce are they supposed to sit on their hands to attempt to preserve the current business model of the Christian retail industry?

    I know the situation is complex and there are no easy answers but the discussion about the future of bricks and mortar shops will have to be had some time

    • Dave,

      Yes e-comm came along and so did a whole host of e-comm retailers thus meaning that publishers themselves did not need to set up things like kingsway shop and then use the e-comm shops as the excuse for why they are undercutting themselves etc.
      E-comm shops like Eden, WO and the many others out there, even us B&M shops that offer some sort of online shop serve the internet community pretty well indeed.

      Where they supposed to sit on their hands? No of course not, but then the question equally applies did they need to start competing with the actual retailers ad hoc? and if by doing so they have caused or are causing detriment to an entire trade then surely this is an issue to be raised.

      No one here is avoiding the discussion of the future of B&M, but when discussing a future one needs to look at the situation as a whole, what got you to this point, what lessons there are to learn, what things can be changed etc etc etc and if in the doing of this some ugly truths are raised and some painful conclusions reached well then we deal with them head on, honestly and forthrightly to try to put right what once went wrong (brownie points to those that can tell what tv programmes shaped my views in my youth ;0)

      Yes things change,
      the internet changes them, TV and mass communication changes them, social,moral, academic & scientific understanding changes them, fiscal issues change them, the weather changes them and lot’s more things change them as well.
      Community changes, society changes, but the truth is do we just accept the change ad hoc or do we search for the best way to do things in the most bibliocentric and christocentric way possible?
      My hope would be for the latter and I think that’s what this discussion is ultimately about.

  8. With due respect, Dave, to suggest that ‘the discussion about the future of bricks and mortar shops will have to be had some time’ is a bit rich. Of course that particular urgent and important debate needs to be had; it is taking place on this very blog, (as well as in many other
    places) and has been doing so since it started over two years ago. This blog is where I go to observe and participate in this very debate.

    But the point at issue here is whether Kingwsay are negotiating that particular territory with honesty and integrity. If Kingsway had simply shrugged their collective shoulders and said that the retail trade is dead in the water, and that they were focussing all their efforts onto the ‘online customer’, I am sure we would all be very upset but at least we would know where we stood. However in fact Kingsway are claiming to be supporting the retail trade, and at this time are wanting us to sign up to their partnership deals.

    In my opinion the point Phil and others are making here, is that the practice of using an RRP that is simply a fiction, in terms of what they themselves actually charge, is an unfair and fundamentally dishonest pratice and discriminates heavily against the retail trade. I agree with the point they are making. It is this perceived dishonesty at the heart of the way Kingsway are trying to negotiate the change in business model that is causing this highly charged debate.

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  11. I would like to just take this space and say thank you to John Paculabo for taking the time in his busy schedule whilst over in the States at CBA/ICRS to respond to the email I sent him yesterday asking about a response to my concerns on the trading situation given I had no contact from him previously despite asking him via this blog to make contact.
    I thank him for his apology on this oversight and I shall look forward to our continuing dialogue in the next few days.

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