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The Problem with Canadian Comic Prices

I apologize for not linking to this great Don MacPherson piece sooner (the Countdown weeks were fairly hectic – as you can see by the lack of Judging Books By Their Covers, I’m still catching up), as it is a very interesting look at the effect of the rise in value of the Canadian dollar, which recently actually PASSED the American dollar, and what this means to comic professionals and Canadian comic buyers.

It’s a truly fascinating issue. As Don mentions in the comments, it was a follow-up to this earlier piece.


Thanks for the link, Brian.

The article to which you’ve linked is actually a followup from my first look at the issue, which can be found here.

As a UK comic buyer – we’ve been ripped off for years now when buying US imported comics. With £1 worth approx $2 we still pay £2.20 for a $2.99 book. i.e $4.40! Even accounting for shipping costs that’s a fair hike.

I guess UK creators are also feeling the effects of the strong pound as they will be effectively be getting less.

Somebody somewhere is doing well out of this….

This is just the trade-off you Canadians have to make for having healthcare.

I know that, in recent times, many comic book shops in Canada have been ignoring the Canadian price on the cover and have been simply charging the US price, with the exchange rate factored in.

Canadian vendors are evidently charged the US price by Diamond anyway.

Indeed, it can be the same here in germany. … Or not the same, as Euros are not listed as cover price, but we have comic shops that always went with the “exchange ratio” of 1$ = 2 DM (when we still had the DM). And likewise it was changed for 1$ = 2Euros, and even now you often find 1$ = 1€ or even more, when you just go out and want to buy something.

Lucky, if you know the right stores and keep your eyes open, there are quite a number of comic shops that actually take the current exchange rate. It’s simply unfair to charge more than you pay…

I’ve recently moved across Canada so I had to switch comic shops, and both of these shops just ignore the Canadian cover price- one charged the American price, the other just seems to make up a (really good) price. Both were being fair to it’s customers, and it’s appreciated; the lower price means that I buy way more comics. Hopefully the mess gets sorted out soon. Canadians are getting fleeced on a number of consumer goods which haven’t changed pricing according to the dollar. Comics are a cheap example, but when you’re talking about high end electronics and vehicles, that’s when it’s infuriating.

Stephane Savoie

October 5, 2007 at 7:08 am

Here’s another point few people seem to notice:
When the Canadian dollar does badly, the canadian price increases. Several years ago, a $3 US book was $4.5 Canadian.
Interesting fact: comics are printed in Canada.
So, when the Canadian Dollar does well, printing prices increase, so the US cost goes up, and often the Canadian one does as well, since Marvel and DC are bad at keeping the exchange rate fair.
End result: Canadians get screwed. (But probably not as badly as International folk).

I work in a bookstore in Toronto, and this has become a real problem for us. (Unlike comic bookstores we can’t adjust printed prices for books.) Although some recent books aren’t that different in price, some books that are two or three years old are off by up to 40% off. But here is the important point:

There is more to pricing then just the level of the dollars. If anything, it’s more a jurisdictional issue. Here are some other factors:

1) Any printed American product is going to be stopped at customs and charged an 8% duty. Duty varies from item to item, but for printed items it’s 8%. Therefore, any comic that costs $1 USD automatically becomes $1.08 CAN.

2) Although many comics and books are printed in Canada, they are distributed from American centres. So shipping and storing has to be factored in.

3) Printing schedules also throw things off. As we all know, Previews comes out months in advance of the comics, and retailers purchase their orders based off of the Previews catalogue. This means that the comics you bought on Wednesday were bought and paid for under the dollar levels of three months ago. It’s even worse for books which are solicited sometimes a year or more in advance.

4) The most important factor is market size. Canada has a population a tenth the size of America’s. For a comic to sell 10,000 copies in the United States is much easier because it just needs to be sold to a smaller percentage of the population. However, to sell the same quantity in Canada is tougher because there’s a smaller market, and thus a smaller demand.

Hope this clears things up for people…

First, thanks for chiming in.
A couple of questions though:
Why can’t bookstores simply reprice? Why can’t Chapters say “Ok, we are charging US cover price as long as loonie stays above 0.95 USD”?

1. On the GST issue, keep in mind that the GST will be on the wholesale value, so less than 4% of the cover price.

2. Is shipping from upstate NY to Toronto more expensive than to, say, Chicago?

3. I’m not sure, but I believe that most diamond accounts pay for merchandise at most a week before it ships, but maybe I’m wrong here.

4. I don’t see how market size is an issue. Since there is no Canadian distributor, North America is essentially one comic book market.

I don’t mean these questions in a snarky way, but I was in Chapters (Canada’s big box bookstore) the other day), returning something, talking to the manager, and asking her offhand about this issue, and none of the excuses that she gave me made any sense

Why can’t bookstores simply reprice? Why can’t Chapters say “Ok, we are charging US cover price as long as loonie stays above 0.95 USD”?

Short answer: because books and magazines are one of the few consumer goods still bought on consignment. That is, the publisher sells the books to the store with the expectation that they’ll be taking any unsold stock back. In return, the publisher gets to set the retail based on their costs (as outlined by Chud above).

So there’s an extremely low profit margin on books to begin with, meaning arbitrary reductions in the price are going to be viewed with scepticism at best. It’s one thing for a comparatively small comics store to mess about with exchange rates in order to keep customers happy; it’s quite another for a big-box store (already sacrificing heavily by discounting their bestsellers).

I really didn’t like Buckley’s answer about Marvel’s unwillingness to change the tpb CAN prices, and I hope that they step it up soon, because there’s no way I’m willing to pay $48 for a $30 US trade.


Are books really on consignment, or are they simply returnable?

I had been looking into the bookselling business a while back, and I think it’s the latter, though maybe the big box stores have enough clout to delay payment until they sell. Not that it really matters – if a bookstore bought it’s books from a wholesaler at a 45% discount to the Canadian cover price, then they have a problem repricing.

However, the fact that bookstores do heavily discount their bestsellers is proof that they are not constrained by the publishers to sell at the Canadian cover price.

In any case, we are really talking about comics here. I was in the comic shop this week, and Essential Moon Knight V2, brand new out this week, was priced at $17/$27.5 for a nice little 60% mark-up. And sure, this book was solicited some three months ago, but the loonie was at 0.95 USD 3 months ago, so that isn’t much of an excuse.

Honestly, I’d rather give my business to a local shop than to a mail-order company, but at these rates, that isn’t going to happen (no U.S. cover price comics in this one shop town).

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