Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009

Walmart vs. Amazon vs. Target

Books are cheaper this holiday season, thanks to an online price war now in its second month. Walmart kicked things off in mid-October when it cut the price of 10 of the most-anticipated new hardcovers — including novels from Stephen King and Dean Koontz — to $10 apiece for people ordering on the retailer's website before the books were officially released. Within a few hours, Amazon had matched the offer. Walmart's response: cut the price to $9. Amazon matched that too. So Walmart went to $8.99, as did Target, which started offering the 10 books for $8.99. Naturally, Walmart went to $8.98. Book publishers were horrified, afraid that such prices would stick — typically, these sorts of books sell for three times as much — and eventually threaten their profitability. When Nov. 3 rolled around, the date many of the titles officially went on sale, Walmart and Target started raising their prices, but Amazon didn't, prompting Walmart to begin cutting its prices again — and the American Booksellers Association to ask the Justice Department to look into whether such cut-rate pricing is predatory.