Books written by Ray Sullivan

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Kobo To Be Sold in Asda at Discount Price, and Play Starts to Sell Kobo Too

Asda, the UK arm of US retailing giant Wal-Mart, is set to sell Kobo e-Readers from next Friday, apparently, and as far as the basic e-Reader is concerned they are planning to undercut WH Smith by £20 a device, selling it for £67.
They are also discounting the Kobo Touch slightly - it will retail for £107 versus WH Smith's high street price of £110.  At the moment there isn't any news of the Kobo Vox being sold at Asda, but in the run up to the pre-Christmas sales period it is inconceivable that they aren't pushing Kobo's parent company, Rakuten, to supply it.  If they do, and Asda are notoriously effective at flexing their muscles at suppliers, then it may not only threaten WH Smith's investment in advertising and shop floor space to promote the e-Readers, it could conceivably threaten the supply line too.  After all, the Vox has only just hit these shores and unless Kobo has over-produced in a fit of optimism, it's likely that Asda will push to take as many units as it can, and won't lose any sleep over WH Smith supplies.  And this is hardly a fair fight - WH Smith are rumoured to be struggling on the high street while Asda is surviving the ongoing economic situation quite well. 

This move has dispelled a belief that I have harboured since Kobo aligned with WH Smith - I understood Smiths had an exclusive UK agreement to sell Kobo in the UK, but it is clear that isn't the case now.  Of course Kobo has been bought since WH Smith linked hands - perhaps the change of owner has moved some contractual goal-posts?

Also, since I last wrote about these products, Play, a company bought by Rakuten earlier this year, have also started selling the two lower end Kobo e-Readers.  Again, they currently aren't offering the Vox.  The base device is selling for just under £90 and the Touch for £110, so Asda have the edge as long as they can get the hardware.  However Play is notorious for being competitive, and right now they are matching WH Smith price for price - it will be interesting if they engage with Asda head to head when the Kobo goes live on their shelves.

This may have a broader impact for European consumers if they have ready access to  Certainly British troops based in Europe and outside will be able to access the Kobo via their British Forces Post Office (BFPO) addresses, however I'm unsure if Play readily trades with non-British consumers in Europe.  My advice, unless you really cannot wait to buy a Kobo, is to wait until Friday, then see what happens to Play's pricing.


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