I was going to blog about some seemingly dodgy marketing practices by UK high street retailer WH Smith. Yesterday, while passing their Chester City store I saw a promo offering Kobo eReaders, previously £169.99 for £99.99 - and given I've followed the Kobo launch in the UK from the very beginning I'm pretty well certain there's only one Kobo they've sold for £169.99, and that's the Vox.
However, closer examination in store revealed that the Kobo being sold for £99.99 was the Kobo Touch. The blurb claimed it had been sold previously for £109.99 (true) and £169.99 (not, to my knowledge, true). I nearly took the management to task but instead moved on, intending to have a rant about what looks like sharp practise - and I guess I've just done that.
However, while checking up on Kobo prices tonight, I find that the Vox is indeed being discounted. It's being sold for £149.99 - OK, not the £70 discount implied in the misleading promo material outside the Chester store, but £20 less than it's been sold for previously. I don't know if the in-store price is matching this, but if you buy on-line you can get it delivered to your local store for pick-up for free.
The Kobo Touch, which yesterday was £ 99.99 is down a tenner at £ 89.99 and the basic Kobo eReader is £69.99, which I think is the price it was yesterday.
So how does this stack up against the alternative Kobo sellers, Asda (the UK arm of the Wal-Mart supermarket chain) and Play.com, the on-line retailer owned by Rakuten, the company that bought Kobo late last year for $315M?
Well Asda are still undercutting WH Smith by £2 for the two devices it sells - the basic and the Touch. I've just done a dummy run and it appears that the online product is with free delivery, but best you check before handing over your credit card details. Based on my visits to the local Asda it looks like the Kobo's aren't generally available in store.
Over at Play, they've finally started to stock the Vox - I'm not sure when it appeared on their inventory but until fairly recently WH Smith was the only place you'd get one. They're not being particularily aggressive over the model, though - it's currently listed at £170.49, but the Kobo touch is £89.99, the same price as WH Smith and the basic Kobo is £67.00, matching Asda. So Play are sending out mixed messages there.
Perhaps it's Play's entry into the Vox playing field that's spurred WH Smith to discount - they say it's for a limited period, but then again, they always do. If you're looking for a Vox, then it's probably worth checking out WH Smith online.
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