Report From the Front Line A Buying Group Roundtable
Bob Lawrence, executive director of Brand Source/Associated Volume Buyers, also sees problems occurring in MAP, but from a different angle. "From a [direct] MAP standpoint we don't see a lot of violations, and most of those I believe aren't intentional," he believes. "Our concern is there's a lot of places popping up where if you use the store's credit card on Wednesday, you get 10 percent off. It would seem to me that every one of those is a MAP violation, although it's not advertised as a price."
In other words, some large-scale retailers are using attachment discounts or bundles to make the MAP price seem like a better deal. It's a common strategy used by Apple computer dealers. Apple's MAP policies are stringent, so its retailers often advertise bundled peripherals, memory or software to attract customers in lieu of competing on price. Many, like Lawrence, see this as a form of MAP violation.
But the line is thin and some feel there are degrees. Robert Weisner, executive VP/director of Nationwide, knows that MAP is an issue. "There's no question [larger retailers] break MAP," he says, and he agrees it can happen peripherally, citing an example of a national retailer who was attaching a $200 gift card—basically free money that can be spent at that store—with the purchase of a CE product. But he is quick to point out that bundling is a natural method in retailing and doesn't think peripheral MAP violations are black and white. Two hundred dollar gift cards, for Weisner, are pretty extreme, but he feels lower-amount gift cards and other kinds of bundles should be allowed.