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Hearst magazines go with Canada-only prices

In a story that’s near and dear to our hearts here at Quillblog, The Toronto Star is reporting that Hearst Magazines “ which publishes Cosmopolitan, Oprah Magazine, Seventeen, Good Housekeeping, Popular Mechanics and Esquire “ will stop printing U.S. prices on magazines sold in Canada, in an effort to quell consumer frustration over perceived high prices. The catch is that removing the U.S. price will have no effect on the Canadian one.

In the wake of the uproar about Canadian goods priced way above U.S. levels despite dollar parity, some magazines have quietly removed the U.S. dollar price from their covers, leaving only the Canadian one.

And the Canadian prices remain well above U.S. levels.

The only multinational book publisher in Canada that is taking a similar action is Simon & Schuster, which “ as reported by Q&Q Omni “ will be printing titles with Canada-only prices and barcodes beginning in 2008. (For the latest pricing updates, see Q&Q‘s coverage here.)

As the Star article points out, simply removing the lower U.S. price isn’t exactly a good deal for consumers, but it does take the pressure off retailers, who after all aren’t responsible for setting prices. But the move does throw a wrench in the gears for retailers such as Wal-Mart Canada, which has been selling magazines, books, and gift cards at U.S. prices since October.

Wal-Mart Canada said yesterday that half the magazines on its shelves still have U.S. prices on them.

Hearst’s decision to move to a single price “complicates our offer of U.S. pricing,” spokesperson Kevin Groh said in an email.

However, Wal-Mart also has a policy of selling magazines for 10 per cent off the Canadian cover price, he noted.

“When we met with publishers, our focus was dropping prices, not removing them.

“Our end goal is a lower price for customers, regardless of what’s on the cover.”

Similarly, a number of booksellers have received positive attention “ and experienced increased sales “ for selling books at U.S. prices. And while removing U.S. prices from books would probably have a salutary effect on sales, at least in the short term, the question remains whether it would be enough to prevent consumers from going online to purchase directly from the U.S.