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JB goes partially grey

JB Hi-Fi has made good on its threat last month to move to parallel import products, launching a ‘direct impor’t online store for popular Nikon and Canon DSLRs and accessories.

At its annual general meeting in early October, JB Hi-Fi chairman Patrick Elliot said, ‘it remains open to JB Hi-Fi to import directly and effectively bypass Australian representatives of multinationals,’ adding that the company would prefer not to adopt the strategy.

However, to have contracted a supplier and have a direct import e-tailing website up and running a few weeks later would indicate that plans for implementation were well under way when he made this statement.

All prices quoted are GST-free, with the consumer liable for GST on purchases over $1000: ‘The end customer is the importer of the product for the purpose of customs and border processing and will be liable for any such taxes.’

Yet while the consumer is the importer, products are nonetheless covered by statutory protection of the Australian Consumer Law. A ‘voluntary warranty’ is provided by JB.

Not only does JB appear to be matching or undercutting the bargain basement pricing of Kogan on popular models, but it is also, of course, undercutting its own online pricing.

A Nikon D3100 with 18-55mm lens has a JB direct online price of $596, and a ‘conventional’ online price of $777. The Kogan price is $609. The online price advertised by Ted’s Cameras is $770 (with a bonus pack of a book, a DVD, remote unit, filter and cleaning kit it values at $100), and the DCW price is $729. (All prices quoted here exclude delivery charges.)

Camera House advertises the D3100 body only at $749.

The Canon Eos 1100D twins lens kit is $643 direct online from JB, $669 from Kogan, $770 from DCW and $848 from JB with local supply.

JB offers lenses, speedlites

While local retailers are increasingly becoming adept in offering DSLR camera bundles and kits which make like-with-like price comparisons more opaque, dedicated camera specialists will perhaps be more concerned by JB ‘s deeper entry into the higher-margin enthusiast/pro accessory business. While some larger CBD JB’s outlets already carry L-series lenses, pro DSLRs and flash uits, the direct import site cherry-picks more popular lenses and flash units, and undercuts local prices dramatically. .

For instance, a Canon 24-105mm f4 lens is offered by JB Direct Online at $902. Local advertised prices of the same lens sourced from Canon Australia are upwards of $1550.

JB HiFi CEO Terry Smart is quoted in consumer electonics website Current as attributing the online direct move to issues around the JB brand: ‘We needed to do this to protect the JB Brand,’ he told Current’s Clair Reilly.

‘We’ve got other online retailers who are claiming they can undercut, or can undercut, us in this category. What we feel is the consumer’s not being given the full story of how other retailers can achieve this.

‘They’re importing the stock from China directly to the customer, therefore bypassing the GST and the customer forgoes local distributors’ warranty support and relies on the retailers to support the product.’ he said.

‘We just feel it’s important to actually educate the customer on what the process is and how it is all being achieved. And if that means us participating in it, so be it.’

This seems to be directed at maverick online retailer Ruslan Kogan, who last month called on JB to remove its ‘Always Cheapest Prices;’ slogan from all advertising material ‘and replace it with something more honest’.




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