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Why is Leica equipment pricing so uniform?

Introduction

Looking through the ads in the back of Photographic magazines, as well as those posted online, after a while you will notice that aside from one or two exceptions, all dealers price their Leica equipment identically. Unlike the prices for Nikon and Canon equipment which can vary considerably from dealer to dealer, Leica prices do not. How come?

Staying on the MAP

Jim Brick posted the following explanation to a mailing list:

Camera companies - distributors - (other companies as well) have what is called MAP prices. MAP meaning Minimum Advertised Price. If a dealer advertises a produce and wishes to participate in the sales credit or rebate program (distributor to dealer AKA profit margin) then advertising cannot be lower than MAP. A dealer can sell at whatever price they choose. There is no penalty for selling at a lower price. Only for advertising a lower price.

Paul T. Collura added:

In reality, I have found nearly all Leica dealers stick to the MAP. Eli Kurland, who was at Wall Street Camera, would generally do better than MAP but not the other dealers I have bought from especially Tamarkin New York.

While Bob Rosen noted:

Leica Solms has no competition in the M6 line or its M lenses, so it prices these products for what the traffic will bear. The cost of production has little to do with the actual market price. Leica also keeps a wary eye on its distributors.

Price fixing?

But isn't this Price Fixing? Well yeah, it probably is. See this June 2005 discussion at:

<Photo.net: #00CPPf>

Also, as Robert Rose remarked:

Currently, it is not illegal, however, for a company (Leica) to decline cooperative advertising money for an ad that contains a price lower than the MSRP. A company may also announce a suggested resale price, and terminate dealing with any company that undecuts that price. Oddly, if after they "discipline" that retailer they then resume selling to it, and the retailer thereafter does not undercut the MSRP, then a contract in restraint of trade has been formed and the manufacturer has crossed the line.

Tricky merchants

So what about Cambridge Photo, TriState or Sunshine Photo - who all offer Leica equipment for 20-30% less than the others?

The catch is that they either practice bait-and-switch tactics ("we don't have that particular item in stock, but we do have this more expensive one…" etc.), or they charge your credit card and forget to deliver the item, or will sell you a Grey Market item without warranty. Even if they do deliver exactly the item you purchased, with warranty… nearly always they'll slug you with a miscellaneous (and costly) 'handling fee'.

Don't believe this? Read the buyer feedback for these stores on the photo.net forum at:

<photo.net/neighbor/one-subcategory.tcl?id=2>

Also see the June 2000 Photographic Mail Order stores survey (USA) at:

<cmpsolv.com/los/pmos.shtml>

In case you think this is ancient history, see this Sept 2003 discussion at <Photo.net: #0064dy>. Despite the awesome power of the internet to give instant (negative) feedback, clearly some tricky merchants just don't get it.

Leica gear has always been overpriced

Is $US 2600 way too much for an MP? Of course! But don't imagine things were better in the past as they weren't. Leica gear has always been seriously expensive.

In May 2004 Sal DiMarco Jnr posted a copy of the February 1964 Price list at <LUG - v27/msg04792.html>.

When adjusted to today's values ($1 in 1964 = $5.8 in 2003), using averages obtained from inflation & present value calculators at:

  1. <http://www.westegg.com/inflation/>
  2. <http://www.eh.net/ehresources/howmuch/dollarq.php>

… the following price comparison table can be assembled:

Item $US (1964) 2003 adjusted
M3 body $ 288.00 $ 1670
M2 body $ 249.00 $ 1444
50mm DR $ 189.00 $ 1096
50mm ƒ2.0 $ 150.00 $ 870
50mm ƒ1.4 $ 198.00 $ 1148
35mm ƒ2.0 M2 $ 163.50 $ 948
35mm ƒ2.0 M3 $ 198.00 $ 1148
Leicavit-MP $ 55.00 $ 319

Although these 2003 adjusted prices are in many cases almost half those of today's Leica equivalents, they are aren't exactly cheap either.

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