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The Week Ahead

Deal paints it black for record stores

November 10, 2003|Randy Lewis

A lot of record stores aren't getting much satisfaction from the Rolling Stones these days.

Because the Best Buy chain has arranged an exclusive deal to sell "Four Flicks," the Stones' four-disc boxed set of live performances that's being released Tuesday, many retailers are street-fighting mad.

Some stores are drastically reducing the amount of Stones product on their shelves, including New York-based Trans World Entertainment, which will keep only about five titles in its 940 stores instead of the 72 it normally carries. In Canada, major chains have yanked everything Stones-related.

"We're not going to boycott the thing," says Bob Feterl, Southwest region director for Sacramento-based Tower Records, known for its huge selection. "But this kind of exclusive is not fair. The point is that customers should be able to go anywhere to get that product."

Those who don't want to get "Four Flicks" at Best Buy will just have to wait. It won't be available anywhere else until after the first of the year. Except, of course, on EBay, where pre-release copies have sold for prices ranging from $40 up to $132.50, well above Best Buy's price of $29.99.

And price is a big part of the story. A statement by the group's concert promoter, Michael Cohl, says the deal was the only way to keep the price on a four-disc set down during the holiday season.

"The other offers we received from alternative distributors would have had the product being sold for at least $20-$30 higher to the consumer, something which was unacceptable," Cohl said in the statement.

The deal is part of Best Buy's strategy of offering new audio or video releases for far less than music retailers to lure customers into stores in hopes that they'll buy big-ticket items such as home entertainment equipment.

Various chains, from Best Buy and Wal-Mart to Target and Kmart, also have periodically negotiated for special editions of high-profile albums with exclusive bonus tracks in exchange for prominent exposure of those CDs in their weekly advertisements.

-- Randy Lewis

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