Australian game retailers speak out on grey imports

EB Games and JB Hi-Fi both confirm policies to import overseas video game stock for local market; iGEA says the move directly impacts local publishers.

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Australian retailers EB Games and JB Hi-Fi have both confirmed that they are importing video game stock from overseas to sell to Australian consumers.

According to JB Hi-Fi, its decision to source some video game titles directly from overseas instead of local Australian distributors comes from a desire to provide customers with a competitive price.

JB Hi-Fi and EB Games are both importing overseas video game stock to sell locally.
JB Hi-Fi and EB Games are both importing overseas video game stock to sell locally.

"In some cases, consumers could purchase cheaper from overseas than we could locally," JB Hi-Fi marketing director Scott Browning told GameSpot AU.

"We have decided to act in accordance with our cheapest prices promise, and source selected popular titles directly from overseas wholesalers, in order to pass on these cheaper prices to customers."

Browning said that the retailer's decision also stems from its observance of "global pricing realities" in the video game sector.

JB Hi-Fi's imported stock comes from territories like the UK; in some cases, the retailer is restickering imported stock to display Australian classification ratings. Some JB Hi-Fi stores are currently selling imported video game stock alongside Australian stock, but at cheaper prices.

However, when asked whether the decision to source video game stock from overseas, instead of buying from Australian distributors, has been communicated to the retailer's local video game distribution partners, JB Hi-Fi did not comment.

EB Games also confirmed that it is importing overseas video game stock to sell in its Australian stores, but claims it does so only on "rare" occasions, when stocking a product from local distributors is not a feasible option. However, the retailer said it has informed its local video game distribution partners of this move.

"EB Games is committed to supporting the Australian gaming industry, and as standard practice buy our stock from local vendor partners," EB Games national brand, events and engagement manager Debra McGrath told GameSpot AU. "There are rare times when stocking a product from a local vendor is not a feasible option, and stock needs to be obtained elsewhere. This is something that our vendor partners are aware of."

The Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (iGEA), which represents Australian video game publishers and distributors, said the parallel importation of video games into Australia is not a new issue. However, iGEA CEO Ron Curry said that grey importing impacts local video game publishers and distributors by taking away from locally generated revenue.

"[Importing stock from overseas] stems right back to the SNES and Mega Drive days," Curry said. "In the past, with a low Australian dollar and high costs of importing product into Australia, parallel importing was carried out in an opportunistic manner--AAA sellers and niche products tended to be the focus of importers. [However,] Europe's continuing struggle with its worsening economic position has seen a flood of excess stock hit the open market. Coupled with a very strong dollar, this makes it very appealing for local retailers to purchase this product directly from offshore wholesalers."

Curry said that local publishers and distributors need a local level of support from Australian retailers to maintain their survival in the local market.

"Wholesale parallel importing does have a direct impact on local publishers, distributors, and the companies who support them. The revenues generated locally support not only local employment, but fund marketing, in-store displays, advertising, classification obligations, etc. Without this local level of support, retailers in Australia will see a direct impact on their businesses, as will consumers and other local businesses who survive by supporting the Australian video game industry."

Last month, the Australian government announced a move to investigate high-tech and game prices in Australia.

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