The news is surprising, even a slap in the face to hear, but wholly unexpected. The Times reports that HMV boss Simon Fox has warned investors that the seeming cash cow known as HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS is really far, far from that. Even though Waterstone’s had already sold nearly as many by preorder as were sold in total of the sixth Harry Potter book, because Fox said it was vitally important for the bookstore chain to offer the book at a competitive price – and so Harry 7 will be on sale for 8.99 pounds, roughly half the cover price – it would be “hard to make money”. Fox added that “if we try to be anything other than half price we are setting the Waterstone’s brand off as high price and that’s something we are trying to change.”
Fox’s comments reflect the fears of Kate Swann, the chief executive of WH Smith, and Philip Downer, the retail director of Borders. “Harry Potter will help sales but looking at the current offers we are not expecting it to help profits,” said Swann, while Downer added that “[July 21] will be a terrific evening of parties and events but we don’t expect to make any money from Harry Potter. The book will be available more cheaply from the supermarkets who treat it as a loss leader.” As the high street prepares for a Harry Potter price war with the supermarkets and online stores such as Amazon, which is already offering the book for 8.99 pounds. Asda and Tesco will deliver the Bloomsbury publication for 12p less, plus postage and packing. The retailers admit that the preorder price may fall to a 55 per cent discount closer to the publication date.