Quote Originally Posted by Ken Nadvornick View Post
Silly American question, then...

If you guys can skirt the (forced, for whatever reason...) high prices by purchasing direct from Freestyle, B&H, or MacoDirect, then why can't the Austrailian retail outlets do the same? Seems to me that would be a quick way for them to beat the competition on price—and apparently by a lot—and also create lots of new, happy customers.

Are there laws prohibiting such sideways grey-market importing?

Or would the wholesale distributors come after them with pitchforks? And even if they did, so what? It would seem that those distributors are no good to them in the first place if they are forcing prices so high that end-user customers are doing the self-importing thing anyway. A lost sale is a lost sale.

The problem is that the manufacturers have given the wholesalers/distributors exclusive rights to the country (probably for a fee) and the distributors are thieves. They have no interest in there being price competition when they have a monopsony position. If a retailer goes behind the distributor's back on film, they are in contravention of their supply contract and the distributor will (threaten to) punish them, e.g. by withholding goods or cranking that store's prices up. So if a retailer wants to direct-import film, they basically need to direct-import absolutely everything photographic-related that they sell, which is a huge time/labour sink. That's the story I got from my local store; B&H are big enough that they can do all that warehousing themselves and have their own little grey market.

My guess is that the retailers see all those lost sales as less-bad than either not being in business at all, or having an even-less-profitable arrangement whereby they import everything themselves. Of course no serious photographers buy their film here, but they still sell a bit of it to people who are either dabbling or urgently need a couple rolls.