Author: Patrick Durkin
Companies with effective MAP programs set clear policies and enforce them as if they’re hunting coyotes, which means the season never ends and the challenge never dies.
Manufacturers that set “minimum advertised pricing” guidelines start with a written policy that explains the lowest price allowed for their products in advertisements. Good MAP policies ensure all retailers compete fairly and evenly on service instead of price.
But MAP policies require vigilant enforcement, which means good communications between manufacturers, distributors and retailers. The manufacturers’ customers must know the companies’ MAP policies, follow them, and help police them. And by working with retailers and investing resources to enforce MAP policies, manufacturers protect the values of their brand and individual products.
“You can’t create anything and then just sit back and enjoy watching it work,” said Kurt Smith, the ATA’s director of industry relations. “A good MAP policy is far more than just a MAP column on a company’s price sheet. Companies can set their policies and clean up the worst MAP violations, but their job is never really done.”
Smith warns that There’s always someone out there creating new problems every day. “It’s a constant whack-a-mole or cat-and-mouse game with people who just want to make a quick buck,” he said. “They aren’t worried about long-term profitability. They try to get their hands on products that aren’t policed. If a company creates a good partnership with its distributors and retailers to catch violators, it can cut them out of the supply chain and force them to look for easier prey. Violators learn who has a good MAP policy and who enforces it.”
Ben Summers, vice president of T.R.U. Ball Archery Releases and AXCEL Archery Sights and Scopes, said good MAP policies and relentless enforcement played a big part in the company’s “really high” sales the past year.
“We’re doing everything we can to enforce our MAP guidelines, and people know we take it seriously,” Summers said. “Every two weeks we actively go after everything we can find on the internet. We have an in-house guy who stays after it. You need to watch and learn how their operations work. When we figure out what they’re doing, we cut them off.”
Summers said he discusses MAP policies regularly with retailers and distributors, and posts the companies’ three-tier MAP policy on placards in their booth (#3643) at the ATA Trade Show. The placards read:
1. T.R.U. Enforces MAP!
2. T.R.U. Gives Shooter, Dealer Credits.
3. T.R.U. Does Not Give Huge Under-Map Discounts to Your Customers.
“By enforcing MAP, we show our dealers we’re doing everything we can to support them,” Summers said. “It’s not easy, especially when you’re a high-end company competing with companies that sell products with much lower profit margins than ours. You don’t see many MAP violations on small releases that sell for $30.”
T.R.U. Ball Archery takes MAP policies seriously.
Smith urges retailers and distributors to notify manufacturers of violations, and provide as many specifics as possible. “General complaints about Amazon seldom help,” Smith said. “The big thing will always be communication and teamwork. That goes both ways. Manufacturers must also be clear. They have to know the specifics of sales channels, and communicate them to their customers if they want everyone to follow them.”
Barb Terry, customer relations and training director at TenPoint Crossbow Technologies, said the company encourages its retailers to be MAP watchdogs. “Smaller dealers can’t compete with people who drop their prices below MAP. If they notify us, we’ll follow up on it. We don’t want to see someone take money out of our customers’ pockets.”
Terry said social-media platforms also provide tip-offs. “If we see someone telling their friends about a $100-off sale on something, we might check the store’s website for the price on various models, or we might just call and ask the price. We actively police our MAP, and we think it works. When dealers talk to us at the ATA Show (booth 3343), it’s clear they’re making buying decisions based on how we enforce our MAP.”
Smith said some manufacturers lack the staff, time or expertise to aggressively enforce MAP. Therefore, the ATA negotiates discount programs so ATA members can hire outside vendors that use “web crawlers” and other high-tech software to scour the internet for MAP violators.
“ATA has supporting members who can automate that process so it’s not so labor-intensive for manufacturers,” Smith said. “These vendors are experts in that field. They know how to find out who’s violating, identify their fictitious names, and track them as they move around to undercut our members.
“We’ll never get rid of them, and there’s no magic wand,” Smith continued. “Enforcing MAP will never get easier. That’s why it’s so important for ATA members to work together as much as possible.”