Not for Sale on Amazon.com: Why MAP Pricing and Vendor Curation Matter

Not for Sale on Amazon.com: Why MAP Pricing and Vendor Curation Matter

Independent Medical Retailers support MAP pricing and the manufacturers that stand by it. Curating your product selection to include quality MAP options can help your business thrive!

Natural Medicine is Expensive! Or is it…

After repeated visits to conventional pediatric allergists to treat my young daughter’s allergies, she was still struggling. At our primary caregiver’s suggestion, we decided we’d try the natural route and see a local Naturopath. The natural doctor discussed some dietary changes and supplements, and we saw more improvement in the month following than the previous year with conventional doctors. Woohoo! The first round of supplements, our naturopath graciously provided. When we ran out of one of the supplements (Ortho Molecular’s D-Hist Jr.) we did what many millennial parents would do… Re-order on Amazon!

To our surprise, a bottle of 60 chewable tablets cost almost $40.00! We assumed that’s the cost to pay to help our child… When we received the order, I peeled off the Amazon barcode, which underneath read ‘Not for Sale on Amazon.com’ – how could that be? We just bought it from Amazon.com.

Calling our naturopath the next day, she sold D-Hist Jr. out of her practice for $19.99. It’s one of those special moments you realize Amazon isn’t always the most affordable. To dig a little deeper, I decided to reach out to the company myself. I opened a retailer account for my family-owned pharmacy and started working directly with Ortho Molecular. Of course, the first question I had: tell me about ‘Not for sale on Amazon.com’ on the label, and why I’ve previously purchased your items on… Amazon.com, albeit very overpriced?’

Amazon is always the Cheapest, Right?

The representative from the company told me they don’t allow any of their retail or clinical accounts to sell on Amazon. As a company, they want to protect their brand integrity, maintain a competitive price in the market (no race to the bottom), and most importantly, only sell their items in professional settings. They’d much rather you talk with your local pharmacist, general practitioner or naturopath about what their supplements can do for you vs. a patient’s wild guess on Amazon.com.

So how did they get on Amazon in the first place? According to the company, third parties will still buy them from naturopaths, local pharmacies and legitimate online sources, and then create an overpriced ‘black-market’ on Amazon. Want to see this ‘black market’ in action? Look up any Trader Joe’s product on Amazon. As a wildly popular grocery store across the country, if you need a Trader Joe’s product and you’re not near one of the company’s 500+ US locations? No need to worry, you’re one click away from paying a 100% markup on Amazon.

Bringing it Back to Your Business

Running a small brick and mortar business, I wish more brands had the approach to pricing and retailer curation that Ortho Molecular does. I happen to work in the pharmacy, medical equipment, and gift industries. But no matter what your industry, not a single brick and mortar owner would object to meeting or beating Amazon’s pricing.

Pricing is essential every step of the way. From the manufacturer of the product to the wholesaler, the wholesaler to the retailer, and the retailer to the end-user (with many shipping & marketing costs along the way, passed on to each consecutive party). Of course, that’s an oversimplification, but let’s use that scenario for now. Let’s say the manufacturer sells Widget A to the wholesaler for $1.00. The wholesaler sells Widget A to the retailer for $5.00, and the retailer sells Widget A to the end-user for $9.99. Good old fashioned retail! Everyone wins.

What happens when a large online retailer demands a lower cost for buying an enormous quantity of Widget A? The wholesaler acquiesces and thinks “making $3.00 per Widget A is still good for us, especially in this quantity!” And so begins the race to the lowest price possible. Before you know it, Widget A is available all across the internet for $3.49 (or less!) while the wholesaler is still trying to sell it to brick and mortars for $5.00. We’re not buying it anymore.

When I reached out to Ortho Molecular regarding where you can buy OM products, they had this to say: You will not find Ortho Molecular Products in the retail space or OTC [section of chain retailers]. Ortho’s owner, Gary Powers, created a company mission for us which is to “transform the practice of medicine.” In order to uphold this motto (which is not written on any of our materials), we are in an active pursuit to keep our products off of third-party retail vendors like Amazon.

What Kind of Vendors Brick and Mortars Should Seek Out

MAP – Minimum Advertised Price: The lowest price a retailer can advertise, print or publish a price both online and off. 

When I’m at a trade show, the first three things I’ll ask any vendor of a product I’m interested in is: what is my cost, your MSRP, and do you have MAP? If they don’t have MAP, we’re already off to a rocky start. If I can’t make a decent margin based on my cost and MSRP, it’s not looking too good. The final test? A quick Google search of the product. Sadly, you’ll often find items for sale barley over the cost they’re trying to pitch you, and worst case, below the cost! These vendors expect you to somehow pay rent, employees, taxes and bills on a slim to none margin. If you’re trying to price competitively? No thank you.

When I ask vendors why their products are priced so low online, I often hear “well you don’t have to match online prices”. The problem with that? As soon as customers are in your store doing the all-too-common in-store/Amazon comparison, you look like a crook for selling an item at that amount! Let’s get back to a model where everyone makes a sensible amount of money. We must stop this race to the lowest price possible.

So what kind of products should brick and mortar retailers look for this day in age? Vendors with integrity. Who care enough about their brand, they want to protect their reputation and their retailers, online and off. I’m happy to say, more and more distributors are starting to feature and sort brands by who offers MAP pricing. Even better, more and more brands in all categories we carry (medical equipment, body care, gifts, toys etc.) are taking Ortho Molecular’s approach.

The owner of Ortho Molecular, Gary Powers told me “We invest a lot of time and money into our quality control and cannot guarantee our brand’s values will be held up by a third party retail vendor.” It’s nearly impossible for a middleman like Amazon to offer quality customer support and service for all the specialty products they sell. That’s where companies like my family pharmacy can outshine any large online retailer; personalized service, in-depth product knowledge, a carefully curated selection, and slowly but surely… more-and-more MAP friendly vendors!

Some of Our Favorite MAP Vendors

What’s your favorite brand that does a fantastic job working with brick and mortar retailers and have MAP Pricing? Below are a few of my favorite.

Golden Technologies

Nova Medical

Ortho Molecular

Pride Mobility

Alex Anderson
Alex is the current President of Independent Medical Retailers and General Manager at Oswald's Pharmacy. A 6th generation member of the Wickel-Oswald-Kester-Anderson family, Alex focuses on innovation and taking his family pharmacy into the next generation. Alex is also an active volunteer in the Naperville Jaycees and member of the NCTV17 Marketing Committee. Alex graduated with a BA degree from Columbia College Chicago in 2009. Alex has spent most of his life in Naperville and Chicago. He currently lives in Naperville with his wife and 2 children (Oswald's 7th Generation!)