Bloomsbury: Asda must make peace

Bloomsbury: Asda must make peace

<p>Bloomsbury is taking legal action against Asda for defamation and is threatening to make the supermarket &quot;a Harry Potter free zone&quot; until the matter is resolved.</p><p>The move comes after the supermarket said in a press release on Sunday that Bloomsbury was &quot;attempting to hold children to ransom&quot; by raising the price of Harry Potter to &pound;17.99. </p><p>Last night Bloomsbury put a block on all of Asda&#39;s book orders--including half a million copies of <em>Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows</em>--claiming that the supermarket still owed &pound;38,000 for unauthorised returns of the sixth Harry Potter book, and stressing that the move was &quot;unrelated&quot; to the chain&#39;s accusatory press statement.</p><p>Asda said today it has since settled the bill and assured customers it would have <em>Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows</em> in stock at midnight on Friday. Asda claimed that if Bloomsbury withholds supply it will be in &quot;breach of contract&quot;.</p><p>But a Bloomsbury spokesman said the legal issue over Asda&#39;s comments still posed a problem: &quot;Unfortunately we&#39;ve now had to initiate a significant libel claim against them. That matter will have to be dealt with [before their order is reinstated]. The ball is in their court. If they want their 500,000 books, they will have to come and make peace with us . . . It could be good news for all their disappointed customers, because they don&#39;t have to go to a soulless Asda shed to buy their book and they can share the magic of Harry potter at an independent or a specialist bookseller instead.&quot;</p><p>The spokesman added: &quot;Hands off Harry Asda. He&#39;s too special for you. He has no desire to be dragged into your price wars. Please don&#39;t tarnish him with your grubby optimism and your naive publicity strategy.&quot;</p><p>The comments are just the latest in an increasingly fractious war of words between the publisher and the supermarket. Bloomsbury marketing director Minna Fry said in an interview of Radio 5 Live that she wished Potter was only sold by traditional shops and high street retailers, and not by supermarkets at all. But she would not rule out a resolution before Friday, saying: &quot;We will look again at the situation.&quot;</p><p>Asda confirmed it had received the legal letter from Bloomsbury, but stood by its strongly-worded release and remained bullish that it would have books instore by the launch date. &quot;There is nothing defamatory in our press release. Everything in there is factual. It&#39;s a commentary on how we see things,&quot; a spokesman said. Another spokesman added: &quot;If they don&#39;t supply us with the books, it will have a massive implication and [it will be] a breach of contract--but I don&#39;t think they will do that.&quot;</p><p>The supermarket also disputed claims by Bloomsbury that the account block was unrelated to the Potter war. &quot;Money is always owed between businesses at one stage or another...Bloomsbury is feeling miffed because we have lifted the smokescreen about the price of the book. They don&#39;t like what we have said about them hiking up the price of the book . . . They are trying to stop us getting the books into our stores so the children who want it can buy it for a good price.&quot; Asda claims it is itself owed &pound;122,000 by Bloomsbury &quot;for pulping and other book trade issues and work we have done for them&quot;.</p><p>In the original Asda press release, director of general merchandise Peter Pritchard said Bloomsbury&#39;s pricing strategy could &quot;only be seen as blatant profiteering on their part&quot;. The sixth book in the series, <em>Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince</em>, was priced at &pound;16.99, whilst the first Potter book was launched at &pound;11.99.</p><p>But Bloomsbury has hit back at the Asda press release as hypocritical and untrue. C.e.o. Nigel Newton told <em>The Bookseller</em> late yesterday: &quot;They&#39;ve unleashed a very disingenuous, self-interested attack on us. This is complete nonsense and all they&#39;re doing is grandstanding as they&#39;ve done on the price of asprin and bread [in previous years]. They try and turn it into a big deal as though it&#39;s a moral crusade for them, but it&#39;s nothing of the kind.&quot; He added that the &pound;1 price hike was needed to fund the move to print the final Potter book on recycled paper.</p>