Looks like the secret is out…

From what I’ve read around the net, Shoyeido, and possibly Baieido as well, have more or less established retail price in the US market and don’t generally allow incense suppliers to cut below these prices. However, the savvy shopper may have noticed that Incense Warehouse had deep cuts among several lines that really made it the place for some of the higher end premium lines with the discounts being in the tens of dollars. I wondered how long this would last given what I’d read and sure enough it looks like the secret is out as prices have been raised to retail for the aforementioned companies. While it still remains one of the best places for discounts, the playing field has been levelled.

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30 Comments

  1. Mike said,

    April 15, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    Dozens of pocketbooks just got emptied! I’m off to post the link to the list of affecting incenses.

  2. Steve said,

    April 15, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    FYI – Japan Incense now has a note on Sho-kaku indicating effective May 1, 2008, the price will go from $499 to $599. While Shoyeido’s site still shows $499, I’ll bet we see market normalization on May 1. If you’re on the fence, now might be the time to purchase! I’m off to shake the piggybank πŸ™‚

    Steve

  3. Mike said,

    April 15, 2008 at 9:16 am

    That is quite the synchronicity! Storybrook Farm is pretty great, a perfect place for a festival where you can wander in and out of the music at your leisure.

  4. Steve said,

    April 14, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    What a coincidence – that festival occurs in August at Storybook Farm near Chapel Hill. I went to day camp there in kindergarten/first grade and is the place I had in mind when I mentioned deja vu in your Tibetan Monastery Incense blog entry/comments! Wow – haven’t been there in 35 years – may need to go check it out for old times sake. Thanks for showing me that and bringing back some good memories!

    Steve

  5. Mike said,

    April 14, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Steve, I’d trade you California for North Carolina around Labor Day weekend when the Progday festival is hosted. I got out there once and had a great time.

    http://progday.com/

    Mike

  6. Steve said,

    April 14, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    I’m assuming you’re in California, Ibn. Mike is, as well as another poster or two here. I am sick with jealousy! I listen to Buddhist podcasts on occasion and am immersing myself in mail-order Japanese incense appreciation, but you guys are in one of the few places in the U.S. where you can actually visit a retreat or walk into an exotic import shop. My folks lived in San Diego the last 8 or 9 years they were still “with us”, but unfortunately I hadn’t developed these interests yet. Next time I get out to the left coast, I will certainly have a mission beyond just hitting Disneyland and Balboa Park.

    Of course, N.C. does have Nascar…hmmmmmmm…yeah…

    Steve

  7. Mike said,

    April 14, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Thanks for the tip, definitely an excellent incense. I’m hoping to make a trip out that way in June…

  8. ibn said,

    April 14, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    While on the subject of vendors, here’s a tip for y’all. If you like Reiryo-koh as much as i do, the San Francisco Zen Center bookstore has great prices on it and their shipping is reasonable.

    They say that “This is the incense we use at Tassajara, Green Gulch and City Center. Made at Eiheiji, Japan. Comes in attractive green box marked San Francisco Zen Center.” To my nose, it comes across as a wee bit more premo than the standard Kunmeido product too. YMMV

    I keep coming back to Reiryo-koh as a daily incense, even after flirtations with the silly expensive premium Baieido and Shoyeido sticks.

    When you buy from the SFZC bookstore, you support the center.

  9. Mike said,

    April 14, 2008 at 6:55 am

    Steve, I’m a displaced Floridian so “folk” occasionally slips in as well as y’all. πŸ™‚

    Appreciate everyone’s input on what is a sensitive subject and agree very much with Steve’s last post which I think summarized the issues from a consumer perspective rather nicely. The only thing I’d add is there’s something to be said for having a few regular stops. – Mike

  10. Steve said,

    April 13, 2008 at 9:20 am

    Ultimately, a free market economy allows us to vote with our dollar, so we naturally seek out lowest price and theoretically that supplier providing it thrives(or at least gets our business). I agree market collusion is bad news, and while I don’t know anything about legalities, similar practice is easy to find with a number of different manufacturers and products (I’ve experienced it with upper-end photography and musical equipment, for instance). What is odd in this case is the manufacturer has apparently declared a new, higher price and has requested distributors to stick to that price, but the manufacturer itself has yet to reflect the price change on their own website (I am specifically referring to Shoyeido and the pricing of Sho-kaku). The “independent distributor” has been put in the compromised position in this case. Of course, all the information we have is simply what has been repeated on this blog.

    If I were to buy Sho-kaku today, $100 (or 20%) price difference is too substantial to ignore and, all other things being equal (service, shipping, freshness, timeliness, etc.), would order from the lowest priced supplier. Unless a successful price-fix/monopoly-like situation were established (i.e. one price, no choice), the higher-priced Sho-kaku dealer would indeed fail to get my order.

    Though not in the market just yet for a $500/$600 box of Sho-kaku, I do check prices on a few sites from time to time just to see if things do “normalize”. Will be interesting to see what happens…

    Steve

  11. ibn said,

    April 12, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    Back on-topic (retail price fixing ;-P) aren’t these kinds of agreements between a manufacturer and a distributor anti-competitive at best ? Can a manufacturer legally penalize a distributor for competing on price ? With the disintermediating nature of the internet fully evident in so many markets these days, don’t these kinds of agreements simply alienate consumers and aren’t they doomed to fail ? On a product like Sho-kaku, at the prices mentioned above, that is an extra $100 !

  12. Steve said,

    April 12, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    Good call on Ryuhinko, Ibn. My own notes on it include “bitter, but in a good way”. It was another great tip I got from a fellow reader of this blog. As Mike has pointed out here before, you can’t beat the community of incense folk – open and sharing in pursuit of new favorites.

    (P.S. Mike probably didn’t use the word “folk”, but I’m from North Carolina πŸ™‚ )

    Steve

  13. ibn said,

    April 12, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Mike, thanks for the Sho Ran Koh and other great tips. Keep up the good work and i hope all the vendors reading MP send Mike good stuff to burn and review !

    Steve, its obvious why Ikaruga is such a popular incense. All the Kyukyodo incense i’ve tried has been exceptional for its price. The one i’m regularly enjoying at the moment as an evening incense is Ryuhinko. It has a bitter quality that is unusual and somewhat like the Rikkoku description of Sasora at http://www.japanese-incense.com/aloeswood.htm

  14. Mike said,

    April 12, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Hi Ibn,

    “…and others that are probably trying their best, but just don’t have their act together (I would put Ecclecstacy in this category.)”

    What Steve wrote here is probably closer to what I meant when I typed the statement re: Ecclecstacy, but you do have a point. – Mike

  15. Steve said,

    April 12, 2008 at 9:37 am

    Thanks to Mike for showing me Sho Ran Ko. That was the $165 purchase that, when examined on a cost-per-inch basis, showed itself to be actually a quite reasonable value for a very high quality essence. My initial thought was it was to be only for special occasions, but now I feel like any day can be that occasion πŸ™‚

    Yes, Reiryo Koh is a fantastic value. I burn it daily. At the same price point, I love Ikaruga. It is a bit sweeter – I guess this is a frankincense note – but certainly worth a try. Another commenter on this blog turned me onto it.

    A very addictive passion!

    Steve

  16. ibn said,

    April 12, 2008 at 7:33 am

    Steve, difficult indeed ! And a reasonable concern. What cost is too great to countenance in pursuit of the satisfaction of our olfactory lust for the greatest, best, unobtainium, rarest kyara infused long dark mystic traditional stick rolled by hand in distant places by keepers of the secrets of this ancient art ?

    Personally, i’m developing a deep appreciate for the inexpensive reiryo-koh (subtle and highly underrated IMO), hogary over charcoal (timeless), the less expensive kyukyodo sticks (these grow on me daily) etc and appreciate the sho kaku, koh shi boku, oudh over charcoal, sho ran koh etc more when i burning them less frequently.

    And i agree with you that Sho ran koh is great value.

  17. Steve said,

    April 12, 2008 at 6:22 am

    Hey Ibn – I’ve never seen formal rating information on incense vendors. It really is word-of-mouth and taking your chances. There are certainly comments about blatantly unethical sites, and others that are probably trying their best, but just don’t have their act together (I would put Ecclecstacy in this category.) I think the sites listed on the right by Mike under Incense Resources have passed intial quality tests. My personal experiences with Essence of the Ages (Beth) and IncenseGuru (Ron) have been top notch all the way.

    “$$$/minute would be a better metric” – I hear you! There comes that point where you have to just enjoy the fragrance and not think about the cost, but that re-stocking fee is usually somewhere in the back of my head. For what it’s worth, I calculate the price per inch for everything I order to try to better understand the cost of my hobby. Because stick length and bundle size varies widely, I found it difficult and surprising to try to compare true cost. You probably don’t care about spending $12 on a bundle of incense. You wince at spending $165 on a bundle. Then I would notice I got ten 3-inch sticks in the former and 150 8-inch sticks in the latter and it was actually the first purchase that was “more expensive”. As has been pointed out here before, if you can afford the upfront cost, buying larger boxes is almost always a much better deal.

    Steve

  18. ibn said,

    April 11, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Mike said ‘In this context, it’s worth considering that Ecclecstacy is actually one of the best priced incense suppliers on the web and even though effort may be needed to complete a transaction, I’ve seen no indication that they’re not an ethical business overall.’

    Mike, do you consider advertising ‘Orders are usually shipped within 1-3 days after payment’ and then consistently taking 1 or 2 weeks or more to ship an order ethical ?

  19. ibn said,

    April 11, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Steve, perhaps $$$/minute would be a better metric !

  20. ibn said,

    April 11, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    As long as the dollar continues to weaken, the cost of imported goods will probably continue to rise …

    Further to Steve’s comment ‘… selection and service would be the deciding factor between stores’ is there service quality rating information available for all the incense vendors selling over the net. I’ve had good experiences with most, and abysmal with one, consistently bad enough that i won’t order from this one again.

  21. Steve said,

    April 5, 2008 at 11:02 am

    You’re absolutely right, Ross. I tried to think of a fair unit of measure, but as you already know, you aren’t always given the same information about what you’re buying. Stick density is different across varities as is content of expensive vs “filler” ingredients, so $/gram would be the best measure if you always had those weights provided. Even the number and length of sticks was not always provided, but seemed available frequently enough to attempt a comparison, so that’s what I used – how many “burn inches” of product are you actually getting for your buck. Again, not a definitive study, but kinda close and certainly enough to make you sit back and go “hmmmmmmmmmmmm” πŸ™‚

    Incidentally, I may have used a couple of “old prices” per the original subject of this topic. With the recent price increase, Shoyeido Sho-kaku goes to $2.45/inch – about a 20% increase – but once you’re at this price point, what’s 41 cents between friends?!

    Strange how that bottle of wine tends to be single-serving size πŸ™‚

    Wish you a strong recovery with that hip – that’s a major joint and I’m sure it’s not a pleasant thing to go through.

    Steve

  22. Ross said,

    April 5, 2008 at 10:27 am

    You might also want to look at the actual weights of the differnt bundles as to cost/value.
    I asked Shoyeido about weights on thier priemium lines and here is the reply.

    “Ross
    A regular bundle is approximately 14 grams/.5 oz.. The “luxury”
    bundle is approximately 52.68 grams, which is about 1.88 oz., if my
    math is correct.”

    At the old prices this becomes a great deal, not sure about the new rates.
    Also, having been priceing the raw materials for a project to keep me busy while recovering from hip surgery soon, I have noticed that raw materials have gone way up and are getting harder to find. Plus, it can be a real crap shoot as to what you are getting. SO to me, if I have to sacrifice a lattie and pastrey or two, to have confidence that what I ordered is what I will be getting, that just the way it is. ‘Course I also got burned recently while trying to buy a “great deal”:0 (
    As Kohdude sort of pointed out a little while ago that $50.00 to $100.00 or more bottle of wine lasts about an hour. The same in a great bundle of incense, well, at least one wild day, or, more likely a couple of months :0 ).

    Ross

  23. Steve said,

    April 5, 2008 at 8:18 am

    Beth – thanks for your comments and information – it’s very interesting to know and I understand/appreciate your “sticking to the rules”. As I mentioned a few posts back, my (to-date) limited interaction with EotA has been very prompt and professional and your interest in monitoring and participating in a forum like this furthers my regard! Will be ordering more from you in the near future…

    On a slightly different note, though still price related, I was curious as to the $/inch burned cost of some of the higher-regarded incense mentioned here. Because the Japanese incense can be so expensive, I have to be conscious of just what I’m lighting πŸ™‚ This isn’t a definitive comparison – prices fluctuate based on the bulk you buy – but I thought the results were interesting nonetheless. Here ya go:

    Kyukyodo Ikaruga $.015/inch
    Kunmeido Reiryo Koh $.017/inch
    Tennendo Frankincense (plain box) $.036/inch
    Kyukyodo Ryuhinko $.054/inch
    Kyukyodo Azusa $.065/inch
    Kyukyodo Sho Ran Ko $.105/inch
    Kunmeido Asuka $.148/inch
    Kunmeido Heian Koh $.180/inch
    Tennendo Enkuu-Horizon $.250/inch
    Shoyeido Muro-machi $.273/inch
    Shoyeido Ten-pyo $.454/inch
    Shoyeido Sho-kaku $2.04/inch
    Baieido Kyara Kokoh $8.00/inch

    Granted Sho Ran Ko appears to only come in a single size package which is expensive, but I was surprised at how reasonable it was $/inch – I can burn it now with a little less guilt πŸ™‚

    Steve

  24. Mike said,

    April 5, 2008 at 7:59 am

    Thanks Beth. It also appears that Shoyeido’s site hasn’t made the change either. One of the reasons I felt this worth bringing attention is that even with these agreements in place, they don’t appear to be universal. And while there may be reasons for setting caps like these, they do alter the playing field.

    As brilliant as Shoyeido incense is, I think even before the price change they could be considered among the most expensive of brands. And the price changes are very significant here, not just mild increases.

  25. April 5, 2008 at 6:13 am

    Good morning. I read all the comments with great interest. Let me help out here. You all are correct. By agreeing to sell Shoyeido, Baiedo, and any incense purchased through Japan Incense on the internet, all sellers are to mark their incense no lower than the actual home sites, i.e. http://www.shoyeido.com and http://www.oller.net (Baiedo). For Shoyeido and Japan Incense, internet sellers actually sign an agreement agreeing to such. So for those sellers that are selling at cut rate prices, are they doing so ethically, based on the seller’s agreement?

    The current price differents in Shoyeido is due to a price increase that sellers were notified of 2 weeks ago. Those sellers who have lower prices on the high end Shoyeido have just not updated their websites.

    Please, I’m certainly not slamming anyone but I do take my agreements seriously and that is the reason for some of my prices.

    Happy to answer any further questions on this. πŸ™‚

    Blessings and best regards,

    Beth Johns
    Essence of the Ages
    http://www.essenceoftheages.com

  26. Mike said,

    April 4, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    As far as Tenenndo, Kunmeido et al, they are distributed via Scents of Japan which runs Japan incense as well, or it was the impression I went away with after visiting the SoJ site. My general idea regarding the companies that I link to on this site is that if I’ve had good business from them, I’ll try to make an effort to rotate the links in different articles, irregardless of who has the best pricing (OK, I give, sometimes convenience is a factor :D). As a consumer resource, I think it’s important to be aware of the market and strike that balance between the influence of price and service. In this context, it’s worth considering that Ecclecstacy is actually one of the best priced incense suppliers on the web and even though effort may be needed to complete a transaction, I’ve seen no indication that they’re not an ethical business overall. And while Essence certainly has their equals in service, there’s no better either.

  27. Steve said,

    April 4, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    For the premiums mentioned above that they carry, Incense Warehouse has the same prices as Japan Incense…

    Steve

  28. Steve said,

    April 4, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    By the way, don’t mean to cast EotA in a poor light here. My 2 orders to date with them were handled very promptly and correctly and they seem like a great store. The $ differences definitely seem to be on the premium items. On a recent order to EotA, I went back and compared the 6 non-premium selections I had that were also carried by JI. The total was approximately $120 at EotA and about $4 less at JI – not enough for me to care about and selection and service would be the deciding factor between stores. If in the market for premium (especially Shoyeido) however, JI prices are compelling…

    Steve

  29. Steve said,

    April 4, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    Tennendo Enkuu-Horizon: EotA $101.25, JI $90
    Kunmeido Asuka: EotA $146.25, JI $130
    Shoyeido Myo-ho: EotA $399, JI $339
    Shoyeido Go-un: EotA $299, JI $259

    JI seems to have the most dramatic discounts on Shoyeido products. Could they have a deal with the manufacturer?

    Steve

  30. Steve said,

    April 4, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    May try the Sho-kaku Translucent Path soon. Essence of the Ages – $599 (silk box) or $79.95 (8 stick sampler). Japan Incense – $499 (silk box) or $59.95 (8 stick sampler). That’s a massive difference – why? Almost makes me feel the need to rush to JI and order before they “level the playing field” too!

    Steve


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