Jamie's Blog

Lessons from a life of startups, coding, countryside, and kids

Dual Pricing

About 2 weeks ago I was thinking about the dual pricing issue in Ireland (whereby UK stores/brands markup their prices for the Irish market). There are many reasons given for this dual pricing (tax, wages, rent, transportation and most often, currency). It occurred to me that some of the major price differences can easily be accounted for: VAT rates and currency conversions.

That night I coded up a basic ruby on rails application which did just that. I waited a week whilst the .ie registration was processed and then spent another 2 evenings working on the theme. Another few more hours here and I present to you:

dualpricing.ie

It’s a simple little site that lets you enter a store, an item and the UK £ and Irish € prices. It does the simple calculations to remove the appropriate VAT and then converts the £ to €. The items and stores are tabulated so you can see who the worst offenders are. Give it a go with the price tags you’ve taken off the Christmas presents (you did remember to remove the prices before wrapping, didn’t you?). I’m morbidly curious to see how the tiny server it’s running on will handle the load.

I’m trying not to be too judgemental with this site. There are obviously cost differences between UK and Ireland, and I’m sure Irish prices will always be a little bit more expensive, but I’m also convinced that many of these retailers are exploiting the Irish consumer. After all, if the retailers were just converting from UK prices and adding in a little Irish cost factor, why would our € prices be such neat numbers? Surely £10 should convert to something like €13.37 not €15? Anyway, it is not my intention to understand, criticise or justify these price differences — just expose them.

Didn’t all the stores remove their UK prices? Actually, some did. Here’s my notes from a morning in Mahon point shopping centre:

  • Next: places a label over the UK £ price (but you can easily see through or around it)
  • Ladybird: detaches the £ price (no doubt, to “prevent confusion”)
  • Debenhams: dual priced labels except on fragrances
  • Zara: No UK prices
  • Ecco: No UK prices
  • Principles: detached the UK prices
  • River Island: places a thick label over the UK price (can’t see through it, or easily remove it like in Next)
Where stores have removed their dual prices it’s still easy to look them up on their UK shopping sites. I only wish I could make this happen automatically.