A new retail report released yesterday has corroborated what Crikey readers already know: local stores are marking up their prices well above those available overseas.

The Australia Institute study found that, in the pricing battle been bricks and clicks, some local goods — such as clothes and shoes — are being jacked up by more than 142% in contrast with products available online.

When comparing the price of a Sony Bravia TV, the institute found that Australian consumers were paying over 100% more than their US counterparts and well above other countries with higher VATs than the GST. CDs are on average 106% cheaper online. High-end bikes can be purchased with the click of a button for half the cost.

In our ongoing series of highlighting the dodgy mathematics of Australian retail prices, Crikey readers continue to point out the price differences between local and overseas retail prices products …

COMPUTERS/SOFTWARE:

  • Dell’s Inspiron Mini system is $100 more expensive in Australia than the US. The premium Inspiron 580 retails at $US469 but in Australia you pay $999. Considering the computers are assembled in Malaysia, I find this one particularly galling.
  • I have been looking to upgrade my tired Compaq laptop with Windows 7. I checked the price at my local Officeworks and the Home Premium version of Windows 7 was going to cost $289. Feeling that was a little unreasonable I started investigating alternatives and managed to find a brand-new Compaq laptop with three times as much memory and hard drive space as my current beast and including a copy of Windows 7 at US retail giant Fry’s for $US270. Using a freight forwarding service (storetoyourdoor.com.au) I managed to get myself a brand-new laptop delivered to my door in just over a week for just $50 more than what my local Officeworks wanted for the software alone!
  • “I went online to Microsoft to buy and download Office 2011 for Mac. The Home and Student version is $US149.99. As soon as I enter my country as Australia, the price jumps to $AU209!
  • My computer alerted me to the fact my Norton anti-virus software was out of date so I followed the prompts to subscribe for a year at $49 for a basic package. The payment couldn’t be processed because it required my address but wouldn’t list Australia under the drop bar. I Googled Norton and clicked the Symantec website that appeared at the top of my results. Same basic package was $59.95 and there were similar increases for the other packages.

ELECTRONICS:

  • Sherwood RX-4109 Stereo Receiver: list price $US139.95, but you can buy from Buy.com for $US97.98 plus $11.95 shipping in US. At JB Hi-Fi? $295.
  • The Egnater Rebel 20 Guitar Amplifier costs $549.99 at one US retailer but triple that – $1525.75 – at an Australian store. The Egnater amps have international transformers, so would only need a new kettle cord and maybe a different fuse; that’s the only difference. Electric guitars have similar price differentials. The price on some have dropped considerably just recently, but the difference still can’t be justified as guitar are universal – no special requirements for different countries.
  • Coloured lighting gels for cameras — essentially pieces of cellophane no larger than 5cm at their widest point — retail in the US for $US25 but at $90 here. It was cheaper for me to buy online and pay $40 shipping for an item that could be enclosed in a small envelope.
  • The Kitchen Aid mixer sold at Matchbox Chermside shopping centre in Brisbane for $795. The same product is available at Macy’s in the US for $350 normal retail, and at a recent Mother’s Day discount of $250. I asked the sales assistant at Matchbox why the mark-up was so huge – different electrical fitting and some extra safety features, I was told (though they couldn’t tell me what the extra safety features were).

BOOKS:

  • Technical camera guide books that I had priced here for between $50-$60 were $19.99 and $24.99 to purchase from a bookshop in the US.

CLOTHING/ACCESSORIES:

  • Ray-Ban sunglasses (RB3320) from EyeDirect.com for $91.59, less a 5% discount as an apology for being out of stock at the time of order, delivered to my desk via FedEx for an additional $20-odd. Ray-Ban sunglasses (RB3320, or, style 276606) from Sunglasses Hut for $259.95. A difference of more than 132%!
  • These Camper boots are currently on sale in Australian stores for $480. The same boots are available from Canadian retailer Gravity Pope for $C199 (on sale from $C290) plus $C55 for shipping.  Considering that Camper in Australia offers the same range of styles as their stores worldwide, but six months behind because of the seasonal differences (that is, we’re getting the end of the stock lines), I don’t see how this price difference can be justified. I don’t bother buying Campers in the Sydney store any more — I go there to try them on and make sure they fit properly, then head to Gravity Pope to buy them.
  • Three NIN T-shirts, one CD, shipping from the US, seven-day wait, $US89 ($A84). One identical T-shirt at a Melbourne retailer: $A49.99.
  • Nike 6.0 skate T-shirts that retail for here $50 were $20 or two for $30 in the US; Brooks running shoes: $250 here were $129; Vans skate shoes $130 here were $75; SF Giants baseball cap that was $25 in the US, saw for $60 here in a surf wear shop.
  • Pacsafe VentureSafe 20-litre backpack: $85 or less at Amazon’s US store; $186.96 at Luggage Professionals.

COSMETICS:

  • Revlon lipsticks, which retail in supermarkets (they’re too cheap for the department stores) for between $5.99 and $7.99, are cheapest here in Big W at between $18 and $20.  All branded cosmetics such as Lancome, which I regularly buy, are at least half the Australian price.

TRANSPORT:

  • Fabulous US-based websites like Racycles or Competitive Cyclist let you virtually build high-end bikes and ship it to Australia at sometimes half the local retail price, plus you get a totally custom build rather than off-the-rack. (Mind you, we’re talking bikes that even at half price are still up over $6000.)
  • Wiggle.co.uk has been fantastic with bikes and parts I’ve bought there, and at about half the price. Better still, once one spends over £50, shipping is free and by airmail. Now, here’s where things get weird. Wiggle have been slowly removing stuff that is available for Australian customers.Various bikes, SKS mudguards, 2XU compression gear. It seems that Wiggle might be being told by manufacturers (at the behest of Australian importers?) to stop giving us a good deal.
  • A few months ago (when the dollar was only at parity) I needed a new power trim motor for my boat.  The local boat shop wanted $700. I could get it online from a firm in Seattle for $150 plus $75 in shipping, which seemed exorbitant, but it is a heavy item.  Still less than a third of what they wanted here in Australia.

Peter Fray

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