The UK has traditionally not been the cheapest place to shop. Property, land, perfume cars and a host of other products have always been more expensive than most other European countries and certainly the USA. Then if you look at cigarettes, alcohol and petrol, the UK really does get the vote for being expensive.
For years now many Brits, jump on the ferry to France to take advantage of the cheaper beer, wine and cigarettes or make sure they take advantage of their holidays by bringing back whatever they can fit into their suitcases and everything else.
As far as booze, cigarettes and petrol is concerned things have not changed much because of the huge taxes, levied by the government but as far as other goods are concerned, things appear to have changed.
We travel quite bit and last year we visited Florida again and during the holiday we did our normal trek to the discount fashion and footwear malls. For the first time we did not see much difference in the prices in Florida compared to the same type of discount shop in the UK, although granted the designs were newer. Another exception seemed to be the companies that still manufactured in the USA rather than Asia.
The biggest difference we saw was recently to a trip to Hong Kong. We had deliberately held off from buying a new SLR digital camera until we had arrived in Hong Kong in anticipation much cheaper prices. As we searched through the electrical shops of Kowloon, it became apparent that not only were the prices not cheaper but in fact considerably more expensive.
In retrospect I suppose we should have been more aware of the reduction of prices within the UK and how the Internet is making us all more aware of where to buy specific products around the world. Take CD’s for example, a few years ago the Brits could expect to pay 30% more than in other European countries or the USA. Then a few websites appeared, offering CD’s at the same price as abroad. It was only a matter of time to when the supermarkets started to match the pricing and then eventually the high street shops also followed suit.
The buying powers of the supermarkets are also a contributing factor. With one major supermarket being owned by a huge USA chain and the number one UK supermarket determined to stay at number one, is helping the UK consumer by keeping prices low.
Electrical products are also considerably cheaper. Spain traditionally cheaper than the UK, does not offer any extra value for those buying homes out there. Electrical, furniture and household items are in most cases more expensive than the UK now. Every time you stand in the check queue at the airport, you see taped boxes of different shapes and sizes being exported to holiday homes abroad, this something that would not have happened, say 5 years ago.
Even cars have caught up with most European countries. Only 3 years ago, I imported a new car from abroad because it was considerably cheaper than buying in the UK. With European laws stating that you have just as much rights buying a car from abroad than in your own country, encouraged thousand to import from abroad. Now the emergence of car supermarkets, has forced the new car showroom prices down in order to survive.
It is true that for some services and products, the UK will always be expensive. But for luxury items, such as electrical, CDs, DVDs, some clothing, airfares and many other products, the UK shoppers can feel they are receiving similar shopping opportunities as those abroad had previously enjoyed.
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