Consumers hit as shops pocket the difference on sterling

SHOPPERS are paying up to 30% more for clothes because retailers are failing to pass on the massive savings they are making on sterling.

Retailers such as Marks & Spencer and Dunnes Stores display both the euro and sterling prices on clothing in their shops in Ireland, the North and Britain.

But the pound sterling has slumped against the euro, meaning products from multinational retailers should cost a lot less in eurozone countries like Ireland.

Today an Irish Examiner investigation of high street giants shows they are failing to cut their euro prices — meaning shoppers are paying as much as 30% more than they should.

At British-owned Debenhams in the Jervis Centre, Dublin, last week, men’s Ben Sherman short-sleeved shirts had a price tag showing the sterling price of £30 alongside the euro price of €47.

But £30 at current exchange rates is equivalent to €38.53 and not €47, so shoppers are effectively paying an extra €8.47 or 22% more.

Differences in price can also be found at Irish-owned Dunnes Stores, which also has stores in Britain and the North, where a dress for a four-year-old girl has a price tag of £8 and €12.

Yet at the current exchange rate £8 is worth €10.28, with shoppers in the Republic effectively paying €1.72 or 16.7% extra than in the North.

Last night the Consumers’ Association of Ireland called on multi-national retailers to reduce the euro costs on their price-tags.

“They’re slow enough to pass on the savings to consumers but when the shoe is on the other foot they’re very quick to raise prices,” said CAI chairman James Doorley.

“This is another example of where we continue to be charged a lot more in the Republic — consumers should start querying this and taking their custom elsewhere.”

He said consumers had also complained about the practice of leaving the sterling price on a label as they misread the tag and thought the lower number next to the pound sign was the cost in euro.

On the currency markets a year ago, £1 sterling was worth about €1.50 while €1 was worth about 67p.

But over the past six months, sterling has weakened so £1 is now worth €1.27 while €1 is worth 79p.

The changes in currency rates, in theory, should mean imported goods in Ireland become cheaper.

Despite the fall of sterling, M&S is among many multi-nationals pricing goods at the old exchange rates.

Women’s lingerie on sale in a store on Patrick Street, Cork, last week had the sterling price of £8 and the euro price of €12.50.

Yet at the current rate the bra should be €10.28 while a £3 pair of knickers should be €3.85 and not the €4.75 on the label.

Traditionally retailers have argued price differences between Britain and Ireland were down to transport costs, a smaller population, differing VAT rates and the high costs of doing business here.

M&S spokeswoman Sinéad Kavanagh said: “We’re committed to buying our stock six months before it goes on sale so the price is set at the exchange rate at the time.

“The price of the stock on sale now was set in September but in future [any savings] will filter down to customers, though it does take time.”

Only in two shops, Jack and Jones and Vero Moda, did Irish shoppers get a better deal than their counterparts in Britain and the North.

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