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High street ‘tax’ makes goods 31% more expensive than online

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Consumers are paying almost a third more on average to shop on the high street than online, according to Pricerunner.co.uk, which has accused retailers of levying a ‘high street tax’ on products.

Mystery shoppers walked the length of high streets in 11 cities across the UK, including Manchester, Sheffield, Nottingham, London and Bristol for the price comparison website's research. They looked for all the prices on offer across a basket of 10 fast-moving consumer goods, including an iPod, trainers, a watch, a coffee maker and a TV – and compared them to the best online price.

The national average of the high street basket of goods was £2,231.55, while the best online price was £1,785.11. The online price was £446.44 lower, even after the cost of delivery from online retailers.

The largest difference was between the online price of Nike Air Zoom trainers, at £49.98, and its high street equivalent – an average of £85.79 – or 72% more. The smallest difference was an Apple 8GB iPod, which came in at £138.95 online and £148.87 in the high street.

“Consumers are paying the price for shopping on the high street,” said Marc Thomas, UK manager for Pricerunner.co.uk. “Ninety-five per cent of all the prices found could be beaten online and the average mark-up on the best online price was a massive 31.79%. That’s high street robbery.

“There’s obviously a cost associated with having a high street presence but with such variation in prices not only between cities but also between two ends of the same high street, consumers must not be fooled by in-store price points. The evidence is clear, it is cheaper to make your eventual purchase online and have the product delivered to your home.”

Our view: Internet shoppers have long known they can find the best prices online, but the scale of the difference found here may come as a surprise. The obvious argument is that the lowest online price is bound to beat the average high street retail price – but then searching for the lowest online price is just what shoppers are doing.

Eventually the high street must match online retailers on price – or make the price of shopping in the high street one worth paying through better customer service.

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