Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

The Anglo-American relationship


Over at the Bag Snobs, they are talking up a pair of Louboutins available at Net a Porter for $730. Checking Net a Porter UK, I note that exactly the same shoes sell for £400, that's $800. Why the difference? There are issues about exchange rates, of course, ansd the strength of the pound against the weak dollar, but the rule that clothes and pretty much everything else are cheaper in America than Britain has held whatever the exchange rate. Why? One explanation is the sheer size of the US market. Stores like Saks and Neiman Marcus can negotiate aggressive discounts for their customers on the grounds that they will simply sell more of any product.

The American market is an exceptionally insular one. Neither Gap nor Banana Republic will ship outside the US and Canada and nor will the giant shoe sites like Zappos. The sheer size of the American market makes it impervious to the outside world. It sets its own rules. Zappos simply has no UK equivalent though increasingly high street stores like Marks and Spencer and upper end ones like Jaeger are making their stuff available on-line. But the difference is this: in America it is entirely possible to live hundreds of miles from any major shopping centre while in Britain, unless you dwell in the North of Scotland, you're never likely to be more than an hour's drive from a a concentration of: M&S, Jigsaw, Reiss, Hobbs, etc. And a swathe of the Midlands and North have Selfridges and Harvey Nichols.

So we have in Britain excellent access to high quality fashion, but we must pay often a third as much again as in America. This is why New York shopping trips have become the new vacation.

10 comments:

Jo said...

Neiman Marcus ships internationally, but of course you have to reckon with the appro 30% customs duty. I buy from them because 1) you can get styles there that you can't get here 2)it's much easier to get large sizes, ie 41 upwards. These larger sizes sell out so quickly in UK because shop/sites seem to order in so few of them and they sell out immediately.

Linda Grant said...

Correct. I bought a pair of Stewart Weitzman shoes that I very badly wanted from the US. When they reached Britain I got a letter from Customs and Excise asking me to call them before they could release the shoes, whereon I had to give them my credit card details for the import duties. The answer is to have friends bring the stuff over for you but that's more haphazard. I've found sites that won't let you even order if the address your credit card is attached to is not in the US so you have to get someone else to pay then be reimbursed.

I once asked at Gap in London if they had the same stock as the US and they said they did, but not in the larger sizes.

mq, cb said...

There are various US remailing outfits but I have never tried to use any of them because the stores that I would like to shop from often won't accept a UK-registered credit card. Sometimes the US mailing places will pay for you, but you pay for this as well so this means lots of complicated calcuations to work out the cost and other variables of using one method vs another, before you even put in the order.

PayPal is sometimes a possibility, but being a new fangled interweb type of thing it is sometimes regarded with suspicion and usually only suggested after everything else has failed. Typically, this is the point at which my bank goes into hyper-fraud-alert overdrive and bars my card because two attempts have been made to authorise payment overseas so then I have to call the bank, irrespective of whether I still want the wretched thing or not. If I do manage to get the item, I may have saved money but I will have spent at least an afternoon in buying it. Hardly point and click. And this is all before the item reaches customs.

Easier and much more fun in the end to go to NYC and shop, particularly as you can try everything on.

Anonymous said...

It's even worse when you are in Euroland. Almost every product price in Europe is based on 1 US Dollar= 1 Euro. In reality it's 1 Dollar = 0,6 Euro, so you end up paying more here than you would in the USA, for the same thing.

pennyarrow said...

Don't forget that for a fair comparison you need to take tax/VAT into account. The 400 pounds includes 17.5% VAT whereas tax will be added to the US price (the amount varies by state, just like primary voting rules, but is nowhere near as much as 17.5% of course). So in the specific case of the Louboutins, the UK price is only about $650 without tax at the current exchange rate.
Did I say 'only'??

Kai Jones said...

the amount varies by state (sales tax)

Except in Oregon, where we don't have sales tax.

Dain said...

I've never thought of that before. But it seems only to apply to things that have high demand. If you wanted to buy obscure designer brand, you'd be out of luck in terms of expense.

Anonymous said...

Actually, neither Gap, Banana Republic nor the parent company's new shoestore, Piperlime, will ship to Canada. It's too bad, as their Boxing Day sales were something I definitely would have taken advantage of.

phyllis said...

I will admit that Americans are completely addicted to the of opiate of low prices.

But anyone who is envious of the prices we pay for consumer goods should remember that most Americans contribute at least 20% to 30% of their annual income to their health insurance.

Krista said...

What about Shoes.co.uk? Or Shoe-shop.com? They have a nice selection. Nothing beats Zappos, but it's a start...